June 7, 2008

The Martial Art of Chess, Wu-Tang Style

rza190.jpgSaw this in the NY Times. They've got a funny multimedia video feature on the page. Check it out!

The article says:
RZA, 38, learned the game when he was 11, from a girl who, as he writes in the manual, also took his virginity. Though he and his cousin GZA, another founder of the group, both love chess, they did not play much when they were younger because, GZA said, they were too poor to own a board.

Now they play chess almost every day, and RZA, holder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation belt — a trophy he picked up last fall at a tournament in San Francisco that featured rappers and martial-arts experts — is turning his interest into a business. On Monday he started WuChess (wuchess.com), a Web site where fans can play chess online, chat, see scores of their games and other personal information, and get news about RZA and Wu-Tang. RZA said that the site might one day offer monthly tournaments, with the winner playing him online.

“The way you have to think in chess is good for everyday thinking, really,” he said, “especially for brothers in the urban community who never take that second look, never take that second thought.”

This is absolutely awesome. Chess is a great way to instill discipline, to learn how to respect the mind, and to give people a community activity to get them off the streets. It's a moneymaking venture, but if it works, it'll do wonders for kids. It's funny too that the Times calls it a "martial art" in keeping with the martial themes of the Wu-Tang Clan. It's fitting though; in Russia and around the world, chess is considered a sport.

Maurice Ashley, the first African American chess grandmaster, has said that chess saved him from the streets. Ashley has also used chess as a way to help kids. But even though Maurice Ashley could whoop RZA in chess while blindfolded, RZA's got the star power. Hopefully this will do some great things for the community.

(The natural question, of course, is whether there is a similar activity that is good for Asian American culture. I have my ideas. I'll share them in August!)

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