September 12, 2021, Israel
I had an interesting discussion with one of our students/instructors. Often I am asked to recommend Krav Maga schools in areas where there are no official IKI - Israeli Krav International, authorized schools. So what can I recommend?
I am reluctant to recommend schools that teach self-defense but violate what we consider fundamentals of self-defense. Schools that rely upon the three unreliable amigos - Speed, Strength, Precision; Schools whose techniques demand excessive practice, great strength and natural coordination. I simply and honestly believe that for most people not only will these techniques not work but the false confidence may actually cause them more harm than good, and put them in greater danger.
I recommended reading "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker and my many blogs on the topic of non-physical aspects of self-defense. In fact I believe that most of the real self-defense is in our behavior. While the physical is important I believe that in most cases learning proper self-defense behavior will eliminate the vast majority of our problems.
Now the point/question came up; But these guys do look really tough, surely they can handle themselves in a fight?
Perhaps, but we are not training for "Fight Club", or "Blood Sport", we are training for survival on the street, in the home, on the train, in a bus, etc. Being tough is not enough, being able to fight is not enough. As Richard Ryan so wisely said, "A man with a knife is your physical superior", so I don't care how tough you are.
What we need are appropriate self-defense skills, but let's address the issue of why these schools do attract many students. It is precisely because of the fact that these instructors, both men and women, look so tough. The potential student feels weak, helpless, vulnerable. He looks at this instructor who looks so fearless, so macho, and the potential students wants to be "near the glory", near the fighter, near the champion. Somehow they feel that by being near the champion they too will be a champion.
I was in my 20's and came to the USA from Israel, from Jerusalem, for the world of Talmud and Biblical studies. Now I was in graduate business school learning about the market, business and economics, I was a bit out of place. I recall the professor showed us a photo; a luxury vehicle with a beautiful scantily clad women holding a drink of some sort. I asked what was being sold, the woman, the car, or the drink, or perhaps it was a package deal. The class laughed. But what was the subliminal message?
It was that by association you will feel empowered. By spending all your heard-earned money on this car you will believe that you will also attract the beautiful woman, the entire package will be yours, what a dream!
Only it is all fake. Having the car might signal that you are going through a mid-life crises. I do not believe that it is truly a package deal, it is just a very expensive car. What they are selling are false dreams, the same is true with Krav Maga.
By associating a tough image with their courses you believe that just by paying them you will also become this way. You will be transformed into a young muscular tough guy/girl. This is called living vicariously, i.e. in your imagination you are experiencing the life, the actions of a different person. By driving alongside with the boxing champion you feel that you too are a boxing champion. That is why so many people want to be with "Celebs", they want to feel the glory. They live vicariously through the person they admire and desire to be like.
But reality does not work that way. The Rock n Rock star knows this, so he will let you have backstage passes for a few hundred dollars, you can ride in his limo and "feel the glory" for a few hours. Later on you will only feel the emptiness in your bank account. You paid for a cheap thrill. You are still not the celeb.
This marketing strategy works well, from a business point of view, but it does not really teach you to defend yourself. A therapist told me, "But all that matters is the person feels better about himself, what does it matter how good he really is at something?"
Well, I answered, it is OK to make a child feel he is a great painter. But if you truly convince someone of this, and then they quit their job, leave their family and totally give 100% to have the life of the painter but the truth is they have no talent, so what does it matter that they felt better?
I always say that feeling empowered without actually having developed skills is like having a full check book, or credit card, but no money in the bank. You may feel good, but if you actually try to cash one of those fancy checks you will be greatly disappointed to learn that there is no money.
At IKI we do not try to live vicariously through the false image of another person, do not worship false images. We train you to be the best version of ....YOURSELF. We train you for the real world, for life.
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