12

The deadliest martial art in American history, 52 Blocks, was developed by a trans woman

Submitted by Notech in Trans

Despise the extreme masculinity and brutality of its subculture, 52 Hand Blocks, or known in short as 52 Blocks and Jailhouse Rock, was developed in the 70s by a trans woman, Mother Dear. Newspapers and sources constantly misgendered her, including smear that claim she was a rapist, none of which were true. But the earliest sources and those who first learned her technique stated that she was a trans. Sadly, some rumors from ex-con that in 90s Mother Dear was killed in a deadly fight in Riker. RIP.

52 Blocks was developed in brutal environment of prison and jail, all its techniques were designed to maim and kill with simplest to learn, yet maximize its damage. The practitioner used 52 Blocks in environment of kill or to be killed. The techniques were ever changing, passed down by ex-con or those who served times in prison. In modern time, it's a common street martial art among those who live in the hood.

It combines bare-knuckle boxing with savate, in addition to traditional African martial arts such as Dembe. But 52 Blocks is different from most systems, for example, it doesn't use hook and jab often but rely on haymaker. Haymakers cover widest impact yet could be used in tight environment.

My first encounter with 52 Blocks was during teen, I was in juvie for hacking related charge, at the time I came out as an Enby. A cellmate taught me basic techniques like signature Skull & Cross Bones (jab + catch + elbow block), Triangle Trade (hook + haymaker + quick hand) and Kiss and Catch (low jab). Kiss and Catch was the signature move by Mother Dear. They got me out of rough spots countless time and kept me alive for the rest of my serving time. In modern time, queer and trans ex-cons developed similar version of 52 Blocks for their self-defense, combining Wing Chun, Tai Chi and Jiu Jitsu.

Videos and articles:

http://fightland.vice.com/blog/the-legend-of-the-52-blocks

https://theconsciouscommunity.blogspot.com/2014/06/african-fighting-style-jail-house-rock.html

https://books.google.ca/books?redir_esc=y&id=FaTfuuIlmqcC&q=mother+dear#v=snippet&q=mother%20dear&f=false

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/fashion/18fitness.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=52%20blocks&st=cse

https://invidio.us/watch?v=4j8xf70IE4o

https://invidio.us/watch?v=zaOyBrYZBrQ

https://invidio.us/watch?v=WaG8BIhBmBA

https://invidio.us/watch?v=vlgoHp3smBc

Comments

You must log in or register to comment.

6

GaldraChevaliere wrote

Are there any leftist gyms that teach this, or is something you have to try to find a teacher for in your scene?

4

Notech wrote

There's online class by Lyte Burly, honestly the best way to learn without engaging with the toxic community. It's a closeted community so all the trainers are ex-cons, and only located in NYC or Atlanta.

Unfortunately, I don't think leftists knew about it. This is a problem with leftist self-defense and they only think mainstream stuff like MMA or Karate as effective, and everything else is not to them. I have had mentioned 52 Blocks and Kali, both of which I train in, to an antifa working group, and got laughed in the face for it. In general population, the three most popular systems are 52 Blocks among black, white & native, Kali for Asians, and BJJ for Hispanic. Those who did time in prison or jail will at least come across 52 Blocks once in their life. It's the default fighting system in all prisons.

4

GaldraChevaliere wrote

I'm unsure how much I'd be able to learn from online courses. I picked up a lot of basic form for Fiore through an online syllabus, but still struggle with tempo and risk-taking because of how much time I had to spend learning those forms and stances without an actual opponent to respond to. HEMA unfortunately has a similar toxic community problem, compounded by the expense of entry and the sportification of the style. I picked it up to learn to use a weapon without a sensei guilting me over drawing it when I needed it instead of talking things out with my enemy, but the cost of protective equipment, the weapon and its training variants themselves, and of courses coupled with having to practice with mostly rich and reactionary men put me off almost entirely.

3

Notech wrote

52 Blocks is still based on boxing so self train is possible. Equipment wise, it doesn't require anything except hand wraps, box gloves and speed bag. Punch bag and dummy could be DIY. And spar bar. For movement and dodging training, it's similar to Kali with a technique called slip rope: get a hand wrap or just some rope and hang it across the room, stretch it out, hang it as high as your shoulder, and train like this, be dynamic. For stance movement, skipping rope helps.

Though sparring with a dummy isn't as effective as with another person, still ok while train alone.

2

mofongo wrote

How important do you consider lower body movements to practice the art in an acceptable form?

