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Our hero today is Ortal Kindell, Program Director for Women’s Self-defense with a nonprofit company, Guardian Self Defense. In this episode, she explains how to keep a nonprofit with a specialized target market, growing and serving its target community with excellence. And while we are talking about a self-defense nonprofit, the insights apply to virtually any business. So, without further ado, Ortal Kindell.

Alright, so how did you first get into self-defense training, and how’s it impacted your life?

Ortal: So, I started martial arts training about I’d say like 6 years ago. I just thought it was a cool thing to do, like the new fad. I was like, “I’m bored. I want to find a new hobby.” And my friends kind of were a part of a program. I joined it. It was in a gym locally like right near my house. So, it’s like, “Okay, I’ll join.” I had no idea what it entailed. Kind of just I kind of equated it to Power Rangers/any kind of like combat movie that I saw. And I was like, “Yeah, I want to learn some stuff.”

And then about 2 weeks after I joined, I was brutally beaten in the streets, and just on a random night across my house. I live in Midwood, which is like super safe residential area, very, very, not creepy, very well-lit in front of a Jewish boys’ school. So, this was definitely the last thing on my mind. But there was a creepy guy walking around, and I didn’t listen to my what I call now bad-guy vibes. And I kind of like fell into this little like PC mode where I was just like afraid to be mean, or to think badly of the guy, or to kind of like judge the guy. So, I didn’t stay away. And I was very much busy with my stuff. And he kept on creeping over, and I did get scared, but I didn’t leave. And I guess I didn’t answer him the way he wanted to be answered. And he just landed a nice, nice punch right here. He hit me about 4 times, and completely destroyed my face.

Josh: Wow.

Ortal: My head knocked against my car doors, so I had massive concussion. And then he tried to like choke me out. I didn’t know what to do. I just kind of like try to call on anything that I could possibly remember. But I was only in class for 2 weeks, which means 2 sessions, because it was just a once-a-week thing. And what do you learn in first 2 weeks? You don’t know anything. And my initial reaction was to call out for help.

And I think that’s what changed my life or got me more into martial arts in a more serious way. Because that was a very pathetic kind of very sad image. I was screaming out for help. I was asking anybody… and this was in front of like a boys’ school. I believe I’m on… I forgot what it’s called. It’s like a, not YouTube, WorldStar. I believe I’m on WorldStar.

Josh: Really?

Ortal: Because people, like they recorded me getting hurt. I couldn’t watch it, because it was way too traumatic for me. I didn’t watch it, but I did see the upload. And that’s what was more important. It was more important to kind of get the content. People were just afraid, I guess, to get involved or just didn’t want to.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And this was the scariest thing in my life where I thought, “This is where I end. This is where I die. He’s going to choke me out.” And he wasn’t that much bigger than me, even though I’m extremely small. He wasn’t that much bigger. And I don’t think he was very strong. The doctors in the ER actually said that, had he been like a little bit stronger and knew a little bit more of what he was doing, I probably wouldn’t have lasted.

But I was able to kind of just give them a nice push kick, which didn’t do much. All it did was give me a like an ounce of space, like this much, like very, very small. And then I my instinct was just to make a 360 and just… well, a 180 actually, and just like run into traffic. And I just continued running. I was on an adrenaline high, and I just ran like 20 minutes. I kind of like fell, and I was so scared. I stayed in like a like a front lawn and I just passed out. Like, the people came and saw me there and I just passed out. I woke up in the hospital. So, that was the scariest moment of my life.

And I think after that, I was… well, not I think, I was extremely gripped with fear. I couldn’t continue living like a normal person. And it was a very scary time for me, because it was living with that much trauma is it’s really impossible. Your brain does know what to do with it.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: I couldn’t go outside. I couldn’t talk people. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I wasn’t a human being. And at some point, I was just like, “Okay, if I don’t do something with my life right now, this is going to be the end of my normal life.” So, I got… well, my friend kind of dragged me to the gym every day, and he’s like, “This is what you need to do. You need to get all of this trauma and fear and cry it out, whatever it is, but you got to do it in a place where you can reclaim yourself and kind of like build your confidence back up again.” Because it happened across the street from my house. So, I just kind of felt like this was in my backyard. Like, “The guy’s going to come back. He knows where I live.” Like, he kind of like tormented my safe space.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: So, I got into martial arts then. I’m not going to lie, it was very hard to get into martial arts. I’m about 107 pounds. I’m female. It’s not the most welcoming thing for a woman. Especially if you’re going into a gym that has professional fighters, that’s kind of like their goal. And if you’re not anything that’s going to do that, they kind of send you to kickboxing. Even though kickboxing is great and I very much enjoyed it, it wasn’t what I needed. I needed to learn martial arts. I needed to learn to protect myself, how to feel safe again.

And so, that’s kind of how I got into it. Because I wanted to get that confidence again. I wanted to feel safe. I wanted to feel in control as much as possible. And I really didn’t that image of me to ever come back. I didn’t want to ever feel like, if I don’t have someone who’s going to be with me 24/7 to protect me, I don’t feel safe. I wanted to be the first person that’s going to come to my aid, to help me as much as possible. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to become Bruce Lee, right? It just means that I can protect myself now. Now I know what to do. Now I know what to look out for. Now I know. And I should have known, honestly. And that’s my motto now. My motto is, “You know how to read and write, you need to learn how to protect yourself. Because there are crazies out there.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: I’m not like an alarmist, and I don’t think that the world is the most negative place. I’m not a pessimist at all. But I do think that it is becoming increasingly scary and increasingly more dangerous. And there’s no reason not to have this in your arsenal. So, that’s quite a long answer.

Josh: No, that was a great answer. I didn’t expect you to go in that much detail. That’s absolutely terrible. But I’m really glad that, I’ve read a couple of studies that self-defense has really been useful, even as a therapeutic modality for women that have suffered that sort of trauma.

Ortal: Yeah, absolutely.

Josh: So, I’m really, really glad to hear that. So, you’re involved now with a program, I believe, called Guardian Self Defense. Is that right?

Ortal: Yes.

Josh: Awesome. Yeah. And how long have you been involved with that? So, you said you started a place with like professional fighters and stuff. That was first, and then you found Guardian Self Defense?

Ortal: Yeah. So, I wanted to create my own program. Well, I really wanted to help women. Not only, but I did want to help women. Because again, like I said, like walking into an MMA gym is very intimidating.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And I haven’t found a place that’s extremely welcoming or understanding, first of all to women. Maybe a woman just wants to learn self-defense, for whatever it is. Or she wants to learn martial arts, not even self-defense, she wants to martial arts, but she looks like me. She’s 107 pounds, and she’s tiny, 5’5”. She doesn’t know the first thing about it, but she thinks it’s cool. I just didn’t find a place that was like welcoming and helpful in that way. I was scoffed at. I had a hard time finding partners a lot of times.

And also coming from my own trauma, which doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. It doesn’t have to be that women want to learn self-defense because they’re coming from a trauma, or they want to learn martial arts because they’re coming from trauma. I wanted to kind of like change that narrative. I wanted to be that it’s normal for every woman to want to learn this too.

And so, and the gym I was at just wasn’t that welcoming to that kind of idea. And so, I got involved with Guardian Self Defense. It’s a nonprofit organization that is literally created out just out of a need. Unfortunately, the Jewish community has been suffering so many antisemitic crimes, violent crimes, and it’s just been going on. It’s kind of like shoved under the rug, like, “Oh, a jew got hit? Okay, no big deal.” And that really bothers me. I’m Jewish also.

It just bothers me that there are different sects of Judaism. And based on what you wear kind of like reflects your level of like victimization, which I don’t at all agree with. Like just because you’re wearing a black hat, a white shirt, and black pants equals, “Oh, you look like an easy target.” Or just because you’re wearing a skirt and you kind of look more modest and religious, then, “We’ll pick on you, we can take your purse.”

