Krav Maga and Neuroplasticity

Having learned the importance of taking action and taking action of taking action by implementing this important lesson, I started participating in a weekly lesson in Krav Maga taught by Yosi Shmueli in his school Doron, affiliated with International Krav Maga Federation, at Ramot Alon Community Center in Jerusalem this Wednesday - a few weeks after I decided to start learning Krav Maga.

The ultimate goal of my learning Krav Maga is to strengthen my mental toughness through tough physical training, and the measurable goal is to reach the green belt (from the while belt, with which every beginner starts, through the yellow and orange belts) within five years.

It's true that I was impressed with the fact that someone - Imi Lichtenfeld - invented such an efficient system, if not ex nihilo, single-handedly, especially watching not only my new teacher, who is one of the direct disciples of Imi Lichtenfeld. But I was far more impressed watching the other students, especially those who only started practicing Krav Maga last September, as I've witnessed so vividly the power of neuroplasticity as applied to our physical body.

At the same time I was also reminded of the sorts of physical training requiring skills I've had until now, including, table tennis, Ashkenazic folk dance, Iyengar Yoga, Total Immersion Swimming, and ChiRunning, how I struggled with them at the beginning, and how my movements became more and more polished and natural as I continued to wire my brain, so to speak. So remembering my first day in learning each of these five physical skills and comparing it with what I can do now, I could feel (and still remain) encouraged and motivated to continue my new physical practice of Krav Maga.


Making a Tough Decision under Uncertainty

I didn't expect that this moment would come so early though I had known that it would have to come sooner or later. For one external reason I'm forced to make a tough decision under uncertainty by the end of May. Whatever decision I may make, it will affect the rest of my life profoundly, mainly professionally but also privately.

My decision involves choosing one of the two options - keeping the status quo by remaining in my comfort zone vs. getting out of it by taking a calculated risk. Naturally, all the fellow dwellers of the "cave", who feel so comfortable there, have tried to dissuade me from choosing the second option because of uncertainty. But I've decided to opt for it for a couple of important reasons that have more to do with my intuition or gut feelings.

This second option is fully aligned with the new life vision I've come to embrace after experiencing a midlife crisis recently. Not only do I know but also do I feel that if I shouldn't take this decisive step for fear of uncertainty, I regret the rest of my whole life, especially on my last day in this reincarnation of mine.

The riskiest thing in life is to take no risk. Of course, I've calculated the risk of this second option, but nobody can be fully sure of its outcome. The only sure thing in life is our eventual death. I've also read rather recently that paradoxically, the more you know intellectually about something about which you have to make a decision, the more erroneous that decision of yours is liable to become. This is based on a series of empirical research on heuristics by one of the world experts in the field.

So what should we give the last say to in making a tough but wise decision that will even affect the rest of my life after calculating its risk? Our intuition or gut feelings! My intuition points to this second option. Now I remember being forced to make some similar, though less tough, decisions under uncertainty in the past and relying on my intuition.

Furthermore, every time I was in such a crossroads in my life, I made sure that the first option would become unavailable at all by intentionally closing this exit so that I may focus on the other option as the only one.

I'll make this tough decision under uncertainty by calculating its risk but following my intuition as I can't not do what it will bring to my life, which is fully aligned to my new life vision.


Participating in Jerusalem Marathon for the First Time

As I planned less than two weeks ago, I participated in Jerusalem Marathon in the category 10km. Since this was the first time for me to run 10km at all, I didn't know how fast (or slowly) I would be able to run. Anyway, my goal this time was to finish. Not only could I finish but also could I run a little faster than I had wanted - result: about 56 minutes. Good for me! :-)

I don't remember having such an empowering experience - experiencing the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment - for quite some time. This is mainly because I imposed upon myself a measurable physical challenge and conquered it though this might be an insignificant challenge for many other people, especially for more experienced runners.

I could understand at a most fundamental level why so many people get addicted to marathons and shorter competitions. One of the main reasons must be the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment after reaching the goal. I'll definitely continue participating in this annual athletic event in Jerusalem.

