Defending defense

June 24, 2022 Israel

People often wonder how I write, and what "sparks" a blog or a video. Some people take offense and feel that a particular self-defense video or a blog was written to rebuke them or prove them wrong. Sadly, they take offense. 

And yes, I will begin with a little story. My father, Rabbi Paul Katz of blessed memory, my role model, my teacher, my hero, was a pulpit rabbi. This is a very difficult job. Basically every member of the congregation sees himself as your personal boss or employer and you are answerable directly to him/her. After all, they are paying your salary. In the "old country" it was not this way. The rabbi, once chosen, was the indisputable leader, his word was literally the word of God. His decisions and guidelines were binding. He answered to God alone, not to Mr. Cohen or Mr. Schwartz. Not so in the modern American congregation. The rabbi was subject to review, his contract could be terminated, a potential raise in salary could be postponed. The modern rabbi had to be careful. But my dear father, God rest his soul, spoke from the heart and he spoke the truth. He taught me not to be afraid. He often said, Abraham is called the Hebrew, and in Hebrew this means among other things, the one who stood on the other side, as in the entire world stood on one side with their truth and Abraham stood alone on the other side with his truth, but he was not afraid. He did not feel the need to adapt his truth in order to fit in. Be like Abraham, he taught us. And so I am. His principles are the principles upon which IKI (Israeli Krav International) stands. 

As a pulpit rabbi one was always subject to criticism, anything you said could be held against you. One Shabbat/Saturday morning he spoke about the dangers of drug use among teenagers. The next day a man approached him angrily; How could you! How could you humiliate me in front of the entire congregation. My father had no idea what he was talking about. The man continued, everyone knows that it is my son who is selling drugs in the Hebrew School. 

My father was shocked. He was only speaking in general terms. He had no clue there was a drug problem in the Hebrew school and he certainly did not know that this man's son was the drug dealer. 

On another occasion my father spoke of the importance of supporting a synagogue and paying one's membership dues on time. (this now rings a bell with me). I recall it clearly although this was more than 40 years ago. He spoke of how people buy new cars and a yacht but somehow have no money to pay their synagogue dues. Again, an angry man approach him. How could you humiliate me in front of my friends! My father had no clue what he was talking about. In fact my father, as the rabbi, never had access to the financial records of the synagogue and did not know who paid and who did not. The man continued; who else but me bought a new car and a yacht this year, everyone knows this. 

But my father had no clue. The reason I know about this is because he was so upset he came home and discussed this with my mother. 

Likewise my blogs and my videos are not intended as personal rebukes or designed to humiliate anyone. If one relates to the blog, if it applies to an individual, then that is because the message is universal. The first episode of the TV series Shtisel seemed to reflect my own life, but I know that I was not the inspiration for this story, it is simply a universal concept. 

So this blog was sparked by the beginning of a video I just started watching. It is a series about Biblical history. The host begins by saying that majority of the comments he has received are very positive but yet there have also been some criticisms. He wants to focus on the criticisms. Why?

He says "I thought it would be useful for me to address some of the 'other' comments." In other words he wants to address those who criticize what he is teaching. Why? Because we can learn from this.

He says, "Feel free to disagree with me, but don't say I have not looked into things carefully."

I share this approach. While the overwhelming majority of comments are receive are, as this man says, encouraging and supportive, it is important to address the "less positive" comments and this is because by answering them we can go deeper into the issues. Yes, we can chose to ignore them, and sometimes that is the best approach. Sometimes, however, it is by addressing criticisms that we delve deeper into the technique and understand it better. Sometimes we can an understanding of how to teach it and explain it better. 

Sometimes when we defend our self-defense techniques, or in fact any point of view we have, we are criticized for being "defensive". What does this mean? It means that a person absolutely refuses to consider the possibility that he is mistaken. Now let's take this video host, to be impartial and objective. The series he is teaching is on Biblical history, as in can archology and history confirm details of the Bible, this is a highly controversial subject and brings the strongest emotions to the forefront. Now the presenters of the program have clearly done a great deal of research and have clearly considered all points of view. What they present are their own thoughts based on their research. We are free to disagree. However, when they respond to comments, are they being "Defensive", or truthful? 

I feel they are being truthful as they have been objective from the start. Similarly if the "defender" has already considered what the "attacker" is now presenting, and now he proceeds to explain why he has rejected this premise, he is not being "defensive", he is simply explaining his reasoning. Do you see the difference?

So if someone, for arguments' sake, has spent 10 years studying economics and has reached the conclusion that Capitalism is the most successful economic approach, and now somehow criticizes him and offers Socialism. What is the guy to do? Of course he has considered socialism, studied it, and flatly rejected it. So now that he attempts to explain his reasoning, he is criticized as being "defensive", so should he just agree out of fear of being called "defensive"?

There is a difference between being defensive and attempting to explain your position. If you refuse to consider the other person's perspective, that is being defensive, but if you have already considered it, studied it, and conclusively rejected it, well, there you have it. 

Daily we critic and reevaluate our techniques, lives are on the line. We just concluded a two week training period with a top security professional. Nothing was presented as "gospel", everything was presented as our best attempt to date. We passed the test on all our techniques and even developed some new approaches. 

When I defend our techniques, I am doing so in order to delve further, go deeper into the issue, to gain a better understanding. If we look at IKI 15 years ago and we look at it today, I would say the approach has changed drastically. That is why a black belt earned 10 years ago is no longer recognized if the person is no longer training in our system. We are never content, we are always seeking to improve. 

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