September 8, 2020, Ashburnham, Massachusetts,
With Itay Gil and many friends/fighters back in 1994
Kyokushin Karate is considered among the toughest, most brutal, full contact styles of Karate in Japan, and in the karate world. This is the style I trained in under the legendary Saiko Shihan Soshu Oyama. (later Soshu Oyama). When speaking on occasions with Japanese men I encountered over the years, and the topic of karate came up, and I would say the world "Kyokushin", they eyes would light up in fear and admiration, "Oh, that is the tough karate". That was followed by 18 years of full contact fighting under the tutelage of Itay Gil, one of the most respected names in Israeli martial arts and perhaps Israels' top full contact fighter. I recall a competition where after Itay's first fight all the other fighters withdrew from the competition.
The point I am trying to establish here is not my personal fighting credential as a Bad Ass Tough Guy, which I have truly earned, but that the advice and guidance I wish to offer here is not coming from a place of fear or weakness. I am not looking for an excuse to avoid pain. In fact as a student, as a fighter, that was my greatest thrill, that first moment when I received my first blow. Until that moment there was some anxiety, what will it feel like? How strong is my competitor? But once the first blow hit me, the first blood, I would smile and say to myself, Great, you hit me, so what, I am still here standing, and laughing. You can't hurt me, you can't stop me.
The first hit was always the opening of the mind and the soul. It is difficult to describe to someone who does fight, and it sounds bizarre, but it was a moment of total freedom like nothing else. You got hit, a zinger, it hurt, OK, now I am ready. Here we go, get ready! The blow released all the anxiety, all the fear, total freedom like nothing else in life. I miss this.
Itay of course noticed this. He used to say, "Moshe needs a good kick in the head to wake up, after that he comes to life". Yes, I am a gentle person, but I have a fighting side and that first kick in the head is my wake-up call, now the dance begins.
I miss those days. I also trained and fought under Benny the Jet Urquidez, Kru Phil Nurse, and others.
In 2004 I was with Prof. Arthur Cohen of blessed memory at Karate College. It was the end of a wonderful session and we were chatting as we saw the legendary Joe Hess, full contact fighting champion, walking down the stairs. Joe was having a lot of trouble. Arthur offered to help but Joe proudly refused. Arthur said to me, you don't want to end up like that, so rickety that walking down a flight of stairs with your luggage is a challenge.
Arthur advised me wisely on many issues. His advice was harsh but true, we need to think ahead, of our older years. There is a limit to how much abuse our bodies can take. We must take caution to avoid causing permanent damage. Sadly it was a hip surgery, required due to the damage Arthur had suffered during years of fighting, that led to Arthur's untimely demise. The surgery led to complications and Arthur passed not long afterwards.
Arthur's' advice was to be careful, that if I suffered an injury and then had to teach my seminar tours, this would be very difficult. An injury could seriously harm my performance and ability as an instructor. This was a sad turning point for me. I still have long term injuries that I feel and am aware of but I am in decent enough shape to manage, fly, travel and teach. When I have to, I can still handle the 'young ones fairly well.
The title of this blog comes from my Karate teacher Saiko Shihan Shigeru Oyama, one of the toughest fighters from Japan, and one who completed the 100 man kumite (100 full contact fights). As we would begin the fighting part of the class he would say, with his strong Japanese accent, "No Accident Please!"
I taught a seminar the other day, Krav Maga of course, and the same question came up; a why do I teach that sometimes, some people, against certain assailants, need to disengage, to get away, why? Shouldn't we be bad ass? shouldn't we Zohan them into a pretzel, Seagal them into rag doll, karate chop them, or swing them around with a chop sticks?
and again I say; you have been watching too many movies. Or you have been taught by people who buy into the hype. That is why I began with my credentials: no one can doubt the tough as nails attitude of men like Itay Gil, Benny the Jet, Arthur Cohen, Shigeru Oyama, Phil Nurse, Chun Kwok Chow and others that I have trained with and yet all echo that message - No Accident Please!
The key concept here is Control. As mature human beings, and as martial artists, we should have control. The entire idea of martial arts is to gain a certain control over our environment and our destiny, simply put we want to survive. When we train we do want to feel some pain, we do need to understand that a punch will hurt, a slap with sting, but we need to exercise control. We need to control our blows so that we do not cause ourselves or others injuries. Injuries will happen, this is a contact discipline, but we aim to minimize them. When Saiko Shihan said, Fight! and then, no accident please, he was not suffering from a split personality. Yes, Fight, and fight hard, but no, do not be out of control, do not hurt your opponent to the point where there will be an injury. Itay used to joke that if you hurt opponent too much, who will you train with for the rest of the session?
The message is clear; be careful.
Now when it comes to seminars we must be doubly careful. Arthur Cohen said it me bluntly, "These are not your students, you cannot hurt them. They came in with ten fingers, they leave with ten fingers, understood?"
So I will not hurt you at seminars, I will not try to impress you with how tough I am, I will be the gentlest person in the room, I will teach you without hurting you. But I will also teach you the time and place to be aggressive, for that too is part of our training. Control is knowing the difference. Like Mr. Miyagi said, "When necessary, tough enough".