December 13, 2022, Warsaw, Poland
I am in Poland, a land filled with one thousand years of Jewish history. My thoughts are constantly wandering, to the past, to the humble Jews who lived here, to the shtetl, the little village, and to the rabbis. But today I am actually thinking about a great Italian rabbi. For here in Poland his books became household items, his words and wisdom became the daily lot of the Jews, his books were not only studied; they were lived.
I am thinking of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, author of "The Path of Just", a guidebook for the simple man to become a great spirit. This book has been and continues to be for me personally a great inspiration. This book challenges the very foundations of our life, of our way of thinking.
This book takes our daily life, our daily habits, our habitual practices which we do without thinking, and challenges us to the core. It is a very humbling book. If you are open minded, you will see your many faults in this book.
As the rabbi explains, there are things in life we do not think about; we get up, we eat, we walk. These are not things we focus on; they are automatic, habitual. Our thoughts are devoted to more "Important" things, like who will be the next president, or perhaps some business matter. Simple matters can be left to habit. And this is where Rabbi Moshe challenges us. He says these matters are far too important to be left to habit for these daily matters are the essence of our life. The wisdom of life is not easy to attain and there are daily enemies, distractions, that tempt us away from proper behavior. And what after all does God truly want from us? Proper behavior.
Most of us, are controlled by our environment, rather than the other way around. Our behavior, our personalities, the way we treat and interact with others is not the result of wisdom, but of habit, of following the crowd. Our thoughts are flawed and therefore our actions are flawed. We must control our thoughts...
and here I will apply this idea to our Krav Maga training. The book is too profound to analyze here at depth, but I will just share a thought that occurred to me during a discussion with our IKI representative in Poland, Jacob, a man of depth and understanding. Just as Rabbi Luzzatto speaks of the need to analyze our daily habits, we speak of the need to constantly reevaluate our methods of training. The rabbi speaks of life, and so do we. We train for life, not for trophies or glory. As such our Krav Maga is also a spiritual pursuit.
The rabbi writes nearly 250 years ago...the true wisdom will be lacking...from these, the less intelligent, it will be lacking because they do not understand the true wisdom, so their religious behavior will be expressed in simply spending hours reciting long prayers, endless confessions, harsh fasts, dipping in freezing cold water or ice baths, self-abuse, things which the mind and the brain are uncomfortable with and don't sit easy with our intelligence. The truly intelligent people will not delve into these matters because they do not see them as important. So thus, it comes to pass that the true wisdom in life is lacking both from these and from those. From the less astute because they simply do not comprehend it, and from the more astute because they choose to ignore it. And the true Wisdom is lacking...
This is how I see Krav Maga, Self Defense, training today. There are those who are the "Pious", or the hard-core, who take to extreme measures, endless pushups, brutal training, self-abuse. They feel that they are the Pious ones, that this self-torment is the way to achieve self-defense mastery. But the intelligent mind is not comfortable with this. and yet, the more intelligent do not see the need for this training at all and absolve themslevs of this. So, as the rabbi points us, the true wisdom is lacking from these and from those and becomes difficult and rare to find.
We seek the truth in training. And as the rabbi points out, before correct behavior comes correct thinking. Without correct thinking there can be no progress in life. We are a thinking system, a truthful system, for it is a matter of life.
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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