Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Spiritual Boxer: An Interview With 52 Hand Blocks Specialist Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7 (Part 1)

Douglas Century’s Street Kingdom: Five Years Inside the Franklin Avenue Posse introduced readers to the world of Big K, a member of Brooklyn’s notorious Franklin Avenue Posse.  Throughout the 1980’s, the F.A.P established itself as a crew not to be trifled with.  Big K counted himself among their ranks, selling wholesale weight up and down the eastern seaboard.  During the 1990’s, K flexed muscles of a different sort by trying his hand in the rap industry.  This meant leaving his old ways behind, something that was much easier said than done.  Douglas Century’s book documented that difficult transition in vivid detail.

Now known as Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7, Big K has come a long way since his days in the F.A.P.  He now serves the community he once preyed upon as a purveyor of the mysterious 52 Hand Blocks, a fighting system tempered on the streets of Brooklyn.  As part of Constellation, Kawaun imparts the benefits of this lost art onto a generation that has lost touch with its roots.  Though he has moved beyond the wild ways of his youth, Kawaun has not forgotten his past.  He recently discussed with me his proficiency in the 52 blocks, as well as the stripes he earned on the streets of Brooklyn.  I found him a much more thoughtful and mature individual than the one I encountered in the pages of Street Kingdom.

“F.A.P. Franklin Avenue Posse, you can't stop me, cause my shit’s never sloppy”
 – Buckshot from “Ack Like U Want It,” a song from Black Moon’s debut album Enta Da Stage.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Alright K, why don’t you give the people your name and tell them a little bit about you before we get into these questions?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: I’m Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7.  I’m a 52 specialist, motivational speaker, and all around cohesive man with the universe.  That’s it.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Why do so many people doubt the existence of the 52 hand blocks?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: The number one thing is that everyone has tried to keep it secret for some reason or another, and this casts doubt because the people who are trying to keep it a secret don’t really know it.  The people who know it are so far and few between that [the detractors] don’t get to see it.  Another thing is that when there’s one person who knows this thing and he gets into a situation with a person who may not know it, it tends not to come out as it’s supposed to.  This is basically why some people might doubt it.  

Then, it’s more of a black thing.  Anything that’s black, sometimes it gets tainted because as a people sometimes we embellish on things.  We don’t leave it the way it is.  We kind of try to take it to another level.  This is why it’s lost, actually.  No one took the time to record it or anything like that. Everyone thought that it would be a passing phase or a fad.  Some people didn’t keep up with it. This is why it’s not seen, hence this is why people think that it doesn’t exist. 
Scott “Tre” Wilson: Can it be used in a real fight?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: Oh yes it can.  I’ve used it in a real fight.  I’ve continued to use it.  It can be used.  Very well, I might add.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Is there anybody that’s considered the all-time master of the 52 Hand Blocks?  Is there any legendary figure like that?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: It’s not well recorded.  Everyone in these communities in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Long Island would kind of have their own favorite, you know?  But there’s not one set master, per se.  Everybody knows what they know.  If you would ask who’s a set fraud, we could name all day.  You have some guys who are really, really proficient in this thing, really good.  Basically, they’re the old timers of the game.  But to say that there is one master?  I wouldn’t go as far as to say that.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Could the 52 Hand Blocks be used in a movie similar to how Steven Seagal incorporated Aikido into his films?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: Of course.  Yes it can, very much so.  Yes it can.  If it’s not embellished, if it’s taken from the principles and the foundation, if it’s dealt with by people who know the art as it were, it can be done.  Something beautiful can come out from it.  Again, like I say to you, if you have two people who know a thing or two about a thing or two in 52, then it will come out brilliant.  But if you have someone that knows and someone that doesn’t know, and they’re subpar in fighting, it can make the person who knows this 52 thing look mediocre.  Just like it would make them look mediocre.  If you’re fighting someone with some talent, it steps you’re game up.  But if you’re not fighting anybody whereby you don’t have to defend yourself, you can’t get these punches off and these strikes off like you want to.  With 52, the more the opponent knows, the better you look.  The better he looks.  Because you guys take it up another level.  You guys feed off of one another.  So if there is a person who is lackluster in this field right here, it’s not going to bode well.  There’s timing to a street fight, actually. 
Scott “Tre” Wilson: I understand you used to be a cruiserweight boxer?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: Yes.

Kawaun back in his boxing days.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Did knowing the 52 hand blocks help you in your boxing career?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: Yes it did, actually.  People talk about a Peekaboo style.  I had what is called Bo Peep.  It’s pretty much the same thing but it’s different.  It’s boxed better.  It has better angles actually, and I’ve used that.  Actually everybody says Peekaboo, but it’s really Bo Peep.
Scott “Tre” Wilson: You’re familiar with Hassan Yasin, right?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: That’s my brother.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: I once saw a video clip where he held a razor blade in his mouth and spit it out in his hand and then demonstrated a few moves with that razor blade.  A few people I know doubted the existence of that.  They said there was no way you could hold a fresh razor in your mouth, spit it out and use it.  

