I started training Krav Maga in 2008, and I have been teaching since 2012. My journey began with one organization and when it didn’t feel like a right fit I went independent, like many school owners and instructors in North America do. I developed my own curriculum and style of teaching, however, this never stopped me from branching out and training with new organizations or instructors. Over the years I’ve completed many different Krav Maga/Kapap Instructor courses from different people whenever the opportunity arose. I always learned and grew from every one of these experiences, often modifying my own curriculum by adding or subtracting various techniques or scenarios to better streamline the UTKM system and give my students the best overall self-defence education that I can.
I still work directly with some of these organizations/instructors, others not so much, but I always learned. One thing that I found, and I suspect this is the same for many instructors in north America, is that your students couldn’t care less about which organization you are with or where you trained. The fact that a student knew to even google Krav Maga and look for the nearest school is already a miracle. Though we kravists like to pretend it has gone mainstream, compared to other styles like Karate, Taekwondo, BJJ, Judo or even MMA, our system remains relatively obscure. Therefore whether a student stays or not is wholly dependent on the instructor, their personality, and the environment of the school, NOT which Israeli organization or head instructor is associated with this school. This may not be what any Israeli Krav Maga instructor or organization might want to hear but I believe it to be true.
Yet for myself, I believe that it is extremely important to try to maintain some connection to Israel and its Krav Maga community, similar to how traditional martial arts retain aspects of their place of origin. Though lineage and the origin story are not essential for actual training, they are still important. But despite training with various organization and individuals it didn’t make sense to either shift my school completely to their systems or to offer their systems as a stand alone program. Instead I chose to update my own information and became a better instructor, with a more robust curriculum, to enhance my students’ training experience.
Enter Kfir Itzhaki
So why then did I recently decided to open up my school to Kfir Itzhaki’s Instinct Integrated Israeli Combatives program? It’s simple: Aside from the fact that Kfir is an impressive individual, despite being on the younger side for an instructor, he also has similar goals to myself with regards to Krav Maga. That is, the recognition that Krav Maga is not just about techniques or aggression, it is also about the psychological development of your students to better understand the world around them and learn to walk in peace. For Kfir and I Krav Maga is not just physical, it is so much more.
Let’s take a step back for a second. Though Kfir has been operating his own Krav Maga organization for as long as I have, unless you were in Israel or a Krav Maga nerd you might not have heard of him internationally. I only heard of him a few years ago when he kept popping up on my Facebook feed through other people’s posts. Naturally I was curious and invited him to do a podcast episode, where we finally got to talk. I liked what he had to say, and the feeling was mutual.
At some point after the recording, Kfir asked if I would be interested in joining his organization. At first I was very hesitant as I have been completely independent for years, and my past experience showed that from a business perspective it would be unlikely to benefit me financially. However, after contemplating his curriculum and approach I decided to give this new partnership a chance, not just for myself but for my students as well.
As both Kfir and I have similar goals, it made a lot of sense to work together to spread the idea that Krav Maga also needs to include psychology. It also made sense to me that no system of self-defence is perfect and that offering a second approach to self-defence and Krav Maga would benefit my students. Not to mention Kfir has an extremely impressive resume and is someone worth working with.
If you are unfamiliar with Kfir’s history here is a brief overview; he was Israeli National Karate champion, exempting him from military service in the IDF, but he choose service anyway. Almost going blind due to a bad surgery he overcame adversity to be accepted into his dream military unit, Duvdevan. This unit is known for having some of the best Krav Maga in the entire IDF and is the unit the Netflix series Fauda is based on. During his training he suffered serious head trauma resulting in a concussion and memory loss, which he also overcame. Kfir completed his training, became a successful member of the unit, and eventually became the head Krav Maga instructor for Duvdevan. Post army he started studying law but decided it wasn’t for him, eventually changing directions to become a councilor. Kfir is an Israeli National hero from intervening in an attempted rape, and in an active knife attack situation. This led him to writing his Israeli best selling book on fear management which will soon be available in English.
On top of our mutual goals and his background I also thought a connection to Kfir would offer my own students another path to a meaningful connection with Israel, which I feel is very important.
Once the decision was made I spent several months communication with Kfir about his approach and curriculum. In January of 2023 I began teaching the Instinct program as a supplementary class to UTKM that would allow my students to be ranked in UTKM Krav Maga and Instinct IIC. We also planned to bring Kfir to Canada (the first time for him) to run his Instructors course, teach a seminar, and give a lecture on fear management.
