“The Rabbi” of MMA

There are certain combinations of words that catch a person’s attention because they’re not normally synonymous with one another. “Rabbi Wins First Amateur MMA Bout by TKO” is just one of those combinations. A Rabbi? Winning an MMA bout? One might ask, what is a rabbi doing in an MMA bout in the first place?


Yossi Eilfort is an Orthodox rabbi based out of California. Like any Orthodox rabbi he wears a yarmulke, prays each day and observes the Sabbath. Besides for spending his life mastering religious nuances and understanding the Torah from which his beliefs are based, Yossi also spent 12 years studying Krav Maga – a self-defense martial art developed by the Israeli military.


Eilfort began training in MMA as both a personal challenge, and to educate people on the benefits of physical fitness. Anyone who has ever trained in MMA can attest that, while a combat sport, the training regimen leads to superb physical fitness and conditioning. Those who master the art of Krav Maga or MMA also, by default, become highly skilled in self-defense.


Eilfort certainly brought both aspects of his character into the Octagon with him. He found the balance between the violence of MMA and his own natural instincts to show restraint and self-control. Something can be learned from that fact that, despite his restraint, Yossi Eilfort still succeeded in defeating his opponent via TKO (Technical Knock-Out).


Considering the attention his story has gotten, Yossi has certainly succeeded in getting the word out about the benefits of mastering the martial arts. He’s also taught that it doesn’t have to be about violence, but preparedness. Someone who wishes to master these techniques doesn’t necessarily have to hop into an Octagon or a Boxing Ring. The skills people can learn will help their body and, possibly, help them to one day defend themselves or others if ever the need arises.


The Morals of Boxing

Martial arts

There’s no denying it – boxing can be a violent, dangerous sport. In a recent article, one rabbi does a fairly good job of summarizing the history of Jews in boxing. Medical conditions that have been known to result from frequent, intense boxing are also well fleshed out in the article. The rabbi also brings a unique spin by discussing the religious ramifications of boxing. He cites various sources to come to the conclusion that, according to Jewish law, boxing is forbidden.
The rabbi chooses to emphasize all of the negative aspects of boxing, which generally only happen in the most extreme cases. Not everyone gets into boxing to become a full-time professional, going from title belt to title belt and cashing large checks. Boxing can also be used for strength, conditioning, discipline and self-defense. For certain members of society, better they take out their anger and aggression in a gym than on the streets.
Cardio exercises in the form of boxing can be some of the best in the world, and they don’t always need to involve hitting another person. The training and regiment alone can put anyone into the best shape of their lives, without ever having to step foot in a boxing ring. Boxing-style workouts can involve punching bags, jump ropes and weight training.
And for those who wish to actually step into a boxing ring and face an opponent – protective gear can be worn to minimize the risk of damage. Facing a real opponent can teach people how to think on their feet and react to certain situations. Like with all things in life, a person can either learn to fail, or fail to learn.
For those that actually make it to the professional level, long-term injuries don’t have to be a guarantee. Each boxer has to know their own limits, and throw in the proverbial towel when it’s time to quit. Consulting with a medical professional on a regular basis, especially before even taking up a particular sport, is always recommended.
I’m no rabbi. All I can say in response to the sources that this particular rabbi cites is that those who hold by these kinds of traditions should consult with their own religious leader. Explain why they wish to take on a sport like boxing. Explain what they hope to gain from the experience. Nothing in the world is solely black or white. Perhaps their rabbi can help them to find a way to take on the sport, while still remaining in their religious comfort zone.

*Image courtesy of arztsamui/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net