And so, we started in Crown Heights, where there’s a very, very big, very dominant Jewish community. And it’s just a lot of crime. There’s a lot of high tensions. And it’s not so typical for a woman to learn this in the religious world. It just isn’t. Not because there’s anything against it, it’s just as in they have other things to do. But they are living with a situation where it’s scary. They’re scared to walk home at night. I can talk to some of my friends who will tell me things like, it’s very normal to be walking home on a Friday evening and be followed to your apartment by just a stranger.

Josh: Wow.

Ortal: So, I said, “Okay, this is not a very normal way to live. Like, we need to do something.” So, we kind of like scoured the place. And there really isn’t an organization, or a gym or anything there that teaches martial arts to the community. So, we made one. And I was very, very much involved in the women’s part of it. This was something that was very much like fought against. And a lot of people said that it will never work, and no women will show up. But thank God, we’ve been around for 2 years, and have an extraordinarily large class. And it keeps growing, thank God. We have very long waiting list already for the next cycle. So, I’m very, very happy to get any and every woman into this class to learn the basics, just to learn what to do. You don’t have to become this professional martial artist, but just to know what to do if. Because there can always be an if. So, that’s how I got involved with that.

Josh: Yep. There’s always an if. Even if the world seems to be getting safer, there’s always some crazy person out there.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: And it’s worth knowing. So, Guardian Self Defense, it strikes me as a pretty unique program. It’s targeted mostly at people in Jewish communities that need protection. And so, can you walk me through how in other ways that is different from a regular martial arts program?

Ortal: Well, first of all, it’s nonprofit. So, nobody makes a dollar. That’s not the vision. That’s not the goal. I don’t care. I don’t care to make money. So, first of all, it has a different kind of drive. Because I’m extremely passionate about the people joining. I want them to learn the martial art, not because, “I’m getting paid for it like anyway, so it doesn’t matter if you show up or not because I have your money. I want you to show up, because if you don’t show up, that’s time loss in the bank to learn martial arts.”

And that’s the name of the game. To learn martial arts, you gotta have commitment, you gotta have consistency, or you have no muscle memory, and there’s nothing to call on. When you’re stuck in that moment of like, “Oh, I’m in a situation. This is a little compromising. I don’t know what to do,” there’s like a fight or flight that goes on your head. And so, if you don’t know what to do, then you’re stuck. And the only way you’re going to know is if you’ve done it over and over again.

So, I’m much more connected. It’s not like a business where there’s an owner, and there are some members, and they come in, and it’s like we know them on first name basis and it’s like, “Hi, hi.” I’m very much involved in every single person’s journey, I’ll say. There’s a very wide spectrum. So, even though this is a Jewish program, it is not only for Jewish people. It’s for a lot of people. We have a location in New York City right now, in Midtown. And there’s not only Jewish people in that classroom. And the program is for anyone and everyone who wants to learn self-defense. There’s a big difference, because we don’t teach you how to fight. We teach you how to defend yourself, it’s very different. The vibe in the class is very different. It’s very family oriented. There’s a very friendly, very safe feeling in the class, because like I said, it’s a very large spectrum.

So, I can have people from all ages. Well, really the youngest, I would have a 16 bunch. So, 16 ‘til I think my oldest member right now is about 65. It’s a very big range. They can be different colors, different races, different ethnicities, different religious levels, and all that doesn’t matter. I don’t care. What I care about is your commitment. I care that you want to do this, and you want to do this for yourself. Because that means you’re going to show up, ad that means you’re going to give it to 100%. And if your 100% means that you can only do 2 coaches, because that’s what you know, that’s great because you gave it 100%. And we can always build on that.

So, I look at every class, it’s like a level. And every time you come, you’re just building, you’re putting another Lego piece on top of each other. And then you’re going to end up with a building. Whether it’s this building at the end of the cycle. We have a 3-month cycle. So, we cut it down, just because we need to make it bite size for… the human brain just doesn’t like commitment very much. So, if I tell people, “You have to sign up for a year,” I probably won’t have anybody sign up. So, we tell them 3 months.

So, 3 months at a time, a lot of people ask me, like, “What will I look like after 3 months?” And I can never tell them that because I don’t know how much you’re going to put in. Our classes are 90 minutes, so if I tell them that they will shut off the world for 90 minutes, and really just focus on the class and really just be present, they will come up so much further than they can possibly come out if they hadn’t done that.

So, the class is just with a bunch of very likeminded people. And it’s very much specifically for beginners. So, if you have like martial arts experience, and you’re coming from some other martial arts, not saying that we don’t want you in the program, it’s that we want to make sure that it’s a good fit for both sides. And I just felt like this would be the right fit, because there’s a bunch of beginners in the class, and you might feel like, “Hey, I’m not really advancing like I want to.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And so, I wanted to create that space where everyone can feel more or less equal, even if they’re on different parts of their journey, which everybody is. But I wanted to create that space. So, that means if you’re like heavier than somebody else, if you’re slower than somebody else, if you can’t hit like someone else or you can’t understand or grasp it as quick, it doesn’t matter because there isn’t a competition. And that’s primarily why we chose also Krav Maga as our martial art. Because it’s not a competitive sport, it’s literally a street fight. And I wanted it to be non-competitive, where it doesn’t matter how great or amazing this person is, or your partner is, it doesn’t matter. Because everybody’s on their own journey, and we’re going to get you to the max that you can get to on your journey.

So, I think at least what I feel is different is that, first of all, I have a connection with every single one of my members. And we have over 100 members. And everybody knows that they can always turn to me, they can always talk to me about different personal things. And I will do my utmost to make sure that we can get them whatever help that they need to help them progress. So, it’s very different. We have very, very close relationships. And also, it’s just a family vibe. Like, everybody’s there to help each other. No one’s there to like brawl out on anyone else. And we really just have one goal and one vision, and it’s felt, I feel, if I can say so myself. I feel like it’s very felt that we’re there for the community, we’re really interested to help, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that we can help people feel more safe, or people feel like they can do their part to save themselves.

Josh: Absolutely. That’s a great thing. And I’m curious to know, if once they’ve gone through a 3-month cycle, what comes after that? Are there other levels? Can they move up? Is there support beyond that? Or do you kind of direct them to like martial arts gyms or something like that?

Ortal: So, the goal originally was to train beginners. Honestly, we were just likeminded friends who kind of came together and said, “Okay, let’s pool like our resources and let’s do this.” So, that’s also the difference between us, because we’re not a gym. So, if we had a business model, it’d be a little bit different. But our goal was, “How do we train more people? How do we get more people into the group?” Obviously, we have to do it in a business way so that it runs correctly, and that everything is done well.

But after 3 months, first of all, our 3 months was complete trial. We’re like, “Okay, let’s just try this. We’re coming into a new community we don’t know. We’re not part of this community. We don’t really know anyone. We don’t know how they’ll take it. And we don’t really know how we’ll be perceived in 3 months.” Maybe people will be like, “Oh, we don’t like this program. Bye-Bye.” But so, the 3 months that we had, we kind of just said 3 months to see how it would go.

But then we kind of morphed it into just 3 months at a time so that members can like kind of deal with that commitment. But we don’t go anywhere. After 3 months, we just start to again. Right? So, we might have like a week in between as a break, just because it’s a little hard. Our programs are on Sunday. So, sometimes, it’s just a little hard to take every single Sunday of the year. Life comes up. People have to convince to do. So, sometimes, like we just take a week break, and then we’ll start back up again for 12 sessions within a 3-month period.

And as people progress, we kind of like have to change or kind of update where we’re going. Because our first class, we had 30 people. So, our first class was like our 30 newbies. They were just our beginners. They were kind of like the pioneers. And then as they grew, they learned more in their martial arts.

So, not necessarily if you go through like, a 3-month cycle, not necessarily will you be more advanced than somebody else. Like, we don’t ever call our groups like beginners and advanced. We just call it beginners and non-beginners. Because someone can come in like and start their martial arts journey, complete a 3 month cycle and not be that much far off than a brand new beginner, because they’re older, or they’re just a lot slower, they need a lot more time.

