Photos on the Wall
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

October 2, 2014

A few of our IKI schools have my photo on the wall. This is not a requirement but it is flattering. I have always had photos of my teachers and mentors on the wall. Certainly it is a sign of respect and appreciation.

We have a Jewish saying, "May your eyes always behold your teacher's image" which means, in one form or another, the image or mental picture of your teacher should always be with you to guide you. If he or she is truly your teacher they will always be with you, even once they are physically gone. Once a teacher always a teacher.

You cannot "fire" a teacher. The teacher is not your employee.

Honored to make the wall, Apeldorn dojo run by Harold van der Rijs.

It is also no secret that in the martial arts world there is a great deal of "lineage fraud", i.e. teachers who claim a certain lineage, connecting them to great masters, which is not true or accurate.

In many schools I have seen a photo of the America/Italian/German/whatever instructor in a large frame, surrounded by Korean/Chinese/Japanese masters.

I often wonder if these Far Eastern martial arts masters have any idea how their photos are being used. Anyone can copy a photo. The idea of course is to imply that the newest photo on the wall is the heir to the system, the protege, the next branch in the tree, the legitimate "successor" to the Chinese/Japanese/Korean founder.

Whenever I see this I am reminded of a conversation that took place in a kosher Italian pizza joint in Los Angeles back in the 1980s. I was with my dear friend and teacher Rabbi Mordechai Ganzwieg of blessed memory, a self described "Polish Hasid" and a very strict and devout Jew. The staff at the Pizza place were mostly Mexican and the owner was Italian.

On the wall were photos of great rabbis, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of blessed memory, who was alive and well at the time.

I told the rabbi that the place is kosher and we can eat. "Look" I said, "can't you see the great rabbis on the wall?"

"Yes", he said, "but I would feel more comfortable if the great rabbi was in the kitchen and the photos of the Mexicans and the Italian were on the wall".

The point is that the photos on the wall do not lend any legitimacy to the establishment. Putting a photo of yourself in the same frame as some Chinese guy does not make your the heir to the throne. This is just another trick in the bag of the martial arts trickster to gain your trust and money. Buyer beware.

Of course putting up a photo of your teacher, with whom you have trained and have a relationship with is a totally different story, that is honorable and correct. 

From what I know of the Japanese/Chinese/Korean systems and their attitudes and way of life I find it highly unlikely that they have decided to chose an Italian or American as their true successor. Buyer beware.

Look less at the photo on the wall, and more at the guy on the mat.

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