Yehoshua Sofer is the “Aluf Abir” (Aluf means “champion”) or headmaster of the Abir Warrior Arts school of self-defense in Jerusalem. According to him, Jews have practiced martial arts since biblical times. As Sofer tells it, Abraham’s father, Terah, was a warlord who worked for the Babylonian king Nimrod–and Abraham designed his own system of self-defense which he taught it to his son Isaac, who passed it to his own son, Jacob.
This brings us to the first significant hand-to-hand combat in the Torah, which takes place between Jacob and a mysterious man who might have been an angel. Later, according to the Abir’s oral tradition, Jacob’s fighting skills were passed down through the tribe of Benjamin, and taught to King David and the Judean kings. Unlike most martial arts, Abir’s technique is both offensive and defensive. The basic moves are modeled after characters in the Hebrew alphabet–for example, gimel is a crouching pose in which the warrior is about to strike, his or her legs forming the shape of the Hebrew letter gimel.
Sofer himself was born to Hasidic parents in Jamaica, in 1958. He trained in several schools of Korean martial arts, and also received instruction from his grandfather, the previous Aluf Abir, who was taught Abir techniques by his Yemenite Jewish ancestors.