And don’t forget, it’s only 90 minutes once a week, that’s not even a drop in the bucket. It’s nothing. Because I always say, like the first cycle of someone joining Guardian Self Defense, it’s usually like they’re a prerequisite to a cycle. You have to get around like the martial arts culture. You have to understand like, what it means to be like standing on a line, to be able to take instruction to hit a bag. Like, sometimes all these things are very scary. This is very out of the box for beginners. And it’s not people who are looking for the martial arts world, it’s really people who just want to feel safe.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: So, it’s very different in that sense that not always do they understand what that means. When I say 7:15, I mean 7:15, like you got to be on the mat. Not a map, but you got to be on the ground line to like to bow in. It’s a whole different culture. So, sometimes they finished a 3-month cycle, and they don’t know anything because… I mean, they know how to pick up the hands, and they know about situational awareness. But they don’t actually know how to land a punch. They don’t really know what that means to connect your fist with on space. They have no idea. It’s very foreign, so it’s not something they can grasp onto very quickly.

So, there’s a lot of people that do progress. We do get out like certificates at the end of a 3-month cycle. And based on the person’s attendance, like merit, just because like… merit just means a how much of themselves that they actually give to learn this. And there’s attendance, merit, and an then just like skill. Based on that, we tell them if they progressed to a different level, if they need to now get gear, if they’re going to be learning, let’s say, like groundwork, how we’re doing it.

So, in Krav Maga, we work with TKM, which is where our instructors come from, traditional Krav Maga. And they are the ones that will let us know if the individual will progress to a different color belt. So, right now, like our oldest group is going to be testing for their orange belts. Now, that doesn’t mean that the entire group is going to do that. Because again, it’s these 3 things, the skill, merit, and attendance. Because you could come 4 times, but you’re really good, and you picked everything up really great, but you only came 4 times. So, that doesn’t work. You know what I mean? So, that was like the business model. We had to figure out as we grew, because we didn’t necessarily know that we’re going to grow.

But in general, that’s a very good question. A lot of people ask us this, like, “Okay, so what happens after 3 months?” So, we don’t go anywhere. We stay where we’re at. And we hope to stay for as long as the community needs it. Our ultimate goal is to make the community kind of like self-sufficient, so that they can be able to do this on their own. So, they don’t necessarily need people to do this for them. But that’s like the end game, where this becomes really big and it’s implemented in many spaces, and then it could just facilitate itself.

Josh: Awesome. So, to my understanding, you also provide like first aid classes or training. What’s the train of thought behind that?

Ortal: Okay. So, that came from just being a part of a community and being an asset to the community. So, if you know self-defense, I know it’s called self-defense, but it’s not necessarily self-defense anymore. For me, like a lot of people ask me, why do I do this, not the actual training, like why do I run this program. And for me, it’s not self-defense anymore. It’s more we-defense. Because I’ve done my self-defense. And I don’t think that I’m done. I don’t think training ever stops. And I do my own self-defense trainings with my coaches, and I have that down for myself

. But my we-defense right now is to get more people to understand that they’re walking around with 4 bats. Like, you got 2 arms and 2 legs, and you can do a lot of damage to someone who’s trying to hurt you. You just have to believe that you can, and you have to learn the technicalities. Like just learn the technique and learn what you’re doing and you can protect yourself, potentially. That doesn’t mean you’re going to go home unscathed, right? It just means that you’re going to get home. If it’s me or you and who’s going home tonight, I want it to be me. And that’s what I want to do for the communities.

So, another way to become an asset is not just to do it for yourself. If someone else is in a situation, don’t just be a bystander, and don’t take out your phone and put the person on WorldStar. Be an asset. Help.

So, one of the things that you can also do is, during an emergency, a medical emergency, you can help the first responders. So, I know, they’re called the first responders because they’re the EMTs. And as an EMT, if there would be more just community members, just regular passersby just goodwill people, just good Samaritans, that could help start helping in a medical situation, it would help me, it would help them, it will help the patient.

So, we teach them first aid. Because you know what? A lot of times, in a crime, that can happen. People can get stabbed, people can get choked, and we don’t know what to do. And first aid is called, and what if you’re passing by and you know what to do? You’re not a first responder because you’re not certified in CPR, but you can start. You can get the AD. You can hold pressure on a bleed. You can do something. So, that’s why we give those classes.

There are some educational classes that’s part of our model is EPIC, E P I C. So, we have E for education. That’s where we have these classes. So, aside from first aid, we also do… well, we start off with a situational awareness class, because I feel like you can’t really learn martial arts without understanding what situational awareness is. You have to know where you’re… if you’re walking around with your hood up and your headphones on, your head and your phone, you have 0 situational awareness, you can be a very easy target. So, we teach that. We teach first aid training. We teach active shooter training, which, again, you’re not a SWAT team, you’re not part of the police department, but you can help calm people down if you know what to do. You can get people to safety. You can get yourself to safety if you know what to do.

And it’s not every day that people find themselves in these kinds of situations. It’s kind of like it just happens where, God forbid, there’s a shooting, or God forbid, there’s a stabbing or something. And if you know just the beginning step what to do, you can help a lot. So, that’s where those classes came in.

And then we hope to continue with them, so that they’re kind of like a once a cycle thing. Like, we offer at one time. Every cycle has a different class. And we bring in a guest speaker, or professional in that field, and they’ll teach us different things.

Josh: That’s really cool. You don’t see that very often, but that makes sense to put them together.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: The first aid and everything. Because if you find yourself, even if you… and I live down south, so more people concealed carry weapons for self-defense. And if you find yourself in a situation where you had to use your weapon, it might be in your interest to administer first aid, depending on what happened.

Ortal: Right. That’s actually a really good point.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: That’s a great point. Like, yeah, if you had to use that, and you have to do damage, but then at least you’re out of the scary zone, but you can still save the person’s life. Your point wasn’t to kill.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: it was to disarm or was whatever it is.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: It’s actually a great point. Ooh, I’m going to use that. Thanks for that. But that’s also, I think, a very good point as to like what makes us stand out, is that we don’t just teach the actual physical parts. So, that, again, our EPIC model is education, protection, that’s for the P. I is for inspire, and C is for community. So, that’s really what makes it stand out. We have educational classes aside from the actual physical classes, which is the P, the protection part. Inspire is just because we want to inspire other communities to do this, to do this for themselves.

And communities, we are working on making a lot of community events and kind of like bridging gaps where need be, so that we can lower crime rates. We very much believe that like you can’t hurt someone that you care about. And if you can kind of find some sort of similarity or some sort of common ground between you guys, then I think violence will go down, and you won’t see them as someone that I want to hurt, or any kind of other stupidities that have been going on around. And so, we would like to facilitate some community events and get involved in the community to kind of like show your face, “Hey, I’m here. I’m your neighbor. I care about you. Let’s be friends.”

So, I think that’s really what makes it stand out. It’s not just about martial arts. It’s not just about Krav Maga. It’s not just about protecting yourself. It’s about being a better person, better asset to your community and just a better neighbor, a just a better person. And even within the classes, you come in and you learn a lot of things, because some people are very, very, I don’t want to say like close minded. They can live in a little bit of a bubble. And if it hasn’t happened to them, they don’t really know that it exists. And then now you’re in a class with people who have been victims of sexual assault or just physical assault. And you’re like, “Whoa, like this happens. It’s not just like movies. It actually happens.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: “This person went through some stuff.” And there’s so much to learn from. So, you’re kind of making me fall in love with my program again. Thank you.

Josh: You might have covered this already, but do go over tackle communication? You’re talking about humanizing, being involved in the community to humanize each other as neighbors so that violence is less likely to happen. Do you do anything like tackle communication, how to do verbal de-escalation, all that kind of stuff?

