Whether you’re a complete newbie, or someone who’s been training in Krav Maga for years, we all share something in common: a love for what we practice.
It might not start out as “love”, mind you, just like a first date often doesn’t. But, a few dates later, a few drinks, a few cool bruises that you show off to your friends who think you’ve gone slightly crazy, and then, suddenly – something happens. A feeling of deep affection arises for this amazing skill of learning how to hit people (and how to live your life so you don’t have to).
And, just like love between individuals, it can sometimes get a little intense. 50 Shades Of Krav Maga intense, almost, and that’s also okay, to a degree… it’s part of the growth process for certain people. A rite of passage. And an introduction to a tribe that gets you.
But having said that, there are also some unscrupulous Krav Maga instructors out there who use the well-known psychology of tribalism to exploit and manipulate their students. To put it more bluntly: they want to manipulate you.
They are cultists, plain and simple.
It’s worth knowing exactly what that means - firstly so you can recognize them, and secondly, so you can avoid them. I’ve encountered a few such individuals over the years, and if you have a minute or two, here are a few key points that characterize the crazies.
WHAT DOES A CULT LOOK LIKE?
So, very quickly, how exactly do you define a cult? And what does a Krav Maga cult “leader” look like?
Dr Janja Lalich, an eminent sociologist and professor emerita at California State University, says this:
“I’d say first and foremost, pretty much every cult leader is narcissistic, and this negative narcissism – or ‘traumatic narcissism’ – deeply affects and manipulates those around them.”
Professor Lalich highlights some of the key behaviours to watch out for:
- They deliberately create a perceived conflict as the basis for their constant attention-seeking. They want to be seen as “challenging” everyone outside of the microcosm they have created – a typical “us versus them” psychological tactic which they believe makes them somehow appear heroic or noble.
- They desperately want to be seen as the final authority on any topic they address, and this is most often expressed as a desire to constantly criticize or attempt to belittle others, or to sabotage the statements or actions of anyone outside of their circle of influence. (This can be done privately within a cult, or publicly by means of statements, social media posts, or videos where they go to great lengths to repeatedly disparage or slander anyone who they consider to be wrong or opposed to them.)
- They often make statements that are designed to be provocative in order to garner attention. This also manifests as a tendency to twist the truth, to use deliberate innuendo, or to misquote what others have said in order to make themselves look better.
- They will often paint themselves as victims of persecution for standing up for what they proclaim as “truth”. If anyone calls them out for their unpleasantness, this is portrayed by them as an attempt to oppress them, limit their speech, or infringe their perceived rights.
- They tend to incessantly insist that they are ‘winning’ against a malevolent or invisible system, and that anybody who is not with them is losing or failing by comparison.
- Narcissistic cult leaders like to establish themselves as the sole authority figure within a group and they avoid systems where they can be held accountable for their speech or behaviour, either by those within their group or by outsiders. They embody a ‘lone wolf’ mentality and will often portray outsiders as ‘sheep’ or as being ignorant or misled or uninformed. (Because only they can inform you, of course!)
- Cult leaders, by implication, tend to attract “cult followers”, people who resonate with the culture of narcissism and the culture of perceived superiority or uniqueness. They also tend to mimic or appropriate the characteristics of a cult leader – so if he is arrogant or abrasive, so will they be; if he chooses to paint himself as a self-styled savior or hero, they will tend to do the same. They will rally blindly toward the course of action dictated by the leader, and, ironically, will perceive any opposing opinion or action by others to be “proof” that their leader is right.
... BUT THE GOOD GUYS OUTNUMBER THEM.
I’m happy to say that the vast majority of Krav Maga and martial arts instructors out there in the world today are decent, well-balanced human beings who genuinely respect others, exemplify humility and thoughtfulness, and are contributing enormously toward a safer and more harmonious world. And if you choose to study under such individuals and organizations, you’ve made a wonderful choice.
But if you’re still looking around for a good place to learn Krav Maga, then take note of what you’ve just read. And if you’re in an environment where this kind of aberrant behaviour seems to be the norm, then I urge you to consider seeking safer, saner pastures. Beware of people who constantly try to diminish others as a means of elevating themselves.
At Elite Defence Academy International, we’ve taken care to build a culture over the past fifteen years that is centered around reason, intelligence, consideration, and accountability.
Although I’m the founder and chief instructor at Elite Defence Academy, I don’t have exclusive authority: I don't have the absolute say over everything we do, or how we do it. And I’ve intentionally enabled that as part of our structure, because I certainly don’t know everything, and never will.
I understand the importance of perspective, and of surrounding myself with skilled and knowledgeable people who can not only add to the evolution and growth of our organization, but who are at full liberty to call me out on decision-making or correct me in training – and there are several who have done so over the years.
It’s because of skilled individuals like Alex Berndl, our CEO, and Rob Paynter, our International Head Of Syllabus, that EDA International has seen incredible growth and rising popularity – even through the course of a 6-month pandemic lockdown!
And so, should you decide to join us at Elite Defence Academy International – whether it’s at a club, or as part of our rapidly-growing online training program – you have peace of mind in knowing that there are checks and balances built into our system to ensure that you get the very best Krav Maga training available, both in South Africa and abroad.
Truth, intelligence, expertise, and respect, is what we strive to exemplify.
That is why we remain South Africa’s most trusted, most reputable, and fastest-growing Krav Maga and martial arts training organization – not because of who we think we are, but because of the overwhelming endorsement and recognition from our students, our supporters, other recognized experts our field, and the public.
Want to find out more about effective, intelligent self defense? Click here to see a list of our clubs, or here to find out more about online training. And if you have any specific questions we can help you with, please pop us a mail at des@eda-international and we’ll assist you with pleasure.
Here's to good instructors, happy students, and amazing Krav Maga training!