Saturday night, March 6, 2016, El Al lounge, JFK, New York, USA
Coming off a six-week tour of North and Central America, I am always thinking of how to teach Krav Maga more effectively. By more effectively I mean a way that more people can learn the technique, and be able to use them effectively in real-life violent situations.
Six weeks of touring, many countries, countless students, but today I met some people that again, made me think, and rethink.
Hatred is everywhere, and hatred against the Jewish communities around the world is once again on the rise. People whose parents and grandparents experienced the Holocaust are now themselves in a position where they must think of self-defense.
People whom I have known for years, and who were never interested in Krav Maga, are suddenly training. And I must think: what is the best way for these people to learn?
Let us review: We are not talking about professional athletes. We are not talking about people in the prime of their lives. We are not talking about who are passionate about martial arts.
These people are passionate about other things; their families, their faith, their studies, their communities. And that is how and why they came to Krav Maga. They have no dreams of being a Bad Ass. They are not trying to impress anyone.
They will devote a couple of nights per week for a few weeks, and that is all. How do we teach Krav Maga in a way that will be effective for such people?
First thing is to drop a great deal of the most common elements of Krav Maga training as it is currently taught.
Drop the following at once:
1. Fear - Stop trying to intimidate students, bully them, mock them, show how much tougher you are then them, put them through a military style boot-camp until they prove themselves worthy of your attention. (yes, this is very common)
2. Cookie Cutter Philosophy - Stop trying to make the students fit the program. Make the program fit the students. Come with a plan but be ready to adapt your plan to reality. That is what Krav Maga is all about.
3. Power Trip - Drop the "Sensei" power trip. You are a teacher, not a god. Do not get your thrills by making your students your "disciples" or "followers". Do not brow beat them into submission. You cannot demand respect, only earn it. Drop the Messiah Complex.
4. Competition - Drop the competitive attitude. These people are not here to win tournaments or earn trophies. No one is shooting for "Student of the Year" or any other plaque or award.
5. It is not about you - Remember you are here to serve, to teach, to meet their needs, not to satisfy your own. When I first started teaching I had an image in my mind of what I wanted my dojo to look like, to feel like. My model was completely inappropriate for my target audience but it took me years to realize this.
Do not waste your time trying to make your students fit some image you have of the perfect dojo.
How to Improve the Speed of Learning
1. Crate an atmosphere of cooperation. Our students are not here to compete against each other, they are here to learn to defend themselves. They are here precisely because of such attitudes; the violence and brutality of life. They certainly do not need to encounter this here.
2. Reduce Stress - I have noticed that relaxed students learn the techniques much faster. Now I will have to explain this as this goes against the common Krav Maga way of thinking. Most Krav Maga instructors want an environment of stress, combat, fear, adrenaline, aggressiveness and competition.
I believe they are making a huge mistake. While those elements are essential at a later stage of training, they are extremely harmful and detrimental for the beginners. In fact, with this attitude, most beginners will never get to the stage where such training is useful. They will have quit by then.
What I have noticed with most beginners, and this includes students with advanced black belts in another styles of martial arts, is that the stress causes very poor learning habits. I see them trying too hard, they are "forcing" the technique, they are putting in too much effort and muscle and this causes the technique to fail. They are not "allowing" the technique to breath, to live, to take its proper natural course of action.
By trying too hard, they are working against themselves and greatly slowing down the learning process. As Bruce Lee said, "I would rather have 10 techniques that work for me, rather than 100 that work against me." We have to allow the techniques to work for us.
3. Make it about the student - I have see this again and again. The student wants to win the approval of the teacher. We must explain to the the student that they did not come to class to impress us, the instructors. They came to learn. They must forget about trying to impress the instructors. Trying too hard slows down the entire process.
Once you are no longer concerned about what impression you are making, on your instructor and classmates, you will be amazed at how fast you pick up the techniques. They are designed to be easy, do not make them difficult.
And, remember...a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Train well, train Smart, be happy.
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