NOVELL BELL: WHEN SHO’NUFF RETURNED TO HARLEM
Novell Bell, the Black Taoist talks MMA vs traditional martial arts, 52 Handblocks and the Five Percenters, Bagua, hustlin’ to get to China, appearing in BET’S Iron Ring reality television show, the influence of Black martial artists and his appearance in a Playstation video game.
New York City got soft when you left. No one delivered the essence of the street and martial arts, the way you did. The meanest and the prettiest. The baddest mofo — lowdown — around — this town. Hood swagger, red glow — niggas knew, not to sit in the ‘Sho’s Row.’
The city is on some crouching tiger bullshit now. Skinny little lizards claiming to be last dragons. We’ve been waiting for you to come back on the scene. Word out on the street, is that there is a brother bringing the cool back to the martial arts world and standing up against against the bullshit!
I arranged a sit-down with Novel Bell aka The Black Taoist. I met him at the “designated place and at the designated time,” uptown on a hundred something street. I thought I’d arrive at the park and find this guy doing a split in a tree, on some grandmaster shit — fronting. Not Novell, this nigga came strutting from the direction of the housing projects in the opposite direction.
Novell Bell has cred, a champion of various full contact and tournament events — regarded by many as an expert in a martial arts style known as Baguazhang, which he has adapted for urban environments. He’s also been involved in martial arts promotion and one of the trainers of the BET martial arts reality show IRON RING.
While walking towards me, I felt like I was looking at a later version of you. He’s traded the dry jheri-curl chonmage for a fitted cap, the venetian glasses for gold fronts, the Converses have been changed for some exclusive Nike dunks. He’s switched up the swagger but kept the same attitude.
As he crossed the street, I put things into perspective. Novell is a walking dichotomy. Our meeting at Central Park, offered the tranquility of the park, complemented by a body of water and trees. A few blocks away was the harsh reality of the projects. His name “Black Taoist,” suggest someone who is in tune with nature, the world and the universe. Based on that’d you’d expect homeboy to be walking around in a robe, but Novell keeps is gully. He’s a walking stop-and-frisk. Behind the fitted is a round face which could pass for mid thirties, but his scarred eyelids and worn knuckles are signs of an seasoned fighter. That nigga has fist of legend.
As we entered the park, he talked about wanting to fight MMA promoter Joe Rogan, because of comments made about Black martial artists in New York City. We strut towards his dojo and Novell goes in. “I’m trying to be a promoter for traditional martial arts, I’m not thinking about this MMA bullshit… but I got a plan for those motherfuckers! This shit is cool for what it is for, in the cage, but if me and you are banging in the projects — I done seen many fights, in the projects where motherfuckers went down and they get stomped the fuck out! You ain’t gonna be taking no guard, because if you do that to me, I’m gonna kick you in your ass!”
His dojo, an isolated section of the park. Where another teacher, some nigga name Master Kim, teaches a student something that I can’t quite make out. Speaking to the teacher, he asks “Why didn’t you come to my show?” The teacher and student smile and acknowledge Novell, as we make our way to some benches.
He optimistically spoken on plans to promote a show, which would feature traditional martial artists against MMA fighters or boxers. I spoke on a discussion I had in the past, with martial arts promoter Aaron Banks, who felt that MMA was not really martial arts. He said the sport would have damaging effects on the traditional martial arts economically and structurally. Banks referred to it as “degenerate fighting” or “street fighting.”
Novell responded and spoke about the mentality of MMA fighters and then expanded on his fighting background, which started in Jamaica, Queens.
“You can’t even call it street fighting, you’re not going hard body on cats. My thumb may go into your eyes, or I may just grab your ears. They laugh at these funny looking moves, but they’re designed for that, so if we’re grappling, I may give a boxer uppercut, hit you, then rake your fucking eyes. That’s how I am. That’s how I will be thinking! They’re not into that, their mindset is, that if they get hit, they know the referee is pulling your ass off of them! I know some brothers, you take them down, they can tolerate pain. There are some motherfuckers, I know from when I use to hustle, these motherfuckers know how to take pain, so you have to know how to hit motherfuckers! When I was coming up, there were cats on Rikers island who use to be down with the Supreme Team, Fat Cat, Bugout, all those dudes! Cats use to bang… with 52, we use to just call it ‘Jailhouse’ and ‘C67,’ niggas never did none of this flashy shit!”
