Martial Arts Expo teaches self-defense techniques

Martial Arts Expo teaches students self-defense techniques

Expert El-Java Abdul-Qadir relates his art to cultural issues, as a form of self-expression.
Published: February 22, 2020
Martial Arts expert El-Java Abdul-Qadir gave a demo to students with the assistance of his children.
Martial Arts expert El-Java Abdul-Qadir (second from the left) gave a demo to students with the help of his children. The event was hosted by Cedric T. Bolton (third from the left) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs in partnership with the Barnes Center at the Arch.

In honor of Black History Month, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Barnes Center at The Arch held its first Martial Arts Expo, as part of the diversity and inclusion initiative at Syracuse University.

The expo featured alumni El-Java Abdul-Qadir, owner of Excel Martial Arts Training Center and director of the South Side Innovation Center.

A Bronx native, Abdul-Qadir has more than 30 years of experience perfecting the sport and said what motivated him was beyond just drawing inspiration from how the art was captivated on the big screen.

“What resonated for me since the beginning was the tremendous discipline and self-respect, and the ability defend yourself using it that kept me involved from when I was a little kid until now,” he said.

The event opened with an introduction of Abdul-Qadir followed by a 30-minute conversation, which described the various martial arts styles and techniques the students would learn.

The turn-out was fair with about 5-7 students taking part in the action and the event would highlight the talents of both Abdul-Qadir’s children, ages 10 and 13.

According to Abdul-Qadir, many students expressed interest in attending, but, given the campus climate with students actively protesting and amongst other reasons like the men’s basketball game against Georgia Tech, there were preventing factors.

“As the presentation happened and as we engaged in the historical aspect of martial arts and answered questions that people were interested in and as we did our demo, it’s about quality over quantity,” he said. “And I think that it was a nice quality event.”

A former student himself, Abdul-Qadir is no stranger to some of the experiences marginalized groups of people from African-American, Latinx, Native-American or Asian descent survive.

“The campus goes through some challenges like this regularly, a little more than I think we should,” he said. “And from time to time, the students want to hold faculty, staff, and administration responsible for some of the commitments that the institution has made which I think they have the right to do.”

Abdul-Qadir practices Shotokan karate, a traditional Japanese style and part of the demo taught to the students is known as sensei. Sensei is a traditional-based kata and has elements of the basic forms practiced and compiled as an advanced form. Some of the moves shown included an elbow strike, knife-hand, blocks, strikes, back stances, jump kicks and evasive tactics in the form.

“Kata is a series of blocks and movements, a combination between the martial and the artist part,” he said. “You can clearly see in there punches and kicks and strikes but you also see in there elements of artistic creativity in dance or movement and things like that.”

Abdul-Qadir said martial arts is a way of life and is certain his expertise in the sport is not just a form of relief but has helped to build his character and is a part of his narrative.

“Whether you’re doing it socially or you’re doing it as a sport or for the tradition of it all, martial arts, in my mind, transcends cultures, many of the things we fall victim to in our day to day society, especially as a Black man in the U.S.,” he said.