Krav Maga and the Mona Lisa
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

October 2, 2015

I am not an artist and to be honest I have little appreciation for art. I look at a painting, looks nice, great, lets move on.  I am not one of those who can spend hours in an art gallery. I cannot spend an hour looking at a painting and finding the hidden meaning behind it.

I am full of admiration for those who do possess this deep appreciation of art, but I am not gifted in that way. My point here it that this lack of appreciation is no reflection on the art or the artist, only on the viewer, in this case me. In an art gallery I will be looking for the coffee house.

If an artist spends a year on a painting and I look at it and do not see the greatness in it, he should not feel bad, this is no reflection on him or his art, only on an uneducated viewer.

It takes a certain level of knowledge and training to appreciate a work of art, any work of art.

I recall in college, arguing with ignorant Jews about the Talmud. These people studied a few pages or read an article and felt they could argue with the great rabbis of antiquity. They challenged the words of our sages and felt they had a right to do so. I recall their foolish words, "Why can't another voice join this great discussion?" "Rabbi Hillel has his opinion and so do I".

Well, let's think about it. Hillel spent forty years studying before expressing his opinion. You read an article.

Perhaps I should join a group of professors discussing Quantum Physics and express my thoughts? Perhaps I should argue with them and point out their faults?  I can't even join a discussion with teenagers about the latest cell phone or tablet!

You need knowledge and experience before joining any discussion. I disagree with the idea that everyone has a right to their opinion. Everyone has a right to study and those who understand a topic have a right to their opinion.

Better to remain quiet and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and erase all doubt.

Just look at some of the beauty queen contestants! They are mostly brain dead beauties who can't answer any of the questions intelligently. So why bother asking them questions? Just judge them the way you would judge a dog show.

(no offense intended)

And the same is true of martial arts and Krav Maga.

Bruce Lee often said he does not want to train anyone unless they had already attained a black belt in at least one style. He wanted to train educated people who could appreciate what he was teaching.

After years of training I can understand him. Police officers, soldiers, martial arts instructors quickly understand what I am showing them. But sometimes eighteen year old boys from privileged backgrounds challenge me. They think they know better, they think they should point out what I am doing wrong and educate me as to the errors of my way. We have a word for this; Hutzpah, arrogance without limits. It is an old Yiddish word derived from Hebrew, derived from ancient Aramaic.

It means:

Unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall.

Audacity; nerve. the trait of being rude and impertinent; inclined to take liberties. In Hebrew, chutzpah is used indignantly, to describe someone who has overstepped the boundaries of accepted behavior.

So how does this fit in with Krav Maga?

On one hand we say question everything. This is your life and you have a right to the very best defense. On the other hand we have the Mr. Miyagi wisdom, teacher say - student do. No questions.

Both are true.

As with the Talmudic scholars, a beginner has a right to ask questions. If something does not make sense, ask, speak up. But do so with the appropriate respect. You are speaking to a rabbi, a man who has earned his title.

I recall as a young student in university, UCLA. Studying the "light" topic of Jewish mysticism, I asked a question without the appropriate respect for the knowledge of the teacher. He was self defined as "secular" although he grew up Orthodox, and I questioned his understanding of religion. When I felt he did not get what I was saying I restated my question. To this day I recall his wise answer, "Young man, you do not need to clarify your opinion, I grew up with your opinion, I understand it better than you do."

Thirty plus years later I know he was right. Thank you Professor Amos Funkenstein.

Respect earned.

So on one hand we say like Mr. Miyagi, no questions, on the other hand we say question everything. The apparent contradiction is resolved by common sense. First learn, train, gain some understanding. If you do not understand by all means ask! But do so with humility. Understand that the person standing in front of you has already dealt with that question. He already thought of that issue himself and has a reason for doing what he is doing, the way he is doing it. Do not assume that you have found something he never thought of. Show some respect for his training.

When you reach a higher level, a much higher level, you will be able to have your own opinion. Knowledge and wisdom take time to attain.