This would solidify the connection between the two organizations and introduce Kfir to my students in person. Now that this has come and gone I can give a proper breakdown of why you too should consider training with Kfir, even if its only to do a seminar or lecture.
The Instinct IIC Instructor Course
I never know what to expect when attending instructor courses. I’ve done some that are 4 days long and some that are 7 days long. I usually expect to be mentally and physically tired at the end regardless of the style. But there has always been one nagging feeling afterward; If I was an individual who has never taught, then took this course and was certified, would I be able to then go open a school and run a class successfully? That nagging feeling tells me for the average person, the answer no.
Because the majority of Krav Maga Instructor courses out there are really just advanced practitioner courses with an instructor certification at the end. They usually run through the curriculum of the organization, some with more or less physical components, wrapping up with some kind of stress test. The problem with this approach is they are fundamentally NOT “instructor” courses, as they barley touch on the topic of instruction, let alone asses the ability of individuals to teach what they are learning.
With Kfir, this was not the case.
This was the first time an instructor course felt like an instructor course. The focus of the course was introducing the Instinct IIC curriculum, but with the primary goal was to model an Instinct IIC class structure and have all the participants learn to recreate that structure and teach the techniques within it.
The morning of the sessions were usually two mock classes taught by Kfir, followed by afternoons where each participant would practice teaching the various aspects of the classes and as well as the techniques already learned. Small lectures and conversations were peppered throughout the course.
This means Kfir is actually taking the time to not only teach how to teach, but properly asses each individuals ability to teach. When I asked him if there is a maximum number of people he could run through this course he answered “usually around 12”. This indicates he is serious about being able to properly assess each individual’s abilities, as typical instructor courses will cram in as many people as the space will allow, even if certain attendees aren’t a good fit, simply to increase the organizer’s financial bottom line.
Kfir’s course finishes off with unique stress tests with a focus on teaching and not just physical and technical capabilities. Which I quite enjoyed, as he structured these tests in such a way as to make them more stressful while actually assessing the ability to teach under pressure rather than simply perform techniques. If you want to know more you should take the course.
Kfir, like many independent Krav Maga organizations (myself included), has realized that a practitioner course is NOT an instructor course. An Instructor course is an Instructor course! For Kfir it’s all about producing instructors, not training practitioners, as the expectation is that you would have already been practicing long enough to understand how to “practice” Krav Maga.
This is another area where Kfir and I agree. Though my own instructor course is currently in-house only, it’s focus is on building instructors rather than honing a student’s skills. I would much rather certify an okay kravist (practitioner) who is a phenomenal instructor than a phenomenal kravist (Practitioner) who cannot teach effectively. Skill in practice is not the same as skill in instruction, and the two should be assessed separately.
Normally when someone asks me if they should take another school’s instructor course, I am a little hesitant to say yes. Not because I don’t want them to train with other people or challenge themselves, but because these courses are usually not cheap, require time off work, are physically demanding, and may be too much for many students. Because of this I always make sure this is something they really want to do, as the benefits of taking these course are not guaranteed.
that being said, if you want the challenge, then take an instructor course. If you are part of the organization and want to teach for that organization, take an instructor course. If you just love Krav maga, then take an instructor course.
But for most attending one is about the experience rather than becoming a serious Krav Maga instructor. So for the average person I am really not sure most instructor courses are really worth your time or money. Instead I would recommend the various tour-and-train programs offered by many Krav Maga organizations in Israel.
Kfir’s course being what it is, I can say I highly recommend it for anyone in Krav Maga, or any other martial art. Even if you have no intention in teaching Krav Maga, representing Kfir or Instinct, it is still worth it. Why? Because it’s focus on teaching self-defence. Which, if you have been running solo for a while or are considering teaching, will give you a good sense of whether teaching is something you might want to do (for fun or more seriously) or to improve your skill in teaching. Either way it’s always good to be challenged and get feedback from someone as skilled as Kfir. Not to mention learning to teach one topic may help you to teach another topic, as teaching is fundamentally about communication. This can be a large hurdle, as communicating in front of others and being in the spotlight is unbelievably terrifying for many. I am still not entirely sure how I was convinced to teach, given I used to be one of those people. So I understand how scary it can be.
Taking Kfir’s course will not only make you a better Krav Maga/martial arts instructor it will help you with your public speaking by increasing confidence in your ability too teach or speak in front of others.
