A martial art called Okichitaw that draws inspiration from the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations, the native Americans of Canada, is being promoted in Canada. Okichitaw is coined from the Plains-Cree word “okichitawak,” a title granted to a Cree warrior skilled in survival, protection and warfare.
Okichitaw moves are patterned after the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations. It also incorporates Asian martial arts in the the traditional fighting style of Canada’s indigenous people as developed by George Lepine, a Mechif Cree from the province of Manitoba in Canada. He holds sixth degree belts in both Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, both Korean martial arts.
The Plains Cree fighting moves have not been practiced for a long time but Lepine decided to come up with a coding and a system for the long forgotten martial art. There are almost no record of the fighting techniques of Plains-Cree native Americans.
However, this did not stop Lepine, who, at an early age, has learned weapon and throwing practices as well as hunting, tracking and wrestling from his uncles while growing up in Manitoba. He conducted research into the traditional Cree fighting techniques. He then incorporated the moves from Asian martial arts. After years of training and developing moves, Lepine succeeded in coming up with a code and system for the hybrid martial art.
Unlike many martial arts, which imitates animal moves, Okichitaw moves are patterned after movements of weapons such as tomahawk or knife. Okichitaw’s hand-fighting techniques use the forearm and fist, elbow or leg for attacks or counter attacks. Hands are used like tomahawks while kicks imitate that moves using a spear or lance.
However, Okichitaw enthusiasts are taught both armed and unarmed fighting in any position, either in an upright position or lying on the ground. Wrestling moves, such as rolling, are also being taught for attacking opponents.
The weapons used by Okichitaw practitioners include the gunstock war club (notini towin mistik); and the long knife called mokumon.The gunstock war club, the usual weapon used by Plains Cree warriors patterned after the design and shape of a gun, has a spike, a short lance or a knife placed on the curve of the club.
However, only the advanced Okichitaw students are taught the use of the tomahawk (chekinykunis) and the short and long lance. The most recognizable of the weapons used by Native Americans, the tomahawk, which is made of wood and metal, was also used as a tool.
Also, an Okichitaw practitioner has to learn Picicipayiw, the proper approach towards an opponent. The term means to burst forward, which requires the practitioner to fully engage an opponent.
This martial art involves basic but aggressive combat techniques that aims to bring their opponents to the ground for a quick finish. A student of Okichitaw has to be fit and has to develop strength, speed and agility, aside from being mentally alert. This is because of the very demanding training they have to go through to learn Okichitaw.
The Okichitaw teaches students to use “Four Directions” (East, West, South and North) in counter attacks, according to an article on the martial art (http://www.scifighting.com/2014/10/28/35733/technique-meets-tradition-in-cree-okichitaw/).
The East, which represents balance, confidence and creativity, involves “identifying or locating an opponent and developing a solid attack position.”
The South, which represents strength, focus and success, calls for a “brave and aggressive challenge of an opponent.”
On the other hand, the North represents courage, energy and knowledge and promotes the “control of an opponent through surprise and overwhelming force.”
Meanwhile, West refers to challenge, choice and proof and focuses on “taking down and finishing off of an opponent before moving on to the next one.”
While Okichitaw is not widely practiced, as of the moment, the number of students who want to learn it is growing, specially in Toronto, Canada where there are classes several times a week. And, during the 2002 Chungju World Martial Arts Festival, Okichitaw has been recognized as a unique aboriginal martial art of Canada by the World Martial Arts Union, which was accredited by UNESCO in 2010 as an advisory non-government organization to its Inter-governmental Committee for safeguarding of intangible cultural heritages.