The Black Taoist aka The Black Tornado
Speaking on 52 Handblocks, he said “A few cats in Brooklyn would do it, because they wanted to showboat on you, but it’s all related to boxing. It’s not boxing all of the way, back then, brothers use to have flavor. They would showboat on you.”
Suddenly, Bell’s moves, his 52 Handblocks demonstration and commentary had me reminiscing on Queens — before and after crack. During those years, I’d see 52 used frequently in the streets. Novell witnessed 52 Handblocks utilized by Five Percenters, who infused style with their fighting. “They may pop the hat on you — in a fight! Born Life, Supreme, I-God, I know a lot of Five Percenters who was nasty with that shit. I-God who use to live on Liberty Ave. That nigga use to be a drug dealer, but he use to be ‘nice!’ He use to drive this Mazda that said POISON on the side. That was crazy, he was showboating. I use to run around Far Rockaway, Edgemier, Hamills. I use to live here and there. Far Rockaway, my mom lived over there and my father lived in Harlem.”
Some of the Five Percenters, known as Gods, utilized their power in various ways. While giving him lessons with their hands, some tried to give him knowledge of self. Interested in the information, however confused by the actions of some would be Gods, who acted like savages and five pretenders.
“I started out with Sifu Rudy Curry Jr. He use to knock niggas out! He use to teach a lot of Five Percenters. Ghazi, he use to be a 52 cat, he use to be nasty with that shit in Baisley Projects, he use to knock niggas out! But he was Muslim, but he was nice with his hands before he got into Islam. When I was younger, him and his brother Justice — Justice use to be nice with the shit. Justice use to try to get me to learn the mathematics and shit like that. I didn’t understand it. I was coming from a Christian background. My mom would say ‘What is this?’ When you’re a God, you’re suppose to have knowledge of self, but a lot of these dudes, they just be talking! Back then, cats shoot the hands, and when you shoot the hands and you built, it wasn’t about destroying each other! They always talking about build and destroy, they want to build but, they’re really destroying each other. So how can you have unity? How can you have elevation? When they talking cipher, how you going to build, if you’re trying to destroy when we first meet each other?” asked Novell.
His upbringing in the Desert, in Queens, has exposed him to many of the lessons. Over the years he has encountered a number of would be Five Percenters who tried to drop science, bomb him, but he is able to see their true uncivilized nature. He recognizes righteousness, true Gods — some of whom are his students.
“That’s why I say, these cats talk mathematics, but they really don’t understand it. The talk it like they know it, so I don’t have respect for cats who claim to be righteous, not really knowing themselves. So when these cats talk all this righteous shit, I sit back and listen. You talk, but then you’re doing uncivilized shit! You talking about the eighty five percent is uncivilized, but you’re uncivilized! If you’re going to act God, you have to be fully God, you can’t be perpetrating! Don’t try to school me, and then act another way. Righteous people don’t get down like that. I know a lot of righteous brothers that I teach over in Queens and they’re cool, they don’t act like that. If you’re really into that, you’re in harmony with yourself!”
Although he is not a Five Percenter, he has a spiritual grounding and knowledge of self. He does not consider himself better than other sifus because of his travels to China. He does believe, that he has a calling.
The Black Taoist and friends
“I use to tell them, ‘I’m not Godbody,’ but my righteous name is Lao Qiang. That is the name given to me when I went to the martial arts temple. I am an Adriatic Black man! My next step is Egypt. Before I close these eyes, there is a reason I have to go there. I been to Hong Kong, Japan and all of this shit! I’ve been to some temples and seen Black faces and all of this, so now, I have to go where all the essence, where this shit came from!” said Novell.
During his early teens, he was introduced to Wing Chun. A street fighter would direct him towards Sifu Rudy Curry Jr.
I got started when I was fourteen, I got started with this brother named Allah. He was a Muslim, we use to call him Ali. He use to be cool, he taught me Wing Chun. He taught me for about a year, my man Justice was like, ‘That shit don’t work, you have to learn how to flow!’ He was talking about The Five Elements and the Tai Chi and this cat name Rudy. Justice was not the kind of cat — for me — when I was coming up, to respect anybody because he was nice with his hands. I seen him beat up a few cats who did martial arts… ‘You have to know how to flow, I’m going to talk you to my man Naman’ — who is Rudy, but we use to call him Naman” explained Novell.
