Krav Maga, Can You Learn from the Past?

October 10, 2022, Olavsgaard, Skjetten, Norway


Blind obedience leads to blind acceptance and lack of individual thinking, which in turn leads to stagnation. 

We observe animals, they learn from experience. If you feed a cat, he will know to come back to your home. If you leave a certain door open, he will know to come to that door. Experience is the greatest teacher. The question is how much can we learn from our experiences, and the experiences of others. 

It should be obvious; yes, of course we learn from experience. We ride a bike, a horse, we fall down, we learn what not to do. We behave a certain way and earn a new client, we learn what we must continue to do. We should observe others, we see a salesman, poorly dressed and stinking of alcohol, and he is not welcome at anyone's door, we learn this is behavior to avoid, if you wish to succeed. but how much do we really learn? It depends on how truthful we are, and how accurately we judge the past. 

I recall a certain martial artist, name is Patrick. He told me how he lost every fight during his first year of competition, but then he rarely lost again. Why? Because he did not make excuses for himself. He did not say, well, I lost the fight because the judge was biased, or because I was feeling sick that day, or because the other guy cheated etc...

No, he looked at his loses honestly and analyzed his mistakes. He never made those mistakes again. 

When I was a student of Political Science at UCLA in California, one of our required readings for Middle Eastern studies was, The Arab Predicament, (1992) by Professor Fouad Ajami. While his anti Israel approach was upsetting, his analysis of the Arab world was very enlightening. He focused on the Arabs self image as great heroes, their tendency to tell, and then believe, tall tales about their bravery and prowess in battle, their illusions of grandeur. Believing your own stories and exaggerating your own abilities, makes it impossible to learn from your mistakes, since you believe that you made no mistakes. In short, if you believe your own lies and blame everything on forces outside yourself, you will never make any progress. Ajami analyzed what he described as an intellectual and political crises that swept the Arab world following its devastating and humiliating defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. 

The crises was the confrontation with reality. The Arab sees himself as a great warrior. Before the war the Arab leaders boasted of great victories to come, how they would "drive the Jews in the sea". Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was terrified and spoke of the "destruction of the Third commonwealth of the Jews". Mass graveyards were being prepared in Tel Aviv. 

During the early period of the war the Egyptian government broadcast false stories of the great victories of the Arab armies, in fact, they were "about to enter Tel Aviv". A local woman living in Tel Aviv ran outside with her hands up, ready to surrender to the Egyptians. Her surprised neighbors questioned her sanity. At that very moment in fact, the entire combined Arab army was being routed by the tiny Jewish army. The Arabs dropped their shoes in the Sinai desert and ran for their lives. The truth can be awkward. 

In 6 days the myth of Arab greatness was destroyed. Thus Ajami confronts this sad reality, from his perspective, and says, Guys, we need to wake up and stop lying to ourselves. We cannot learn anything from the past if we keep lying to ourselves. 

And now you will see how this relates to martial arts, to self defense. But first a detour to Mr. Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, better known as the genius who wrote the book "1984" which is a MUST to understand the world we live in.

In this book Orwell describes a horrible world of the future. It is a total dictatorship, free thought is totally suppressed and people are even give new words to replace old words, in order to change the way we think. It is called Newspeak. By controlling the words we are allowed to use, the government controls the way we think. There is even a word for believing something which we logically know to be false, it is called Doublethink. This should sound familiar to anyone living in the West in 2022. 

What is also taking place is a constant revision of the past, in order for it to be "consistent" with the present. Thus if a leader predicted something, and it turned not to have happened, the prediction is simply rewritten to match the current state of affairs, the past is rewritten and all records of the previous prediction, in books or newspapers, are destroyed. The past is changed to match the present. 

In our novel the world is constantly at war, but the war is not real, and even if it is it is only to control the people. No significant battles take place. Nothing is really at stake. The leader of the opposition, Emmanuel Goldstein, explains that nothing is really at stake, no one will win or lose any major battles that will make any difference, and therefore there is no real need to improve our military tactics, this is not a war of survival. This is not a matter of life and death, just an on-going conflict that serves the needs of the Party leadership. 

However, if we are dealing with a war such as those fought by Israel, or the American War of Independence or World War 2, this attitude of falsifying the past cannot take place as it would lead to grave consequences. 

In such cases we must learn from the past, the success and the failures. but if we change the past and glorify it, if we falsify the past in order to make ourselves, or our current leadership look better, we are working with a mistaken foundation and we will not be able to learn from the past. If we lost a battle we must analyze and find out why it was lost. Pretending that we won the battle will only lead to future loses. We must face our failures honestly. 

"to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past. Therefore you need to have a fairly accurate idea of what actually happened in the past." (1984) Goldstein describes this as the state before the Party took over. i.e. even if governments have always lied to the people, they could not lie when it came to military matters, because our very survival depended upon the truth.

History books are always biased, but when it comes to the study of the military, or of self-defense, total honestly must be required. If your survival depends upon this knowledge, you cannot afford to be dishonest. You cannot afford to lie and create myths of glory. In a society where survival is at risk and self-defense is a necessity, one cannot afford to be dishonest and glorify their military accomplishments. However, in a society where survival is not at risk, there is no real danger in embellishing one's military accomplishments. In fact this is often done to create mythological heroes to inspire future generations to patriotism.  

In the martial arts these myths become legends, and soon movies, but they are false. Masters required Disciples to believe in them and not question them. Tales grow over the years. Minor incidents become Sadly, this leads to poor self-defense. Independent thinking leads to questioning. 

As long as no one actually needs to use these martial arts techniques, it is OK to teach them and believe that they actually work, and that is how most martial arts are perpetuated. They are never tested in real conflict. But once your life actually depends upon it, the myth must be shattered, the Death Touch left to the late night movies and the leaping jump kick from roof times left to Hollywood screen writers. 

"Reality only exerts its pressure through the needs of everyday life" (Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell)

We train, we repeat, we need to be ready. Moshe training US Special Forces, somewhere in the USA.

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