March 30, 2015, Israel
I remember the first time I met my friend and fellow Krav Maga instructor Tony, all his front teeth were missing.
I did not judge him on that basis.
Yes, it crossed my mind, why did this guy have all his front teeth missing, what kind of a guy walks around like this? But I did not ask, and I did not judge.
Another story, going back a long way, a very long way, to Biblical times. King David is dancing with the Ark of God, he is so happy and he is dancing "like a commoner". His wife Michal is furious at him, "How glorious does the king look today dancing like a commoner with the people?"
As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart. (The book of Samuel, chapter 6)
...When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
...David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."
David explained that he rather debase himself in front of the commoners but be right with God.
This is a very powerful message.
What is humiliation and what is honor?
Is a combat solider, covered with filth, stinking like a sewer and wearing ragged clothing a disgrace or a great honor?
Such an appearance would not be tolerated at a decent work place but when you take the circumstances into account the man is a hero and not a bum.
So if you see someone looking that way your first reaction might be "who is this bum and what is he showing up this way?" When you understand the circumstances you see things differently.
King David looked "bad" in the eyes of his wife, and perhaps some of his followers found his behavior distasteful but he was dancing in the name of God, with a full heart and not holding back. He was pure at that moment. He was not concerned with how he looked to others.
I once said to Tony there is nothing cleaner than dirty hands. A man who comes home from work with dirty hands, worn out clothing and smelling like a sewer is a man to be proud of; he has put in a long hard day, he has earned an honest days' pay. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
When you come out of a work-out, sweating and smelling, that is nothing to be ashamed of, it just shows that you worked hard.
Sometimes in my seminar photos my (rather limited) hair is a mess. That is only because I have been training, giving it my all.
Moshe and Carl, IKI Costa Rica, making it real, not always looking perfect.
I was invited to Rome to do a Krav Maga seminar. The local "master" refused to participate, refused to "get dirty" with us. He did not want to appear as a student in front of his students. He stood at the side the entire time with his arms crossed, observing.
At other seminars our instructors get down and dirty. Some of our instructors are members of the Black Belt Hall of Fame, some are 9th dan black belts, some are recognized grand masters. They are not afraid to try out new things in front of their students and possibly look "bad". They are not afraid to be corrected by me. And, I am not afraid to correct them.
Unlike the master who stood by the side these instructors came to learn. And when we learn we also make mistakes. But making a mistake is part of the training, it is how we progress and move forward. There is no shame in being corrected.
Sometimes a student will ask a question. I will see the wisdom in this question and say, "lets share this with the entire group". I will take this student and demonstrate on them the technique.
Years ago one of my students, one whom I am still very close with, said, "Why do you humiliate me in front of others?"
I had no idea what she meant.
Turns out that my correcting of her technique, as a way of helping her and helping the entire group, was seen by her as humiliating. This was never my intention. I would never ever intentionally humiliate anyone.
When I am presented with a new situation at a seminar, one I have never encountered before, I take it "live". I.e. I try it out for the first time in front of everyone. I want to see how my body reacts real-time. I am taking the risk of "looking bad" in front of everyone. But I am never embarrassed. I never claim to be perfect, or incapable of doing something wrong. I want my students to see how we learn.
We learn by trying, we learn by making mistakes. I do not need to appear perfect in front of my students. Part of my status is that I am not afraid of looking "bad". If something fails....we learn from it and find a better way.
In fact even on our online program, where we send out video clips, Krav Maga training clips to our students, I will send out clips that did not turn out so well. I do not delete these. I want them to see that "even I" do not always do the technique perfectly, but it still works. I want them to see, as I say, that our style if "the perfect system for imperfect people".
I am imperfect.
And I want everyone to see me as imperfect.
My father, a rabbi, always taught me that the people in the Bible are not perfect. They made mistakes.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives were far from the perfect parents and spouses.
Joseph and his brothers had issues of jealousy and arrogance.
David and Samson had women issues.
As my dad said, if they were perfect we would have nothing to learn from them. We learn from imperfect people, and I am one of those imperfect people.
The Bible teachers us that there are no perfect men in this world. None. There is no place on this earth for perfect people.
We do not learn from perfect characters, only from broken shells, imperfect people. And that is how I teach Krav Maga.
My friend Tony had his teeth fixed and then told me the story. He had broken his teeth while doing some training and stunt work. It was all part of being a martial artist. He had taken it all in good stride.
Broken teeth may scare some people off, perhaps it does not make a great first impression. But please do not judge by first impressions, you don't know what is behind it, the real story.
The smelly guy in ragged clothing may have quite a story behind him.
One year the grand rabbi did not show up on time to the Yom Kippur service, the most sacred day of the year, the Day of Atonement.
Where was he? How could he be late on this most important occasion?"
Finally he showed up, dirty and with torn clothing. Some members of the congregation were appalled. In this the way a rabbi comes to the synagogue on this sacred day?
Later on the rabbi explained.
On his way to synagogue he saw a sheep, caught in a barbed wire. The sheep was trapped and in obvious pain. The rabbi took the time to untangle the poor animal. In the process he became dirty and his clothing was torn.
In the eyes of some he was dirty, a disgrace, but in the eyes of God those torn clothing showed mercy and compassion, exactly the attributes we seek to develop on the Day of Atonement.
Things are not always as they appear. Be kind in your judgement of others.
Do not compromise yourself in order to look good in the eyes of others. Make sure you look good in your own eyes, don't worry about what others think.