Novell Bell and Sifu Rudy Curry Jr.
When I see this motherfucker, I was like — ‘This nigga looks like a bookworm, he don’t look like a fighter.’ My brother, he’s a fighter, he knows George Frazier’s son. I use to see them niggas hanging together. I seen cats box in my backyard, my uncle use to do Tang Soo Do. I use to see them spar a lot. When I see Rudy, I was like ‘This guy does not look like no fighter’” explained Novell.
I happened to see Sifu Rudy at one of Novell’s recent martial arts tournaments. That nigga does look like a book worm, but he demonstrated some powerful Tai Chi movements. A street dude like Novell aint fucking with just anyone. After he developed some skills, his ego grew as well. Novell recalls chin checking niggas in the tournaments “I use to be hard headed. I thought I was the best. I use to fuck cats up in the street all the time. I use to be running through cats in the tournaments! Motherfuckers would be scared when I showed up.”
Training during the 1990s
Beyond the glory, the street slang, there is a martial artists, who has spent several years educating himself in the art of fighting. Novell explains “Cats are scared of change, people want to say what I say. Put it that way! They don’t want to be themselves. I’ve done did Bagua for… I don’t know how many years. I did Shaolin! So when I see shit, you can’t tell me no differently. I’ve done researched this shit, so I’m not going to do it the way you do it. Most times it is the Europeans, not to many brothers I know, that do what I do. It’s hard work to do this. To really do Bagua, it ain’t the common martial art. A lot of brothers do this hyper type shit. Grand Master Watts would tell me ‘You have to have a foundation to have true understanding.’ You can’t just put a bunch of stuff together, he’s one of my eldest, he really has inspired me the most. He’s all about the functions, forms and shit. He would always tell me ‘A lot of martial artists — their kung fu is mixed up. You have to understand what you’re looking at.’”
In his book THE YIN STYLE BAGUAZHANG COMBAT MANUAL, Novell indicates that a practitioner should devote two hours or more, per day, to develop the foundational skills for Bagua.
“Kung fu, they have what they call Gong Li, you have some people who put forms together — how can you say you do Shoalin, if you don’t do Gong Li. Neigong is the internal, the mind. In order to really develop the mind, the Gong Li must be trained. The mind and the physical. That’s why the stances, must be on point. That is why in China, the real good ones, they’ll have you doing the routines and your shit will be strong! Even my Bagua, it took years to do that. Half these cats that be talking — cant even fuck with me in Bagua! I’m like the Muhammad Ali, of Bagua! A lot of these White boys don’t really get it. They go over there to China, they get a little certificate and they come back to the states, and they teach” said Novell.
On the real Sho, he is tired of these “Wassah Niggas” teaching, meditating in bushes, not fighting and claiming they were the greatest. He explained how he got his mind right. “They wanna talk that textbook theory to you. The Chi, the energy and neutralizing… I use to believe all that shit too my nigga! When I was reading the books, it inspired me! Until I went to the boxing gym and this old ass nigga named Henry fucked me up! You know what I did? I emptied my cup.”
In his book, in the section entitled THE REALITY OF FIGHTING, Novell explains that sparring will never equate to real combat on the street, regardless of how many hours are put in. This is what is needed in martial arts. A nigga that will keep it real. As he explains in his book “Real fighting is low down and dirty! There’s no honor or respect!”
Speaking about other Bagua teachers, in his book he says “Most Baguazhang practitioners and today’s world renowned, so called Bagua teachers never were in any real fights in their life. Yet they write books, videos and teach useless methods of combat!”
He spoke truthfully on martial arts sparring “Sparring won’t give you that same intensity as someone trying to take your life. And I’ve had niggas try to take my life. It ain’t the same feeling. It’s not. My trainer helped me, but you’re always going to have that fear. I don’t know how to put it in words, but it ain’t the same shit. Anything can happen. You can fight a motherfucker and he hits you with a heineken bottle!”
I was surprised to hear an experienced martial artist and fighter like Novell talk about fear, but he was just being real. That is what is needed, someone who will let you know that you can still get your wig split after you get your black belt.
The toughness acquired through a life of combat, was complemented by a mental fortitude, developed through experiences and hardships in life. He reminisced about living on the streets, being homeless and fighting to survive.
