Paul Kupperberg talks about JEW-JITSU: THE HEBREW HANDS OF FURY

Oy! It’s the return of…Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury (יְהוּדִי- ג’יטסו: עִברִית הידיים של זעם), the hilariously illustrated book of Jewish self-defense…God forbid! Where has Jew-Jitsu been? Why did it return? These are some of many questions I did not ask Paul Kupperberg about his new Kickstarter. However, Paul was nice enough to stop by First Comics News and catch our readers up on Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury.

First Comics News: Who is Chiam Mangawicz?

Paul Kupperberg: Chiam Mangawicz was a young rabbinical student from Gdansk, Poland who got waylaid by a press gang and put to sea as a cabin boy in 1841. Young Chiam earned the grudging respect of the ship’s brutal and mostly gentile crew by remaining true to his religious beliefs and refusing to slop the deck, serve swill and grog, and be abused down in the bilge on the Shabbos even though his defiance was rewarded with cruel punishments. Chiam jumped ship in the Ryukyu Islands of southeastern Japan and swam to safety in the tiny seaside village of Kumentsugast, with Meshpokha, a Japanese farmer and his family. They took in the stranded youth and, in exchange for their kindness, he taught them Judaism and Talmud, performing the first bris in Japan on the converted Meshpokha. From them, he learned Japanese and how to roll sushi.

1st: How was Jew-Jitsu (הוּדִי- ג’יטסו) developed as a martial art?

Paul: Jew-Jitsu came about as a melding of the Japanese martial arts discipline Chiam learned while living with Meshpokha and his family and traditional Jewish passive-aggressiveness. Rabbi Mangawicz took the opportunity when he finally sailed for home in 1853 to codify his many years of scattered thoughts and philosophies in his writings on Jew-jitsu, or the way of the righteous man.

1st: How does Jew-Jitsu compare to Krav Maga (קְרַב מַגָּע)?

Paul: Very favorably, although Krav Maga has a slight advantage in that it’s an actual, real thing.

1st: What is the Rabbinical Council of the I.O.C.?

Paul: That would be the International Oy-lympic Committee. It’s not affiliated with that other group, the International Olympic Committee, but if a Jew wants to participate in a sport and needs to know whether or not it’s kosher, he can just look for the I.O.C.’s seal of approval and, alef, bet, gimmel, he’ll know what’s what.

1st: What makes the difference between a kosher (כַּשְׁרוּת) and non-kosher martial art?

Paul: The preparation and strict rabbinical supervision.

1st: Since martial arts are not ingested aren’t all martial arts pareve (פרווה)?

Paul: As Rabbi Irving Noble, inventor of Kosher nitroglycerin once said, “Better you should be safe than sorry!”

1st: How did Rabbi Daniel Eliezer discover the ancient secret of Jew-Jitsu?

Paul: It wasn’t so much a discovery as a process, gradually taking little bits and pieces of this and that to making something new, like a nice meatloaf. Individually, each ingredient isn’t so good on its own, but put them all together and you’ve got dinner! But the essence of Jew-jitsu was best described by Chiam thusly: “As the mama will deftly sidestep objection with the gentle application of guilt, so does the student of Jew-jitsu move his opponent with subtle leverage.”

1st: I was told the author’s mother said it was “very nice, very nice”. Was this your mother or Rabbi Danny’s mother?

Paul: Both. It’s every Jewish mother.

1st: What is “du oifn fun der mensch” (דרכו של הצדיק)?

Paul: This speaks to the very core of what is taught in the Jew-jitsu chaider. It means “the way of the righteous man.” Jew-jitsu isn’t so much about fighting as it is about discipline. As Rabbi Shmuel Askanazi, one of Chiam Mangawicz’s first students back in Poland, once observed, “It doesn’t matter how hard you hit if you’re hitting for the wrong reason.”

1st: How did you discover the secrets of Jew-Jitsu?

Paul: I was first exposed to Jew-jitsu when I was a boy back in East Flatbush. My neighborhood was primarily Jewish, but we were surrounded on all sides by all sorts of kids from different cultures. There were Italian kids in one direction in Canarsie, the Irish in Flatbush, black kids in Brownsville…if you left your own neighborhood, you stood a good chance of getting your ass kicked by whosever turf you happened to be on. Well, one day, we wandered into Crown Heights, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and we ran into a bunch of Hasidic kids…who beat us up using Jew-jitsu.

1st: Aren’t their prohibitions against sharing the secrets?

Paul: Tell that to those Hasidic bullies!

1st: Dærick Gröss Sr. is working with you on this project isn’t he goyim (גויים)?

Paul: Oy! Is he? I didn’t ask! I just thought he was such a good artist…how could he NOT be a landsman?

1st: After reading the book you claim you can earn a 10th degree tallis with black tzitzis in the hamish hand-to-hand tradition. If you only get to 9th degree is there some kind of prorated rebate on the Kickstarter?

Paul: Listen, if there’s a problem, you’ll bring in the receipt and we’ll see what we can work out, nu?

1st: All joking aside, do you have to be Jewish to enjoy the humor of this book, or is it funny no matter who you are?

Paul: Like the old Levy’s Rye Bread advertising campaign said, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s!” It’s true there’s some Yiddish in the book, but everything is translated and/or explained in the handy dandy glossary in the back of Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury.

1st: What is the minimum bid for a digital copy?

Paul: SUCH a bargain! For a pledge of just $8, the “bet” reward level, you’ll get a digital copy of Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury!

1st: What is the minimum bid for a physical copy?

Paul: To get a trade paperback copy of Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury, just pledge the $25 “dalet” level. We’re also offering books and other rewards at higher levels, including original art sketch cards and original art from the book by Dærick Gröss Sr., and the chance to be “Tuckerized,” or have your name written into the book. And no matter what level you pledge, you’ll receive a downloadable Certificate from Rabbi Daniel Eliezer’s Jew-Jitsu chaider in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, suitable for framing!

1st: When will the book ship?

Paul: Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury is written, but artist Dærick Gröss Sr. has 80+ illustrations yet to draw for the book, so we’re planning to ship the book by around Lag BaOmer. That would put it at the end of Iiyar, beginning of Sivan…or around May, for those of you who use the Julian calendar.

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