By Tosin Ajirire
In 1985, he came to Nigeria and trained many people in the martial arts of judo, karate and taekwondo etc. On November 17, Ghanaian self-defense expert, Professor Danny Gwira will return to the country for the African Goju Festival taking place at Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
According to him, the festival will pull together stakeholders in the martial arts sector, including security operatives, sporting public, enthusiasts and aficionados. It will also include live musical rendition, display of African dance and scene shoots for a Nollywood movie entitled, Breach.
In this interview conducted during his recent visit to Lagos, Prof. Gwira talks more about African Goju and the forthcoming festival. Enjoy it.
Tell us briefly about yourself
My name is Professor Danny Gwira. I’m the founder of African Goju, my own system of self-defense. I have Ph.D. in Martial Arts Education from University of Martial Arts & Science, New York, USA. I am the African Dragon with 10th Degree Black Belt and 10th Degree Red Belt. I am the first man to have two globally recognised martial arts styles; and my landmark book, Roar of the Tigress – Self Defense for Women is making waves internationally.
In 1985, I came to Nigeria and trained many people including popular actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Jaiye Aboderin (late), Raymond Ezumas, policemen Mac Iyamu and Biola Renner (late), Emmanuel ‘Hardman’ Nwaegise, Clement Iyeyemi, Ene Bassey, David Ayutsede, Godwin Ozeigbe, Ohio-Michael Elakhe, Henry Akpode, Yinka Onaolapo, Celestine Ifetu (late), Vincent Omenka and more in the martial arts of judo, karate and taekwondo. I plan to come back again in November for the African Goju Festival.
What’s African Goju all about?
African Goju started in 1985. It’s a system of self-defense based on my experience in self-defense and I formulate different styles for my own system, simply because it’s not what you can give but how much you can take. We also recognise that self-defense is not only about fighting; because other people see self-defense as a form of fighting, but there are a lot more to it. It’s too dangerous now to attack somebody physically, so self-defense is taking new dimension. Everybody knows that if you hit somebody and that person gets hurt or dies, you are going to jail. The most important thing is to avoid the fight. In a situation where you’re helpless, you either run away or apologise, not because you are right or wrong, but because if you hit anybody, you are breaking the law.
You started at a tender age of eight. What actually pushed you into it at that very young age?
Yes, I started with judo back then in the United Kingdom. Later on, I did taekwondo and all. When I was in school in England, everybody was doing judo. I didn’t go to school in Africa. My father was an ambassador for Ghana in England, so that was why I was sent to boarding school at the early age, and in boarding school, we learned boxing, fencing and judo. There was a progression to karate and wrestling.
What exactly does Goju mean?
‘Go’ means five in Japanese and ‘ju’ means 10; and five times ten is 50.
So, in Goju there are 50 techniques on how to defend yourself. I used that to form my own 50 techniques, which came from judo, wrestling, taekwondo, boxing and all. A little bit of all these will make it totally different from the norm.
So, can we say African Goju consists of karate, judo and all?
Yes, every bit of all. But mostly, the name ‘Goju’ came as a result of my meeting with an American artiste called Rank Clef, a black man who was very popular in the ‘70s, I’m sure you would have seen him in all these movies. I also met a guy called Jim Kelly but he has died now. They thought me what is called ‘Chinese Goju’ and I asked why it’s called ‘Chinese Goju’ when they are not Chinese, they are Africans, and they told me I could call mine ‘African Goju’ if I like. From then on, I started African Goju.
How many years can it take someone to have a black belt in African Goju?
In African Goju, you can get black belt in five months, if you are serious, and in two years if you are not training regularly. But, because the main emphasis is not about fighting but how to defend yourself, and defending yourself means not to get attacked.
With people like you around, why is it that Africans don’t win Olympic gold medals in karate, judo, and taekwondo etc.?
Yes, the reason is that we are not the originators of karate and judo, it’s the way of the Chinese, and they invented it. Taekwondo has been around for 200 years, and it’s Korean’s style made by the Koreans for the Koreans. And they spread it around the world. We can never be as good as the Koreans but occasionally you can get Africans who are good, but at the end of the day, it’s still their style.
You guys have licence to kill?
Yes, we have but we can’t use it. You know, we can’t just hit somebody on the street. Many things can go wrong if you hit somebody, and that’s why we don’t like to fight not that we can’t.
Did you get the scare on your face as a result of fight?
No, it was through a car accident that I had in 1974.
Is it true that someone can drive a car over your stomach without you getting hurt?
Yes, those are parts of our training. We try to conquer fear because fear kills faster. After years of training, that mental thing stays with you. For example, talking about push-up, today you do 10 push-ups and tomorrow you try to do 11, and eventually you get to a hundred. I can do a thousand push-ups non-stop. A thousand is normal for me; I do a lot more than the average person. I work out for like two to three hours everyday.
And you are going to display all these during the African Goju Festival coming up in Lagos in November?
Oh yes, I will display everything. I’m going to have someone drive a car over my stomach and I’m going to give a lecture on all I have been telling you. And then I am going to do Goju beat, which is Euro beat in the hard way. So, I’m going to challenge everybody in the hall to do more push-ups than me, so they can win a prize. That is what I will do. The breaking of the blocks, I can do it but I haven’t done that recently.
How many blocks can you break at a time?
I can break four blocks at a time. Just that I haven’t done that recently. I have left all that stuffs for the students. After a certain age, you just have to let go. I’m 64-years-old but I can still do a lot of stuff.
Tell us more about the festival. What are the expectations?
People should expect a good show on November 17. We expect to fill the hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos with at least 1,000 people. But what will entice people are the prizes. We have companies that are sponsoring us, each company will advertise its products for free, and in return they will give their products. We are hoping to get a car dealer to put down a car, not necessarily a brand new one, but be a fairly used car.
Speakers from national and state security agencies will be on ground to sensitize the African Goju practitioners, martial arts self-defense community and attendees on roles they can play to partner with them and assist with their skills, training and technology. Speakers from the formal and informal health sector will also be available to make health and wellness presentations and educate on how to ensure best health and dietary practices. There will equally be full-contact bouts; Gojurobics and keep-fit records contest with prizes for the fittest and most ambitious feats by men, women and children. In fact, the festival is all about entertainment, it’s coming with a live musical rendition, display of African dance and scene shoots for an upcoming Nollywood movie entitled, Breach.