Testimony: Stic.man of Dead Prez
Finding Faith in Martial Arts
As Told to Tanisha Blakely, AOL Black Voices
Iím still discovering my definition of faith. My mom is probably the best example I have of faith in action, in just watching her deal with kids on drugs and a lot of stuff like that.
I grew up a skeptic in all that
kind of religious stuff, because all the prayers werenít really changing the conditions. My mother would always say, ĎI rather see a sermon, than hear one.í
The only thing my mother had, it wasnít even a plan, it was just a matter of believing that at the right time weíll be able to figure out what we need to do. I guess thatís faith too Ė knowing that itís going to work out eventually if we stay vigilant about it.
Stic.man of Dead Prez, Shannon McCollum
"The difference between Jeet Kune Do and other classical martial arts is kinda like the difference between hip-hop and other classical music. Hip-hop samples from everything, but it ainít bound to none of those rules. Jeet Kune Do is a philosophy of martial arts and of life that says, ĎIím not going to be prejudice here. Iím not going to just follow a tradition for tradition sake. Iím going to test the principle and see if it works for me, and if it donít Iím going to adjust it.'"
My concept of faith is a plan.
I was around 21 years-old when my strength was tested and I had to rely on my faith. I woke up and I was dealing with so many things - being in New York coming from Florida. It seems like that day my rent was overdue, I was beefing with my girl all the time, and my brother was on drugs, in and out of prison. It was just a lot on my mind and I woke up with my leg swollen. I tried to stand up and I fell down. I didnít know what happened. Long story short, I had to go to the doctor. The doctor started asking me, ĎWhat I eat, do I drink, do I smoke?í Iím like, Ďyeah.í He was like ĎYou have gout.í
Iím 21 and I canít use my leg. Iím thinking the worst. It made me start thinking about my uncles and different people around me and I was like ĎHere I go, Iím about to be one of those whino dudes limping.í
I didnít start drinking until I got about 17, something like that. I mean I had a sip, but just going to get some brew to get tore up for the weekend and all that, this was later in my life. I grew in a household that was like that. My household was crushed because of alcohol and cocaine, it screwed up everything. I was like Iím never going to do nothing, as far as no drugs. But then youíre growing up, my parents divorced, Iím in the streets Ė pressure, stress, things of life coming at you. You hanging out, you want socialize, next thing you know you drinking. And I start drinking more and more. I start drinking everyday and throwing the Blunts back, and one day after about five years of that, I woke up and I had gout in my left leg. People say thatís an old-folks disease. But I had it. And like I said, I hadnít been drinking since I was 10.
Gout was probably the best thing that could have happened to me that early, because most people drink until they get diabetes or something. I happened to be in Brooklyn, which is a place of a lot of international culture, as opposed to being in the country where I grew up in Florida. I was able to be around people like the Rastas and the different Africans who would be like, ĎGet this herb.í They put me on a lot of internal cleansing type of things.
I was talking to my girl and different people and I told them I wanted to bring my leg back. I was like, ĎIím going to heal this.í
I had always been a fan of Bruce Lee and martial arts, so I made a 180 degree transformation. I became a vegan. I became a martial artist, 6 days a week in training. I stopped drinking and smoking. I went to Queen Afua and went on an 84-day live food fast. I took my health into my own hands and decided I didnít want to go out with the normal procedures.
What Do You Think?
I was practicing what they call Jeet Kune Do, which is an art that was developed by Bruce Lee. Itís not really an art, but a concept of how he approached martial arts and I was able to study with Sifu Ralph Mitchell.
Jeet Kune Do means the art of the interceptive fish. The difference between Jeet Kune Do and other classical martial arts is kinda like the difference between hip-hop and other classical music. Hip-hop samples from everything, but it ainít bound to none of those rules. Jeet Kune Do is a philosophy of martial arts and of life that says, ĎIím not going to be prejudice here. Iím not going to just follow a tradition for tradition sake. Iím going to test the principle and see if it works for me, and if it donít Iím going to adjust it.í Thatís how we train in the arts.
So instead of us standing there with a big Gi or a uniform on, with a different color belt, saying ĎMy belt will beat yours,í everything is simple and that fits who I am as a person. Thatís my spirit. And I apply this to business. I apply that to my rhymes. I apply that to my general philosophy of politics. I already had it in me, but the training helped me see it in a physical way.
As they say, religion means rely on. And religion is what you do everyday. So that would have to be my religion. Iím looking at the world from that philosophy. Bruce Lee said it, ďHaving no way as the way.Ē
I guess in all practical purposes Jeet Kune Do is my faith, but I stray away from even calling it a faith because I believe itís not about people having to believe in something outside of themselves. I look at it as an understanding that I have and that Iím cultivating. And it works in my life. So if thatís faith, then yeah thatís my faith.
Check it out here: Black Voices article on AOL