Novell Bell demonstrating in Chinatown
“I don’t have an ego — but I don’t really fear death any more. When you’re homeless my nigga, and you don’t know when you next meal is coming, it’s like you wake up, I’ve been in those situations and I’ve been on the A train, going from Manhattan, all the way to the last stop in Far Rockaway and then back. I’ve been at parts of my life — motherfuckers, their subconscious has been left behind. That’s why you see those people that is homeless, they can’t cope with that type of hardship. You see them, they loose it after a while. They lost their faith in themselves. I’ve almost been there, because you’re fucked up when you’re homeless.”
Homeless and hungry, he utilized his martial arts skill and continued the legacy of Black martial artists, like Ron Van Clief and Nathan Ingram, who fought in Chinatown’s underground tournaments. Back in the days, The Black Taoist, was known as “The Black Tornado.”
“I use to fight in those underground shits, that’s why Master Cho, may he rest in peace, he hooked me up in Chinatown and I use to fight for them triad niggas — but fuck it! Niggas use to call me the Black Tornado down there! I don’t know why they use to call me that! There are so many underground fights. It ain’t what you think! Mixed martial arts will get there ass handed to them. The triad dudes who run that shit, those dude be banging. It’s big money in that shit. You see niggas get carried out of there!” said Novell.
Our conversation shifted focus and we started discussing racism in martial arts and the accomplishments of many Black martial artist being diminished. Novell added “There’s a lot of racism my nigga, in martial arts… You gotta remember why we get lost, because we’re Black. If a Chinese motherfucker died today or tomorrow or a Japanese motherfucker died today or tomorrow… Im not racist, I’m just saying motherfuckers would be all at their funeral! Take for instance, Moses Powell. Did you see any of those Chinese boys up in that motherfucker? When LaPuppet died, I did not see any of those motherfuckers up in there. I’m just putting it out there!”
Brother aren’t getting any shine. A major contributor in the exclusion and accomplishments of Black martial artists, is the very entity that should be the most credible source — BLACK BELT MAGAZINE.
“Black Belt magazine, they interviewed me, but I don’t trust them. You think about Ronald Duncan. He’s a brother who knows Ninjitsu, but who are they always putting on the pedestal? — Stephen Hayes. I don’t even do Ninjitsu, but I knew Ronald Duncan , from being in South Side Queens, I seen him fuck some dudes up, that’s how I know about him” said Novell.
During a previous discussion with Professor Duncan, he vehemently spoke on the ongoing problems regarding racism in martial arts. It is hard to put it into words — if you’ve ever been around a killer or someone who has killed, they have a certain way of looking at you or — looking through you. I sensed this in Professor Duncan. I thought it was just me, until Novell shared his feelings on America’s first ninja.
“A long time ago, he probably doesn’t remember. He fucked some dudes up one time. He fucked these dudes up on Liverpool. That how I remember him. I wanted to go to his school, but he had these red eyes. I was scared of that motherfucker — he always looked like a straight killer. I went in there and he just looked at you — I just walked out. I ain’t going to this cats school. I use to hustle, I’ve been around killers, I can see it in his eyes. This is when I was young. He had red eyes, he use to teach down Jamaica ave. I know he use to teach down there. He use to have cats rolling and doing all kinds of crazy shit. I went there. I was on my journey trying to find different teachers.”
Sifu Rudy Curry Jr. and a younger Novell Bell
He mentioned his journey, looking for teachers. I had to ask, how can someone know if the art they are studying is viable? What should someone study? I spent several months in a favela in Brazil. During that time I had the opportunity to fuck with Brazilian Jujitsu. I thought it was ill. I just don’t like being on the ground and in between some dudes legs all the time. Novell went in saying “I believe this — fuck Brazilian Jujitsu! I tried it out. Motherfuckers could not really tap me the fuck out! I ain’t know shit when I got up on there! They couldn’t really tap me the fuck out. They tried. It’s wrestling, White boys in known to wrestle. Let’s just keep it real. Brothers was know for the boxing, White boys was known for wrestling… When you hit that ground you have to know, to protect that neck. keep your joints in, relax… move. Keep moving your hips, your whole body. They catch brothers because — we ain’t getting to close to another male. Thats how we flow. We like, ‘Yo you getting to close move over!’”
I feel the same way. As mixed martial arts has developed over the years, it took a while for me to get into it. When I first started watching it, I just saw two dudes humping on the floor. That was not my thing. On the real Sho, I don’t even think them village dudes like MMA!
