Part one of Master Instructor Kelly Campbell’s interview is a fine example of triumph over fear.
KK: Kelly tell me how you got started in Krav Maga?
KELLY: I always say that Krav Maga found me. At the time, I was working not too far from the National Training Center, in Century City. Occasionally my building would host a fair in the lobby. On one occasion there were guys from Krav Maga doing a promotion, who encouraged me to try a class. I had always been interested in martial arts, but my life path had not yet taken me there.
I took my intro class. It was about an hour and a half and I walked out of there feeling like I was on cloud nine. I just experienced an amazing revelation. I got a high five for giving somebody a knee. I just gave them my checkbook and I said, “Don’t even tell me how much it is, just make sure and sign me up.” And that started my training. I started training 6 to 7 days a week and I just didn’t stop.
KK: What is your position and in rank at Krav Maga Worldwide?
KELLY: I am a third degree black belt and I am the Director of Instructor Development.
KK: And what does that entail?
KELLY: My role as Director of Instructor Development means I schedule all the instructor courses for the year. These classes for instructors (also called phases) prepare people to teach Krav Maga.
And in order to make Krav Maga instructor training more accessible to people throughout the country, we established a Train the Trainer program, which I am also run.
KK: So all Krav Maga instructors throughout the country go through your program.
KK: That sounds like a big job.
KELLY: It is a big job I guess, but it doesn’t feel like a job because I love it. When we coach instructors and you can tell they really ‘get’ the system and then they can demonstrate it and articulate it—I find that so rewarding, it just doesn’t feel like work.
KK: That is big. How long have you been doing it?
KELLY: This is my 19th year doing Krav. I started at the National Training Center in 1997—the year it opened. I started teaching in 1999 after I did my first phase, and then it just blossomed.
I feel so fortunate to have found something I love to do. My love and passion for Krav Maga became my career and a huge part of my life.
KK: What or who has inspired you through the years?
KELLY: There are a number of people who have inspired me. I would also add that the whole atmosphere at the training center inspired me. I was actually quite shy and nervous at first, but the environment was magnetic and the energy around the training was contagious—which really kept me involved despite my reservations. So I remained committed to my Krav Maga training, which allowed me to work through some of my own insecurities and led me to find my own space where I could excel.
Marni Levine was a great inspiration for me as well. She was such a big personality and she helped me in so many ways as I progressed through my training.
Working with and being mentored by Darren Levine has also been amazing. I just tried to learn from everything he did. He set the standard in Krav and for my role now in instructor development, he has been an incredible resource and I’m thankful I can draw on my experiences training with him.
Now that I’m teaching, I find that most of my inspiration comes from my students. I am so energized by the hard work and commitment I see in others, and I want to give them my best.
KK: Outstanding; what was the toughest moment in your Krav Maga experience?
KELLY: Teaching was a real challenge for me initially. I loved the training, but teaching required so much more of me. It was interesting because I had always been very shy. I had been too shy to try out for sports in school—that kind of thing.
When I found Krav Maga and I started training I was still somewhat isolated. I was on my own—I didn’t have a regular training partner or many friends and I didn’t associate with a lot of people. But, I could go into class and I could let go and I excelled. I got through every level and then I was asked to teach. My enthusiasm for teaching wasn’t there—my excitement was purely for training. But as part of the instructor program, I was able to train much more, which was the compelling part for me.
I was in Phase A (the first level) and you’re given a syllabus. So you know roughly what to expect on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc. So I knew that on Day 4 we were scheduled to do “mock teaching”, and I was nervous. I was the person in school whenever there were oral reports, I would get terribly nervous—sick even. I would try to skip school—the whole deal.
And that is just what happened during Phase. At the time my boyfriend was in the hospital. So at lunchtime I went to go visit him. He was doing fine, but when I came back, I told Michael and Marni that he was not doing very well and that I needed to go back to the hospital. And that was a lie because I was so nervous I didn’t know what to do, and I just blurted out an excuse to avoid teaching. I ended up leaving and I felt horrible about it.
The next day I came back in in the morning and I told Marni I really needed to talk to her. I said “Yesterday I lied to you. Jim is fine.” I said, “I’m so scared, I’m so nervous, and I just don’t know how to deal with it.” And Marni told me not to worry. Looking back, I believe Marni saw something in me that I didn’t see yet, and so she and Michael did their best to work with me and prepare me.
Marni gave me the space that I needed, and they didn’t require me to teach. And when they would ask the new instructors questions, they would skip over me because I was literally shaking.
At some point, my instructors took me aside and said, “You have to believe in what we see in you.” That was a building block for my confidence and I was able to begin assisting. I finally did a “mock teaching” and I passed my test.
Before being a lead instructor in the room, I spent about a year assisting. Now I can get up in front of a room full of a hundred people and I can teach—without any nerves.
But to do what I love, I had to overcome a huge hurdle. My heart and soul believe in Krav Maga and I want to share it with others. Letting go of that fear was very liberating.
KK: That is a great story of personal growth. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Come back next week for more of our interview with Kelly Campbell.