March 3, 2022, Tel Aviv - Jerusalem Highway
Last night's class went well. We delved into the higher realms of training, the training that is ignored by most martial arts school.
I am carried back by thoughts, the long and winding road down memory lane, my thoughts are my companions during the long drive home. We talked about how all the physical is useless unless we have the mind controlling and guiding our actions. Most martial arts school focus on the physical.
We line up in rows and we kick and we punch and we shout with a Kiah. But what are we really doing? Is this just athletics? or is our goal real self-defense? We work on our stretching, we yearn for that full split and we want to be able to do back-spinning kicks. But what is it all about?
Most tasks are not what we think, battles are not only on the battlefield but in the generals office, not just in tanks but also in think tanks. We need to go deeper.
Most self defense situations will never involve martial arts, even if the individual is skilled. For most tools will remain locked in the toolbox, like a plumber or electrician who is highly skilled but left the key to his toolbox at home. There he is, in the moment of truth, but he cannot unlock his toolbox. That is the situation with most martial artists. The question is, how to unlock our tool box? How to deploy our training skills when we truly need them.
It is in the mind training, we must go beyond the physical.
I am transported back to a turning point in my life, I am in a rabbinical high school in Miami and the rabbi is discussing the upcoming days of repentance. I listen attentively and his words have a profound impact on me. The Ten Days of Atonement are a most difficult time of the year; we must look back and see what we have done wrong, we must think hard and see if we have offended someone, deliberately or accidentally, and we must seek atonement.
This Atonement does not come from going to a rabbi, or a priest, no nothing like that. This atonement does not come from bringing an animal sacrifice, no, that concept is outdated. This atonement is far more simple, logical, and challenging: This atonement comes from seeking out the person you have wrong, hurt, offended, and seeking reconciliation. This is very challenging and humbling. And God cannot help you.
Yes, the rabbi explained that if you hurt someone else, with a nasty comment, or a nasty letter, or public shaming, God has no power to help you. The only person that can help you atone is the person you have hurt.
This blew my mind! the Almighty Powerful God cannot help you in this situation? Only the shmegegie (Yiddish for...strange character) that you accidentally offended?
Yes, God cannot help you in this case, it is between you and the person who was offended. Amazing!
The rabbis explain that only if you sought reconciliation but the individual refused to forgive, only then can you turn directly to God for atonement. You have done all you could, you reached out to the person but he stubbornly refused to budge, now that transgression is on him, not you. You are atoned.
These amazing concepts can be applied to your life if you a believer or not, the lesson is the same. In fact belief and action are separate domains in Judaism. Your beliefs are personal but your actions are what count. Believing in something does not help unless you take action.
The rabbi discussed the service where we read from a rather long list of transgressions (we do not call them "Sins"). As we read this this we make a fist and pound our chest. The list includes...for transgressions in disrespecting our parents, for the transgression of not honoring our teachers...etc. With each transgressions we hit our chest.
So the rabbi says, and you need to feel it!
I recall hearing this and feeling terrific. Now this was something I could relate to, this was something I could handle, easy. Just hit your chest, really hard, and feel it like the rabbi said, and...voila, we are good to go!
But this moment of joy was short lived, this moment when I thought it was so easy and simple, was very short lived, for in the next breath the rabbi said, in your heart.
I need to feel it in my heart. And this changed my life forever.
It is easy to hit ourselves, but to feel, to really feel it?
Yes, to say ...for the transgression of disrespecting my parents, for dishonoring my teachers...how could anyone be so heartless as to behave this way? Our parents who do everything for us, how could be have been rude to them, even for a split second! How! How dare we utter a word in anger against our dear parents. Now that hurts, deep.
That lesson stayed with me my entire life. When we seek atonement it does not matter how hard we hit our chest, that is just the physical, what matters is taking it to heart and feeling it deep inside, the shame of having hurt those most dear to us. For this we seek atonement. And each year, on the Day of Atonement, I worked on improving myself. The Ten Days of Atonement are our "Guide to Improvement", and we have been doing this for thousands of years.
And now I apply this to our Krav Maga survival training.
The physical, that is the simple part, that is the part everyone can do, that is as simple as making a fist and hitting your chest and uttering words from a book. But the real part is in our hearts. When we train we have to make it real, but how? By controlling our minds and truly feeling the pain of the victims, by truly putting ourselves in the shoes of a person being attacked. We need to be there, we need to transport our souls to the scene of the crime. This is what our training is about, this is what makes it real.
You can do a hundred pushups, good for you, but this is not self defense. We need to train our minds in the art of "Being There". We need to recreate the stress, the tension, the nervousness of the individual trapped in this violent encounter, we need to feel it. And this is much more challenging than learning a physical technique, hitting the chest is easy, but forgiveness and growth only come when you feel it deep inside.
More than this it is difficult to teach only by the written word, one must Be There. But the message is that life is far more than physical, the real growth is much deeper...