January 1, 2018, Israel
(written at Hadassah Hospital, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem)
Every art is a product of the culture which gave birth to it. To understand a work of art, a painting, a sculpture, a poem, a novel, it is crucial to understand the culture in which this art blossomed. Martial arts are no different.
Our style of Krav Maga, which we call IKI Krav Maga, is different. It is not based on memorization, although you do have to remember certain basic concepts and principles. It is not based on one solution for one situation.
What characterizes our system?
Fluidity, flexibility, practicality, continuity with change, sticking to principles but yet always applying them and modifying them as needed, adapting to new realities that were thought of years earlier.
And then it occurred to me; All this is what we call Rabbinic Judaism. My Jewish studies have shaped our approach to Krav Maga and self defense.
Judaism is based on the Torah, the Hebrew Bible. The Bible however is concise and leaves many areas untouched. But the Bible has given the later authorities, scholars, rabbis, the authority to adapt, apply, modify and adjust, but all within the framework of the Bible. We might call this "Change within the context of continuity" (borrowing a phrase from Lawrence Schiffman).
The latter scholars are given the authority of Moshe/Moses himself. As long as they have proven themselves worthy as teachers, and stick within the framework, their authority is binding in each generation. In fact this is explicitly stated in the Bible. "and you shall come to the Cohanim and the Levites and to the judge that shall be in those days and inquire and they shall tell you the sentence of judgment and you shall do according to this judgment" (Deuteronomy Chapter 16, verse 9,10)
Note how the text states, "the judge that shall be in those days". Whoever is the recognized judge, teacher, of that time, his word is binding, no less than Moses himself.
These decisions are binding on the people.
"According to the sentence of the Torah which they shall teach you and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do. You shall not deviate from the sentence that they shall tell you, to the right, or to the left." (Deuteronomy Chapter 16, verse 11)
In China and Korea they study the Talmud. Yes, this is true. All over the world people are amazed at the Jews. Nearly 2,000 years with no state to call home, persecuted on one hand and enticed into assimilation on the other hand and yet today, after so many years of "the wandering Jew" our tradition still stands. The system works. But how?
How did such an ancient culture, an ancient method of study, survive for so long under the worst conditions? In the Russian Gulag and in the German concentration camps the Torah lived! Under the foot of the Romans, the Greeks, the Muslims, the Christians, the Torah survived. Our lifestyle survived. Our laws and way of life survived, how?
The system is very strict, and yet flexible. Can never be changed, and yet changes all the time.
The nature of our method is that it is both constant and flexibility. All this is built into the system.
We have the written word and the spoken word. The Torah, the Bible as was handed down from God to Moses and from Moses to the leader of each generation, the grand master, if you will. The spoken word gives the law its flexibility, the written word gives it its constancy. The chain of tradition is never broken, and yet the law is not a fossil but a living creature.
"The very nature of Judaism as a civilization, religion, culture, and nation led to the rise of the new ideas and approaches." (From Text to Tradition, Lawrence Schiffman, page 14)
What this means is the system itself creates change, the system itself regenerates itself. A library is a very quiet place, a Jewish library, a Yeshiva, is full of sound; the sound of discussion and passionate debate. We call this "The sound of Torah". It is a most beautiful sound.
The system itself on one hand encourages challenges and yet on the other hand, actually it is the same hand, reveres tradition.
The nature of the system is one that encourages debate, within a framework, and always with solid backing of references. Judaism is a system of life that has the ability to adapt and develop and yet maintain a 4,000 year old tradition where the basic values and concepts remain unchanged.
New situations arise constantly as the world changes. Technology, medical developments, new research creates new knowledge and new challenges. We use our ancient system with its ability to adapt and develop, to address these new realities.
Our Krav Maga system, IKI Krav Maga, uses the very same system. We have our written word, so to speak. We have our rules, concepts and ideas that form a thread that runs through all our techniques; stand up, ground, gun, knife, stick etc.
Our system regenerates itself by being fluid and adaptable and flexible in its nature. However like Judaism one must first prove himself worthy before participating in this discussion, one must study and train and become knowledge enough to express an opinion that others will take seriously. It is a tradition of scholarship.
The world is changing, just as Jews found themselves suddenly living in a radically changed world and had to formulated responses to it, so too must all of us learn to cope with a world that does not remain static. For a system of self defense to be valid it has to have the flexibility to adapt and cope with new challenges. And yet we must also remain true to our guiding principles and values.
It is a system for all, and for all times.
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