July 9, 2023, Israel
What is a teacher for? In some cases, a teacher is someone forced upon you. A child may not want to go to school, but he is forced to. A young man may not want to go to university, but he wants a better job, so he goes. In these cases, the students may not look upon their instructors as true teachers, but merely as a means to an end; you want to graduate so therefore you need the teacher to give you some information, help you pass a test, approve your diploma, and then you are gone. You may never see, or even think about, your teacher anymore.
In the traditional sense, a teacher is a guide, a role model, someone you emulate in your life. I recall when I was studying at Wingate Institute to become a certified martial arts instructor, a story about a 9th dan black belt in Okinawa, in his 80's, who sat next to his instructor, a 10th dan black belt aged 90, and brought him his slippers and his tea. In our society we find the same behavior with rabbis. We honor our teachers.
In Judaism we speak to our rabbis on a regular basis, we consult with them not only on Jewish legal matters, is something permitted or not, but also on moral or practical issues, how should we handle a certain situation, how do we repair a relationship. We see our rabbis and our teachers as role models for life.
The same should be true in the martial arts, and I believe it once was. Today, this is only rarely the case.
Tonight in our Krav Maga class we were working on a certain knife defense; what to do and what not to do. A student who was once an instructor in our organization decided to leave and pursue his "own way". When he left, he did not offer any explanation, unlike Martin Luther he did not post a list of grievances, he just left to form a "better" system of Krav Maga. He said he needed to follow a different direction. This blog is not about any one individual, and there will be no "naming of names", everyone has a right to leave, this is not a cult. Everyone has a right to choose their own direction in life. I am writing this to raise a point, and a question; what is the purpose and role of a teacher?
So we happen to see some of the techniques that this individual has changed. It seems to me from videos and photographs publicly shared, that 90% of the new program is just a copy, somewhat diluted, of our system, the parent system. The rest is a mixture gathered from other styles.
One of the "improvements" was in a knife defense, and the control of the knife attackers' arm. I have seen this before in other Krav Maga systems. Clearly the individual, our former student, felt that we were lacking control of the knife arm, so he chose his own path, and took a "better" technique from another style. Tonight we decided to put it to the test.
As always, we used full resistance. In fact I removed the element of surprise, I gave the attacker all the time he needed to secure his grip on my arm which was holding the knife. In each and every case I was able to not only remove my arm, but in the process badly cut the defender.
and here is my point; why oh why did the student not turn to me, his instructor at the time, and raise the question? Why did he not have the guts to say, Excuse me sir, I don't understand this technique, it does not seem to me to work, or be safe, I have my doubts?
That is what a teacher is for. A teacher is here to answer questions, resolve conflicts, alleviate doubts. Yes, the student should be respectful. No one likes to be approached with, Hey, this technique doesn't work! But certainly, one should say, I have my doubts, I don't see how this can work.
Every year when I arrive in Norway, our guys have a list of questions. These are the sons of Vikings, tall and strong, and they ask. I answer them, we test it on these big and tall strong guys, and it works. That is the correct approach, ASK. What do you have a teacher for?
To just say, well, it doesn't seem to me to work, so I will break away and from a better style of Krav Maga. Well then, what kind of a teacher can you possibly become? To be a good teacher you must first be a good student.
to quote the movie "Yental", in this academy we judge our students more by their questions than by their answers.
Be a true student, become a true instructor and role model.
Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.
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