November 25, 2022, Israel
Ildiko, behind me on my left, the black belt took many years of training, 3 times per week, 3 lessons per day. A true black belt cannot be purchased, it must be earned over time.
Oyama style Kyokushin Karate, full-contact hard karate
When I returned to Israel in 1989, I already had years of martial arts training under my belt; Judo, Ninjitsu with Shidoshi Frank W. Dux, Shurin ryu Karate with Sensei Chaim Jaffe, and years of training in the hard style of Kyokushin Karate with Saiko Shihan Shigeru Oyama. I was looking for something real, hard core, full contact. In those days the best place to find this in the Jerusalem area was with Itay Gil, long before the fame of the "Human Weapon", long before international stuff etc. In those days it was just the locals, hard core training every day.
Itay watched me hit the bag, kicking and punching, and said I was strong but a bit too rigid. He wanted to see more of a flow. Now, decades later, this is actually what I am best known for, the natural flow of energy. In fact, our entire Israeli Kickboxing program is based on this concept. I took the message to heart, and this became part of my character as a martial artist, but it took time and effort.
My first step was training with the late Dov Dribner of blessed memory, may God avenge his death. He was a true fighter who later lost his life battling terrorists. We worked on my back-pining kick which helped improve my round house kicks and my overall use of circular energy. Dov did not "spar", he fought. His grandfather fought in the American Civil War on the part of the South, and he himself fought terrorists in Israel. He made me work hard.
The next step in learning to flow was training with Ildiko. This Itay required for my first dan black belt in Krav Maga and in free style kickboxing. Ildiko was an outstanding lifelong martial artist. In her native Hungary she was a teenage Olympic Judo champion. And of course, she was a female, but as Itay often pointed out, she was tougher than most guys. In fact, despite being a close friend she broke my ribs during my black belt test, during the full contact fights. That is how it was.
My test began with two full hours of demonstrating techniques: Kickboxing, Krav Maga, grappling and Judo. We were doing MMA before it was called MMA (mixed martial arts). Everything was full contact; our school was located next to a hospital and Itay used to joke that we received a discount for sending so many students there.
After the techniques there was a short break. The next part was the fighting, first Kickboxing, followed by grappling and then Judo and then free style, i.e. MMA. In total, 40 fights. I passed. At the end I was still standing. That is what it took to earn a black belt in those days.
A black belt is like a wine, it is not only the name of the wine but the year as well. It took me 18 years of hard training to earn a third dan.
Sensei John Kresse and Miyagi Sensei, Karate Kid: a soft word backed up by a real ability and years of experience.
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