Exclusive: HHCF CEO Adisa Banjoko interview, bridges BJJ and chess Part 1


Adisa Banjoko walks the walk.

The CEO of the Hip Hop Chess Federation is an active speaker, teacher, trainer, and activist. His interests stem from jiu jitsu, chess, and hip-hop to religious tolerance, speaking out against domestic abuse, and racial harmony. He founded the HHCF to give a platform to his vision and help troubled youths learn to cope with the challenges they face in life. He spoke with PMN about the latest happenings and a big event in St. Louis on October 9th of this year.

The event,  Living Like Kings: The Unexpected Collision of Chess and Hip Hop Culture is an exhibition that explores the surprising ways in which the ancient game of chess intersects with the powerful, creative expression in hip hop culture, which includes music, fashion, art, dance, and spirituality. The HHCF is going to be an essential part of the excitement.

On October 9, 2014 the HHCF will be present at the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, a museum that documents chess internationally. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both had chess boards and both are on display at the museum along with unique golden chess boards from China. Adisa became involved when they reached out to him.

“They hired me as an education consultant”, Adisa said. “To do a thing on hip hop and chess and how they are connected. It’s going to be a huge multimedia display, for the 9th by a guy named Ben who is also from St. Louis. He took some original audio and video clips mixed in with some classic hip hop imagery. It’s going to be really powerful. I kind of framed the history of hip hop and chess meaning their connected philosophies. BJJ is connected to both of those and it becomes obvious when you look at the mindset of all three”.

The event is a big deal and some big names in the areas involved are going to be in attendance.

“We’ve got RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan. Maurice Ashley who was the first African-American grandmaster. Jennifer Shahade, a phenomenal women’s grandmaster. Those are just a few of the people involved and we think this event is going to make a large impact”.

Adisa is a diverse guy. He has also trained with both the Penns, Gracies, and a whole gang of who’s who in BJJ.

“I trained with BJ (Penn), Gumby, JD (Penn), Dave Camarillo, and a lot of guys like that”, stated Adisa. “Shout out to all of them and I have tremendous respect for what those guys do and have accomplished. Obviously, all of them went on to do amazing things in jiu jitsu. After all of this time  I’m still a purple belt *laughs*. I’ve been taking the slow man’s route. The reason I haven’t progressed past that is because I just have too much going on. My family, HHCF, a job, and all of that. It’s a lot to juggle and I have to make what counts the most in my life my priority. I train right now under Gumby. When Ralph gave Gumby his black belt it was the belt off of his own waist. It was an amazing moment.”

Adisa continued to train in jiu jitsu before releasing a book on a move he is credited with called the Iron Hook Grip. Check out this video in which he demonstrates and explains the techniques. Believe it or not the move stemmed from an actual chess situation.

The HHCF is MMA to traditional chess’s boxing. It is multi-faceted and carries a deeper meaning than what one might expect from the name alone. It is used to educate kids and incorporates the disciplines of traditional martial arts, mainly BJJ.

“Jiu jitsu is chess for the body, and chess is jiu jitsu for the mind”, said Banjoko. “That’s one of my oldest sayings. The themes that come out of fundamental chess games, not master level play are the same. Understanding the movement, the phases of combat. They connect to chess just like they do with BJJ. I believe chess connects to all martial arts, but to me BJJ, Gracie jiu jitsu are the most highlighted”.

Adisa is an author and he has a book called Chess is Jiu Jitsu for the Mind coming out in November. It will connect chess and jiu jitsu along with strategies in life and the game.

HHCF Contact info:


5178 Mowry Ave #2112

Fremont, CA 94538

PHYSICAL ADDRESS for after-school and community programs vary, please call to get your programs location

​Tel: 888-588-4418 

Fax: 510-992-6811    




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