Raz Chen

If Not Me, Then Who?

(Copyright GSD, used with permission)
(Copyright GSD, used with permission)

Creating a new program for Guardian Self-Defense has become a passion project for me. Although it’s billed as a self-defense organization, it’s actually meant to be leadership training through the lens of Krav Maga. 

Each week for eight-week cycles, people get the chance to stretch and grow themselves both mentally and physically. They learn how to do basic strikes and defenses. They learn how to work together. Most importantly, they learn how to be brave. At GSD, we don’t only work with leaders. We work to help create leaders. 

In life, we do well at what we practice. But how many times do we get the chance to practice being brave and putting ourselves out of our comfort zone? It’s so easy to remain in the status quo. Challenging ourselves is something we all struggle with. 

Krav Maga forces us to be brave by pushing us out of our comfort zone. We need to be uncomfortable and learn to handle it in order to build skills. This teaches us resilience. While learning tools to make us safer on the chance we may need it to defend ourselves, we also learn how to be stronger so we can achieve our dreams. 

I know how valuable those lessons are because I needed them myself a while ago. When I got my first big writing invitation, I was scared. I knew how to teach Krav Maga. But writing about it at the professional level felt like I was jumping into the deep end of the Mariana Trench. I was going way over my head. 

I would be one of the few Israelis writing. If I did badly, I felt it would reflect badly on my country and Krav Maga. I didn’t want to let down everyone who had invested so much in me.  

During that period of self-doubt, I confessed to a friend (who was also my student) that I was feeling scared to submit my first piece. “What if the readers don’t think I’m good enough?” I’m open about my own moments of vulnerability because overcoming them is where I have found my true strength. 

My friend pushed back hard. “Do you have skills you can legitimately teach and share?” she asked. 

I nodded. Objectively, I had the certifications. 

 “Is there someone better you know who you can get right now to take your place and write the piece?” she demanded. 

I shook my head. 

“Then you have to take that leap.” She told me the following story. 

In 1967, Private Yaki Hetz was an ordinary Israeli soldier.  He had never been put in any position of authority. He had never considered himself a leader. He was happy to follow those above him and trusted in their judgment. 

 Still,  during the battle of Ammunition Hill for Jerusalem, when his commander fell in battle under heavy fire, Yaki made a fateful choice. He took command. “Although I was a simple soldier, I knew we couldn’t lose the momentum of the battle. My friends told me afterward that I actually shouted, “Aharai!” [Follow me] and then shot two bullets in the air.” (Jerusalem Post, Linde, Feb 6th, 2017 interview) He led his men through the trenches and blew up the main Jordanian bunker with hand grenades, taking control of the Hill. 

Yaki never considered himself ready. But he looked around and saw someone had to step up to the role, or everything would fall apart. He had to step up and say, he may not be enough but he would give all he had. 

My friend finished the story and stared at me. “No one is ready. We can only do our best. If we can contribute, we need to do it. You don’t get to decide if you’re ready. You need to step up and contribute, because who else will?” 

It was words that I needed to hear. 

No, I wasn’t ready because no one ever would be ready. We could always improve, we could always be better. We can only train to be as prepared as we can be, and do our best. The article was as good as it could be. I needed to press send. 

“Thanks for the wisdom,” I said, feeling energized. 

Their response was the moment every teacher hopes to have. “It’s the wisdom I got from your Krav Maga training. You helped me find my courage.  I’m just giving you back what you gave me. That’s why the readers will love it.”

It was that moment when I got to be a student again and hear my own lessons said back to me. I got to again appreciate how truly valuable Krav Maga is for those who were searching for strength.   My own words and teachings, augmented by my clever friend’s knowledge of history and rhetoric, shook me out of my fears and ignited me. This work needed to be shared! 

Even now, they remind me why I do GSD. 

I want to keep giving this inspiration back to the Jewish world. I want to build Jewish leaders who can stand up for themselves. Whether it’s standing up to themselves to protect themselves from danger or getting involved in important causes, I want to give them a chance to practice being brave. 

That’s why I do what I do. I want to help more people like this friend to be able to use their own gifts to inspire the world around them.

I’m looking forward to talking to synagogues in the New York area. The Jewish community today needs leadership. Let’s start investing time in building the skills for them.

For more information: Sign Up Here

Our first sign-up ends on February 27th and our first cycle of classes begin on March 5th.

About the Author
Raz Chen is an expert in Krav Maga, teaching 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 the army, police, and civilians on topics like counter-terrorism, rape prevention, Krav Maga instructor certification, Krav Maga combat, and fitness. He is the creator of AVIIR, a company dedicated to functional training, protection, regeneration, and longevity. Credit and gratitude to his co-writer and senior student Elke Weiss, whose research, writing, and editing are instrumental to this column and all my other writings.
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