Abir (Hebrew) is a the name of the fighting technique taught by Sofer in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Sofer claims to have a family tradition of the Abir Warrior Arts, which he and other Yemenite elders say were used by ancient Israelite warriors.
Sofer is the current Aluf Abir (Hebrew for Grandmaster of Abir). His training in his family’s fighting techniques began when he was a child and he has had more than 45 years of training in physical conditioning and hand to hand combat. According to the Sofer/Ma`atuf-DoH family tradition, their Abir techniques were derived from an ancient Habbani Jewish warrior tradition.
According to research conducted by an Abir historian, the military prowess of the Habbanis is known to a some elder Baladi (non-Habbani) Yemenite Jews as well, as being owed to the Habbanis’ letter-based warrior art, a remnant of the fighting arts of the ancient Israelites.
According to a spokesman for Abir Warrior Arts:
The young Sofer only trained in foreign combat by command of his father, against his desire. At home, he was groomed and trained in the art of his ancestors from the age of three, and he longed to practice Abir only and make it known. His grandfather, the previous Aluf Abir Nachman Sofer, personal bodyguard to Lawrence of Arabia and the British brass in Hadramawt), played with the young scion of the Sofer dynasty from the age of three, indoctrinating him through games based on the Sofer family tradition of Chevron and Hejaz Abir. This training included the use of Shootnah, Karkour, Paziza, Heavkuth, Kunfoon, Keshet, Herev Rahav (Middle Eastern Broad Sword), slingshot, javelin, Nabuta, Maagal and the Maaraf. Yet his father and grandfather forbade him to reveal the art until he would become at least Dan 7 in one other fighting form, become recognized as expert in several other diverse forms, and reach the age of forty. They did so, despite the fact they considered foreign martial arts to be forbidden to Jews (and in many cases to non-Jews as well). As immigrants to the United States, theirs was the first generation ever to see centuries-old national fighting traditions of different peoples available to the masses to choose from and learn. For the Abir tradition to survive, it would need to contend with these competitors. They therefore ensured that the next torch bearer would be able to adapt the art to the modern world, much like the Hebrew language was adapted to fit the needs of the modern era.
Origin of the name
Abir is a Hebrew word meaning powerful, a warlord, palace guard, protector of royalty, warrior, bodyguard, or a defender. It is derived from the three letter Hebrew root ?-?-?, which means to soar above protectively.
Sofer’s Abir martial art form is based on fighting techniques that he learned from his grandfather and father. The history of these techniques is that at one time ancient Israel had fighting techniques, which was both hand to hand and also weaponized in nature. It is believed that while most Jewish communities did not continue to train in Abir, some exotic Jewish communities in Arabia and in parts of Asia were able to maintain elements of the techniques.
Techniques and principles
Abir’s movements are based on elements of Judaic principles and symbolic elements. The Abir approach is made up of a combination of the following elements.
- Judaic symbols
- The Ancient Hebrew and Modern Hebrew alphabets.
- Techniques passed down by Jewish communities such as the Habbani Jews.
- Jewish dances from various exotic or ancient communities, which are believed to have been a part of an ancient Abir combat system.
Many of these techniques derive from the Biblical 12 tribes of Israel.
Abir ha-Ro’im Ya`aqov Moshe (left) demonstrating an arm bar take down on his son, the Aluf Abir Yehoshua Sofer (right)
- The Tribe of Shimon – The symbol for these movements is a sword. Motions relating to Shimon are characterized by slashing motions along a wide or narrow circular axis with the “blades” of the hands or feet.
- The Tribe of Asher – The symbol for these movements is a tree. Movement of one part of the body must include a cooperative or supportive movement by the remainder of the whole body.
- The Tribe of Reuven – The symbol for these movements is a flower. The waving and twisting motion of the torso like a flower is essential in massaging the internal organs. Reuven training is a relaxing low-impact form of exercise and training activates the limbs subliminally by virtue of the motion of the hips and torso (the shaft or stem of the flower).
- The Tribe of Gad – The symbol for these movements is the tent. Movements are based on balancing one leg while the other leg is free to rotate along a circumference allowing the practitioner to position themselves at any point along 360 degrees.
- The Tribe of Zevulon – The symbol for this movement is a ship in the water. Movements are based on retaining balance and footing. Made up of swift forward motions without hesitation.
- The Tribe of Yoseph – The symbol for these movements is the bull. Uses power to drive through an opponent by utilizing bodyweight to knock them over with a quick burst of external power. Also entails the use two hands like a bulls horns to deter attacks and to strike an opponent’s defenses out of the way for subsequent attacks.
- The Tribe of Naftali – The symbol for these movements is the deer. Techniques based on speed, spring like moves, and not making unnecessary movements.
- The Tribe of Dan – The symbol for these movements is a snake. Made up of controlled flurries of arm strikes as well as open hand strikes.
- The Tribe of Yissachar – The symbol for these movements is the donkey. Utilizes back kicks, throws, and absorption of blows.
- The Tribe of Benyamin – The symbol for these movements is the wolf. This particular set of techniques involve a philosophy of attack that disables an opponent’s weak areas such as eyes using fast or soft motions.
- The Tribe of Yehudah – The symbol for these movements is the lion. Movements in this form are swift powerful lunging stabs, slaps, palm heel strikes, elbows, knees, shoving, and shoulder strikes.
- The Tribe of Levi – The symbol for these techniques is the Hoshen (The Priestly Breastplate). This represents taking the total amount of Abir techniques and putting them together in needed sequences and using the techniques to adapt to a differences in the opponent’s techniques.
Seven categories of alphabetical attacks
The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 consonants and five word ending letters bringing them to a total of 27 letters. In Abir the Hebrew letters, both ancient and modern, are used to assign movements into 7 special categories of choking, locking, throwing, take downs, primary initiated attacks, secondary responsive attacks, and combinations of the first six categories.
This is believed to help the student, who is familiar with Judaic symbols, with a unique and familiar way to quickly assimilate complex combat techniques using familiar visual memory tools. These techniques are then studied in conjunction with additional techniques that are designed to solve the most commonly encountered types of attacks with effective counters.
This Abir concept maintains that every action of a limb returns toward the torso with greater speed and the least amount of stress. This is done in direct opposition to the same limbs energy employed to launch an attack directed away from the torso. Recoil attacks are the preferred choice of attack in Abir, and are used as stealth strikes to the indefensible anterior zone at the opponent’s hind or blindside while the defender is positioned directly in front.