Three steps

September 9, 2023, Los Angeles, California, USA

We have a prayer that is called in English The Silent Devotion, the meaning of this prayer is not relevant for this blog. What is relevant is that it ends with the worlds He who makes peace in the heavens should make peace for us here on earth. At this point as the individual concludes his prayer, he takes three steps backwards. 

The reason for this is generally understood as, you are talking with God, now you have finished, you don't just turn your back and walk away as with a regular human being, but rather you humbly step backwards. This is similar to the martial arts dojo etiquette, practiced in traditional dojos, training halls, where at the end of the lesson each student, as he reaches the exit, turns to face the dojo, bows, and then steps backwards until he is clearly out of the dojo. 

I am in Los Angeles, and I always make a point of praying at the local Yemenite synagogue, the members here are all descendants of the holy community of the Jews of Yemen, a community that existed for over 2,300 years until the last few emigrated to Israel in recent years. I heard the following interpretation. In our tradition we believe that many lessons can be derived from a single source, and each lesson does not negate the other, even if it is different. 

The members spoke. We ask God to make peace for us here on earth just as He makes peace in heaven. and then, what do we do? we take three steps backwards. What does this teach us? That if we are having a conflict with someone and we want to resolve it, the first thing we need to do is step back. Take a good three steps backwards. Take time to think about it, do not respond in haste or anger or frustration. Take yourself out of the picture for a moment, see it from the outside, see it from another perspective. 

A similar idea was practiced by President Abraham Lincoln, often he was very frustrated with his generals, and for valid reasons. He would write long hard biting letters, but, he never sent them. Once he vented his frustration, he put the letter in a drawer and allowed himself to calm down. Eventually he wrote a calmer letter. 

In our ego driven martial arts bad ass world people are looking for fights. They feel a need to prove they are a man, even if the individual is a woman. Bad Ass all the way. Stupid all the way. A wiser approach would be...take three steps backwards. 

Give me three steps....


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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