Ortal: Yeah, absolutely. So, we go over that in our situational awareness. And also, before any kind of martial arts is taught, we always tell people that, “Your self-defense starts with your mouth, like first of all, standing up for yourself and knowing what to say and how to say it.” And sometimes like your body language. Like, a lot of times, before we teach like close fist defenses, we’ll teach open fist defenses. Because it’s kind of like a little bit less aggressive. And it’s easier. And it could kind of can just deescalate a situation like, “Hey, man, like I don’t want to trouble. Like, I’m sorry,” just learning how to calm a situation down.

And that actually just reminded me, one of my members actually was… this was like, during the High Holidays, there was like a situation where somebody came up very aggressive, kind of stood himself in front of them, they were in a prayer house, and they were just kind of like, stood himself in front and kind of looked like it was about to start something. And a lot of people just didn’t know what to do, because that kind of presence automatically triggers like fear. And you can brawl out without even knowing. You can just escalate a situation that doesn’t need to be escalated.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And he kind of just like slowly inched up, made eye contact, and kind of let the guy know, like, “I’m here. If anything is going to go down, like it’s going to go through me. But I’m not here to hurt you. Like, let’s talk this out.” And very slowly, the man just backed down. Like, he came in all brawly, loud music, very just aggressive look. And then slowly, slowly, he just de-escalated, slowly, slowly just lowered it down, and then ultimately just left. Which, to me, was amazing. Because we don’t teach them, like I said, we don’t teach you how to fight. I don’t care that you’re the cool kid in class, “Now, I’m really cool.” That’s not my goal. My goal is that you should know how to defend yourself. If someone is going to put arms on you or try to, that’s when you step it. But you were not about to be, like, “Hey, you want to go?” That’s not the attitude of the class.

So, we definitely teach them how to, first of all, scan the room, get a feel of what’s going on, understand where you are. Which is very much something that we block out these days. We don’t listen to them. Back to my attack, it was the first thing I blocked out. My hairs on the back of my neck stood up, I was very physically scared. But I kind of shut that down, and I was like, “No, do not be scared. Like, you’re fine. You live in Midwood. Like, nothing ever happens here.” And I didn’t scan the room. And I didn’t see where I could have gotten out of the situation earlier, and potentially not been a victim.

So, that’s definitely something that we make sure that, do not walk into a situation that’s kind of like begging to blow into like a big flame. Look around. See where you are. Hear the tone. Understand where sometimes, it’s better for you to just be quiet and take a couple steps back. It’s not always like running and be the first person to punch. But if someone’s being aggressive, picking their hands up, and you know that they’re about to hit you, go full force.

Josh: Absolutely. Many years ago, when I became a security guard, I’m not anymore, but back in my mid-20s, and they don’t really use this, like if you’re going to be in a self-defense case in court, they don’t really use this anymore, but it is useful to understand the force continuum, where presence and what you say are both kinds of force. Which is one of even the logic behind having a security guard around. People are like, “Well, they can’t do anything. What are they doing there?” Well, being there.

Ortal: Yes.

Josh: Being there deters a lot.

Ortal: Absolutely.

Josh: When they say things to people, that can deter law. Now, obviously, we know from self-defense training that how you carry yourself is really important. So, if you look like a soft target, having a presence is maybe not forceful. But if you don’t look like a soft target, you don’t have to look aggressive, you just have to look like you believe in yourself.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: Then you’re kind of exerting a little bit of force. Like what you’re talking was absolutely the perfect example of that. Making eye contact, being there, being a presence, he eventually kind of downregulated himself and walked away. Because there’s just people there. And he was realizing, “Maybe this is not worth being upset about. Maybe this is not worth escalating.”

Ortal: Absolutely.

Josh: So, he walked away.

Ortal: Wow, that’s exactly how you said it. I think that’s the key word I was kind of looking for, deterrence. That’s really what we teach them, that it’s not about getting into a fight, and it’s not about walking around, always on guard, no. But walking around and knowing that you got this handled, right? And it’s funny, because I was like talking to a bunch of police officers, retired police officers, and they were going through some footage, we have some like video footage of our presenters that talk about this situational awareness. And they’ll show us a lot of times like how like the target it’s kind of picked.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And you’ll see them from like, a group of people, and it’s like, “Why is this one picked?” They kind of like go into like the psychology behind it, and they try to understand, like why did they choose this person over that person? And you just see it. Like, you see that the markers are kind of all there. And when talking to the victim, so many times, like they’ll say the very known phrase of like, “I didn’t see it coming. I never saw it coming,” or like, “It came out of nowhere.” And then after seeing the footage, they’re like, “It really didn’t come out of nowhere. I just wasn’t aware. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t present.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And just being like the… we always teach them, “Don’t put your hand in your pockets don’t carry lots of things. Have your hands like free. And no head in your phone, no headphones blaring when you’re on…” nowadays, like the subway attacks have just been increasingly crazy. It’s like become the kind of new thing to just attack in a subway or on a subway platform. And it’s still ‘til today, like even this morning, there are so many people that don’t have any awareness of their situation. They don’t know that they’re walking on the yellow line. It’s like someone can just push you very simply and you can fall.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: So, like those kinds of things. So, it’s a lot of stuff where you have to know that you can do this. So, before I can teach you all the stuff, which just sounds like common sense, “Take your head out of your phone. Put your hat down,” like it sounds like common sense. But 1, if you don’t believe that you are worth defending, you’re not going anywhere. I can tell you all day, I can teach you all day, it’s never going to go into your head. And 2, to have the confidence to actually do that, you look different. So, if there’s one change from my first 3 months people to my second 3 months, even like people will continue from their first cycle to their second cycle, that’s the difference. They look different. They’re standing different. They know they can do this. They have the confidence that, “I can do this. I haven’t reached 100%, but I can do this. And I can be more aware, and I can be more in control of what’s going on.”

So, that’s, like you said, like even just having a guard there. And it’s really funny, because it’s like, while you’re saying that, I was laughing that you’re right, that is what people think, like, “Why is he even there?” But just having that person there, it’s kind of like, “Oh, I have to recalculate how, if I want to attack or if I want to do something, I have to recalculate because there’s somebody there,” even if that guy can’t do anything. But still, so when you’re doing that for yourself, and you’re being your own security guard, and you’re just being present, the attacker is going to think again, like, “Maybe this isn’t worth my time. Like, looking around.”

So, that’s definitely something that like we start off with. It’s got to be in our situational awareness to let them know. Before I can teach you how to use your fists, you have to know you have fists.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: You have to know you have them first.

Josh: You have to know that you are capable of throwing a punch. And if you throw it to the right area, you can hurt somebody.

Ortal: Yeah, yeah, definitely. You got to see the shocked faces like when we tell them about areas that like will never… doesn’t matter how many times I’ve worked out my nose, my chin, or my groin, it doesn’t matter, it’s not going to get any stronger. Like, these are weak points. Like, you got to see their faces, it like blows out like, “What? Oh, wow, you’re right.” So, like when they make that connection, and they’re like, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense. I can do that.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: “I can hit some groins.”

Josh: Eyes, nose, chin, mouth.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: Yeah, groin, all those areas. Even solar plexus sometime. I mean, kind of. You can kind of work that out

Ortal: Yeah, that’s more like that’s more, “Wow, I have to land a perfect punch. It’s got to be perfect.”

Josh: Yeah, you have to estimate where somebody’s solar plexus is.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: It’s going to be hard to find sometimes. Cool. So, switching gears, you’ve talked about expanding, what’s going through your mind? What’s the list that you have when you’re searching out locations to teach in? What’s the criteria there?