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: (Laughs uncontrollably)

Scott “Tre” Wilson: (Laughs) Your reaction says everything.  But please elaborate.

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: I don’t glorify where we have been, but the thing is this, brother: we have some of the most brilliant minds in prisons, behind walls.  We can do anything that we set our mind to.   We had to learn.  Prison for us—especially Rikers Island C-74—was our gladiator school.  That was our training camp for when we went up to the real prisons: the Atticas, the Comstocks, The Elmiras, The Shawangunks, The Greenhavens, the Sing Sings.  We had to learn and hone our craft on the island.  So every one of us who was worth their weight in this thing called gangsterism, we had to learn that.  Yes, we carried fresh razors in our mouth.  Some of us carried two.  That is very real.  You had to be there to see that.  You had to be a prisoner; you had to be on your way upstate to see that kind of thing.  It wasn’t practiced as a way to look pretty or as “Oh, I got this down pat!”  No, this was a survival tactic.  It’s for survival and it’s very real. 

Kawaun (left center) with Hassan Yasin a.k.a. GIANT (right center).

Let me just say this: You have people that haven’t been where we’ve been in the prison system—and that’s not to big anybody up.  Only suckers go to prison.  People who’ve gotten caught go to prisons.  But if you weren’t there, you don’t know what we had to do to survive in there.  You don’t know the day to day operations were in there.  Of course you’re going to say “Oh, that’s not real.”  The things that Giant (Hassan Yasin) does on that bar is extraordinary.  That came from prison.  Not to say that we condone anybody going to prison or doing crimes because we don’t.  We’re saying that we did this so that maybe youngsters in our community don’t have to.  Come learn a thing or two from us because when we grew up it was all about getting your stripes when going to prison.  I couldn’t wait to hit Elmira. I couldn’t wait to hit Attica. I couldn’t wait to hit Sing Sing.  I couldn’t wait to hit Auburn.  When I hit the gates of Auburn I thought I finally made it, until I got inside and started to cry.  You’re never gonna know what we went through until you go through it.  So they’re going to say “Oh, man, that’s not real, that’s not this, that’s not this, that’s not that.”  Okay then.  That’s you.  Come see us.  See if it’s real or not.  We have open doors.  Come see us.

Scott “Tre” Wilson: What was it like being a member of the Franklin Avenue Posse?  

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: Back then, it was an honor.  The type of structure that we had was second to none in any crew.  I felt beautiful being a part of that, because it was a brotherhood.  It was real, it’s not like what today is.  It’s not I love you today and I hate you tomorrow, or we made a hundred thousand dollars today and tomorrow I get caught and I snitch on you.  It wasn’t like that.  It was a brotherhood.  It was a solid band of Hellions that organized themselves into a tight knit closed circle crew.  Like a colony of mice.  Just terrorizing the covenants of societies in New York, D.C. , Virginia, and Florida.  Not to glorify it but this was what it was.  It afforded us the opportunity to make money and travel, live a little, do some things, gain some experience.  

Kawaun posing with fellow F.A.P members Justice and Life.

Back then it was a beautiful thing.  It was a high like no other.  Some people say to me it’s a great thing to be a part of something.  I say that I was addicted just like those crackheads are.  I will never come down off my dependency on that.  It’s like alcoholics anonymous.  There’s not a day that I’m not thinking about it.  I know it’s wrong now, but there’s not a day that I don’t think about those days.  It’s still in me, but I have to fight everyday not to be that kind of man anymore.  You can go and get yourself weaned off of crack and dope and those kind of things we were selling.  Me?  I can’t wean myself off of money.  It’s kind hard going back to hamburger helper after you’ve had filet mignon and lobster and that kind of thing.  So we from F.A.P, and any other drug dealer that has come out of prison and has fallen and so forth, we’re much more addicted to that money than these guys can ever have been to crack and so on and so forth.  We were a band of people who hated poverty much more than we would ever hate sin, so that’s what it was about.    

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Given your experiences as a member of the F.A.P, does it bother you when you see rappers who obviously aren’t tough guys trying to play that role?  

