Moshe Katz, a long long time ago...earning the black belt the hard way
When I was training for my black belt in Krav Maga, Kickboxing and Jujitsu, it consumed me. Totally.
I arrived late for weddings and bar mitzvahs, if at all. I missed social gatherings. Anything that conflicted with my training - was put aside. My focus was complete. Nothing could interfere with my goal; Black Belt.
I turned down job opportunities that conflicted with training. I recall one job that looked very promising. I told them that I needed to leave three times per week from 5 to 8 pm and could not possibly miss a training session. They said that on occasion I might have to stay at the office until 6 pm to complete some sales. No deal, I turned down the job and walked away.
I showed up to dates with a black eye or a bloody nose, or a fat lip. This took some explaining. Other times I could not sit through the date because my knee was throbbing in pain. Girls walked. No matter, it was all worth it. I was going to be a Krav Maga and Kickboxing Black Belt. Nothing was going to stop me or slow me down.
It took time, but my teacher Itay kept saying, "Your day of glory will come."
At the time of my brown belt test I had just been offered a job in the Mortgage and Loan dept. I told them I could only start in two weeks, after my brown belt test. I kept my word, the day after the test I showed up for work, black and blue and still shaking. Everyone had thought I was attacked by a group of terrorists. Well, pretty much true, I had to handle 30 fights with some of the toughest guys in Jerusalem.
To prepare for my test I ran up hills, raced up stairs, jumped rope, lifted weights, practiced my techniques again and again, and then...again.
I earned my brown belt, my black belt, and all my belts, fair and square, the old fashioned way, and I dare anyone to question my credentials.
And now it is my turn to rank others. I have earned this right. But it is not an easy task.
I have seen the ugly truth out there. I have seen black belt ranks offered as incentive to join an organization - I do not do that.
I have seen black belts awarded in exchange for favors, or money - I do not do that.
I have seen awarded for organizing major events, such as tournaments, - I do not do that. And that makes life difficult.
My demands are high. Basically I want you to be as good as I am, if not better. But this is not easy. Ask anyone who really knows me well and they will say I am hard on others but ruthless on myself. Give me a task to do and I will do it, it if means staying up all night, so be it, but it shall be done.
So I am put in a tough position. Honestly, I wish someone else would take the task of testing our IKI students for black belt. Our policy now is that each new black belt candidate must be approved by three current black belts in our system.
I want to tell one story. Two of our students in Canada; not the youngest martial artist I ever met but determined as all hell. They came to me with vast experience already, much as many of our IKI members.
Many of our members join IKI with ranks of 5th dan black belt and higher in other arts. As such it does not take them many years to earn their ranks in Krav Maga. Sometimes the outside critics, always quick with jealous accusations, will ask, "How can he already be a black belt? He has only been with you for a short while!" (Much like the perennial class clown, incapable of achieving anything himself so he resorts to making derogatory remarks about others.) So these two students, James and Louisa, join IKI. They are already minor celebrities in Canada, they are already well-known martial arts instructors, they have already been featured on the news and on TV. They are already champions, multiple times over in their own right, and they are already high ranking black belts in several styles.
So they join IKI. They are admitted with...no rank at all! They are not recognized immediately as instructors, they are awarded no rank. Let me tell you, I understand this takes a great deal of humility, to join with no rank and no status, after already being a recognized instructor. (and we lost many potential members each month, "masters" who refuse to be trained and tested by IKI, but wish to enter with all the pomp of their previous ranks).
Louisa and James join, they purchase every single IKI DVD. They join the Krav Maga On Line program and receive hundreds of video clips in IKI Krav Maga, and ...they train. A lot.
They contact me and say, "We feel we are ready to test for black belt" during the upcoming trip to Canada, but I am skeptical. It has only been one year, I tell them. I let them down easy; it is highly unlikely that you are ready, but, I promise to take a look.
I arrive and greet them with a smile. James looks at me and says, "If there were a crowded street in Hong Kong I would recognize you at once." I admit, I don't get what he is trying to say.
He explains: and and Louisa have devoted themselves Totally to IKI Krav Maga this year. EVERYDAY they met and spent hours going over the video clips that I sent them. As we say in Israel, they "plowed" through the material. They made it their own, that is the correct way to do it.
I watch them. I am stunned, amazed. Behold, they speak the truth! Indeed the work shows, hours of training everyday and they ARE black belts. They don't need me to give them a piece of paper, they are IKI Krav Maga black belts.
My point, and I admit there is nothing poetic or philosophical about this; you want a black belt; work hard. You to know what I am looking for, I shall tell you. When I show up I want you to show me the techniques I have been sending out (on the IKI On Line program). If I have to remind you - You are not ready. If I have to show you - you are not ready (and please take these words to heart without getting offended, show me without my having to ask you what I am looking for).
Show me. Show me all the variations of gun threat that I have sent out, show me all the knife threats and the latest developments on the clips that I send out nearly daily. Show me what I want to see. Show me that you have watched the clips, taken a training partner and and "plowed" through them, mastered them, made them your own.
And then you will be ready.
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