August 7, 2017, Israel
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I love new students, but they can be a mixed bag. They come from all sorts of different backgrounds, with different abilities and different expectations. We can learn from all of them.
Yes, that is what I said, we can learn from all of them. I did not say we can teach all of them, we can, but we also need to learn from all of them. They are the raw material and we can evaluate our techniques with them; how fast can they learn them, how easy is it for their bodies to adapt to them?
I would say we can break it down to two categories, what I call Krav Maga virgins on one hand, and those with years of training in other styles on the other hand. Those with years of training can be broken down further into two categories; those who come to learn with an "empty cup" and those who come to challenge the instructor and believe what they already know is superior. The second group I have no interest in, they can walk.
Last night we had two new students; the first was Israeli/French. She had attended one class in another style, after which she was expected to instruct. Yes, you heard me correctly. She had one day of training and that was her preparation for teaching a group of people. She felt a lack of confidence, remembered her old neighbor Moshe Katz, and joined us.
What can we learn from her experience?
She walked in nervous, I understand that, I expect that. I gave her an experienced student/instructor to work with, someone who would not hurt or intimidate her.
I personally guided her, taking her arms and showing her how easy it is to use one block for many different types of attacks.
She said that of all the things she learned in her one intensive day of training, she "could remember nothing at all".
At first she was very stiff and resistant, she was expecting everything to be very hard. Soon she began to relax. After half an hour I told her, "You now know more than 90% of Israelis, you have now drastically improved your chances of survival."
Yes, it happens that fast.
She found it amazing how simple it was. She expected things to be like with other styles, countless different techniques to remember. That is not our way. We teach concepts that can be applied, not techniques to be memorized.
I truly admire anyone who steps into a Krav Maga class. I understand their fears and anxieties. This is natural as that is the image projected by the "standard" Krav Maga schools. They thrive on that image and it hurts us all; it scares people away. These other schools build an image of "toughness" to bolster their self esteem. We have no need for this.
My attitude towards new students: You have earned my respect the moment you walked into my class.
The other student has been training for a while in England. She has already earned a fairly high rank. Yet, she came with an open mind, she did not try to teach us what she had previously learned.
After the class she explained that back home the class focused mostly on fitness and sparring. The idea of dealing with the element of surprise and fear was new to her. She felt more confident now.
Krav Maga is not a fitness class, nor is it a "testing ground" for new students, nor is it a place for an insecure teacher to hurt people, growl at them and prove his "manliness". Krav Maga class is a place to learn how to survive. The image and training portrayed in the movies is created for drama, do not confuse that with the real thing.
Beginners, not always easy but there is a lot we can learn from them; what works and what does not, what can be learned quickly and what takes more time. We must create a user friendly environment if we wish to truly help people. Remember, we are here for the student, not the other way around.
About the author, Moshe Katz
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