In Memory Of Yossi Shmueli
Almost every one of us has had a teacher who has profoundly influenced our lives, someone who left a lasting mark on our hearts and minds.
When is it time to express our gratitude to them? Just last Tuesday, I got another reminder from Mother Nature that there’s no better time than now.
On October 31, 2023, I received the sad news of the passing of my dear friend and teacher, Yossi Shmueli.
Upon hearing about his sudden death, it became abundantly clear to me that it was essential to share some of the thoughts that were up within me. I know that many of you have had similar influential teachers, and it’s imperative for these individuals to understand the profound impact they’ve had on our lives.
Yossi Shmueli, one of the founders of the Agoz Counter-Terror Unit – a specialized commando unit focusing on guerrilla warfare, began teaching Krav Maga in the 1980s. Over the span of several decades, he served as both a guide and mentor to hundreds of students, including myself.
Yossi possessed a unique blend of tenderness and strength that resonated with anyone who was fortunate enough to learn from him. On one hand, he was always the kindest man in the room but he also had the incredible ability to instill a sense of security and strength in those around him.
His character was defined by this unwavering kindness, even when life presented its most complex challenges and setbacks.
A pivotal moment in my life occurred in 1999 when Yossi reached out to me with a great pain in his voice. He asked me to step in for him and teach a few of his classes because he had suffered an injury that left him unable to walk.
Although excited by the opportunity, my initial response was “doubt.” I questioned whether I even had the necessary experience to fill his shoes. But Yossi’s unwavering response was simple and resolute: “You can do it. I believe in you.” With his blessing, I, a 17-year-old boy, eagerly embraced this significant responsibility.
Filled with pride, I vividly recall stepping onto the mat and teaching those classes. I will never forget the lessons I created that day, in fact, which I continue to employ in my teaching to this day.
Yossi always strived to nurture a sense of competence in his students, urging them to venture forth, learn from their mistakes, and stay persistent.
At that time I was training under another instructor, and I proudly shared the experiences that Yossi had given me. However, this instructor did not have the same approach. Instead of offering encouragement or at least a life lesson I could use, he consistently scolded me and advised me against further attempts at teaching.
I sought Yossi’s advice again, even though he wasn’t my direct instructor, and he continued to encourage my growth and progression. He implored me to evaluate my relationship with the other instructor, which later in life I determined, was one that was not in my best interest.
In his characteristic calm and polite manner, Yossi always offered his support and extended invitations for me to train with the black belts at his academy, even before I had earned my belt.
His perspective always revolved around recognizing and nurturing the potential within his students, allowing them to flourish rather than dictating their every move. He helped me more than once to stay on track and keep on training, even when things seemed less promising for me.
As time passed, I eventually parted ways with that other instructor. After my military service, I chose to join a different gym under an instructor who aligned with my aspirations. I chose to join the gym of globally renowned Krav Maga instructor, Master Gabi Noah. And within a few years found myself instructing in various locations around the world, an achievement I had hardly dared to dream of.
In 2010, I relocated to New York City and commenced a solo journey of personal growth and self-discovery. Whenever I returned home to visit my family, I made it a point to visit Yossi’s gym and spend time with him. Our discussions frequently revolved around the evolution of Krav Maga, and how it had influenced our development as instructors.
I remember a time, when I first recognized my transition into adulthood, and I came to an understanding that I represented the “next generation” of teachers. It was no longer a mere slogan; but now it was my time to flourish.
One day, I eagerly shared some revelations I had with Yossi, who regarded me with both pride and curiosity. I stood in front of him at this critical stage of maturity, a point where I believed I knew everything, only to realize later how little I truly knew. So I took the bold step of presenting to him the various innovations and changes in self-defense techniques I had been working on.
Regardless of the initial quality of my suggestions, Yossi consistently showed how proud he was that I could think for myself and dared to change. Much later in life, I realized that I had shared this pivotal moment with Yossi because I was awaiting his approval, the seal of acknowledgment from him that I represented the “next generation” that he had nurtured.
Yossi always provided that seal of approval. He consistently propelled all of us to strive for greatness and never once advocated for complacency. He urged us to flourish and grow, even if it meant stepping out of our comfort zones.
I was lucky to have such a friend, teacher, and educator. I learned that a teacher can transcend the boundaries of the training mat and become a genuine friend. I learned from him that being gentle does not equate to weakness.
I am still on a quest to learn the power of kindness and patience, and I am glad I had such a teacher who led by example. Of all the lessons I have absorbed from this extraordinary man, Yossi will always be with me.
Let your teachers know what you appreciate about them. Let them know if they made a difference in your life. I am glad I was able to pay Yossi this respect while he was still alive. I often thanked him for his lessons, his friendship, and his unique approach to his students.
Do something amazing,
Founder & CEO
Krav Maga Experts