In his own words…
My interest in martial arts arose out of practical necessity. Interestingly enough, growing up in Japan, a culture renowned for some of it’s martial artists, I never saw much other than judo or kendo — neither of which I saw as particularly cool. My interest in fighting was more grassroots, if you will. It all started on a cool November day in 1983. It was a few weeks before my eight birthday. A classmate of mine said something to anger the school bully (who was in fifth grade, but should have been in the 7th and frequently terrorized the middle schoolers as well). While they were fighting on the ground in the sandbox, I rushed in to help my friend, only to get kicked in the face. My first black eyes were a badge of honor and shame.
A few weeks later, I would get in my second fight as the unmasked, uncaped crusader of truth at Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan. It would happen during a recess kickball game. Kickball was “the game” at the time and I was horrible at it. I did well in soccer, but something about standing at the plate and waiting for the ball to roll to me, I would almost always kick the ball right to the pitcher (only about forty feet straight up in the air first…I guess that was prep for KM’s front kick). Cyril, the ape-like fifth grade bully who had attacked my classmate a few weeks before, decided that he wanted to take someone else’s place in the batting order. He ran to the plate, knocked down the “batter” and announced his turn. I took offense to this and decided to take up the cause of the oppressed and challenged him to a duel of sorts. I remember being punched in the stomach, lifted off the ground, twirled over his head, and promptly thrown down on the ground again. Gasping for breath, Cyril stood on my head and announced his triumph. I stood up, brushed myself off, and stupefied that good had not overcome evil that day, wandered off to the nurse to have my scrapes cleaned up. As a walked up the steps, some of the witnesses mocked me for losing. I replied, “What did you do? At least I tried”. I told the nurse I had fallen on the playground.
During my fourth grade year, I had my first “multiple-attacker scenario”. My best friend and I were playing pirates on the jungle-gym (which had a magnificent ship’s wheel) when we were challenged to a fight by Sean Elliot and Balaji S. (I can’t remember his last name as it was literally about twenty syllables long). Certain that Suraj (my best friend) would gallantly fight by my side for truth and justice, I accepted the challenge. I didn’t know that Suraj was a devout Hindu and as such, could not participate in the fight. I have never begrudged Suraj for standing with his back to me, clinging to the fence and hoping that the violence would end. Sean and Balaji beat the tar out of me. I remember thinking that this could be the end, being enraged as Sean sat on my stomach and Balaji stood on my head, shouting insults. I remember looking at Suraj, looking away, and then at Mr. Harris, the 4th-grade teacher who was watching intently, but choosing not to intervene (how times have changed). Adrenaline set in and I somehow managed to turn my head and made Balaji fall off of my head. Sean had stood up to heckle Suraj. I shoved him and he fell against the ladder of the jungle-gym and started crying. I then turned and kicked Balaji, who fell backwards into the spinning merry-go-round. I brushed myself off, called to Suraj that the fight was over, and we walked away triumphantly. Mr. Harris smiled and nodded politely and ignored the stories that Sean and Balaji made up about us terrorizing them.
I never had another fight at that school. Curiously enough, even Cyril, the fifth grade bully, left us alone as a new classmate had arrived who was freakishly strong for his age. He was an Israeli national and he could handle himself. I don’t know if he had any training, but he did know how to handle himself.
In 5th and 6th grade, I was really interested in Sumo Wrestling (though I never wore the outfit). My friends and I would draw circles on the asphalt playground and try to push each other out of the ring. My hero was Chiyonofuji, the greatest wrestler of the time (2nd greatest in history). My nemesis was classmate Warren Kim, a Korean native, though the rivalry was purely “professional” (we were pals). I don’t know how we avoided serious injury playing on asphalt like that.
I started taking judo when I was in eight grade. Though I had initially been put off by judo’s lack of flash, I saw some practicality in the study of balance, force, and grappling. It was also very informal as it was a school club and practiced that until I was a sophomore in high school when a neck injury forced me out of the sport. I still enjoy judo as it is extremely technical and is truly a sport. Judo served me well when I had my next real fight while I was in college. Some frat morons decided that my friends and I were “too close to their pledgers” and we were “witnessing secret initiation rites”. It was like the red flag to a bull. Always wanting to champion a cause, I decided it was dormer’s rights for us to occupy the commons at 2:30am free from the persecution of the spoiled frat-boys. I argued my case with words first. My opponent was HUGE. However, there were three of us and only two of them. He trusted in his size and after shoving me three times, I sidestepped into a hip-throw and choked him out. To this day, I am glad that he was so blinded with anger and overconfident as I really think he could have torn my arms off. I was pretty stupid, but that is the invincibility of youth, I suppose. I began to see that judo was very limited in that it is primarily defensive.
I spent the next few years trying out and researching various martial art systems. Having grown up in Japan, I just couldn’t stomach the traditional systems, the meditation, or the “call me sensei” folks — being in those environments make me want to explode. I searched high and low for a practical system of self defense. I came across an article while on a plane which referenced Krav Maga. Shortly thereafter, I saw it on a TV show (I think it was “Malcom in the Middle”). I did a web search and found that there was a school in Allen, TX less than two miles from my house. I took my first class with Jack and signed up that night. I lost forty pounds in the first six months. I lost an additional twenty-five pounds during my quest to become an instructor.
I was drawn to Krav Maga for two reasons: 1) the lack of traditional martial arts heirarchy, 2) the lack of pretense, and 3) the practicality…okay, I guess that is three reasons. Actually, I could go on and on as to why I like Krav, but time is short. When I first started Krav, I really enjoyed fighting for the sake of fighting. I watched the UFCs religiously. But, I find fighting for exhibition somewhat repulsive, to be perfectly honest although it is darkly mesmerizing like driving past a traffic accident. I see fighting as an ugly reality of a fallen world and self-defense as a necessary counter. I will do anything I can to avoid a fight, but I try to always be ready for one to come. The unexpected should be expected and we should prepare, but not focus on the worst. I have really struggled at times when I think about the moral implications of teaching people the skills to fight for their lives. Some of what we teach could easily be lethal. Am I training bullies? Am I giving people a false sense of security? Is Krav Maga going to fix their home lives? their relationships? give them meaning and hope?
It has been heartbreaking at times to see some people walk away from Krav Maga. Not because I wanted their money, but because they needed Krav (or at least something like it). Krav Maga becomes life-changing if you stick with it. I just wish that more people would take Krav Maga before they needed it. Many of our students take Krav Maga after-the-fact. Krav Maga is not a perfect system. It is not a cure-all. It is not a religion. It is, however, in my opinion, a philosophy of recognizing the dangers inherent in this world and preparing for the fight, but not seeking it out. We learn to fight so that our attackers, whoever they may be, will keep to themselves. We learn to fight so that as Imi Lichtenfeld, the founder of Krav Maga, stated, “That one may walk in peace”.
-John Jordan, Instructor Krav Maga DFW