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: In a way yeah and in a way no.  I feel that you have to do what you have to do.  At the end of the day, it’s about you being able to live with you.  Because any man, when he lays down and he goes to sleep the first thing that goes through his mind, and I don’t care who you are or what your about, right before you slip into that deep sleep you’re going to think.  That shows the measure up there.  You’ve got to deal with you.  You’ve got to deal with your fronting.   You’ve got to deal with your bullshit.  You got to deal with that mentality that you have.  When you’re playing with yourself, you’ve got to make yourself believe your foolishness.  And you’re a bigger fool for doing that.  

Hassan Yasin a.k.a. GIANT (left) with one of the few rappers to have earned Kawaun's respect, Styles P (right).

If you can live with it you can live with it, but on the other end that makes me feel hurt because I paved the way.  I had to go hard.  I earned my way in.  These guys sell a little record and then they start talking this foolishness.  I mean the gold, it’s not even worth anything anymore.  So it’s not only these rappers that are living the lie, it’s these record companies that are living the lie.  It’s the jewelry stores that are living the lie.  It’s the clothing made of cheap materials that are living the lie.  It’s the Audi company that gives an Audi chassis to Rolls Royce so that they can get a Rolls Royce body on it, which is just a souped-up fucking Audi.  Everybody’s living the lie now. It’s become the norm.  Women with fake-ass Gucci bags, Men with fake-ass Prada shoes.  It’s the norm for this generation here to be fake.  So they have to live with themselves.  

Scott “Tre” Wilson: Do you have any regrets in regards to anything you’ve done in your past?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: I don’t have [too many] regrets for what I’ve done.  The biggest regret that I have is that I made my mother hurt.  She didn’t want this for me, and didn’t grow up in poverty.  My dad is very well off.  My mom is very well off.  It’s just that I wanted to pave my own way.  I regret hurting her.  I regret letting her down, so to speak.  

Do I have remorse for some things that I’ve done?  A little bit.  But in this thing, you learn to live with your regrets.  It’s better them than me is how I always thought.  I might have a tinge of regret for selling weight to individuals who turned around and sold it to the communities.  Now I have that regret.  But everything I did, and I do, I stand by it.  That’s me.  I’m going to be dealt with one of these days.  But I couldn’t have the life that I have now if I didn’t do what I did before.  That’s what I feel.  So what I did before helps me now to right some of these wrongs and to help the community and bridge the gap between us and them, meaning the new generation coming.  Believe it or not, a lot of them-more than a few, listen to what we have to say.  What Constellation has to say, what Giant and Bartendaz have to say.  If the universe had us go through that just to teach children and just to teach our communities and just to raise the awareness of the universal mind, than that’s peace and there can’t be no regret out of it if something good came out of it.  A mistake is not really a mistake if you learn from it.  

Scott “Tre” Wilson: What finally made you decide to calm down and square up?  What really made you change?

Kawaun Adon Akhenoten 7: Let me let you know this: I’ll never square up.  I told you already, I’m very addicted to the art of money making money.  I’m very addicted.   Like I said, the crack users, the dope users, they are very lucky.  It’s the dealers who are addicted to the high life that are really in trouble.  Every day I deal with it.  However, I started to see where this thing was consuming me in more ways than one.  I’ve never used cocaine.  I’ve never smoked weed.  I’ve never did dope.  I don’t even drink.  So I think my last lot was when I went back to prison for the last time.  I started taking this very good look at myself and started looking around and seeing what was in prison, who the prisoners were.  It was a very big contrast from the people who were holding down the game and being the vanguard at one point to what I saw in prison.  It wasn’t about how many kilos you got busted with, it was about who you told on.  It wasn’t about how many years you got, but how many years you’re going to get off when you go to the grand jury for your homeboy.  So I felt as if, if I keep doing this thing, there’ll be more hurt.  There’ll be more bodily harmed people and so on and so forth.  It just got old at some point.  For me it just got old.

This classic "Beat Down" shot shows Kawaun back when he was known as the menacing Big K.  He's the one pointing a Colt 45 semi-automatic at the camera. 

Then awareness set in and I started seeing what I was doing to communities.  At one point I used to lie to myself and say well, shit, I aint doing no crime.  I sell weight.  I sell 25 kilos a month.  I’m not the one with the crack spots and so on and so forth.  Then it dawned on me, you’re supplying those people.  For every kid that’s not eating, that’s money coming to you.  So the Benz that you’re driving, somebody’s family went without food.  Somebody’s being evicted.  Somebodies family is not being taken care of.  Some little girl is getting molested for someone who is selling their childhood for this narcotic.  You really want that on you boy?  Boy, boy, do you really need that?  Somewhere along the line I got a conscience, because I had started having kids.  My kids were born with sickle cell disease.  In some kind of way I was thinking “Man, here it is.  The chickens have come home to roost on me.  My son was born premature.  Four months into the pregnancy.  This is what it is.   

Click here to read part 2!


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