Arts Entertainments

52 Blocks: The True American Martial Art

When talking about the various martial arts and fighting styles from around the world, the little-known urban system of 52 Blocks, a variation on the broader Jailhouse Rock style, has to enter the conversation. Researchers Daniel Marks and Kammau Hunter have argued that Jailhouse Rock may, in fact, be America’s only “native martial art”. With an African influence and believed to have originated in the 17th and 18th centuries by slaves, 52 Blocks evolved on the streets of Brooklyn and American jails. The style focuses on closed-space techniques, similar to self-defense situations found in settings such as prisons, bathrooms, alleys, and hallways where movement would be limited.

As mentioned above, 52 Blocks, also called “52 Hand Blocks” and “The 52’s”, is part of a larger collection of fighting styles known as “JHR” or “Jailhouse Rock”. 52 Blocks and their variants are similar to the martial arts of capoeira and savate, which were fighting systems associated with urban criminal subcultures, which underwent a gradual process of codification before establishing themselves as mainstream accessible martial arts. Other variations of the JHR collection are Comstock, San Quentin style, Mount Meg and Stato, each name referring to the prison in which it was started. As it gained popularity and exposure in the early 1970s, Jail House Rock appears to have first appeared in the media in an article on martial arts in prison titled “KARATE IN PRISON: Threat or means of spiritual survival? “, In black. Belt Magazine from July 1974.

Despite widespread belief, 52 Blocks is not a Western boxing style, nor is it Wing Chun mixed with Western boxing. Considered a defensive style that creates openings for offense through constant movement, the fighter blocks / catches blows with the forearms and elbows. Short power shots, fluid movement, and kickback are aspects of 52 that are emphasized, while using sharp and elusive footwork. Unlike boxing, but similar to Muay Thai, the elbows are commonly used to hit the opponent.

Much of the argument and conflicting information about 52 Blocks stems from whether or not the style has been influenced by “uprocking” or what most of us call breakdancing. Some believe that this link is the aspect of some of the fighting techniques inspired or copied from the “distortion movements” borrowed from Brooklyn Rock or the uprock style of breakdancing. It seems that you can find as many sources indicating these links between 52 and urban dance as possible to the contrary, making it the 52 topic with the most conflicting information.

As many 52 practitioners have felt that their system has long been overlooked, it is now beginning to take its rightful place in martial arts history, a product of long-growing media coverage. weather. Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight, is one of the high profile boxers to endorse 52 for the first time, and professional boxers including Mike Tyson Zab Judah and Bernard Hopkins have testified to the existence of the style, giving him a voice of legitimacy of the true fighters. Rashad Evans, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, has also promoted 52 and his ERA.

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