August 8, 2016, Maaleh Adumim, Israel
Jewish children who survived
We are all common. Some of us have illusions of grandeur and perhaps, perhaps it is so. Perhaps in every generation there are a few geniuses. I do not know. Certainly there are very bright people but I think each generation builds on the progress of the previous generation. Electricity was not the product of only one man, neither the telephone or the airplane.
They say Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a genius. Perhaps. But the other musicians of his time recognized the truth about themselves: despite their great musical accomplishments they were basically ordinary. We are all quite common.
Abraham Lincoln was a great man. Perhaps more than anything his greatness was the result of his self recognition of mediocrity. We are all mediocre. He saw himself as homely and mediocre but he built on that and strived for greatness. Our greatness is in our soul. Our greatness, I believe, is in our dreams.
My generation, talking 'bout my generation, we are the generation born after the Holocaust. We did not experience it personally but are left to ponder the lessons. Primo Levi experienced it personally and gave us the great gift of sharing that experience with us as much as one can. His works must be studied, not read.
He survived. Many ask what distinguished the survivors from those who did not make it? What special qualities helped them survive?
The survivors, who call themselves Witnesses, say the very question is insulting, offensive and should never be asked. The question implies, suggests that those who were killed are somewhat lacking in character or resolve, that somehow they are partially responsible. Some have said that those who survived had a greater will to live.
Nonsense says Levi. We have no explanation but chance and luck. Let us not dabble in foolish speculation.
Levi describes the night he traveled to Auschwitz and the uncertainty of it all. He ventures a thought on his survival as he was one of the very very few to survive this particular transport. What was it? The will to live? no, it was not.
"It was not the will to live, nor a conscious resignation; for few are the men capable of such resolution, and we were but a common sample of humanity." (Primo Levi, If This Is A Man, page 18)
Let us contemplate his words and his profound message.
He is totally void of ego. Am I a hero? No. No true hero ever calls himself a hero. What was his secret? There was no secret. Very few men, he states, are capable of either accepting their death calmly with a conscious resignation nor capable of such a will to live that it defies all the power on earth.
What could on starving inmate do against the entire evil German army?
For few men exist in this world how have either of those great qualities; the unbeatable will to live, or the calm resignation to accept death. And we, he states, our transport, our group, were just a common sample of humanity. Neither heroes are we nor supermen. And thus he begins his story of torment and ultimate survival.
Yea, we are just a common lot of men, but a common sample of humanity. How true, how honest!
We need this honesty in our lives, we need this honesty in our training. For many martial arts "masters" truly believe their own hype. Yea, we are masters!! our certificates say so! Our golden belts with many stripes are proof of this. For we are better than all the rest.
Hogwash. We are but a common sample of humanity and our capabilities are less than most animals. Honesty.
We apply this to our Krav Maga training. We do not "live in the movies". We recognize that our abilities are limited, that our time is limited, that we are limited. Yes, we recognize that we are indeed but a common sample of humanity, we have no special talents, no super human abilities. As such our style, IKI Krav Maga, is based on simple moves and simple concepts, the kind that even common folks like us can do.
We keep it simple for we claim no super natural abilities, as Primo Levi explained. And his lessons were derived from the most "reality based" experiment of our times: Auschwitz!
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This is required reading for all IKI instructors!