So if you cannot appreciate the Mona Lisa, please do not assume that all these years all the great experts were simply mistaken. Assume they see something that you cannot see yet.

Footnote:  Having not thought of my dear professor for some time I decided to search for him on the internet. Sadly I found that he passed away at an early age, 58, from cancer. I recall that he was a very heavy smoker. In those days one was allowed to smoke in class. Once when he ran out of cigarettes he took a break and went to his car to get more.

As bright as he was he fell victim to the smoking addiction.

I was sad to learn that his life ended so soon. Reading about him I discover now that I was correct, so many years ago, I was studying with a true genius.

For more than three decades I have not forgotten his name, his expressions, or his lessons. Now I realize he was indeed a rare genius. I feel privileged to have been his student. And although I disagree with him on nearly every aspect of religion and politics, I deeply respect him.

From 1995

Renaissance man’ Amos Funkenstein dies at age 58

Called a genius and Renaissance man by his academic colleagues, Amos Funkenstein was known for reciting long passages verbatim in Latin, German and Greek decades after reading them.

Winner of the coveted Israel Prize for History, the U.C. Berkeley history professor could lecture effortlessly on nearly any element of Jewish or non-Jewish civilization from the biblical period through the 20th century.

Raised an Orthodox Jew in pre-state Israel, he was considered the quintessential apikoros -- a heretic who knew the tradition inside and out, yet rejected any belief in its divine origin.

Funkenstein died Saturday, Nov. 11 in Berkeley after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 58.

"He was truly a Renaissance man in terms of intellectual interest," said Professor David Biale, director of the Berkeley-based Graduate Theological Union's Center for Jewish Studies. "He was probably the only genius I've ever met."

Considered rare even among world-class academics for his intellectual abilities, Funkenstein was primarily a historian of Judaism, medieval intellectualism and science.

He authored seven books and more than 50 articles, writing in German, Hebrew, English and French. His books included "Perceptions of Jewish History," "Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century," and "Sociology of Ignorance," which he wrote with childhood friend Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. At the time of his death, he was working on a multi-volume study of the social and cultural context of knowledge in Western history since antiquity.

"He had razor-sharp analytic abilities," said Robert Alter, a U.C. Berkeley professor of Hebrew and comparative literature who officiated at Funkenstein's funeral service on Tuesday. "He was very, very focused on thinking. That was his way of life."

Educated in a religious school in Jerusalem, Funkenstein served in the Israeli army and then studied for two years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before transferring to the Free University of Berlin in the late 1950s. He earned his doctorate in history and philosophy at the university and began his teaching career there.

In 1967, he was hired to teach at UCLA. In the early 1970s, Biale became one of Funkenstein's graduate students and teaching assistants. From the start, Biale knew Funkenstein was different.

"He was beyond anyone else I ever encountered as a teacher," he said.

Funkenstein could offer detailed critiques of books he had read 20 years earlier, Biale recalled, and he would doodle mathematical proofs for fun.

"He had a photographic memory," Biale said. But even this ability was just intellectual pyrotechnics. "What counted with him was originality."

Unlike many of his peers in academia, Funkenstein rejected much of the formality associated with the job. He wanted students to call him by his first name and became friends with many of them.

In the late 1970s while still at UCLA, Funkenstein began teaching part of the year at Tel Aviv University, where he held an endowed chair in history and the philosophy of science. He stayed in Southern California until 1986 when Stanford University hired him as the first Daniel E. Koshland professor of Jewish culture and history as part of its fledgling Jewish studies program.

Funkenstein returned to UCLA three years later, but then left again when U.C. Berkeley hired him in 1991 as its Koret professor of Jewish history.

Israel, A Nation of Warriors
By Moshe Katz

Do not be ignorant and uneducated. Understand the history of Israel as a fighting nation. From the first Hebrew, Abraham, to our own times and the Israeli Defense Forces.

Required reading for IKI instructors.

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Israel, A Nation of Warriors