KAPAP master offers a cerebral approach to martial arts
LONDONDERRY -- Whether his students are seasoned martial artists or everyday citizens, Avi Nardia likes to remind them that their strongest weapons are their minds and hearts.
Nardia, who was once the command sergeant major of his native Israel's most elite counterterrorism unit, the YAMAM, spent the past week in Londonderry, where he taught a class full of self-defense instructors the latest in modern tactics.
Now retired from military life, Nardia travels around the world sharing his knowledge with others in the form of KAPAP, a personal self-defense practice used by police, military and emergency response workers.
He visits Koryukan Martian Arts in Londonderry several times a year, where studio owner Ken Akiyama serves as the U.S.-based representative of Avi Nardia KAPAP.
Akiyama teaches KAPAP classes at his studio Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings, in addition to courses in Brazilian jiujitsu and other forms of martial arts.
On Thursday evening, Akiyama invited members of the public to attend a free workshop with Nardia at Koryukan.
Shortly before the crowds arrived, Nardia reflected on his former life as a soldier and his increasingly hectic life as a mentor and martial arts instructor.
On average, he takes about 80 flights each year, teaching students on Indian reservations in remote areas of Canada as well as those living in places like Thailand, Australia and other parts of the world. He also teaches his craft to a group of handicapped children in his native Israel.
"This is not a rumble form of martial arts," Nardia said. "Really, KAPAP is like a bridge linking (students) to the practical."
Nardia said he's taught a wide array of students, from housewives and physicians to UFC fighters and Secret Service agents.
He's even mentored a man in his early 90s, noting that KAPAP isn't strictly about conventional self-defense but also incorporates healthy lifestyle choices, CPR training and proper nutrition.
"I tell everyone that you don't have to be a war hero to be a hero of life," he said. "My goal is to try and help people handle life."
And for most of us, Nardia said, life's battles aren't on the front lines of war zones.
"What I'm teaching here is how to fight a failing business, a divorce or the loss of a loved one," Nardia said.
Bedford resident Russ Towers said he discovered KAPAP about five years ago, when he signed up for a class with his then 12-year-old son.
Initially, Towers' mission was a simple one: to lose some weight he'd gained and spend time bonding with his son.
Though his son eventually lost interest in martial arts, Towers stayed on.
"Working in the defense industry, my days can get pretty stressful," he said. "Anyone who knew me five years ago probably wouldn't believe it, but I meditate now."
After 9/11, Nardia said he began teaching more classes in the United States, where he felt a calling to teach what he refers to as "practical martial arts" to everyday citizens.
"My lessons focus on love and peace. We don't teach people how to kill," he said. "Life can certainly change your path, but you don't have to let your ego make you be someone you don't want to be."
Towers said his own KAPAP training means he might react very differently than the average person in the event of discovering an intruder in his home.
"The old me might have yelled and screamed," Towers said. "But KAPAP is all about using your brain. Now I might calmly ask the intruder if I could get him a cup of coffee first."
Boston Police Officer Bill Sullivan said he met Nardia and Akiyama through mutual friends and became certified as a KAPAP instructor last spring.
"It definitely helps when you're in the force," Sullivan said. "It's really a type of mind-set and an awareness."
A recently retired teacher from Derry who identified himself only as Anthony said his skills were often put to the test in the classroom.
"You have to be prepared," he said. "And when something happens, you need to know how to do things in a way that doesn't hurt people."
Derry resident Liz Busteeb, a graphic designer, said she's been training in KAPAP for the past nine years.
"It's an attitude; it's a way to keep yourself focused," Busteeb said. "You learn how to relax and not let people get to you as much."
For more information, call Koryukan at 247-8546.
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