“I’m a realist, I’m a survivalist, I don’t train for the ring. I will spar a motherfucker! If they can do all that on this hard concrete, god bless them. It is good for entertainment, but it is really geared toward European culture. A lot of brothers are not into that. They have a little Rampage, a few Jon Jones… they trying to get us to watch it, but come on!” said Novell.
I had to interject and go in on that bullshit MMA movie Warrior. That was the most ridiculous movie I ever saw in my life. A promotion tool for MMA. The trainer in the was on some “Feel the Beethoven!” shit — Get the fuck out of here! Then they had some young hispanic dude, trying to sound like a Black man, flipping and bouncing our lingo. Can’t blame him though, he was just an actor caught up in some White guy’s wet dream. On the real! Fuck Beethoven and fuck that movie too!
Novell dropped science and told me about a flick that he fucks with, called FIGHTING BLACK KINGS. A documentary style film from the 70s, featuring William Oliver.
When one looks at Novell in action, there is a rhythm to his movements, a fluidity only seen in Black men. Novell explained saying “Everything migrated from Africa, other cultures they expand on the knowledge. We basically are the fathers, and they are the children. When you think about it. In China… Bagua, it was created from this cat name Dong Hai Chuan, but the elements, if you look a lot of things, the way the movements are, this shit is not designed the way other martial arts styles is designed. It is about rhythm… There is a difference between talent and skill my nigga. When we talking about kung fu. There is a certain essence you have to get to develop power. All these kung fu guys have no fucking rhythm. That’s why I be laughing!”
When Black martial artist talk about race in the arts, I have questions. Here in America, are we learning arts developed in Asia or is this a cyclic process? Are we simply learning arts which were stripped from us during the middle passage? Deep shit my nigga.
Novell adjusted my thinking, if there is racism in the arts, we don’t have to look outside our own community, crabs in the barrel syndrome, may have entered the martial arts world. “There is always going to be racism, but we can talk about racism, but there is racism amongst our own kind. Our own people don’t like to see the other man get up… I should have more coverage, you would think my brothers would support me a lot more, but they don’t want to see me get to the top they want to see me stay down there” explained Novell.
Novell Bell, Bagua training
Novell continued to keep it one hundred, although a Black man, he has respect for Chinese fighters. “When I was homeless, I use to fight a lot. These tournaments I host, that shit ain’t nothing! If I take these dudes to a real fight, with cats that can really bang — they won’t last! I thought I was the shit when I was over here. But when I went to China, niggas was fucking me up. Chinese boys that look like they was eating McDonalds. Big ass Chinese boys, those San Da boys. I thought I was nice…”
This nigga kept making references to China and his time there. His voyage was provoked by an interest in the martial arts. Funded by hustle and flow.
Novell Bell (Center) - Hustle and Flow Days
“I tell people, I use to hustle, I was making all of this money. I said, I need to take my ass and learn because I love kung fu. I use to hustle for this cat named Green Eye Understanding from Liberty Ave — him and Powerful. I never knew it was illegal at first. I wanted to look fly like them… I paid off my debt to society and the universe, the way I see it. It was wrong selling that shit to my people. At the time, I did not give a fuck. My moms had put me out too. I had to do what I had to do, to survive. I was making so much money too, selling and shit , I had to start saving. So I got me a little room, had a little safe. I use to train in Chinatown and fight in these underground shits. That’s how I got my connects. I spent four years there… I had money. When I was hustling — that money —I don’t like thinking about the money that I had. If I had that money now, knowing what I know now, this MAN UP STAND UP would have been blown up” said Novell.
Every one a while, this nigga stops sounding like The Black Tornado and more like The Black Taoist. No need to be a God, in order to drop science. He provided knowledge that went beyond fighting and martial arts “I’m forty four now. Martial arts, you can never stop learning. Martial arts teaches you. Each day I learn something new about how I can improve myself. I keep it one hundred, I’m not going to act like I’m some righteous motherfucker or I’m better than everyone else. I’m not. I’m a human being and I enjoy life. I go to clubs with my boys, shit like that. I put shit on Youtube that most sifus wouldn’t! That ain’t me. I enjoy kung fu my nigga, at the same time, I learned, always be yourself whether people like you or dislike you. Always be you. Not everybody is going to agree with you!”
