Boasting or Modesty

May 17, 2023, Israel

I grew up in rabbinical academies where modesty was a virtue. This shaped my life. Rabbi Moshe Gottesman told us, "Your grades are for yourselves and your parents, not to share with other students", i.e. if you received a good grade, be modest, don't tell other students about it. I held strictly to that rule throughout my school years, including university and graduate schools. Modesty is a virture.

The way you walk, the way you talk, the way you present yourself in public, all should be very modest. 

Now while that worked very well in the old country, in the Jewish circles, among rabbis, things turned out to be different in the modern business world. In the Old Country, the "Heim", a young student would study the Talmud diligently, eventually he would be noticed and sent to study with a great rabbi, as they say, "His light would shine forward" and soon it would spread. The humble young man would eventually be recognized as a great scholar and asked to be a rabbi of a community. 

Today, even a rabbi has to fight for a job. Today even the candidates for Chief Rabbi hire publicity agents and campaign managers. (I know, I used to work for one). Things have changed.  

Modesty is important, but it has its limits. But arrogance is sickening. 

In today's martial arts world we see too much of "me, me, me". A guy wins a fight and jumps around the ring like drunk orangutan shouting "I am the best", soon another young man will defeat him, such is the cycle of life. Better to be humble before someone humbles you. Grand masters insist on being treated like gods and post endless photos of worthless diplomas not worth the paper they are printed on. 

And yet, if one is overly humble, the future is bleak. My dear friend and mentor, the late great Prof. Arthur Cohen, was a rare breed of a martial artists, hard working and talented but virtually unknown outside the circle of masters. Towards the end of his life he was still doing free seminars in the hope of "net working". He never charged his worth. I always said, "Arthur, you are greatest secret in the martial arts world, I am just grateful that I found you."

But even Arthur taught me that I must promote myself. He joined me for a seminar in Long Island. Throughout my presentation I saw he was taking notes. He told me, "Moshe, you did not introduce yourself, you did not tell the people who you are, or about your background." I responded that I did not want to waste our precious seminar time with telling them about me, why was my background important. But Prof. Cohen taught me a value lesson, he said, "Why should people listen to what you have to say if you don't explain to them who you are?" He told me that he has a standard presentation that he uses to introduce himself to a new audience. I have never forgotten this.

There are limits to humility.

Years ago I did not even include my own name on articles or blogs that I wrote, why should I? After all, why was my name important? only the message was important. But my cousin Steven said to me, "Why should I read an article if I don't know who wrote it or what his credential are".

There are limits to humility. 

I do not want to remain "the best kept secret", I want to spread our system. Sadly I am far from a marketing guro and have little understanding of modern social media, but yet, one must make an effort. 

I feel uncomfortable writing things about myself, such as my rank, or my many accomplishments, but yet, one must do this or die "the best kept secret in martial arts". 

Excessive self-promoting can be off-putting, and yet sitting quietly and waiting to be discovered can take a lifetime or never happen. We must find the balance. So we pursue self-promtiuon with truth, honestly and accuracy, never making false claims, never claiming to be something other than what we are, never exaggerating. 


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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