Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato and Krav Maga
By Moshe Katz

Moshe Chaim Luzzatto

1707-1746 (26 Iyar 5506)

I write this for myself.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato and Krav Maga

Often when I teach, speak or write I feel that it might come across as if I am preaching; telling others what do to, how to train or how to live. In fact I am telling them, sharing with them, what I am always saying to myself. You might say I am just thinking out loud that perhaps the message I am "preaching" to myself might also, by chance, be of benefit to others.

So I pass on this message with the hope that perhaps it might fall on some worthy pair of ears and that someone might make some good of use of it. By no means am I trying to say, "Listen folks, I have mastered Krav Maga, life, health, fitness and pursuit of happiness and now I am here to tell you how to do it."

Not at all, as I was taught in my earliest days – we are all always students, and sometimes guides to others.

This idea is not mine and in fact I know of someone who expressed this idea so perfectly that I would prefer you read his words to my own. He is another Moshe, but he lived and died long ago.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, known to Jews by his acronym The Ramchal, was born in Italy in 5506, or 1707 according to the Common Era.

His short but brilliant life was filled with many intellectual and spiritual endeavors. He eventually moved to the Netherlands, lived for a while in Amsterdam, and then moved to Israel where he died during a plague. He was only 39 years old.

He was a rabbi, a mystic, a family man: a Jew who tried his best to live in accordance with our tradition and the path of the just.

He left us many writings, including some that have become classics among pious Jews. His most well-known book, one I have read numerous times, is Messilath Yesharim – The Path of the Just. He was challenged by life, pursuing his spiritual goals while balancing the needs of physical survival and supporting a family.

This book is his attempt at finding the right path, the path of the just, to navigate this life on a spiritual journey, balancing the body and the soul, this life and the next.

He humbly begins his book with an introduction that is imbedded in my memory and with me at all times.

I translate …

"The author has said: I have not written this composition to teach people that which they do not know, but rather to remind them of what they already know quite well. Because you will only find in most of my words concepts that most people already know and have no doubt about. But just as they are well known, and their truth is obvious to all, so too is the ignorance of them (the ignoring of these concepts) and the forgetfulness (of these ideas).

Therefore the benefit of this book cannot come from reading it only once, because it is quite possible that the reader will not find anything new, but perhaps very little, to that which already existed in his own mind. But the benefit comes from the repetition and sticking to it. Because he will remember things that by nature, one tends to forget, and he will put his heart to his obligation and remember that which he is ignoring."

"…I have come to write this composition of mine to instruct myself and to remind to others the various steps and levels of the "work" to be done. I will explain in each step the details, the sections, the parts, the ways to acquire them and how to protect against losing them, and what obstacles to be aware of.

For I shall read it myself, and whoever finds comfort in it, in order that we should learn to live in awe of God and not to forget our obligations to Him, which the nature of the materialism tries to cause us to forget."

Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto was a man of spirit with one foot already in the world of spirit. I do not know if he ever trained in self-defense or Combative arts but from his writings I would imagine that if he were a Krav Maga instructor his lessons would sound something like this:

"Of course you know this kick, but we tend to get lazy and forget to move our hips. I suffer from the same problem myself and that is why we must repeat it many times. I too need to practice this technique. I see faults in myself and imagine that perhaps others suffer from the same conditions.

I am just telling you what I tell myself, repetition and patience is the key to mastery. Lack of practice causes bad habits to creep in. Krav Maga is not about learning new things but about reminding ourselves of old things and hard-wiring them into our memory, for there are many who tend to forget the basics."

Some students try a technique a few times and then come back to me, "Great, got it, let's do something new."  (i.e. I am suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder, Quick – I need something new and exciting!) But this of course is not the correct approach.

Professor Arthur Cohen told me of a student who came in; he was having a lot of trouble with a certain kick. Prof. Cohen spent the entire lesson working on getting the boy to execute the kick properly.  At the end of the lesson the boy said, "OK, so when are we going to learn something?"

I urge all of us, myself included, to follow the words of Rabbi Moshe. "We need to remind ourselves of that which we already know."   

One of the numerous editions of his classic, Path of the Just.

The tomb of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, mystic, rabbi, author, family man.