March 8, 2020, Israel
Martial arts are supposed to prepare you to protect yourself, at least they all started that way. Yet, most, nearly all, fail and the reason they do is they have an unrealistic expectation of what they can accomplish in a real life violent situation. Focusing on their complex, highly evolved complicated techniques that are sure to fail you when you need them, is just the tip of the iceberg that will sink your ship. The real problem begins in the unrealistic expectations of what a normative human being can accomplish in a terrifying violent confrontation.
Perhaps it is the martial arts movie genre, perhaps it is egotistic macho "masters", but the public has been misled. Being tricked out of your hard earned money is one thing, but when it comes to chemicals instead of food, or Kung foolery instead of real self defense, the consequences are more than money, it is your life.
Few things irritate me as much as seeing videos of arrogant martial artists "teaching self defense" with techniques that any educated person should be able to identify as complete fantasy. We must separate acting from real life. A choreographed show is not reality. And as I point out at nearly every seminar the problem is how we approach our training. "The beginning of wisdom is humility", thus teach us our rabbis. The haughty shall fall and the humble shall raise. We must recognize the truth.
I admit, there was a time when I loved the stories of the great masters on some hidden mountain, who could paralyze a man with one touch, or defeat several opponents at once. If I only trained hard enough, it I was only diligent enough, I too could achieve these feats.
I no longer believe any of this. I have been around a long time and have never seen anything that validates the belief in fantasies. What I have seen is never ending violence and hatred and the attempt to battle it.
In a recent documentary (that means it is boring, has no acting, but actually is true) a Holocaust historian named Michael Berenbaum, said some true words: the victims of this great hatred did not have many options, they certainly did not go like sheep to the slaughter, but there was very little, precious little they could do. He says, "confront your own vulnerability...act in the face of it..."
These are wise words that should be contemplated deeply.
The Jewish people at this time faced perhaps the worst imaginable set of circumstances that anyone could ever face; alone practically without any help, no land to call their own, facing a genocidal regime bent on their total annihilation, assisted by nearly every group: No were to hide, no where to run. And yet the Jews did fight back, in many way. I have a relative whose family hid under a dead tree and only could see sunlight for an hour a day. Others hid in sewers in Poland. Thousands built bunkers but most were discovered. Others fled to the forests and lived off the land despite no training for this. Some lived secret lives pretending to be Christians. And others, many tried to fight back. But they had to be realistic.
Some people today look back and have fantasy solutions; why didn't the Jews form a militia? or the problem was that the government disarmed the Jews. Guess what? I have never met or heard of a Jew in any of these lands who ever owned a firearm before the war. Plenty owned violins, pianos, books...
Confronting your own vulnerability means being totally honestly realistic. Whether it is as a group or an individual, in a war, or in a modern daily environment, we need to look at ourselves honestly, with our weaknesses, with our vulnerability, not with a fantasy approach. Once we do this, and we see how poorly prepared we really are, we can "act in the face of it", but that action will be realistic. That action will be a true reflection of what we can actually hope to accomplish under these circumstances. That is why with IKI we use a simple instinctive Universal Block against a myriad of different attacks while other styles of Krav Maga have much more specific defenses against specific attacks. That is why we have no grabbing, whatsoever, at all, ever! while other styles routinely "catch" the arms of knife wielding attackers (in the dojo). That is why we have no 'wrist flips' which require agility, speed and strength while Facebook is filled with cool demonstrations of "masters" routinely grabbing knife attackers and turning their wrists and flipping them over. I would venture to guess that never in the history of knife attacks has anyone ever succeed with such a defense on the street, in the home, in a car, in a bar.
Confront your own vulnerability, as humiliating as that will be, and then....act in the face of it.