Ortal: So, yeah, that’s quite a tricky endeavor. What I’m looking for? I’m looking for, first of all, in talking about the safe space itself, I need it to be big enough. I need I to be comfortable. Right? So, I don’t want like a basement full of objects and things that can potentially hurt people, fall on people. So, I want a big enough space that can fit at least 30 people. That’s kind of like the size class I go for usually. And I want the actual space to be clean, well lit, air conditioned. And I wanted to be in like a central location in whatever community I’m looking to expand to. I want it to be like in the end of the world where people can’t come, it’s very hard to get to, there’s no parking, things like that. Because people don’t know how important self-defense is until they learn it, or until they’re unfortunately in a situation.

So, a lot of times, I’ll hear that from people like, “Oh I was walking on the street, and I was really scared. So, now I want to sign up.” Or if there’s like a lot of things going on in the news, where there’s a lot of escalation in crime, or I don’t know if you’ve been following, but recently, there’s been like a lot of antisemitic attacks.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: They got a lot of like really high tensions. That’s when we get a lot of calls. That’s when people are like, “Hey, hey, we want to come now.” And that’s like the worst timing. I can’t find a place in 2 seconds. It’s just not going to make sense. Plus, I’m not a Hershey bar, so I just can’t make everyone happy. But I try the best. Right? So, like I’m going to try to find a location that’s central to that community. So, say we’re in Crown Heights right now. So, I’m going to find a location that’s central to all parts of Crown Heights. Crown Heights is not that big, but still like someone who lives about 15 bucks away, is going to think twice about coming out at night in the winter when it’s cold and there’s other things going on.

But let’s say in the city. So, in the city, that’s where it was a little bit trickier for me, because there’s so many different communities. Like Eastside doesn’t want to come to Westside, and midtown and uptown, downtown, all of that. So, we kind of just want to find a place that’s central and make sense, and that we can cover our costs. Isn’t like extraordinarily expensive. And just works. Like we’re able to be there for 3 months, first of all. I don’t want to find a place where I can be here 1 week, and then somewhere else. I’d rather have somewhere at least semi-permanent, at least for 3 months, and someplace that is accessible to everyone and just comfortable.

So, a gym, meaning like a basketball gym or something, even a dance studio if it’s big enough. It doesn’t really matter. The place itself doesn’t matter, so long as it can facilitate the amount of people I want, which like I said, at least I’d like to start up a class with 15, usually. Potentially, a full class 30 people. So, that’s really what I’m looking for. I don’t want it to just fit 15 people, but I want to start with 15 and potentially go to 30. That’s like the logistical side of things.

Josh: Yeah. What does the conversation look like when you approach like a gym, like a basketball gym, or a rec center or something like that?

Ortal: So, first, we let them know that we are a nonprofit organization that teach you self-events. We do let them know that we’re a Jewish organization, sometimes. Because most of the time, we’re doing this in like a Jewish rec center, let’s say, or like a synagogue or something like that, where they have members. And it’s just it kind of makes it like a little easier. Because I don’t necessarily try to recruit people. Because again, like it’s nonprofit. So, I would be much heavier on the recruitment if I would be making money, but I’m not making money. I’m helping people. So, it’s a little bit of like a different, like scale. I want to get people in because I want them to want it. So, it’s a little bit different. So, I’m not necessarily like recruiting. I am looking for a place that will help me kind of express my goal.

So, my goal is to help the community, right? So, if I go to a synagogue, that already helps me because they’ve got a community. They’ve got congregants. And we can use their space, it’s very comfortable. They already know the place. It’s kind of like a passage like the clearance because the synagogue has approved. And then they’ll come. And that’s my goal. I want these people to know.

So, right now, there was a hostage situation, and it was in a synagogue. And so, like we’ve contacted a lot of synagogues and let them know that we’re doing like a counterterrorism seminar to let people know about this, what to do. That synagogue, I think they had just implemented some sort of like martial arts into their programs and they knew what to do, like they knew how to not to block exits. And the rabbi then took chair and threw it at the man, which ultimately helped. But imagine he threw the chair and then everybody ran to the exit, but the exit was blocked with like, I don’t know, just chairs or other things, they wouldn’t have been able to get out.

So, this is where we’re working. going. So, when we’re looking for a center like that, we tell them, “Hey, we’re all on the same mind. We want to help protect the community and help you guys feel safer. And we’ll bring like the talent. If you can provide the space and the people, that’d be great.”

Let’s say it’s just like a regular rec center, not connected to anything that has any sort of like members or congregants, then we just put out ads on social media, and then we ask our members to float it on theirs as well. And we just spread the word that way. We don’t necessarily go out and recruit and ask people to come. It’s more like word of mouth. And then I’ve been doing some, I don’t know if you want to call them seminars, I call them seminars, just to kind of let people know who we are. Right?

So, in the beginning back in 2020 when we just started, I was very heavy on this, like, “Guys, you have to be in class. You have to come to this. You have to learn how to defend yourself. Like, it’s a crazy world.” And then I realized like I was really doing myself a disservice, because it’s not going to work. I might get you to class, but I won’t get you to stay for 12 sessions, and I won’t get you to actually be present in class. And that’s not what I’m looking for. Because even though my goal is to train everybody, every single person who wants to learn this or wants to feel safer, I cannot make you want this for yourself. I just can’t. That’s not something I can do.

So, that’s why I kind of like changed my focus on, “Don’t try to recruit them. Put out your message, and kind of let them come to you.” Because this is a great service that we’re providing for the community, and they just need to learn to take it. So, I can give them the tools, but they have to want and they have to need like to pick them up. Right? So, I can give you all tools in the world to build a house. I can give you like the plan step by step and be there to support and motivate you and encourage you and everything. But if you don’t pick it up, nothing I can do.

So, we let them know, “Hey, we’re a nonprofit Jewish organization that trains people in self-defense, specifically in Krav Maga. We run a 3-month cycle at a time. It’s usually 12 sessions, we hope 12 sessions. Sometimes calendar just doesn’t permit that we do 10, but we only guarantee 10.” And we let them know where we started, like how we’ve been doing. We also train, in Crown Heights, we train something called the Shomrim. They are like a Jewish volunteer kind of like Neighborhood Watch, where they work hand in hand with a police department. And if there’s ever someone that… if there’s ever a crime that’s going on, a lot of people like they’ll call the Shomrim and they’ll apprehend the attacker, and then NYPD will come in and arrest them. So, we let them know that that’s kind of like our, not our back, it’s kind of like people who can speak for us and let them know, “Hey, we went through this training. This is the real deal. Like, you really will learn and this is my experience.” And they kind of like speak for us.

So, we give them these kinds of things. And we’ll send them to our website, where we have a lot of videos, and we have a lot of like people saying their experience, and let them know, like, “We are here just to help. And we really want to expand. Hopefully, we can use your space. This is what we provide, yada, yada, yada.” Some places will be like very business oriented. And some people will be like, “Yes, please. Thank you so much. Like, we’re so happy. Come.”

And then we’ll partner, and makes things a lot simpler, and a lot easier to work with.

But that all takes time. It’s not so easy to trust these days. So, it takes time. And of course, people always want to make a buck. So, sometimes it’s just like, “Okay, well, what’s in it for me?” and I’ll tell them, “Your congregants will feel a lot safer. Your synagogue will feel much more secure. You won’t need to rely on a NYPD guard outside. Which by the way, like the NYPD can’t take care of everyone. There just isn’t enough officers, especially with the defunding and stuff. There just isn’t enough manpower to take care of every single synagogue and every single congregant in that synagogue. So, why not you do the first step? Offer this in your place. Help yourself and help us. And this will be great partnership.”

That’s kind of like I sell it very well, even though I’m not really selling it, but I sell it very well. Because I think they hear… this is like the feedback I got. They hear the passion. They believe it. Because at some point, like they understand, hey, I’m not making money. So, why am I so like gung-ho about this? And then they try it out, and they’re like, “Okay, we’re in.”

Josh: I think most people that try it out end up being like, “I think I misjudged this. This is actually really fun.”

Ortal: Absolutely. That happed so many times, and I’m like [inaudible].

Josh: Absolutely.

