This is an article I wrote 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the contents still hold true. Buyer beware – a phrase so important and transcendent that the phrase has been found written in the Latin language from long ago. When you train to save you life, train with a professional. Beware the snake oil salesmen.
I remember back in the mid-1990s the words “Krav Maga” were a source of confusion for most people; who, by the way, typically repeated the words as Krav McGraw by mistake. Today, thanks in large part to the Krav Maga Association of America, Krav Maga Worldwide, and Darren Levine; Krav Maga is a much better known self-defense system. In fact, it has become the gold standard for military and law enforcement training, and civilians have caught on as well.
Krav Maga has a deeply significant past, having been forged in countless skirmishes and battles over the past sixty plus years. The lessons learned came at a high cost at times, but the lessons were forever built into the system – the most battle tested system on the planet. The system’s genius is cloaked in simplicity and specifically designed around the hard realities of combat and the stress produced in those environments. The training methods employed were considered as being as important as the techniques long before popular books written on the subject were recognized for their value or nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
It seems Krav Maga has become mainstream, but with the growth in notoriety has come the “me too” crowd. That’s a shame. For years, instructors much just like me taught classes in small gymnasiums or corners of rooms we shared with others. Long before the Krav Maga became mainstream, there were people who pursued the system for the purity of its merit. I found Krav Maga after being robbed at gun-point here in Houston. At the time, I was a Gung-Fu (Kung-Fu), Kali, and Jujitsu instructor but had no faculties to deal with the handgun pointed at my chest. Krav Maga offered me choices – options for when a gun-wielding piece of trash (who has no interest in my well-being) thinks he holds my life in his hands.
Indeed, my unpleasant experience has been nothing but good from that point forward. The training I undertook, the sacrifices I made, the self reliance I gained, the friends I found, and the vocation I now enjoy are all the result of my staring at the barrel of a handgun pointed at my center mass. An experience like that can change you, and that change can be powerful and forever uplifting. For me, the fourteen years since have been nothing but transformational. Teaching others to be self reliant, more aware, more powerful, and fit has been my extreme pleasure. During these many years, I found a passion for teaching; perhaps even a talent for it.
A relatively new book, a best seller, recently caught my attention. It’s called, Outliers. The book details how successful people become successful. While there are many interesting ideas in the book, one caught my eye and rang true to me – given my personal experiences. The book flatly denies that there are “naturals” in any pursuit, but rather cites a myriad of sources and research that point out the direct correlation between practice and professional proficiency. The human condition, something we all share, demands that we practice to become proficient. In this case, for almost any pursuit, the benchmark is 10 years of steady practice.
What rang true to me is this…I have personally seen where 10 years of teaching Krav Maga has allowed me to become a much better teacher – providing insights and ideas that can only come with experience. I often quote an unknown author who said, “Throughout life, I had vastly underestimated the value of experience…until I got some.” I also enjoy this quip from a friend, “You don’t even know what you don’t know.”
The point is simple. I am a professional teacher. I choose to teach Krav Maga because it is real and pure and reliable. As Krav Maga has become popular, martial arts teachers have begun to flock to the idea – attending weekend seminars or simply watching instructional DVDs to offer lessons. That chaps my hide. It’s a dereliction of duty, and had martial arts instructors been forced to take some version of a Hippocratic Oath, many would be stripped of their flimsy credentials by now. It is unimaginable to me that there are people out there claiming to be Krav Maga instructors who have had very little experience and even less training from a credible source.
These snake oil salesmen are willingly taking your life into their hands, claiming to be able to teach you how to save yourself without proper training or experience. If only there was a governing body that regulated the industry and ferreted out the pretenders from those that take this profession as seriously as you take your personal safety.
I have personally had martial artist call me and ask about getting certified to teach Krav Maga. This is not unusual, as I have been certified to teach an apprentice program for many years. Two summers ago, one particular martial artist called my cellular and made an inquiry about the apprentice program. I told him that Krav Maga was a relatively easy system to learn; I often say “if it wasn’t easy it wouldn’t work.” I continued to describe the program (including that once a candidate is selected the program is free), the years of training and study required, and the no-guarantees nature of the instructor selection process.
This same person, discouraged by the duration and commitment required to become an instructor, showed up to the west of my school with his own. He had not only avoided the program I described but was able to “become a Krav Maga instructor” in less than two years – a chief instructor no less! To be blunt, that’s incredibly ridiculous and, in my professional opinion, absolutely irresponsible (I don’t care who certified him). I have more than 100 students who have been working hard at learning to protect themselves for much longer than two years.
Would you allow a doctor in his second year of learning to perform surgery on you? Would you fly across the Atlantic with a second year pilot (the airlines won’t allow it)? Would you trust your life to someone who has only been learning how to teach you for two years? Seriously? It’s an insult to me and to other hard working, experienced instructors out there that take our work and our student’s well-being more seriously than other factors (profit motive, bravado, etc.).
Who am I to make such an observation? Check my bio online (it’s dated but it will do fine). I’m more than positioned to tell the wheat from the chaff. If you want to learn Krav Maga, I welcome you to my school. If you are searching for a means to become more self-reliant and unafraid, I welcome you to my school. I take your safety and well-being seriously, as do my seasoned instructors. If you want short cuts of half measures, you will need to seek training elsewhere.
To those newly minted “instructors” I say…you are vastly underestimating the value of experience…and will until you get some” at the perils of your students. Do the right thing and be honest about this…for the safety of others if for nothing else.