Krav Maga chief instructor Rafi Kashani talks to Chahak Mittal about importance of martial arts for people of all ages.
What if you are being bullied by someone and there is nobody around to help you out? How will you manage to get out of his firm grip? Just be pre-emptive, aware, focussed and strike with your strongest physical asset at the opponent’s weakest zone. Give your limbs full play, punches, swings, kicks and lunges.
Dealing with real-world combat situations, Krav Maga is the traditional martial arts started in the 1930s. It was developed as a self-defence module by Imi Litchenfield, a boxer and wrestler who mixed moves along with raw street-fighting tactics to protect the Jewish quarters during the War. It is quickly gaining followers and converts in India. Refael Kashani or Rafi, the Israeli Krav Maga (IKM) chief instructor (E4), instructs around a hundred students at the Sarvodaya Co-education Senior Secondary School. He started training children after one of his students in Israel was almost attacked. “My student, who has been training with me since she was a four-year-old, went to her friend’s place once and was followed while returning home. In Israel, it gets completely dark at 5 pm and she was taking some shortcuts to reach earlier. When the person following her came near her, she sensed a threat and turned around to kick him in the crotch. I hope to make every child capable of doing the same and be prepared for any mishap,” Rafi says.
The concept of the martial art developed from Jewish travails during the Holocaust and found its roots in World War II. “The Holocaust was an extremely difficult period for the Jewish people. There was a need for the people to learn this art to defend themselves. They didn’t know earlier, which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know it today. The problems were different but the principle was the same — people need to feel safe. What we have today is many years of evolution in Krav Maga,” he says. “During the Holocaust we witnessed something very negative, but then we turned it into something really positive instead of sitting and grieving. We built a country, an army, and a system. Krav Maga is one of the strongest tools we have in Israel today,” he adds.
Since times are not here to stay, why not change and keep pace with the times, and who better than children of the current generation to update us? Rafi says, “I like to work with kids because I get information from them which is relevant for today. When I was a kid, maybe I learnt something which might not be good for their time. And I think, this is only the link from the World War II and the Holocaust to teaching Krav Maga today.”
He began training at the age of nine and has mastered the art over the past 26 years. But how did he first get there? He says that if a just environment is created for children, they could become leaders. “I believe that there are no bad kids, they all are good but only bad circumstances in which they grow up. There is only a lack of support. Through good teachers, some of these kids could also be a prime minister or win a Nobel. I want to give power to the kids to make them believe they are capable going ahead with their dreams,” he adds.
He grew up in a “problematic neighbourhood of Israel” from where he was able to leave and become an international level teacher. “My coach, Eli Ben Ami, dragged me out from the poor streets to the gym. It was my exit from problems and troublesome surroundings. He made me practise vigorously, eventually taught me to converse in English, made me learn maths, science, anatomy, physiology. I never had any books in my life and all of a sudden, I had a 100 books in front of me.” There was someone to lift him up and he tries to pay the good karma forward now. He shares how his hard work had paid off. “I follow my dreams today. I worked really hard to make myself capable and responsible enough to go around the globe. Today, I head IKM institutions in Canada, Israel, Australia, Mexico and even the United States. And now, India too.”
He shares the “interesting” story of bringing the art to India. “In my schools located in Canada, I came across many Indians, who told me about how they wished they knew Krav Maga since their childhood and could learn it in India. Then I thought, ‘why not? What’s the problem after all? Let’s do something in India as well.’”
However, the only thing that is lacking is the support from government officials and the authorities who need to understand the significance and move towards creating a more aware and braver society. “For us to conduct the practice on a regular basis, we would require funding for it. I don’t like to ask for charity or beg for donations.
I would really like to connect with the education ministry to show the officials how important this training could be for the curriculum,” he says.
Rafi finds that the language barrier could have been a big challenge but he learnt English so that he could connect with children and make them understand the techniques. “I try my best to be reachable whenever it is possible, even if it is two or five in the morning,” he says.
The art is now 50 years old and has spread across 30 countries. Rafi, who is one of the highest level experts, says “I want to create something for everyone — kids, adults and senior citizens. I want to tell them that Krav Maga is for everyone, forget the age.”
Writer: Chahak Mittal
Source: The Pioneer