Ortal: Can I say I told you so?

Josh: Yeah, yeah. A little vindication. But that’s the biggest, like red pill, if you will, that people do not realize like, “Oh, I’ll just call the police.” One of the best demonstrations, one that I’ve seen is a guy to like actually go up to somebody that’s in the self-defense class that volunteered, not just a random person, and like basically like to them out for 5 minutes or 6 minutes or whatever, and have them try and like dial 911 on their phone. I wasn’t that bold, but when I was teaching a seminar one time, I just walked up to somebody, it’s like, “Now imagine that I’m screaming, yelling at you and escalating right now, you’re having an adrenaline dump, and you’re trying to call the police. Now that you’ve called the police, it could be 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, it could be 15 minutes of this before the police officer shows up. What are you going to do? Are you just going to run?”

Ortal: Right, “What are you going to do?”

Josh: “You’re going to ignore me.”

Ortal: A lot of people won’t answer. They’ll just going to be like, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I would do.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And I’m like, “Okay, come to class and learn what to do.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And then they’re like, “You’re right. I need to come to class.”

Josh: Sometimes people, they think of something in their mind and they don’t understand the logistics of it. Like, I see these things all times, people are like, “Oh, this is so great. There’s this phone app that tracks you, and you can put out a distress signal, so you don’t have to dial 911.” I’m like, “Okay, but you still have to wait 5, 6…”

Ortal: Right. They’re not at your beck and call. And also, like again, all this stuff is great. And I’m not trying to be like against it, or trying to be like a Debbie Downer and be like, “Okay, so, but let me show you the bad parts of this.” I just find it as I look at it as a supplement. It’s a supplement to my safety. But I am now in a situation, and I can’t tell you how long that’s going to take. And you always watch it like these movies where the operator picks up and she says, like, “What’s your emergency?” and there’s a bunch of questions that you need to answer. And what can’t? What if you can’t?

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: What if this person’s fist is in your face right now? Like had I had time to call 911? Yeah, what would they have heard? You would have heard my phone fall to the floor and my head smashed against my car, and they would have heard me screaming. That’s what they would have heard. I don’t know how long that would have taken for them to get there. They didn’t come. By the time he was done with me, I was running. There was no cops there. So, I don’t even know how long I was actually there for.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: But people forget, you need that time when you take out your phone and you find 911, or even a distress signal, whatever it is, you need to find it, you need to do it. Your phone needs to look at your face or whatever. Like you have time to put in your security code when you’re under stress? Have you ever tried to do that? Like regular stress, okay? Just not even like fear, just regular stress?

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: Like you know the typical saying, like, “Haste makes waste,”? Like, always, whenever you’re rushing, like, something goes wrong, you drop something. How can you do that when you’re in fear too? Why not learn how to like kind of work through the fear? And I’m not saying not have it, because I think not being afraid is like a whole other level that I never say that we’re going to get you to that level, right? I think fear is very healthy. It’s a biological response. It tells you, “You need to take care of yourself,” or, “Get out of here.” So, it’s very crucial, but we need to control it, and we need to work through it, not let it control us and take over the situation.

Josh: Right.

Ortal: So, absolutely, I totally agree with everything you said.

Josh: Yeah. You have to learn how to manage fear. But if you lose the fears, you’re not going to have the adrenaline, you’re not going to have a heightened sense of awareness, you’re not going to have a heightened reflexes. Those are things that you can actually use to defend yourself.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: You don’t want to lose all that. You don’t want to be 100% calm. But even fighters that have fought for years and years and years, they all get nerves before a fight. And, like you said, that’s a physiological response.

Ortal: Absolutely. That’s such a god point.

Josh: Your body designed to do that. And you need to use those resources in order to survive the fight. So, you don’t want to get rid of them. You just want to know how to manage it really.

Ortal: Perfect, perfect point. I’m going to use that too.

Josh: I like [inaudible]

Ortal: Little did you k now that I was interviewing you.

Josh: Black Widow interview.

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: So, speaking of interviews, I understand that you interview members or people that are wanting to become members. What is that for? What are you trying to figure out? Is this like trying to figure out why they want to do it, understanding where their background comes from, or what’s going on in that process?

Ortal: There’s a couple of like different points to that. So, there’s different reasons why I do it. First of all, well, first and foremost, I want introduce myself. I want to know who they are, “Who are you? Who am I? Let’s get to know each other.” Because, like I said, it’s a different kind of program. I want to know who you are. I want to have a connection with you, a relationship with you. I want you to feel that I’m not just someone that runs the program. I’m someone that very much cares and is very invested in your progress here.” So, first, I feel like that personal phone call does a lot. Makes them feel like very welcome, and they have kind of like a space to ask their questions. And they’re not coming in blind. They know what they’re coming into.

So, that goes in part with the next thing, which is kind of like managing expectations. “I want to know, why did you sign up? What do you want from this program? What’s your like your end game? What do you think you can gain from this? What have you heard about it? All these questions are very important, because I want to make sure that this program fits for you.” Like, I said earlier that I think it’s very important to have this like understanding that this is a good relationship both ways. This program kind of makes sense both ways, both to the member and to me.

I don’t want someone in my class that’s kind of aggressive and doesn’t understand what it means to work in a team, doesn’t understand like just the way my programs run. I’ve had a lot of people who… not a lot. Sorry, I take that back. I’ve had a few people, very interesting fellows who called, and oh, why are they signing up? “ Because it’s been COVID. And I’ve been stuck in the house for a long time. And I’m really just wat to hit something.” And I’m like, “Good luck to you, bud. Like, we’re actually in the business of the people who make sure that they’re safe from that. So, this is not a program for you.” You know what I mean?

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: “But also, people who have come, we know with other kind of experience, and are coming to grow, and just expand and learn more like cool moves or like move up in their belts, this is not a program for you, because I’m beginners. So, that’s what I want. I want the average, “I don’t know anything about anything. I have 5 kids at home, and I work all day as a secretary.” Like, I’m really not saying anything bad about that profession, or about being a mother, God forbid. But what I’m saying is, that person probably has 0 knowledge about, “How do I use my fists? I’m a very fine woman, like I find this aggressive. I find it very violent.”

So, kind of, aside from gauging expectations and then kind of managing them, also is to kind of get rid of all these like myths, kind of like be a myth buster. Like, I’m not turning you into the Hulk. Just because you’re a woman and you come into the class, you’re not going to come out with like popping muscles everywhere. Like, that’s not what this class is. Aside from that, I also let them know, “We’re not a fitness class. I want to make sure that you understand you’re not coming here to lose weight, or gain weight or gain muscle. That’s not this class. I don’t necessarily care about your fitness level, because Kraw Maga was made for every man, woman, and child. And so, everybody can do this. You just need to learn how to do this.

Will you need to supplement your training here with some fitness? Maybe. But that’s for a fitness instructor. That’s not for me. And maybe you’ll figure that out while you’re in the class. If you want to be faster at learning something, that has to do with you.” But some people, like they just moved into the community, and they’re like, “Hey, I wanted to look for kind of like a social thing that I can get to know more people, kind of like network,” not the place. There’s like no talking in class. You can make friends outside of class. Instead of class, I want you to understand why you’re here. And I don’t want to come as a shock to anybody. I don’t want anyone to be like, “Whoa, there was a lot of instruction. Like, oh, my gosh, I couldn’t talk to anybody. Like, I wanted, like to get to know my… and I couldn’t because I was always instructed what to do.” Yeah, that’s the kind of class that you’re in. It’s 90 minutes. It goes by like this. Every minute is crucial. And we only have this once a week. So, take advantage. Plug in. The second we’re done, do everything else. So, it’s not a networking place. It’s not a fitness class. It is self-defense. Practical moves that can potentially save your life or get you out of a sticky situation. That’s what we’re here to learn. And there’s so much to learn. So, I’m going to use every single minute.

