By Moshe Katz
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” (Albert Einstein)
“As soon as you’re born they make you feel small” (John Lennon)
Most educational systems are not designed to bring out the best in you; they are designed to perpetuate a certain system, a certain agenda. Creative, original thinking is really not encouraged, at least not to the point of challenging the system.
The same is true in martial arts systems, at least as much as in traditional educational institutions. The last thing the master wants is for the student to surpass him, or change a technique.
Last night, one of my many creative students, a fellow by the name of Israel, suggested a certain knife attack that is very difficult to defend against.
My response was , not to say:
A. This will never happen,
B. It is a stupid question
C. The guy is attacking “wrong”
Now, let me preface this by saying that from beginningstudents I do not want questions, they must first learn the basics before they can understand enough. If I teach a knife threat, and they say, but what if he is grabbing your shirt, or arm; I tell them, wait, that is coming, be patient, not everything at once.
But from students with some experience I encourage independent thinking and thought-provoking questions.
So my response last night was to validate the question and work on an appropriate solution, even if sometimes this solution is not perfect.
That is why and how we are always evolving, always growing.
Now to our quote from Albert Einstein; a fairly clever Jewish guy who had to escape Nazi Germany.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” (Albert Einstein)
I recall a very silly movie, I think it was part of the “Airplane” series, but it did have some wisdom in it. During a major crisis one man takes charge. Now he does not know all the details of operations, he needs help from people who are experts in their particular fields. But he needs the information now and in a way that he can use it.
What he does is nothing short of brilliant.
“Explain it to me like I am an eight year old“.
What we see here is that he needs to understand it now, and clearly. He has no time for high felotin technical talk. He has no time for those who want to impress him with their vast technical knowledge. This is a crisis.
He is humble enough to say; I do not claim to be a genius, I do not pretend to share your expertise, but people’s lives are on the line now and I need you to explain it to me simply. If it is not simple I cannot use it.
I teach Krav Maga. I see it as a mission to save lives. I know people do not have a lot of time. So I must explain it to them simply. I hear those words in my head, “Explain it to me like I am an 8 year old.”
I have been all over the world and have seen many other forms of Krav Maga. I have seen techniques which involved lifting and throwing an opponent (nearly impossible for most people), fancy join locks (precision), and multiple steps that resemble an aerobic dance routine.
To me these styles seem to rely on a great deal of physical strength, a great deal of speed, or a great deal of finesse, precision and training.
All this negates the very premise of Krav Maga; simplicity. Many styles of Krav Maga that I have seen are truly closer to Jujitsu or some forms of Kung fu.
If I cannot explain it simply, and teach it simply, then perhaps, as Einstein said, I don’t really understand it and I must reexamine what I am doing.
For me this is an ongoing journey.