Ranks, Titles, and Respect in Krav Maga
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

July 18, 2015, Israel

I was asked about titles in Krav Maga. The Japanese are very big on titles and very particular about it. You do not want to confuse a sensei and a sempai, you do want to confuse a soke and a shihan.

That is not the case in Krav Maga.

If you happen to see the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, feel free to yell out "Hey Bibi", he will smile back at you. Our president goes by Ruby and our minister of defense is Bugi. There is no disrespect intended, and none taken.

It is not one's title that brings one respect and it is not a matter of using a title to show respect.

A man can call you "Sir" or "Master" but still have no respect for you at all. It is the actions that counts. Titles, as we say in Arabic, are "Haki fadi", Empty words.

My title?

His Holiness, His Highness, Grand master, Founder, some call me Grand Puba, Sovereign of Israel, its surrounding territories and the world.

But you can call me Moshe.

In South America students generally call me Maestro, Master, Professor, all nice, but the way one is treated is more important, far more important, than any title. Respect comes from actions.

I certainly appreciate the respect shown by these titles, but I do not stand on ceremony. Actions, not words, are what count. I personally always call my doctor, Doctor, and the rabbi Rabbi, that is for me. I would not feel comfortable otherwise. 

Many of our students join us with titles in other styles. Please remember, those are "other styles". Do not expect me to call you Dr. Professor, Sir, Shihan, Soke, Sensei, Grand Master etc.  I will call you Joe, Steve, whatever you like.

Years ago I became friends with a woman who worked at Asian World of Martial Arts. She said people would call up to place an order and get upset if she did not refer to them as Sensei, or Master. She said, "excuse me, I am not your student, I do not need to call you by any of these titles. You are my customer."

There are titles that become part of one's name, such as Rabbi. But even then, if you did not meet the person as a rabbi, but as a customer at the bank, it would not be expected.

Remember, actions, not words.

Respect is shown by honest direct communication. Bearing a grudge secretly, speaking behind someone's back, taking actions that show another in a bad light, not paying your bills on time; these are signs of disrespect, no matter what title you use to refer to the person.

If you respect someone, talk to them honestly. Treat them properly. Ask them what they need from you. Be transparent.

As my father used to say, labels are for bottles, not for people.