4

Notech wrote

Footwork is extremely important, constantly on the move so that your target won't find your blind spot. Train on cardio. However kick is not the focus of the fighting because it can be easily countered or get you decapitated, which 52 Blocks reserves at least two techniques that incorporate brutal leg catching-and-breaking. Moreover, trading kicks often wear out your cardio quickly. 52 Blocks specifically trains you to work in gross motor movement, unlike any other systems where you only train or spar in fine motor skill. Gross motor implying that your muscles won't work the same way as it supposed to be when under stress or suppression, so trading kicks at your opponent will intensify your gross motor movement.

5

hasbrochem wrote

thanks for this info, this is really good to know about. reading those articles though, that's painful every they misgender mother dear

4

Notech wrote

The brutality to survive in prison is already a burden for cis, but being a trans woman that's different level of mentality needed to face. I think it's why the style of 52 Blocks is pristine and beautiful, yet deadly. Unfortunately, there is no good ending for those who served time. Either you died fighting for survival, like Mother Dear did, or society rot you slowly like how my life now.

It'd be my goal to recover the story of Mother Dear and how she developed 52 Blocks once I get some resource together.

4

GaldraChevaliere wrote

She sounds masterful. She perfected an elegant yet pragmatic style, passed it on, won many battles and died with honor and bravery. I'd rather follow her example and know her story than that of most of our 'role-models' now.

3

Notech wrote

I forgot to mention in the OP, that Triangle Trade technique was developed by Mother Dear to fight while hands were being cuffed in the front, usually against cops or other inmates. I know that most people skeptic about a completely new style, however every movement in the system was designed as the mean of survival, proving how complex is the art and why Mother Dear was a legend in Riker.

5

Tequila_Wolf wrote

Thanks for this! I'd never heard about it and am looking forward to knowing more.

2

rot wrote

Sounds cool but idk about using haymakers instead of hooks, haymakers are way easier to block or catch than hooks and take more time to throw (hand has to move greater distance)

1

celebratedrecluse wrote

including smear that claim she was a rapist, none of which were true.

This seems a bit dismissive, although I don't know anything about the situation I'm inclined to feel uncomfortable with dismissing allegations like that without addressing them

9

GaldraChevaliere wrote

In case of trans women, I don't. I know "believe women" is the movement lately, but given the hypersexualization and characterization of our sisters as inherently untrustworthy and predatory, I need much harder proof to believe that about a trans woman than I do about cis folk or a trans man.

1

celebratedrecluse wrote

Well, I would say "believe survivors"-- there are many men who are abused or assaulted, and NB people too.

I've known predators of all types of identities. As a queer woman, rates of sexual abuse are statistically highest among my demographic-- and this is going off of official reports, which are grossly understated. As a trans person, I have no problem expressing that some of my abusers were other trans women, or that I have known trans women to abuse trans, NB, and cis people. It's not like that speaks badly on me, or any other trans woman, or any other queer woman, or our communities. The individuals who choose to abuse are responsible for that choice, not millions of community members who happen to share demographic qualities with them.

But what does speak badly on them is an attitude where you disregard the allegations of survivors completely just because of the gender identity of the alleged perpetrator. Those people? They got away with it! There was never any serious accountability, everyone was too intimidated to talk about it, and one of them even went on to be proven to kill another trans woman (suicide-homicide situation).

I don't think it's helpful to sweep things like this under the rug, no matter who it is. Because even if its bullshit, its important to document and call out the transphobic slander with evidence, rather than exert a prejudicial attitude which harms other trans people too. To mention it, then immediately dismiss it entirely without even seriously addressing it is disturbing to me, but I also see the validity of your perspective-- there's a lot of false claims too, and it can be exhausting to sift through everything you hear when so much of it is clearly in bad faith/bigoted.

That said, I didn't know about this martial art, thanks to Notech for posting about this! Very cool, highlighting trans representation in the field :)

3

GaldraChevaliere wrote

Believe survivors, sure. But that's not what we say or what the cultural moment is.

I think it's unhelpful to believe an unsourced allegation against a trans woman, specifically given the pressures we're under socially and the presumption of our guilt just by existing. Would I believe that we're a moral category above abusive behaviors? Of course not. But would I believe the claims of a cis person in a context where they didn't even have the decency to gender her correctly, let alone preserve her legacy, and instead present her as predatory from the get-go in a supposedly sympathetic article? No. Absolutely not.

Trans women are the most abused, statistically. And we have no one but eachother to turn to. So forgive me if I'm skeptical of claims against my sisters, especially my elders, when they come from non trans women. I don't really care if that disturbs you, because I'm disturbed that the abuse of our folk and the turning of that abuse back onto us is a trend at all.

As a side note, it's gross to me that you said they were too "intimidated". I love the politics of fear around us painting us as untouchable predators when we're always everyone else's kickball.