The Hidden Psychedelic History of Martial Arts
Kilindi Iyi towers above the other speakers at the psychedelic conferences he attends around the world. One of the most renowned African Americans in the psychedelic field, his background in martial arts, imposing frame and booming voice make him a unique and electrifying speaker on the lecture circuit. His psychedelic storytelling at the last Psymposia conference electrified the crowd and his lecture at the Breaking Convention on taking high doses of mushrooms racked up some of its largest number of online viewers. His message resonates with explorers interested in psychedelics because he stresses their importance as a tool for self-exploration.
As the head instructor and technical adviser of the Tamerrian Martial Art Institute, his lifelong dedication to martial arts led him to explore their origins and the surprising presence of entheogenic mixtures at the founding of many schools of martial arts. Iyi has traveled the world to learn more from other practitioners, and here he shares a little of what he has learned. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Lex Pelger: How did you move into this kind of work?
Kilindi Iyi: Through my study of traditional martial arts, I tried to get a better understanding of the origins and through that search, it brought me to different areas of what was utilized to enhance not only the physical but the spiritual areas of the fighting arts. All traditional martial arts have power plants – or entheogens – to go along with them at their higher levels.
In Africa [there are] many different compounds, potions, lotions – but each guild, each particular master or sorcerer or whatever you wanted to term them, had their own formula. The formula might contain a lot of ingredients that weren't hallucinogenic but when I was investigating, I found that many of them contained mushrooms. And others, of course — datura, echinacea, the old-world MAIOs like Syrian Rue. That's what actually led me to making a push to help people understand their relationship to not only martial arts but also outside it. Basically, through the warriors' path.
LP: Which traditions had strongest evidence of mushroom use?
KI: West African places like Nigeria, South Africa, East Africa. There's not a lot of written evidence but the guilds still have all the potions. Africa has been one of the most overlooked areas of the world as far as hallucinogen use and up until the late '90s, they said that Africa was sparse in hallucinogenic compounds. Then only to turn around to find the oldest evidence of human mushroom use in Africa along with other compounds that are widespread in the various healing rituals, age initiations, dealings with apprentices and use by particular people of power. A very old and developed system still in use today.
LP: So to find out, you have to go and talk to the people?
KI: The researchers been delving deeply into ayahuasca in South America but they neglected to do any research on the African continent and since they never asked Africans what they use, no one is going to come out of the guild and say, “Hey, we do mushrooms!” They have very ancient traditions with plants and mushrooms that seems to be older than in Mesopotamia, Persia, Hindu Kush – and on the African continent proper – using the technology of MAIOs, particularly Syrian Rue which is at certain doses is hallucinogenic.
LP: So you dug into ancient magic?
KI: I've always been interested in magic and martial arts. Once I found out what they did to explore and that brought them the knowledge and information and that it was here and readily available to partake in, then it became not only my duty but my obsession to understand what went on and so I could reproduce the same types of things that were done.
LP: What things to reproduce?
KI: My things were basically martial. Each vocation has its own way of expressing something such as a musican who brings back music that's never been heard. I think that's one of the things Jimi Hendrix was talking about in the UK. He said that he was going to bring back to the US music that had never been heard before, but he died soon after.
Martially, we can still do the things that were done in the olden days— Hercules, Samson, Nimrod, Arjuna, Achilles— martial arts at the level of the heroes of old. Of course, it may not be legally sanctioned to kill 1,000 people—whether they be Philistines or not— but to have an understanding of how these things were done, to recreate the ability for that type of skill or that type of knowledge.
LP: So you've seen things that defy conventional wisdom on martial arts and what can be done with the body?
KI: Look at the things coming out of China in the last 10 years, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon stuff—jumping to top of trees, running on blades of grass. If you look at Hero or Jet Li, where the two fighters were in close proximity and under the influence of entheogens, they fought at a higher level of consciousness and their battle continued into the hyper-dimensional realms. Many times that's how battles were fought. You go to the higher realms where a being can come out of your hand or you can jump to the top of the roof, those things were acknowledged in the physical realm.
LP: What's it like for you in the modern martial arts movement to be sharing these views?
