Ted Niakissa practises an interesting version of yoga. Called Kemetic Boxing of the Pharaohs, it was created in the Congo in the late eighties by a former karate master, and combines the martial art of swara (or “pharaoh boxing”) with kemetic yoga. The moves used are inspired by poses seen in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
This makes it a truly African discipline, considering that kemetic yoga – or smai tawi – is a system of postures and movement that predates Indian yoga by more than 2 000 years.
International Day of Yoga was on Friday. Ahead of the event, I spent time with Niakissa to see the practice for myself.
Before the boxing starts, he spends some time doing the kemetic yoga.
“At times, we can have an hour of yoga before we get into the boxing part,” says the fit 39-year-old.
Pharaoh boxing became a competitive sport for the first time in 2015 in the 11th All-Africa Games, and you can clearly see the replication of hieroglyphics in the practice.
According to wellness website Gaia.com: “The geometric positions and postures seen in the hieroglyphs and temple walls of ancient Egypt are some of the earliest manifestations of yoga.”
As a sickly boy, Niakissa became interested in fitness when his brother-in-law suggested that he try physical activities to help with making him better.
“He suggested I try out martial arts,” says the Congo-Brazzaville native.
He started attending martial arts classes back home from the age of 14, but remembers finding the first day rather boring. At that age, he didn’t know “what this martial arts thing was”, nor did he have a clue about yoga. But he kept going back to class, and soon found he became less sick. Over the years, he found that his journey through this art and then yoga helped in his physical development and mental stability. While in Brazzaville, Niakissa went as far attaining a black belt in martial arts.
He also learnt the benefits of meditation.
“I did a lot of meditation just to find myself. It taught me self-discipline, because sometimes the people I socialised with were into a lot of [bad] things. But I never placed a finger in that stuff.”
Some of his friends have labelled him as weird because he is that person at a party who chooses water over beer.
Given all that he has learnt, Niakissa says that focusing on both spectrums of his practices developed him spiritually.
Since arriving in South Africa “on June 10 2011; I remember that day”, he has continued to share his passion for all things Kemetic Boxing of the Pharaohs. He says most of his students are women, and that kids are also very interested. On some Saturday afternoons, there is a class for kids hosted in Cavendish South Park, Yeoville, and there are classes at Braamfontein Gate. There is also a self-defence class.
He offers training to anyone who is interested in his kind of practice, but he gives a warning: “My kind of yoga/boxing is more challenging. We would do a sun salutation, for example, but it is done differently.”
Niakissa is proud that his practice has roots in Africa. One statement he stays true to is: “To be the truth, to be the harmony, to be the beauty and the blackness.”
This is definitely a form of fitness we can get behind.
. To find out more about this type of boxing, contact Niakissa on 081 465 4586, or visit the Facebook page at Kemetic Boxing of the Pharaohs Mzansi