Keep Playing

June 16, 2024, Israel

I was 17 years old, living in Florida, and deeply committed to improving my guitar playing. I was already playing in a band, used most of my limited money to buying sheet music and records, and played the guitar about 3 hours per day, until my fingers bled. Years later I would use the same dedication and devotion to improving my Krav Maga skills. 

I had a weekly guitar lesson. I can still picture the store and my teacher. He was a young guy, I forgot his name, claimed to be half-Jewish, had long hair and was an outstanding guitar player. Our lessons were really not much of an actual lesson. I do not recall him actually teaching me very much. He would play something, I can picture him with his head down, his long hair totally covering his face, and jamming away. That was what we did, we jammed. We just played and played, and now and then I think he made some sort of comment or suggestion. 

When it was time for me to leave for Israel for my studies, I told him about my departure and asked him for advice. He said, "Stay away from girls with diseases". I said, "Thanks, but that is not really what I had in mind. I meant more about the guitar playing." So he continued, "Play, play, dont' stop playing the guitar, keep playing."

Now that may sound like simple, mindless, advice, and I don't know what he was thinking about at that moment, but those words stuck with me. I thought of them this morning. I was watching a new student doing a gun disarm. He understood the concept and got the basic idea, there were no mistakes. But he was still lacking fluidity, he was trying too hard, which is common for beginners, and this was actually his very first lesson. So I could not say that it was perfect, and yet I also did not want to offer too many corrections, as this would simply hamper him and slow him down. So I gave him the advice from my guitar teacher from all those years ago, keep training, keep doing this technique, and gradually your body will feel more comfortable with it. Gradually your body will find it's balance and your body itself will correct you.

This may sound a bit Zen, and it is. I like the idea of Wu Wei, Effortless Effort, as Bruce Lee taught it. The more you learn to relax, the easier and the more effective the technique becomes, but you cannot force relaxation, you can just guide someone. So I don't "Over teach", I allow the process to happen and make only occasional remarks, a little pointer here, a minor adjustment there. Let the process fix itself. 

I still play the guitar, and it has become an extension of my arm, of my soul, of my inner being. Keep playing, the guy said, and yes, all these years later I realize that was actually brilliant advice. Just play, learn to flow, don't worry about making mistakes, the music will guide you through. 


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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