Why An Honorable Escape Is So Important

Many years ago, I had an issue with my upstairs neighbors. My ceiling and their floor were paper thin. Anything they would do up there, I would hear – maybe 10 times louder than what he thought I could hear. At the time I was building the Upper West Side Studio and was always at work, working on building everything I could.

At 6 am on my first Saturday morning in this apartment, I woke up to what sounded like a battalion of soldiers working out in the apartment above me. There were weights, grunts and lots of screaming and running. You name it – it was happening in the apartment above.

In my culture, it’s normal to confront people. So, I politely knocked on their door and the father of the family answered the door. I said, “Excuse me but you are making a lot of noise and I am confident that it will stop.”

He aggressively and sarcastically said, “Oh okay, thanks for coming, thanks for letting us know but don’t come again”

They didn’t stop.

After 20 minutes, not only did it not stop, it increased. So, I went up there again and knocked on their door.

At first there was no answer, and after some time the father said, “We told you not to come here again.” And I thought – okay, you leave me no choice.

So I took a tennis ball and I just bounced it off the ceiling every time they made a torrent of noise. Of course, it made them more upset, but they got the point.

This continued for a few weeks. And I was rarely home, working in the studio. But every time I was home, they heard from me. They didn’t leave me an open door for communication so I opened a different door.

One day, I bounced the tennis ball off the ceiling after they were roaring above me and the father started jumping up and down, going crazy – and I thought for sure there was going to be a fight. Suddenly, there was a forceful knock on my front door – I thought it was going to break.

I politely opened the door and quietly asked “What can I do for you?”, but the neighbor started yelling and being overly aggressive. I could also tell from his body language that he couldn’t fight. He was doing a monkey dance.

At this point I suggested that we either sit down and talk, or he could leave, because right then this behavior was not acceptable. “Just choose.”

He kept yelling, and speaking very fast. I wished he was speaking in Hebrew so I could speak back to him just as fast (since at the time English was a new language for me). It was a good lesson for me in the value of being quiet.

He wasn’t happy with these options and kept yelling, so I asked him to leave. As I began to shut the door, he stepped one foot into my apartment. I looked at his leg and said, “If you want to keep that leg, you take it with you – or you can leave it here.” So he took it with him and was very angry for a few more weeks.

That was the practice, he gets mad and super aggravated by any of my responses to him.

One day I was on my way out and I heard him coming down the stairs so I stayed and I waited for him in the stairwell. As soon as I saw him turn the corner – he just – exhaled. I could see all the anger leave his body. He apologized and shook my hand and said “Here’s my number, if we make noise just text me.”

I have since moved to a different apartment- but there was never another problem between us for the few years I lived there. I knew that if he saw me again, in that moment, he would see me as a human – not as a problem. We solved it without a fight. 

Why did he allow himself to apologize?

Because I didn’t yell at him, I didn’t fight him, I didn’t curse him – he escaped honorably. And I was confident enough to know that if he did anything I could take care of it.

He had a way out; I had a way out.

When you don’t know how to fight, then your only choice is fighting. Or, do nothing and it follows you emotionally. Those are your options. What we give people are choices. 

You decide, I want to fight or I don’t want to fight. And if you decide to fight, then ask yourself “is it worth it?”.



Tsahi Shemesh

Krav Maga Experts