His outspokenness on his videos have helped his reputation. He’s become a spokesman for not just Black martial artists, but traditional martial arts as a whole. “You have to have a foundation. A lot of the sifus in kung fu, a lot of them is overrated. When I say overrated, a nigga can come down here right now and we can throw the hands, that’s the kind of nigga I am.They aint like that! Imma a keep it real with you! That’s the real way of kung fu! The real way of kung fu is “Truth comes to the light in a fight!” said Novell.
The Truth Comes to Light in a Fight - Novell Bell
When I spoke to that nigga Aaron Banks a few years ago, he said that MMA would wipe martial arts out, unless collectively, they made a stand. Novell made a similar comment saying “I was going to stop doing MUSU because I was saying, these motherfuckers don’t want to fight. What’s the point? I’m trying to take this to another plateau! Is kung fu and karate going to make a stand? They have to do it now! You have to upgrade. My whole shit is different. If you go to those other karate tournaments, they’re still doing point karate. You can’t do that no more. That shit has to go, you have to stop!” explained Novell.
I’ve heard that a person with a vicious temperament, would beat a trained martial artist who did not have the mental. Novell has seen this, and explained “That’s true. It’s the mentality. It is something that I can’t convey in words. It is something, you know when the switch is on. I done seen cats, real thugged out motherfuckers, they get a few ‘Old Es’ in them, and they flip the fuck out. I seen cats, I seen martial arts dudes get fucked up. That’s why I’m into this practical shit. Fighting goes down with movement and rhythm. Bottom line! You have to be ready for, modern warfare. In modern warfare, this martial arts shit, for me is longevity. I got my glock up in my crib, I got my knife and I’m nasty with a knife, so, I don’t play that shit. If a motherfucker runs up on me — my mind has to transform man. Once you hit me it’s either me or you!”
I relayed an account of when I fought this Jamaican boxer nigga out in Canarsie. Homeboy lit my ass up, until I wrapped my hands around his throat and attempted to take his life from him. Novell explained “That’s that dragon in you! You got the tiger, you got the dragon, Most people think the dragon is the one with the wisdom. No its not my nigga! Who do you think is going to be the most deadliest? The tiger or the dragon?” I did’t quite understand the parable, but it is good to know a nigga has some dragon on reserve.
During my previous build with Professor Duncan, he explained that there was something different regarding Black martial artists. We move differently, we act differently and we have a different genetic code. Novell shared similar statements saying “Chinese boys, we have to school them on how to move. Look at every great boxer, you see any Asian boxers? Even the White guys, Rocky Marciano had a certain movement but it wasn’t like a brother. Tyson took it to a whole new level. I take the movements and put it in my flavor. I have to make it my own, with some rhythm. With some style, some grace and some flavor.”
Novell Bell and Professor Watts
Although he has appreciation for his Asian teachers, he admits that the heaviest influence has come from Black martial artists. Sho’nuff niggas! He spoke on being influenced by Ronald Duncan and Moses Powell. Years later, being advised by Professor Watts who studied under Powell. “That motherfucker ain’t no joke! You take him, he inspires me, because every time I have a problem or I throw down or something, I call Grandmaster Watts, I call him. He inspires me, because all these Chinese dudes, I got homage and respect, but when I came back here, a nigga I really looked up to was Ronald Duncan. I use to watch his videos, it helped me. When I watched Moses Powell — that’s when everything unlocked for me. His movements, were so similar to Bagua. It was on some deadly shit. I can relate to it” explained Novell.
I recently had the opportunity to converse with Professor Watts. He’s a street nigga like you Sho. Interesting conversation, in which I became acquainted with “Niggatron.” That’s a Black guy who transforms on you, switches up on you. Novell at times is Niggatron, but not in a negative way. One second, he’s that street dude, then transforms into another person while performing his Bagua demonstrations. The Black Tornado transforms into The Black Taoist. I wonder how this street dude, was able to chill out there in China.
“A lot of brothers can’t relate to Chinese dudes because their culture is different. I have a lot of students that relate to me because, I never was teaching. I don’t like to teach. It takes a lot of time. A lot of these cats, can’t get it. You have to have a passion for this. It is not like karate or that type of shit. You have to have some rhythm and to have rhythm you have to know how to dance. if you don’t got the rhythm you won’t be good at it” explained Novell.
