If you asked me in high school if I would have my own Krav Maga studios I would have told you; “What have you been smoking?” (Remember I live in Vancouver).
In traditional martial arts the Sensei, Shihan etc… is God. You do what they tell you and do not ask questions. While this may work in some cultures it doesn’t work in all cultures.
Personally any time I walk into a dojo and I see this attitude towards the head sensei I usually don’t stay there long. Don’t ask me why, but it just creeps me out. Maybe it’s because I am Jewish and I was taught to always ask questions and not to follow blindly.
This mentality was certainly not lost from me being in the Israeli Defense Force. I can remember numerous times where I told my lieutenants to F*** off. To those of you who come from more traditional armies, this is unheard of. And no, I was not punished for saying such things; it was just the nature of things. I suspect this free thinking attitude is the reason that Israelis are so innovative in general. Why is this important? It is important because Krav Maga is from Israel and as such, the mentalities associated with it often follow suite.
For our students in our regular classes, this might explain why we are so casual. Neither myself nor Borhan like being put up on a pedestal like traditional instructors. We are simply there to teach you the knowledge we have. Though we are instructors, we ourselves are still young and we know that we have a lot to learn. While we expect a certain level of respect from our students we also consider our students our friends and teachers for so for many of our students have taught as just as much as we have taught them.
I would also like to point out that no instructor, no master, and no leader is infallible. At the end of the day we are all human and to put your instructors blindly on a pedestal without question may lead to disaster. I myself am not perfect, many of my students know I like to drink and have fun, and I am not ashamed of this. I am human, and I am what I am. Does this detract from who I am as a person and instructor? I don’t think so. I would rather my students and friends see me for who I am than to put on some false face like many of the people in power out there do. I would rather be judged for who I am than someone I am not.
Instructors or leaders that are ok with themselves being put up on the pedestal are often detached from reality. A famous internet example of this is below:
The video is fairly clear. It shows that this master has evidently created a cult-like aura around himself. His belief that he can control others without even touching them is not based on reality. For his belief to be valid it requires pure obedience from his students who play the role as the unquestioning student and perhaps have been brainwashed into believing their master has powers that do not really exist.
When the master faces reality, it is obvious he was not prepared, both physically and mentally.
Of course, I acknowledge that this is an extreme example. However, it serves the purpose of proving my point.
When I sit and reflect on the situation I have put myself in, one which I never expected to be in, I am in awe. Here I am, merely 26 years old, teaching people of all ages, some twice my age, and yet they still come back to learn what I have to offer. I find this both rewarding and crazy at the same time. I know for a fact that if you ask people I went to high school with if they thought this is where I would be now, I am sure they would give you looks of shock far greater than I could imagine.
Yet this is where I am, sitting on the edge of the pedestal. I have always considered myself someone who likes to operate behind the scene and yet here I am up front and center. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps I should just jump, but then I remember I have a responsibility to my friends and to my students to continue doing what I am doing.
I just want my students and myself to always remember, I am only human, I have messed up, I have flaws and I am not perfect. Please do not look at me as something I am not, and as long as we have that understanding, I wish to continue to teach you everything that I know, everything that I will know, and I hope that you can all do the same.
Written By: Jonathan Fader