And then some people ask about, “How much does it cost? What do I do if I can’t pay? I don’t have the funds, but I really need to learn.” And I want to learn. I want to learn about those people. I want to I want to talk to them, because we do have a scholarship fund. Just because we’re a nonprofit organization. And that’s actually important. I will always say it, like someone like money should never be the deterrent to learning how to train. It’s not a hobby class either. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m so bored. I want to find something cool. This is cool. I want to learn this.” It’s just not that class, because it’s very hard to work with people who don’t come from the martial arts world. They don’t have like that kind of culture.

They don’t understand, sometimes it’s like a little bit like a boot campy. Like, that’s what they think it is, even though we don’t have that vibe. But sometimes that’s what they’ll feel like, like, “Okay, whoa, like why do I have to stretch? Or like why do I have to warm up? Why can’t I just…? So, I came at 7:15 and not 7:00. What’s the big deal?” Like, a lot of the stuff will come with someone who’s very new to this kind of culture. And so, I give them like the heads up beforehand, “Hey, guys, like we love you a lot, and we’re really here to help, but we are all volunteers here. We’re volunteering our time. And so, we asked for respect back. Like, you need to respect yourself and show up on time and really be present in class. You need to respect your peers. There are many different people here. There are people on completely different journeys than you, and you need to respect that. You need to make sure everyone feels safe in this class. There’s like no bullying, and no making anybody feel bad or embarrassed. Because then they can’t work with that.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: “They’re not going to actually do their stuff. You got to respect instructors. The instructors doesn’t have… they don’t have to ask quiet. Instructor says time, it’s time, like it’s quiet.” Some people don’t know what time is. Some people never heard of a boxing timer. They have no idea what this is. So, a lot of the stuff is like, we just got to kind of get their feet wet, let them know, like, “Hey, I’m just going to introduce you to the world of martial arts. I’m going to tell you what we’re about. Yes, we’re a 3-month program, and I’m going to gauge this expectation. No, you will not come out like the Hulk after this. And you might not even know what to do after 3 months, and that’s okay. If you gave it your all and you tried your best, A+, buddy. And you’re still going to get that certificate. So, long as you keep the 8 classes out of the 12, we want a minimum of 8 at least, you came to 8 classes, you really applied yourself, you tried, you’re going to get a certificate.”

And I can’t tell you enough, how many times that certificate is like, how important it is. At the end, they’re like, “Hey, did I make it? Am I getting one today?” Even though it’s just a piece of paper. And really, it means like there’s no like big star on it or anything, but to them, it’s like, “Wow, I made it.” So, that first phone call, it’s kind of going to weed out these people.

I also want people who are committed. If you made it to like the interview, that means you filled out an application, and one of the most important questions on it is, “If you’re chosen for this program, can you commit to 3 months? I don’t want to run after people anymore. I don’t want to beg you to show up for yourself. And I want to know that you’re committed. I want to know that you care about this more than I care about it for you. Because I care about it a whole lot for you, if I’m essentially volunteering every Sunday of the year to be there, and then every Monday to be in NYC. And then work on the backend, where we’re expanding and working all the other logistics of this organization. So, if I’m doing that, I want to know that you’re going to show up.” Right?

So, some people can’t. They just, “No, wow, 3 months? Can do it. Oh, it’s in the wintertime? No. Oh, it’s in the summertime. No.” So, it will weed out those people. Whereas in my first cycle, it’s like, “Anyone and everyone, please, everyone just come.” And then like it was just a lot harder to manage. And, yeah, so now I made it a lot clearer. People are very, very appreciative of the call, because first of all, now they know who I am. And now, when they show up to class, they don’t feel weird, because we already need that connection. They have my phone number. They know, they can always reach out. They know they’re going to get a message back, like a response back to whatever question that they have, or whatever issue that they have. And they also feel that someone cares.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: “We’re not just program, we actually care. That’s why we’re here. Even if we’re not part of this community, it doesn’t matter, we really do care about you.” So, I made sure to have at least like a 15 to 20-minute conversation with them, get all their questions out, introduce them to the program, introduce myself, kind of give them a little snippet of what the class is. But I always tell them, it’s like telling them about swimming. I can explain swimming to you all day long, but if you’ve never been in a pool, there’s not really much you can figure out until you’re in the pool. Right? So, I tell them, like, “Your first class, it’s really me just throwing you into the pool and just telling you, hey, don’t worry, you can do this. Your body will make you tread, without you even knowing. So, you can do this.” So, it’s kind of like that introduction.

And then I find it very, very helpful, not just to like the business side of things, kind of like the dry facts like, “Who are you? How did you hear about us? What are you trying to get out of it?” But also, it helps me with like the connection. It helps them know that they have someone to turn to, which is a very important point. Like that point person is very important. And it helps them understand like our goal. “Hey, even though we’re here to help, we’re still a business. This is still like important. And there’s still a part that you have to play here. This is a 2-person dance here. You have to show up. We’re going to do the rest.”

Josh: Awesome. So, basically, to summarize it, you’re really maximizing each cohort by sifting out people that aren’t going to be good for the program, and people who definitely upfront are like, “Yeah, I don’t think I can commit to that.”

Ortal: Yeah.

Josh: You don’t have people just disappearing and in and out, and class is a strange, fluctuating between different numbers, think like a college class, right?

Ortal: Right.

Josh: College class, you get in there, it’s full. Next class, there’s 50% less. Next class, there’s 15% less.

Ortal: Yeah, absolutely.

Josh: And then like, halfway through, like one random person shows up that disappeared.

Ortal: That happens all the time, by the way. Like, even so, so that’s really why I kind of fixed up the interviewing questions a little bit more. Because a lot of times, first of all, I’m limited to the amount of people I can put in the class, especially with COVID.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: I can’t put everybody that wants to come in. I wish I can. I’m limited with the space, and I’m limited with COVID itself. So, I want people who want to be there. I don’t want you to take a spot because it was like a cool thing that you signed up for and you know how to answer all the questions well, and then you took a smile, but you’re not actually going to show up. I don’t want that. I want them to understand, “I can’t give this to everybody. And I’d rather give the space, even if I have to give a full scholarship to someone, I want to give it to that person because that person will show up.”

So, I want them to understand that point, like to understand that there’s a need. And think, I have a waiting list right now, which I never thought would happen. I have a nice, long waiting list of people who have been through interviews, who know. And they know that, when we open up our next cycle, you have things to do on your end. And if those are not done, I can’t guarantee you a spot. But they got it, like because they got that little like head start of information. Like, “Oh, okay, this is not a program that, oh, it’ll just be around forever, and like I could sign up last minute, and I’ll still have a spot.” Like, no, you won’t. Because unfortunately, this need is growing. And people are hearing more about it. And I had to put some people on the waitlist.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: Which I never thought would happen. So, I’m kind of like happy about it, but not. You know what I mean?

Josh: Yeah, you feel bad, just not everybody can in.

Ortal: I’m happy there’s a waiting list. Yeah.

Josh: Yeah, I guess it’s a good problem to have.

Ortal: Right? Yeah, but it also helps me, because then I can potentially open up another location, don’t have my waiting list grow that big.

Josh: Absolutely. Cool. You mentioned having a sponsorship fund. So, I’m guessing that the students do pick up some of the cost, what goes into funding the program? Are there also sponsors? I’m guessing the instructors are volunteers? How does all that work?

Ortal: So, actually, the instructors are not volunteers. We do have some expenses on our end, like, well, first of all location, we pay rent. We’ve got the instructors, their fee. And we have a lot of instructors in the class. We have like some senior instructors, and then like the heads, and then there’s assisted instructors that come in because the classes pretty big. And like I said, because we’re working with this kind of community, this kind of demographic, it’s a little different. It’s just they need a lot more than let’s say 1 coach for 15 people. So, they need a lot more hands on.