He gained national exposure when he appeared in BET’s martial arts reality show IRON RING. “When I did the IRON RING shit, niggas fucked me! I gave these dudes all the ideas. The way that shit was set up, I didn’t get any paper from that. I got burned. The show was suppose to be like MAN UP STAND UP. The Europeans did not like that… “
Despite the unpleasant experience with those crab ass niggas at BET, he built up a name for himself in the martial arts world. He played the lead antagonist in the film short HERO.
Novell Bell in the short HERO
Niggas are starting to take notice. He was most recently featured in the Playstation game MMA SUPREMACY. He spoke on his involvement, insisting that his character is the best, utilizing his urban Bagua.
“My name is in the game. It’s me! You gonna see my Black ass in Harlem. I gave them ideas how to do the game. I put that shit in Harlem. That’s how I do, I don’t be bullshiting! I told them to have my scene in Harlem, my story, my technique is no hold bards… I don’t want my character like them MMA dudes, I ain’t trying to be conceited but I know my character is the best!” said Novell.
The Black Taoist in MMA Supremacy
My build with Novell, helped me appreciate or come to an understanding that I have developed after talking to a number of fighters. It really comes down to an individual’s nature. Years ago, when I was in a boxing gym looking for a trainer, trying to find out if I could get into the sport, a trainer mentioned that after you get hit, you’ll run or get angry. Some niggas have dragon in them.
“A lot of shit today in martial arts, cats don’t want to be themselves. Martial arts is suppose to teach you to be yourself. Anyone can be a fighter, you have to think, these shits are designed for killing — you have to be on that mindset. When we use to bang in the projects, I been knocked unconscious sometimes. It was kind of a lesson in disguise. A lot of these guys, will say, ‘I never lost!’ A lot of these kung fu guys, they never been hit. You know what impressed me the most. You want to impress me, I want to see what you do after you been rocked… Don’t let anyone fool you. You’re always going to have that fear in you. You have to know how to control that fear. I been in situations when motherfuckers tried to kill me over packages they said I took. I been in the room, with brolic niggas who tell me to come upstairs and when I get up there it was for some other bullshit — they was trying to get at me. Sifu Rudi can tell you, in Baisley projects, I had to fight like eight niggas. These niggas had me, they fucked me up. If it wasn’t for him teaching me that Tai Chi shit, how to roll with the blows. I would have been fucked up. In a real fight, it teaches you movement. So you have to have that mindset — to kill! A lot of these motherfuckers think they are killers! If you have to go and really hurt someone — Can you do it? If you have to second guess yourself, your not ready. I been in situations, when I punched a nigga in the throat. That’s how I think. I’ve had fights with big niggas That’s why I study the Yin style” explained Novell.
As we finished our build, that Master Kim nigga came over and talked to Novell. I thought he would pull a Niggatron and start talking all philosophical. Get up and bow or some shit, homeboy sat on his bench and playfully barked at Master Kim for not attending the MAN UP STAND UP. You could see that there was a mutual respect, one that Novell earned because of his devotion to the arts.
As we exited his dojo, Novell started talking about the future. Plans to create a fictional animation and his plans to develop martial arts. “I’m trying to build it up it up and inspire these niggas to keep training. Fuck MMA! That shit just pisses me off. I rather have kung fu vs boxing. You go to most kung fu school and they’re still doing the old school way of training! That shit don’t work over hear in the states! I respect the full contact karate because they bang. I believe the traditional kung fu can take over MMA. Just need a nigga like me that runs his mouth, and hype this shit up. Motherfuckers will come out and watch this shit!” explained Novell.
As we reached the park’s entrance, the taoist in him took over, and before we parted, he spoke on the importance of spirituality when studying martial arts, saying “Martial arts is a spiritual thing — It’s energy. Its a metaphysical type of shit to connect you to the universe. Everything in the universe. We are all citizens of the universe. People think Bagua is dancing. Look at every ritual on the planet. Everything is circular my nigga, its all connected… Martial arts, without spirituality is suicide!”
Sho, you know me, I’m trying to be a righteous Black man. I don’t even like to use the “N” word, but its contagious and after you’re around Novell, you’ll want to be one of his niggas too!
As he made his way back towards the direction of the projects, I felt that he’d hold your legacy down. I’ll put work out on the street and let niggas know “Playtimes over!” — SHO’NUFF HAS RETURNED TO HARLEM!
P.S.: Forget about Leroy Green, that nigga fell into some pussy back in 85 and we have not seen him since!