The Gentle Way
by Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

November 1, 2015, New York

Conclusion of Krav Maga Tour Fall 2015

With John Liptak and his wonderful group of instructors and students.

When we think of great leaders, when we look back at history with the perspective of time, we see that the great ones were gentle. It is said that Moshe/Moses was the humblest of all men, that he was soft spoken. We are admonished to be "slow to anger and quick to forgive".

Leaders who rant and rave, shout and abuse, are remembered poorly. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Muamar el-Gadhafi, Nasser, Saddam Hussein...

The "great" dictators had no regard for the lives of their own people. St Petersburg was said to be built on the bones of the Russian people. 

And yet, sadly, in the Krav Maga and martial arts world all too often a soft and gentle approach is regarded as weakness.

Too many instructors feel they must bully their students, push them around a little, be tough. To me this is the truest sign of weakness and insecurity. They are more concerned with their own ego and image than with the needs of their students. IKI fights against this image which I believe scares away people who truly need our help and guidance

With an entire industry promoting the image of the Tough guy/Bad ass Krav Maga instructor it is difficult to be the man against the stream. My true friends have always encouraged me to remain true to myself, to "keep doing what I am doing". 

And so I have. Let people think what they think.

But the results speak for themselves. 

I have stood in front of groups that included men twice my size, undercover police officers, prison guards, presidential guards, security experts, 5th dan black belts and 10th dan black belts, world champions and war heroes, and they have seen the essence of what matters. They have seen through the hype. They have understood that a gentle approach is a sign of confidence, not of weakness. 

I do not need to hurt students to prove that it works. The stronger a person is, the more experience one has, the less effort it takes to prove the effectiveness of our methods. I do not need to have an open account with the nearest hospital.

But sometimes the greatest reward is when a smaller person takes the time to express how he or she felt when they came in, their fears and expectations, anxieties and doubts. And then to express how our approach works to alleviate those fears and create a true learning environment.

Below is a testimonial from one of our students. The woman stands about 4 foot 9, she is a student of IKI instructor John Liptak, a man who has proven himself in every martial arts context and combat and yet remains a quiet humble and gentle man. Very proud of him and the job that he does teaching others.

I am a Krav student in Florida under John Liptak. My husband is Shawn Hill. I met you once last testing cycle and was inspired by all that you shared at your visit. I also read your book recently and really appreciated the opportunity to get to know more about Israel through your experiences. I look forward to meeting again next week.

I forgot that I had written some about my Krav experience a few months ago. I want you to know how much your hard work means to me . . . 

Thank you for your dedication,

Jeannie Hill 

My Krav Journey

I started taking Taekwondo four years ago. I enjoyed the forms, but I hated the self-defense segments. Instead of feeling more confident, I left feeling vulnerable. The techniques were hard. They usually didn't work for my small stature. I couldn't find the pressure points and was unable to successfully complete the tasks. I laughed through these, masking a growing realization that I could not protect myself. I left training these days feeling insecure.

I started Krav at the begging of my husband. He loves it and would come home from class eager to show me what he had learned. After a friend's house was broken into, I decided that I might need more self-protection skills. Social media is full of images of thugs attacking the weak. The notion of “pick on someone your own size” seems to be a distant memory of a time when standards were somewhat intact.

I entered the door of John Liptak's Krav Maga training center and was slightly uncomfortable. Replicas of large guns lined the wall. The class was full of mainly men. I was thankful that my husband was able to show me around. Then John entered the room. His light-hearted and jovial personality put me at ease. He minimized the seriousness of the content with fun-loving banter. I was amazed at the simplicity of most of the moves. Even more amazing was the realization that it could be accomplished even by little old me. When the techniques didn't fit my size, John and the other instructors showed me specifically what I could do. Instead of feeling frustrated with what didn't work, I felt empowered by their ability to show me what would work.

I still struggle in class at times. The content is severe. For a man, the main thought is “who will win the fight”. The worst the happens is death. If death were the only fear, it wouldn't be that bad. For a woman, the fear is capture. The fear is being locked in a basement and raped repeatedly. The fear is becoming a victim of human trafficking. There are times when we practice scenarios in class that cause these fears to surface. They bring the reality of my vulnerability in the open. I have never been attacked, but I still have the fear inside. The soothing and inspiring force that breaks through the fear is my instructors and the simplicity of Krav. I used to leave each week wondering how they found this perfect balance. . .

Meeting Moshi provided my answer. His gentle spirit entwined with his deep drive to help others embodies the spirit of Krav. The nation of Israel is like a victimized woman. They know the fear. They feel the pain of the past. They have haunting memories. From this, Moshi constantly works to help all.

I am past forty. I am under five feet tall. I have a plate in my back. I learn slowly. I bruise easily. After a year of Krav, my view of these issues has changed. The are no longer valid excuses. The simplicity and natural movements in Krav make it work for everyone. My insecurities are fading away as the techniques become more automatic. I will never be completely safe from harm, but I now know that I am far from defenseless.  . .

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