Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nganga Tolo-naa

Back in the early 70s I did some minor local competing just for the hell of it. I would go with friends to Chicago Heights, IL to the school of Ray "The Chicago Tiger" Cooper. Cooper is a legendary early competitor on the regional scene who was also one of the early students of John Keehan. Like Keehan, Cooper eventually changed his name to Tolo-naa, reflecting his African origins and traditions. Later N'ganga, a Ki-Kongo word, a title that is earned and presented by one's community usually granting leadership and Mfundishi, a Swahili word means masters of arts, were both added to his name as honorific titles.

Tolo-Naa's school would host seminars on tournament competition. He has always had a commitment to teaching and is one of the best. In the 4 hours I was there I felt I left prepared for some serious battle. He was a patient but stern teacher in my memory very soft-spoken and remains so to this day. There has always been a quiet, peaceful aura of power around him.

He was one of my first interviews when I started working on the three two years ago. I was happy to reconnect with him and to see he how he had evolved out of the external martial arts and become one with the internal systems, becoming a devoted student of Prof. Huo Chi-Kwang.

Nganga Mfundishi Tolo-Naa began studying martial arts when he was twelve. He was first taught by his brother, an Army Ranger who had served in Korea. He later met and became a student of John Keehan when he attended a shiai at his school.

Tolo-Naa competed in Karate tournaments in the United States and Canada and in 1964 he took second place in the World Karate Championship in a controversial decision against Mike Stone in a match refereed by Robert Trias.

Tolo-Naa has studied Jiu jitsu, Judo, Karate, Tae kwon do, Akido, Shao lin, Bando, Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing-yi Chuan, Pa-Kua Chang, and many long and short weapon routines.

He is the originator of the Shackle Hand Style of self-defense and is a student of many meditative disciplines including Taoist Yoga; Kundalini Yoga; Tantra Yoga; and Hatha Yoga. He received his initiation in Tibetan Tantra meditation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. For the past 29 years, Nganga has concentrated on the study of Chinese internal systems with Professor Huo Chi-Kwang and the late GrandMaster Lu Hung-Ping.


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Nganga Tolo-Naa founded the All-African Peoples Art and Cultural Center in the 1960s. In the 1980s he started the Maat Center for martial arts in Chicago Heights (Ill.). He is co-founder of the Kupigana Ngumi Martial Arts Federation and founder of the Martial Arts Research Society/Systems. In 1987, he founded QuieScience Sacred Science Temple (QSST), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting personal development through the martial arts.

Tolona-Naa currently teaches a seminat in Chicago one a month and teaches at the QuieScience Sacred Science Temple in Maryland.

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