Dear Dr. Yael,
Thank you for running past columns of mine in Olam Yehudi. I always get such positive feedback. Please indulge me, as I would like to share some thoughts about our chinuch system with you and your readers.
There is a school of thought which says that the current education method used in most schools/yeshivas is geared more toward girls than boys. You see, girls tend to be more passive and are able to sit and follow directions. Boys, on the other hand, tend to be more fidgety, have high energy and are less able to sit for long periods of time. Certain educators and psychologists maintain that these differences are hardwired into the brain and cannot change – and that our educational system should reflect that.
I maintain that regardless of whether or not a child is able to sit and learn, a constructive physical outlet is critical to reduce stress, direct physical energy into a positive direction and renew a child’s focus.
I am not a physician, a neuropsychologist or a therapist. I am a military man and a Krav Maga (Israeli military martial art) instructor in the frum community. Thus, I see things differently. I know that the current yeshiva education is not a fit for every child. And I know through my own experience and the writings of the Rambam, that physical exercise is critical to a person’s health, it also reduces stress and greatly improves concentration. As such, I am a big proponent of Krav Maga for yeshiva bochurim.
But why not basketball or baseball, you ask. Why martial arts in general and Krav Maga in particular? We are all familiar with the saying from Mishlei to educate a child according to his way. However, I believe that when it comes to exercise and physical activity, Rambam expresses it when where he explains that the best type of exercise is that which influences the soul and causes it to rejoice.
You are the parent. You know your child. And with the workload of most yeshivas, free time is very limited. If your son loves basketball, hockey or any sport, then that’s what makes him happy and that’s where he should unload his physical energy. If your son expresses an interest in martial arts or if he is bullied, then martial arts is where his soul is directing him. Just be sure he learns from an instructor who has yirat Shamayim and has a good connection with your son. And, of course, the martial art should be truly effective and enable a type of training that is competitive in nature, yet can be practiced in a safe way.
In one of my Krav Maga group classes, there is a young man named Avner. He learns in a very intensive yeshiva and is only able to attend one class a week, yet he has made quite a transformation. When we met, about a year and a half ago, he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder and was tagged by his rebbeim as rebellious. Avner’s father assured me that he gets very good grades and is a serious student. His mother, on the other hand, saw things differently and was concerned that her sweet young son had suddenly developed a reclusive nature and aggressive disposition. Interestingly enough, Avner had trained with a different martial arts instructor, but did not take to his teaching style. However, he still wanted to train in martial arts.
As I found out, Avner was like so many others. He was raised by good and loving parents and provided with a solid foundation in Torah and ethics, he just desperately needed to be challenged in that aggressive way that many teen boys with all their newly discovered testosterone need to be challenged. He needed to be pushed to his physical edge and to fight. He really needed to fight. It’s just a fact of life for many young men and something that needs to be recognized and channeled properly.
In our Krav Maga classes, we do a lot of sparring within a controlled and good-natured framework. The yeshiva bochurim get as close as they possibly can to a real fight. And I am there to make sure no one gets hurt, that maximum learning takes place and everything is within a friendly and mensch-like environment. The three primary rules of our academy are: train hard, be a mensch and take care of your training partner.
As the best friendships are forged by those who endure and overcome hardships together, Avner very naturally became good friends with his Krav Maga classmates. Some of them are shy, some are outgoing. Some of them go to intensive yeshivas and others are home schooled. But every one of them is drawn towards the martial arts and that is what makes their souls rejoice and renews them for Torah learning.
Dear Captain Even-Esh:
I know how many people you have helped. To my dear readers, if your child is struggling with bullying, problems focusing, or other behavioral issues that would benefit from challenging him to become emotionally stronger, these methods do work. These lessons are done in a Torah framework.
Eilon Even-Esh is the founder and head instructor of Shomer360, an organization whose mission is “to instill strength and confidence into our community through world class self-defense within a Torah observant framework.” To establish a program at your yeshiva or sign up to one of our kids, teen or adult classes, please visit www.shomer360.com