Given the nature of Krav Maga training and especially given the nature of training in Krav in Israel, my question to you is this: “Are martial arts still fun to you?” Or maybe a better way to ask is “How do you balance fun and serious training with martial arts? “
When you and your students are training in Krav, especially in your dojo at Maaleh Adumim, you are literally preparing for life and death situations that unfortunately can occur at any time in the streets, on a bus, or a trip to the grocery store. Here in America, we are fortunate that although these dangers do exist (as in any part of the world), it is not so much a constant threat. When we study martial arts here in the US, it is more with a mindset of staying fit, and for more serious martial artists, mastering a specific style or series of styles.
Many times people get into training just for the sheer fun and socializing aspect that is part of the experience too.
Only under unique circumstances (such as training for law enforcement or a battered wife who feels a need to protect herself) do most Americans train because we feel there is a constant threat to our safety and security. So for us, having fun is a large part of our training.
So, while I certainly understand and respect that there is a certain amount of respect and focus that needs to take place inside the dojo (or wherever you’re training), I think our mindset might be a bit different.
I’d be really curious to hear your thoughts on this—especially since you’ve had the chance to train others (and to do the training) all over the World. Are martial arts still fun for you?
Answer: The points raised here are valid and true. Well asked my friend, indeed you have a hit a very sensitive and crucial point.
I will divide the answer into the adult and children's category.
Clearly when teaching children this is a major concern. There are a few issues.
First, we don't want to scare the children. In this country every child is fully aware of terrorism and the threats we face, they see the faces of the killed on the cover of the newspapers, they hear adults talking and they see news clips. Sometimes they also know families of victims. There is no way to hide from it. Yet, they are still children and one must be careful not to overly traumatize them.
In addition, one must respect the wishes of the parents. Some parents allow children to watch scary movies while others feed the children a diet of mild cartoons. I don't want them going home terrified.
Another factor is their abilities at a young age. I cannot hope to teach a ten year old to disarm a terrorist.
So this is how I approach these issues;
Technique – Age Appropriate
In terms of technique what I hope to accomplish is to teach them skills that are appropriate to their physical age development. I am trying to improve their physical abilities; develop their overall athletic ability and coordination and increase their self confidence. All these factors will contribute to their safety. In addition we teach non-physical skills; how to stay out of trouble in the first place, and how to react to certain dangerous situations.
The second aspect of the physical program is the gradual development of real self defense skills. By age ten they are doing gun and knife disarms. It is not that I expect them to be able to disarm an adult terrorist but I am building their skills for the future. This way by the time they are big enough and strong enough the skills will already be hard wired into their system.
Krav Maga Kids in Maaleh Adumim having fun attacking Fred
Now to the fun aspect.
Kids are kids, give them a gun and a knife and they start playing. No matter how serious I try to make it they will still have fun. They will take the punching shields, build forts and attack each other. Sometimes I sit them down and have a serious discussion on the topic. I am careful not to scare anyone …to much, but I do stress the real life importance of the training. I try to find the balance between fun and real life awareness. Being that they already are aware of our situation they usually react in a mature way to what I say. My words are just a reminder of our ultimate goal.
Sometimes the kids make a game out of it, "Kill the Terrorist" or things like that. It is fun and games for them, but on a certain level they do know that terrorists are a part of our reality. They always go home happy.
Our adult classes are always fun. Some of our students actually live in the Old City of Jerusalem, where stabbings are common, so they are fully aware of why they are here and why they are training. With the adults there is no need for me to remind them of our situation, it is impossible for them to forget. I throw in a few jokes to lighten the atmosphere but I do add some real life stories to intensify their efforts. The nature of the techniques themselves (defense against, gun, knife, bombs) are a constant reminder of the seriousness of the situation.
Is it fun for me?
I don't know if I would use the word "fun", but it is still exciting. Why?
I am still training, exploring and learning new techniques.
I enjoy brainstorming with other martial artists and hearing their thoughts.
I get great satisfaction from seeing a student understand and internalize a new technique.
I still get a kick out of training with Itay Gil.
And finally, I guess I would say I just love the martial arts. I never let the business aspect of it take over my passion for it. I am still as excited as the day I walked into the Oyama Kyokushin dojo for the first time. It is still a thrill for me.
Sometimes when I am demonstrating a technique I get carried away and get excited about it and add on too man options and follow ups. So I just say to my students, "Sorry, got carried away, this is your training time."
Moshe, still having fun
One more point, if I need inspiration, I just pop in my copy of "Blood Sport", the Frank Dux story, my favorite martial arts movie. No matter how many times I have seen it, it still does the trick for me.
Is it still fun? Yeah, it is.