And because in Crown Heights, we’re working with a religious community, I have separate men and women’s class, which by the way, is also another thing that sets us apart. Because a lot of people in the religious world, with just Jewish world I’ll say, or actually, this can go across the board, I think. Sometimes, like just being religious, you’re not going to do certain things. You’re not going to be in a class that you feel more exposed in front of a man or a woman. And so, we have separate classes with separate instructors. So, we’ll have female instructors very hands on in the women’s class, as opposed to the men’s class that have only male instructors. And so, they’ll be able to facilitate the classes in a little bit of different way.

So, the instructors do get paid. And based on that, like first of all, that’s an expensive, a very big one. Because it’s a difference if I have 1 instructor, rather than I have about 4. I have 4 female instructors in every class, aside from head instructors in leading the class in general. So, that’s a big expense. Insurance, just like the typical stuff. We also have uniforms. So, we don’t necessarily have a set uniform for them, but we do have like shirts with a GSD logo and pants.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: Just in case people want. It’s also like just looks nice when everyone’s in uniform.

Josh: Right.

Ortal: And just like the typical things, not nothing like nothing crazy. Like there’s some, like in the calendar, there’s just some different holidays that like we’ll celebrate if it falls out on a Sunday. We’ll do things in the class. So, that’s like small, small expenses. But the biggest expenses, I’ll say, are the actual space. And the instructors. Those are the biggest ones. And they cost a lot of money. And thank God we do have sponsors. There are a lot of donors that like they’ll see what we’re doing. We’ll go talk to them. We’ll fundraise. And we’re working on that now. Again, like we’re very, very new. So, like 2 years. We’ve learned a lot. I think we grew tremendously and realized like where we can clean up, where we can work better or change different things.

And so, we’re going to be working on fundraising now on a larger scale, not just on a class-by-class scale, where that’s what we were doing. We want to make sure that we had our class covered… I’m sorry, our cycle covered. So, I want to make sure, for that the next 3 months, we’re good. But now, I want to be sure that, for the year, we’re good. So, that way, I can get that off my mind and have more people come to the class and not have to worry about, “Well, if they don’t have money, how am I covering them? What am I doing?”

So, working with donors, Joe is very, very big on that. He’s incredibly instrumental. And just like, the way he speaks. I don’t know if you’ve ever spoken with him, but like he’s so eloquent. He’s like a natural orator. And he can sell your water from the sink. Again, not that he’s like selling the program, but he is selling the idea.

Josh: He’s persuasive.

Ortal: Extremely. And he doesn’t even try. [inaudible] if he actually tried. If he actually tried, like I don’t know what he can sell, air probably. But, yeah, so he’s incredibly instrumental. He also works for AIPAC. So, it’s very, very closely related to our mission as well. So, he helps a lot with that. And he’ll go around, and he’ll talk about it, or he just has like contacts that extremely well connected. So, he can just will write up a nice email or put up a nice ad. But this year, I’m going to work on a more just like a strategic way to just outwardly fundraise, whether it’s on social media or it’s actually going and having different seminars and letting them know, “Hey, we are an organization,” or a charity organization, I’ll even call it, “that helps the community. And it’s like, incredibly important to continue facilitating this.”

So, we’re working on different ideas, like what makes sense. Because I don’t want to lose focus so much. I don’t want this to turn into like, super, super business. I still want to be very hands on. I don’t want to be like only busy with, like, kind of behind-the-scenes stuff, it’s very important to me that I’m seen and heard from, and people are able to reach me. So, in order to do that, we have to be around. So, we have to have funds for that.

So, the members themselves pay a membership. It’s the absolute basic. I think it comes out to about like $27 a class, which is like super like wonderful for what we’re able to offer. And we’re hoping to be able to give them more for their money, even though I think we’re giving them a lot. An hour and a half class once a week is great, but I would love it to be 2 times a week at least, just to make it a little bit more concrete. And hopefully, they’ll come with the money. Thank God, we haven’t had a problem until now. We never like went below funds. Also, Joe, like started off with a huge donation of his own, just to get it rolling.

But ever since then, we really had a lot of donors. Like, sponsors will come in, and they’ll want to know, “Hey, what is this about. Like, it’s very nice to hear. We want to see it.” And they’ll come off to class. They’ll see the different levels. They’ll talk to the members. They’ll talk to us. They’ll actually speak it in the class as well. And then hopefully, we sell it. But usually, after that, thank God, they donate and continue to. And they’re like on board, and then become like partners with us, like, “Hey, this is a great idea. Let us know what we can do to help.” They continue on.

So, thank God, thank God really, we’ve been so blessed to be able to continue doing. Because honestly, like, I don’t even know how we’re still… we run into so many obstacles from 2020. And they’re very, very creative. Big snowball obstacles, some of them really small, but just one after another after another. And thank God, we’re still here. So, we plan on staying here. So, we’re going to do what it takes. Whatever it takes, we’re going to get those funds, or we’re going to get people into class. But again, like I don’t want it to come across as like, “Oh, no problem, free program.”

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: I don’t believe in that so much. I feel like, if you don’t pay for something, you don’t feel it’s important.

Josh: Right.

Ortal: Kind of like plays… even if it’s just psychological. It just plays a big part in like your attendance.

Josh: It is psychological.

Ortal: Yeah. And I see it. Like, in our NYC class, we have a… like, we normally do like a 3-week promotional thing where it’s free. So, you can come for 3 times and just understand like what we’re about and see if you want to continue. But in the city, thank God, our sponsors just like continued to pay and wanted to pay for like a block, like a 3-month block. And it very much does affects attendance and affect like the consistency. So, even though with our attendance will be good, like we’ll consistently have 30 people or 25 people in the class, it won’t necessarily be the same people.

Josh: Yeah.

Ortal: And that’s very important to me. Because I’m not trying to give like a Snicker bar effect here where like, “Oh, that was a great classroom. Oh my God, it was amazing.” And then that just kind of like dies. It’s like the sugar ends. So, like, I don’t want it to be that. I want it to be like, “This is a continual thing. I need to continue showing up in order for this to make an impact on me.” So, thank God, but hopefully, we’ll get there, slowly, slowly.

Josh: Awesome. Well, I’m out of questions now. So, this is the plugging part of the show where you get to tell everyone where they can find you in the program and anything else you want to put.

Ortal: So, our website is You can get to our website there. You can see lots of testimonials and videos of our classes and hear from our students. You’ll see different locations that we’re currently training out of. Hopefully, that’s going to change and expand very soon. And you’ll be able to see like what makes more sense to you. There is a lot of information on the website itself that can answer a lot of questions. But there is a phone number there that routes to me. I’m normally available, I’ll say 24 hours. If you don’t get an answer right away, you can always leave a message and I will get back to that day. It’s very important for me to get back to anybody that calls, because anyone that’s reaching out to us is a potential member, and my members are really, really important to me. So, if you’d like to send an email, you can always send it to membership [at] And again, you will also get an email back that day.

Josh: Awesome. Thank you for coming on. How do you…? Is it Ortal? Is that how you pronounce your name?

Ortal: Ortal. Yes. Wow, that is very, very impressive. I’m so impressed. A lot of people will not do that correctly. So, thank you. It is Ortal.

Josh: I don’t think I said your name the whole interview but thank you for coming on the show. It’s been awesome.

Ortal: Thank you for having me. It was really my pleasure. And like I said, you literally made me fall in love with my program again. So, thank you very much for asking these questions and letting me get deepened, and kind of like reminding myself why I do this. It’s very important. I always start off every session letting my new members and my old members kind of like remember why, I always tell them, “Remember your why, because it is the driving force that’s going to make you come to class, that’s going to make be present and actually perform well.” So, you just kind of reignited that in me, my why. And like I said, my why is we-defense, it’s very important to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and safe in their own skin and learn how to defend themselves. So, I welcome anyone and everyone that would like to join my program. Awesome.

Josh: Well, I’m really, really glad about that. And hopefully, we can have you on again sometime.

Ortal: Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much for having me.

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