September 3, 2014, Chicago
Sitting at the airport in Chicago, flight delayed, again; the mind wanders.
On my way to Springfield, Illinois, to teach a seminar at what was the very first chapter of IKI, I think about the changes that have taken place in the Krav Maga world over the years. Krav Maga has become more popular but that has been a mixed blessing. We have experienced the Good, the Bad, and the very Ugly.
If a martial art only experiences the "Good", it will never truly grow into an effective system of self-defense. We can call the "good" that aspect which every martial arts business owner wants to see; the beautiful commercial dojo, the exciting tournaments, belt promotions, trophies lining the walls of the dojo along with a few eye catching newspaper clippings. Cash flow is good, everyone is happy and content and there is no reason to change a blessed thing.
For a system to grow it must also experience the "bad"; the defeats, the setbacks, students being beaten not only in tournaments but on the streets. One of my instructors was teaching the traditional way for years, until one of his female students was murdered - it caused a complete change in his approach to training. He became an innovator and a martial arts crusader for change. This was the great Arthur Cohen of New York.
All the "bad" stuff, the violence, the hatred, the pain is what pushes us to improve our way of fighting, our way of thinking, to hone our self-defense skills. This is what makes the nation of Israel such a fierce fighter, despite our tiny size.
But there is also the "ugly". The Ugly is the betrayal that makes you appreciate honesty and integrity, the ugly is being stabbed in the back by people whom you trusted. The Ugly is the jealousy that makes you understand the falsehood and emptiness of pride. All these are challenges that make you stand up for what you truly believe in. The martial art is a reflection of those challenges.
All the truly great warriors I have met are also truly humble. How did they achieve this? Simply by living and observing life. The more you experience life the more you see that there is no room for ego in our lives or in our martial arts. Life humbles you us all. I think of the words of Sultan Suleiman of Turkey, who towards the end of his life realized that wealth and power are meaningless, "Kill your pride or it will overcome you. Do not forget that you are only flesh, and everything will be finished. Turn to your conscience and go to heaven. Pride is a terrible transgression."
True heroes have experienced fear and pain and have learned that you cannot overcome it, but you can learn to adjust to it. Life is stronger than all of us and is the greatest teacher. If we are willing to open our eyes we will learn a great deal from our life experience.
Moshe Katz with two legendary warriors. Warriors do not always fit the image that Hollywood and the Madison Ave create for them. True Warriors come in all shapes and forms.
I just concluded a series of seminars on the East Coast of the USA. My students included the toughest of the tough, real life heroes, men and women who serve in the top undercover police units, the most dangerous prisons, and the worst neighborhoods. Protecting US vessels abroad, or US citizens right here, they have experience in the reality of fear and danger.
I teach in a soft way. I do not yell, I do not curse or cuss, and I make every effort to never hurt a student. I do not feel the need at this stage of my life to impress anyone with my toughness. My skills and my student's accomplishments speak for themselves.
Siting here, mind wandering as I wonder when I will reach my next destination, my thoughts turn to some of the negative changes in the Krav Maga world. It seems every day there is a new "bad ass tough guy" on the scene ready to try and take our place, the veteran proven instructors. Big muscles will never defeat great minds. World history has proven that conclusively. The gladiators have been long since replaced by the Iron Dome and smart bombs. Intelligence is key.
When I was coming up the ranks, I personally never turned down a fight, and I participated in every type of fight there was. I have the scars, the aches and the pains, the damaged hands and nose to prove it. And sometimes I think; why be different? Why not fit the Krav Maga image created in America and Europe today? It is easy enough, wear camouflage pants and beat up a few students?
I remember my karate instructor, Saiko Shihan Shigeru Oyama, saying, "There is the easy way and there is the correct way." Fitting in is the easy way, but it is not the correct way. I am different but not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being true, authentic and real.
I will always strive for truth, for the reality of self-defense and survival, I do not care if I fit or or what others may think of me. In the long run none of that matters. What matters to me is the countless testimonials from students from all over the world, in all lines of work, of how IKI Krav Maga techniques and training have saved their lives.
Single moms, police officers, bouncers, commandos, and kids have written to me describing how IKI techniques and concepts worked for them in the moment of truth and how our training prepared them for the reality of a violent encounter. I imagine that for each person that tells me their personal story there are dozens who keep it to themselves, but that does not matter. All that matters is that we are making a difference, that we are helping create a change in the way people think, that we are teaching people that they do not need to be a victim.
If you are ready to change your attitude, we are ready to train you.
The legendary but real Prof. Arthur Cohen
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