Though I haven't participated in any similar events in any other city in the world, I can think of what must make this one in Jerusalem quite unique - first of all, a large number of frum runners, and second, the warmth of local residents who come out to the street in large numbers to cheer up us runners. I also enjoyed the special atmosphere of unity I started feeling even before I started running. About 30,000 people from Israel and many other countries in the world gathered together here in Jerusalem for one single goal in the double sense of the word.

This empowering experience has also made me reaffirm the decision I made rather recently - I will definitely never win the first prize in this marathon in any category, nor does this interest me, but I do want to be No. 1 professionally as I remembered reading rather recently that there is a huge difference between being No. 1 and being No. 2 in any area of expertise. To attain this goal one has to find an area where one has the potential to become No. 1 instead of wasting one's time and energy to improve one's mad or mediocre performance and accomplishment.

Fortunately, I found rather recently an area where I might be able to become No. 1 for a very simple reason - it's almost impossible for anyone else to work in that specific area though I wouldn't say that it's a niche. All the things I've learned so far in both academic and non-academic settings as well as from life in general contribute to the professional qualification to probably become the only one who can engage himself in that area. I'll keep running for this life goal by setting shorter measurable subgoals for shorter periods of time.


Getting Out of My Comfort Zone by Challenging Myself

I was so impressed with the rigorous physical (and mental) training Navy SEALs do and its profound effect on the body (and the mind) of the trainees as described in a book entitled 8 Weeks to SEALFIT I read last week that I became interested in the philosophy behind this training and read (the first edition of) The Way of the SEAL - a no less exciting book by the same author this week. I also read another stimulating book entitled What Doesn't Kill Us this week.

These two books I read this week have made me realize anew that I still remain in a comfort zone both physically and mentally in spite of my present struggle with (and hopeful triumph over) private and professional adversities and has convinced me to get out of this comfort zone of mine by challenging myself further both physically and mentally instead of simply waiting for new hardships to come unexpectedly to my life. I've adopted three criteria for choosing the appropriate physical and mental challenges for myself: 1) they are attainable; 2) they are measurable; 3) they can have deadlines. This way I've decided to impose upon myself two physical challenges and one mental challenge.

The first physical challenge is to participate in Jerusalem Marathon for the first time. It will take place next Friday, and I've registered for its 10km section at the last moment yesterday. My measurable goal for this time is to finish running 10km. I started running in my late teens and its my first conscious workout. Since them I've continued running with a five-year interval in the second half of my twenties. My long-term goal is to increase the length little by little and run a full marathon within five years and also improve my speed.

The second physical challenge is to start learning Krav Maga. I've found quite a few courses here. The one I've chosen is affiliated with International Krav Maga Federation and taught by someone who learned Krav Maga by its inventor and has been practicing it for 40 years. I've already contacted him and agreed to come to his first lesson in about two weeks. My measurable goal is to go up the ladder of its belts (white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black) and patches (P (Practitioner) 1-5, G (Graduate) 1-5, and E (Expert) 1-5), or to be more specific, to reach the green belt or P5 within five years. But of course, the true goal is to get myself out of my physical comfort zone, strengthen my self-confidence, and develop my physical and mental resilience. The same is the case with Jerusalem Marathon and daily training in preparation for it.

And the mental challenge I've already started to struggle with is to improve my Russian. In my late teens, twenties, and early thirties I used to add a new language every year, thus learning 15 languages in total. Along the way I've devised a method for learning any modern language quickly and thoroughly. There is one language I've tried to learn for which this method hasn't work very well - Russian. So trying to improve my Russian is definitely a mental challenge for me. The fact that I may lose practical motivation for using it is paradoxically another challenge as I consider motivation as the most decisive factor in embarking on the study of any new language and continuing this Sisyphean labor. I'll use Test of Russian as a Foreign Language to set a measurable annual goal. One can take this test in Israel at the Russian Cultural Centre in Tel Aviv. My long-term goal is to read the sixth, i.e., the highest, level within five years. I've also read a book entitled Becoming Fluent to benefit from recent advancements in cognitive science as applied to learning a foreign language.

The mere action of making these three decisions this week was even enough to feel recharged with positive energy. As I continue my preparation for Jerusalem Marathon in a week and my renewed study of my Russian, I feel reinvigorated. I'm sure this feeling will intensify when I start my weekly Krav Maga training, hopefully in two weeks.