September 27, 2013
Experience, there is nothing like it. You cannot buy it, there are no shortcuts around it, the best you can do is try to learn from the experience of others, thus, I try to share my experience with you.
Moshe training at World Oyama Karate, around 1997, on a visit back to the USA.
I came from a traditional karate school, the Oyama Kyokushin dojo, and I modeled my dojo in Israel around what I knew and admired. We held the same ceremonies, the same Hatsu Geiko, etc. I did this for nearly 19 years, but ultimately it was not "it". It did not fit my reality.
I was successful, very successful, I built my life and home on his. I raised a generation of kids and I enjoyed it. But my goal was to be like the Oyama dojo, to have veteran black belts show up for class every morning, to have rows of students wearing black belts, brown belts, etc.
But my reality was different. Students stayed for a few years and then left. The adult groups never stayed with it, they had full time jobs, large families, daily prayers at the hours that we had class. Saturday, the Sabbath, was a non-training day, Sunday in Israel is a regular work day; it simply did not work. In fact there are almost no dojos in Israel that succeed with this model.
So for nearly 19 years I taught children and youth. But this too was frustrating as I wanted to see black belts. Kids stayed for a year or two and then I was told they needed a "change", a different club, basketball, swimming, etc. Some students were sent away to boarding school, others discovered the opposite sex and parties, while yet others became immersed in religious studies and had no time for martial arts training.
A few stayed with me until the age of 18 when of course all Israelis are drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I produced some incredibly tough young fighters, they served as commanders in the IDF, breezed through the IDF Krav Maga program and excelled in combat.
I raised a generation of fighters. They have proven themselves not only in the ring but on the battlefield. As Yonatan said to me, "It was my years of Krav Maga that fully prepared me for what I would face in the IDF. It was the concepts, the attitude, learning to adapt, that prepared me for everything they could throw at me."
My student, Yonatan G. making us proud in the IDF.
He served in an elite unit that would go deep into enemy territory before the regular troops moved in.
They earned their black belts, they faced 40 tough opponents in full-contact MMA style fighting, they were tough.
But how many people can achieve this? and is this what Krav Maga is about?
My student Nadav A. IDF Search and Rescue operations elite unit. Making us proud.
My student Yisrael Kaplan, broke a guys' leg during his Krav Maga course in the IDF. He did not want to. He focused on showing his technique but the commander said,"You must show me you are tough". Yisrael did not want to, that is not his nature, to hurt others, that is not what I taught him. So the commander said, "If you do not hit hard I will hit you!"
Yisrael gave one kick and broke a man's leg. He sent another guy straight to the hospital. After that they left my peaceful warrior alone.
He was not at all impressed with the Krav Maga instructors in the IDF.
Did his 40 full-contact fights at Itay's dojo in Jerusalem.
My student Eitan Susman, IDF veteran, Combat unit, Black Belt, did his 40 fights at the Jerusalem dojo. Tough guy but sweet and gentle. He currently teaches our kids class.
Ultimately the "dojo model" did not work for me, it did not give me what I wanted. I wanted students who were committed for life to the program, but...that was not our reality. Eventually a totally different program emerged, the IKI Krav Maga program. No one could have thought of it, no one could have planned it, it just...happened over time, experience, trial and error.(Divine guidance?)
Reality. It took me a long time to accept reality. I tried to force my ideas upon a reality that did not match. I was not in New York City, like Oyama, I did not have that kind of traffic. I was in a small neighborhood with a totally different reality.
It is the same with Krav Maga. The reality is that we need Krav Maga for everyone. It is not only for people with amazing bodies. But that is precisely what a lot of the young up and coming guys will show you. They want to show toughness, hitting hard and getting hit hard; "We are tough, do you want real Krav Maga? do you want to be tough like us?"
But is that what it is about? My experience of over 3 decades says No. The reality is that most people will not develop that kind of toughness. The vast majority of people who really need self-defense will not have the time to pack on pounds of muscle and take full-contact brutal training. That is not reality. And that is not reality training. Just like with my dojo ideas, these ideas are not suited to the reality of most people.
We cannot change reality, we must adjust to reality, and that is how we make changes.
I see people teaching techniques that can only, maybe, work for tough guys, but will get the average person killed. This is totally irresponsible.
Our goal here is not to be like Rocky, or to develop K-1 Fighters, or UFC champions, leave that to the super athletes who have time to devote to this.
Our goal is to teach practical self-defense to real people, people who also need time for jobs, family, prayer, and school.
The question is how tough do you need to be to survive a violent assault?
If you need to have huge biceps and a powerful chest that can take a pounding, well, we are in trouble, because most people do not have that, and do not have the time or interest to develop that. Thankfully we know from experience that all that is not necessary for real life self defense. (but it is necessary for really cool YouTube marketing).
I have had many students who used IKI Krav Maga to defend themselves, muscle size was never a factor at all. Technique, mental attitude, proper training; those were factors.
Recently I taught a seminar and there was a rather large woman, but she was good! She could really move, and she understood the techniques. Trust me, you will not see her on promotional videos on YouTube or Facebook, rather you will see women with abs to die for, long dark tan legs, perfect bodies and lips, great silky hair...high kicks in the air, perfect splits on the beach, (in bikinis of course!), but...do you really need all that to defend yourself?
I have nothing against such women, I have nothing against body builders or muscular men, they are very welcome to train with us and we do have many students like this all over the world, but what I ask you is, how tough is tough enough for self-defense, for survival?
I love the fact that people usually think I am a rabbi, or a math teacher, no one ever looks at me and guesses...Olympic athlete? Krav Maga instructor? But this is good, because if I can do it, you can do it!
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