I can say of all the instructor courses I have taken this is the one I felt would benefit anyone, and its benefits are far more than simply being certified to teach under the Instinct name. Unlike most courses, I would have no problem even telling my beginner students to attend this course. Of course, you don’t need to take my word for it, you can contact Kfir and set up a course in your region even if no one is actually planning on representing Kfir directly. You will find out that it is absolutely worth it.
The Open Krav Maga Seminar
I have done many seminars over the years, from Krav Maga to BJJ, including several with multiple time world champions and martial arts legends like Dan Inosanto, and there is one thing I have learned: The ability to practice martial arts, run a school, or be a legend does not always translate into running a good seminar. Will you learn something? No doubt, but does that make it a good seminar? No. It does not.
Running a good seminar is more than just teaching some techniques. If that’s the case I usually feel that the seminar wasn’t good. Because a good seminar is like a good short story; it has a topic, it’s not too short or too long, has a good introduction, a build up of connected techniques, and then a conclusion to review or test the techniques learned. This ties back to the previous subject of how being a good practitioner does not always translate to being a good instructor. The same applies here, in that, being able to run a class doesn’t mean you can run a good seminar.
Kfir showed me that he not only knows how to run an Instructor course but also a good seminar as well.
We scheduled around six hours for seminar time and we got what I consider two “mini seminars.” One was an introduction to self-defence in general and the other was an introduction to the Instinct approach to basic knife self-defence.
Kfir told a great short story for both topics while introducing his solutions/technique’s for the self-defence problems, while also introducing fun and creative games to emphasis the points of the seminar. The drills ran from technical to testing the nervous system, and some challenged the students’ comfort zone.
I have no doubt that regardless of the subject that Kfir is teaching he will most certainly run a fun, well structured, and on-point seminar that is worth it for all participants. So, if a five day instructor course isn’t your thing than perhaps an afternoon of Krav Maga with Kfir is.
The “Fear Wisely” lecture
Kfir’s signature lecture is one he has developed over the years, telling his life story and how he used fear to his advantage to succeed. This is where we move away from the physical and start talking about the mental, the emotional, and the areas of self-defence that most people tend to overlook; dealing with the challenges of life.
One of the deciding factors for me to work with Kfir was knowing that our goals aligned on this matter. Being a Krav Maga instructor is more than just yelling at people, more than just techniques, aggression, or even hitting people in the junk. It is instead about truly helping people to learn to manage their fear through the physical, the mental and the emotional.
Kfirs lecture attracted more than those who were at the seminar, as a lecture is usually less intimidating than a physical seminar, but for many this is what they needed or was an amazing introduction to the world of fear management. Which in so many ways is what Krav Maga is really about. Kfir showed that his storytelling wasn’t just limited to his ability to run a well-structured seminar, but also in delivering a lecture on a topic that is difficult for most people.
Kfir confirmed that he has many lectures on a variety of subjects ready to add onto any course or seminar he offers. All you have to do is ask.
After reading this it would be easy for many to say, “but Jon, you are working with Kfir, you have to sing his praises… or you are just sucking up.” To such people I would reply, “you don’t know me very well at all.” I put no one on a pedestal. You can ask Kfir that yourself, as we had many difficult situations to work through when he was here, and I am always direct with everyone regardless of their relationship to me (this includes Prime Ministers, if you know my story with Netanyahu). I give praise where praise is due. I don’t heap praise on everyone I have worked with in the past, because not all of them deserved it, but Kfir is definitely a man deserving of it. Even when we had disagreements or difficult situations he handled it well, as I fully admit I am not always the easiest to get along with. This shows that he isn’t just skilled at violence but also skilled with people. After all he is a counselor back home.
The world of Krav Maga is a big one, with potentially hundreds of originations and thousands of different schools, so it can be confusing. Not everyone is a right fit for every instructor or organization. If you are one of those instructors who feels lost and is looking for a organization to join then consider Instinct.
Instinct’s curriculum is a traditional Krav Maga program with the focus on the Krav Maga principle of easy to learn and teach, while remaining true to focusing on the most common self-defence situations. All while being open-minded and encouraging all of its members to go train Judo, BJJ, boxing, wrestling, etc.. It would be easy to connect with Kfir and start working with him to build your school or, like myself, offer a second program in addition to your existing one.
If you are simply looking to offer your students an additional course, seminar, or lecture from someone connected with Israel, with a good reputation than consider inviting Kfir to your school for the full Kfir Itzhaki experience.
Written By: Jonathan Fader – UTKM Lead Instructor