KI: What I'm working on, I can't physically put it on anybody but I've had my chances in real-life real-time I would have thought impossible that I could've done, that in my belief, in my understanding, that came out of the entheogenic training that served me in the physical realms. Be it guns or knives or police abuse or whatever way you like to look at it, it served me in the modern world.
LP: What advice do you have for a young martial artist?
KI: To begin with, researching any compound you are dealing with. I'm working on my book, Towards an Organic Singularity and in the first chapter, you learn how to grow your own. If you have the discipline to be able to break the learning curve on it and produce your own mushrooms, then you're well on your way to be able to deal with them. You don't have to worry about overharvesting [like ayahuasca or ibogaine] or getting them from someone else. You learn how to grow your own so you can get by using something considered a drug by the popular culture.
Espcially with tryptamines, they're all in the same family and very close chemically. Psilocin is 4-HO-DMT. People say mushrooms aren't DMT but when it phosphorylates in your gut, it's DMT, an ingestible form to be utilized by your body and independent of all the other things you have to encounter.
The thing about mushrooms is that you get one spore print or one cap from a cow paddy and you never have to buy another spore or mushroom again. You can perpetuate that into a lifetime of entheogenic use. If you want to explore with MAOIs or chocolate, blend it into smoothies, put them in brownies; put it on two pieces of bread with peanut butter, and if you get the proper dose, it's going to deliver.
I'm not of the school of thought that mushrooms is a medicine and is for healing. Of course, it can heal, can give you smoking cessation, can help you with dying, but that's not the purpose of psilocybin. It's a tool for exploration for novel states of consciousness. You strap on your exploration suit and you're sitting on the deck of the Enterprise and ready to go boldly where no one has gone before. That's what its about and that what it's for.
Because we're approaching a crucial point for human beings—we can engineer ourselves and make a machine that has the capability to be much more, of breaking into the human levels of knowledge of information. Either we have created our next level which will make us obsolete or we get to the point where we can merge with those machines and be part machine and part organic or take the enthogens and reach the DNA set code and become the next level of humans.
Let's go in and see what we can do to become more then what we are now.
LP: What advice do you have for crafting set and setting for these heroic doses?
KI: The classics, a safe environment; I choose the bedroom for the deep hauls into the multiverse. Take all sharp objects out of the room. No candles, fire can be very seductive. You don't want to knock one over in a middle of session.
You also want to be in a good safe mindset. You don't want to just have had a fight with your wife. You want to keep your mind as clear and focused on what you're trying to do as possible.
The walks in the woods or the ocean is for the low dose. But for the high doses, for those type of things, you want a safe environment and the right type of mindset on your head.
For the new folk, what I always say since I've been crowned the high-dose guy, is to start low and work up incrementally. It's not a race. It's not an ego trip to see who can do the most. It's a true journey to understand what this thing is as far as the human spirt or soul – where it's at and where it's going.
LP: What challenging encounters have you seen?
KI: One of the most challenging areas is the realization of the aloneness. The realization of the darkness, no light. The realization that those are constructs of the conciouness. Once you lose the primal consciousness and move into that primal darkness that's so dark it has no black to it. That's one of the hardest things.
LP: Where has that journey taken you now as an activist and teacher?
KI: I'm moving onto the lecture circuit to share that this is a valid area of exploration. They say, Well, he's a martial artist – what's he doing talking about drug things? I'm trying to help the greater community and the martial arts community and the entheogenic community and have them look at what they're doing and what they're trying to box these drugs into.
LP: Do you get pushback from these communities for these unconventional views?
KI: Some think I'm crazy. Some think I'm just a druggy. Some say, He thinks he has magic powers because of the drugs. But now I'm getting invited to conferences and people are watching my Youtube videos. At Breaking Convention 2013, there's a lot of luminaries there with maybe 500 or 1200 views, and I'm not saying this out of ego, but I have more than 10,000 [for the talk, "High-Dose (31 Grams) Psilocybin Mushrooms Ayahuasca DMT LSD Transdimensional Hyperspace"]. This guy that they stuck at 10am the morning after the big party still has the most views. People look at that and realized that they need him to come to our conference. All of this might sound kind of far-fetched, but people are listening.