Raz Chen
Raz Chen

Breath Work

When I decided to start my wellness company, naming it felt really difficult. How do I sum up in a single word all the ideas I have from years of Krav Maga, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, philosophy, yoga, history, and respiration therapy into a single word. I have always had as my motto, to keep things “short and efficient” but this needed to be shorter and more efficient than anything I had ever done before.

As I prepared for Yom HaZikaron, the name came to me. Aviir. Aviir in Hebrew means air, which is the most basic element of life. It also comes from the Torah, in Genesis 49:24, where it is used to describe the mighty one of Jacob, who protects the Jewish people. The idea of a warrior as a protector is something we need today. We don’t need warriors who fight for money or glory or thrills. We need warriors who fight to protect others, and it is that attitude I want to bring to the world.

I thought of my times as a soldier on duty in Hebron, one of the most challenging areas to work in, where Jews and Arabs lived side by side in great hostility. Although I wore the uniform of Israel, my duty was to protect all human beings, not just Jewish ones. I was there to serve as a protector of life and a defender of peace. My goal was to prevent violence and maintain calm, hopefully by de-escalation, but I also was empowered to engage.

It could get very extreme and emotional. I stood in places where a week before, soldiers and civilians had been brutally stabbed. I would see terrorists throw stones at innocent children who had been playing soccer outside. It would anger me to see this, but I had to keep my temper under control, even as people threw Molotov cocktails at me. I was armed. A single second of me losing control could mean a lot of suffering. Not only could I accidentally hurt innocents, but I would shame my uniform and my country.

As an IDF soldier, I was drilled on how to keep my focus, respond to attacks efficiently and proportionately, neutralize the threat without collateral damage, and defend our lives and the lives of others. We were taught to be aware of our surroundings, and how to respond to the different situations we would face.

One of the worst was when people would try to trigger us, insulting us and pushing cameras into our faces, hoping to get us on video losing our tempers. Unless it risked lives, we could not react to the verbal abuse, but it becomes very hard when people are really trying to make you angry.

We were taught to maintain our composure by a simple principle. Before responding, we needed to take a deep breath, slowing down our heart rate and de-escalating our emotions. This allowed us to let go of the need to respond with our egos, and instead respond according to the principles of Ruakh Tzahal. Although it seemed simplistic, it worked. That deep breath allowed us to respond correctly in situations, whether it was dealing with civilians, other soldiers, and even threats. It helped us remember what our objective really was, and how to rise above the insults to do our duty properly.

It is that breath that I want to bring to my business endeavors as the foundation of all those principles. If we can train people not to be reactive, but to take the time to breathe, we can train people on how to make better choices in their lives. It can teach people to respond to the struggles of life intelligently, it can teach people how to work through a dangerous situation and it can teach people how to live a happier life.

So, as scary as it is to launch a new endeavor, I’m taking a deep breath, and moving forward.

I picked this day to announce in order to honor someone I deeply admire. On April 30, 2010, I visited the Latrun Memorial as a young IDF soldier.

My own picture, Yankale’s name is the 3rd above me.

On the wall of the fallen, I looked for the name of my uncle, Lt. Colonel Yaakov “Yankale” Noifeld, He had been a tank commander, who fell in the Yom Kippur War, bravely leading his men into battle. Although I was born decades later, I looked to him as a guide to the person I wanted to be.

Yankele was a true leader, who went into battle alongside his soldiers. In many armies, a high-ranking officer would be back at headquarters, radioing commands to those in the field. Yankele held himself to the same standards he held his soldiers to. He constantly worked to improve and learn how best to serve in his position, and he cultivated a special connection to his soldiers, being their role model, their leader, their teacher, and the one who led them into battle.

Every Yom HaZikaron, I would mourn Yankele with my family, and every Yom Ha’atzamut, I would celebrate the independence and progress of the state of Israel, the country he loved and protected.

However, from all the stories I know, Yankale was not a man who would have appreciated people just sitting around, missing him. He would want others to use those lessons to better themselves and the world around them.

I know that empowering others to protect themselves and their communities is the best way for me to use my talents to honor my uncle’s memory. Although this is a big step for me, I know he would be proud of this major step towards independence and progress in my career, following in his footsteps in the service of others.
It’s an honor to follow that path.

About the Author
Raz Chen is an Experts II Instructor at Krav Maga Experts in New York City, with multiple certifications from the Sports Academy in Israel, and Wingate Institute. A former special operations infantry combatant and Senior military Krav Maga instructor, Raz taught over 10,000 soldiers, including top special forces counter-terrorism and US Marines. He currently teaches classes and seminars for army, police, and civilians in topics like counter-terrorism, rape prevention, Krav Maga instructor certification, Krav Maga combat, and fitness. He is a certified Yoga Instructor and has created his own class “Element” which incorporates body awareness, balance, and movement. He can be found on Instagram and his personal website.
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