Krav Maga Instructors: Character and Conduct
m from other Krav Maga gyms, both local and from around the country and world. I hear some of their experiences in Krav Maga with other instructors and I am truly shocked and disappointed. One common story I hear is instructors attempting to play the ‘tough guy’ role with their students. Stories have ranged from needlessly stern instruction to outright verbal and even physical abuse of students. This kind of approach has no place in Krav Maga or martial arts in general.
A recent conversation with a prospective student revealed she was having trouble learning some simple techniques. In this instance the issue was with a back roll. She had been training at another Krav Maga gym for over 6 months and had not mastered the back roll. She complained that the instructor would verbally berate her in front of the class when she was unable to perform the technique. Instead of individually instructing her, he chose to abuse and shame her which led her to both an aversion to trying the back roll but also to trying other techniques which she had not yet mastered.
Within 2 minutes I was able to coach her into a technically successful back roll. It is a technique that when taught properly can be learned by nearly anyone. The issue goes beyond the instructor in question’s ability to teach the most basic ground techniques, but really speaks to a character issue that is pervasive in the martial arts and Krav Maga world.
An instructor’s role is not to ‘teach to the test’ (a common phenomenon in rank focused Krav Maga programs born of the American education system’s obsession with rote memorization for standardized testing), the instructor’s role is to help students improve themselves both in martial arts but also in their everyday lives. Not every student learns the same way or has the same physical potential. Some students may be quite serious about mastering Krav Maga, while others may treat it as a hobby or short-term self defense goal. No matter the student’s goals or abilities the instructor should seek to encourage the student and to correct mistakes in a positive fashion.
People do not come to training to be treated as military recruits or berated for failure, they come to learn self defense skills, gain self-confidence, get in shape, and find a community of like minded people where they can learn and enjoy their training. Conversely the sole measure of an instructor’s ability is not how many people he or she can impress with fancy techniques, or how many fights he or she can win, but rather how much of the given material the student’s can learn and repeat under duress. In sport-based systems this is measured in competition performance, in Krav Maga it is measured in their real readiness for violent confrontation.
A Krav Maga instructor’s ability can be measured in their students’ ability to solve unscripted problems with the tools they have been taught. Not to perform ‘katas’ or techniques against training partners providing no resistance. To do this the instructor MUST find out how each student learns, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and coach each person with these in mind to produce results. Not ALL instructors can be the best for ALL students, however the above approach will make the instructor the MOST valuable to the MOST students.
If your instructor berates or abuses his students, it may be time to find a new place to train. The gym environment should be positive, encouraging, safe, and fun. The instructor should know and remember your name (at the very least) and know the best way to encourage you to be the best version of yourself you can be. Krav Maga is more than a set of techniques, it is a tool of self-improvement and development. I challenge every instructor to take a hard look at his or her methods and find ways to improve daily to help those who trust them with their training and ultimately their survival in a violent confrontation.