Saturday, March 25, 2023

With the world seemingly going insane, self-defense in general and Krav Maga in particular are hot topics these days. Krav Maga is the self-defense system of the Israel Defense Forces. A basic version of it is taught to most of the IDF soldiers while the more elite units dive in for a deeper version during their anti-terror training.

Over the years, Krav Maga has been adapted to a more civilian appropriate application and has surprisingly morphed into a sort of diplomatic outreach platform. Despite the rising tide of antisemitism we are experiencing today, there are martial arts schools in the most unlikely of places that proudly display the Israeli flag and teach the IDF inspired system. Krav Maga is taught in Germany, the Ukraine, Russia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Greece, Peru, Luxembourg, the U.K., Japan, and more.

Contrary to what the U.N. would have us believe, it appears that some of the world actually loves us a little more when we are strong. These days you will find no lack of muscular, tattooed, non-Jewish Krav Maga instructors very proudly proclaiming their love and admiration for the IDF and all things Israeli. This is a good thing. We need as many admirers and allies as possible, even if the focus of their admiration is not our excellence in the sciences, humanities, and Torah. We are a Torah-based people and most readers of this publication lead Torah-centered lives. Take our Torah away and, like any other nation, we will eventually melt away into nothingness. Therefore, Krav Maga, disconnected from Torah, can hardly be called self-defense. True self-defense must also protect our true self.

Enter Eilon Even-Esh. Captain Even-Esh, as some call him, grew up in Edison, New Jersey and volunteered to serve in the IDF as a chayal boded (Lone Soldier). In the IDF he learned Krav Maga in the famous LOTAR compound and served in the Southern Lebanon security zone. After his tour of duty, he returned to the U.S. where he completed his undergraduate studies at Columbia University and then promptly applied to the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer candidate and eventually ended his career at the rank of captain.

Of his days in the Marine Corps Eilon said: “Those were some dark days for me. A few months after 9/11 I was actually put under NCIS investigation for about a year. At the end of that year, I was asked by the investigator, if the U.S. would go to war against Israel, would I go to attack Israel as well. I, of course, answered no. In response, my security clearance was revoked. This effectively removed any possibility of meaningful work for me within the Marine Corps, so I asked to resign. Luckily, the bureaucracy agreed and I was honorably discharged.”

During Eilon’s time in Columbia University, he started to rediscover his Judaism. He attended a Gateways seminar and experienced his first Shabbat in Lakewood. But he put his exploration of Judaism on hold once he decided to join the Marine Corps. However, once his time in the Corps was over, Eilon returned to his roots and started learning again, first with a Reform congregation and then with the local Chabad shliach, once he found that the Reform rabbis couldn’t answer all his questions. Fast forward to today and Captain Even-Esh is raising a frum family, embarking on a pre-smicha program at Yeshiva University and teaching Krav Maga as a full-time profession to the Orthodox Jewish community.

Eilon maintains that if a Jew–be it an adult, teenager or child–learns any form of martial art, it needs to be through a Torah-centered lens. There must be discussion of Torah within the lesson and if nothing else, the instructor, the vessel that conveys knowledge to the student, must at least represent the community. In every human interaction a person will either lift someone up or drag him down. Therefore, in addition, for a student to respect his instructor’s martial arts skill it is extremely important for the student to see his instructor wearing a kippah, davening, and keeping Shabbat. Teaching Krav Maga not only builds a person’s confidence in his ability to defend himself, but should also be a form of subtle, undercover kiruv.

This summer, Eilon visited SportsStar Academy at Camp Mesorah and was asked to teach the campers a Krav Maga class and to introduce the topic in a unique way. So Eilon arranged for a mock kidnapping complete with getaway vehicle and simulation knife to the neck (they don’t fool around at Sportstar Academy). The van pulled up behind the coach speaking to his campers and within ten seconds, two pairs of hands put the fake knife to his neck, grabbed his upper and lower body, threw him in the van, and sped off. They returned a minute later and Eilon started teaching anti-kidnapping techniques. Unfortunately, this is a very timely topic.

Eilon Even-Esh is the founder and head instructor of Shomer360, an organization whose mission is “to instill strength and confidence through world class self-defense techniques within a Torah observant framework.” Even-Esh specializes in training the Jewish community and travels throughout the United States to teach and give seminars. It is very important to him to make sure every Jew has the ability and confidence to protect him/herself.

Captain Even-Esh plans on coming into the Teaneck community within the next few months to give a seminar. If you would like more information or to schedule a session visit his site www.shomer360.com or call (585) BEST – 360

By Steve Gutlove –

JLBC Sports Editor

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