Avi Kadouri: Israel’s top Taekwondo instructor

'He is among the best Taekwondoists worldwide. Thousands of people come to his club'

Encouraged by her coach Avi Kadouri, Amit receives her black belt (photo credit: RUBENS ZADEL)
Encouraged by her coach Avi Kadouri, Amit receives her black belt
(photo credit: RUBENS ZADEL)
A coach for more than three decades, Avi Kadouri is considered a model in the field of Taekwondo. Having reached the top of his field in Israel as a pioneer in Taekwondo, he has more than 20,000 students under his wing, several of whom have won medals on the international stage.
Taekwondo, a Korean martial art developed in the 1940s, has been an Olympic event since 2000.
In 1987, Kadouri decide to open a new sports hall in memory of his brother, Yehuda, assassinated during a terrorist attack 19 years earlier in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, on November 22, 1968. It is appropriately named, “Ahi Yehuda” (my brother, Yehuda).
He has since experienced a meteoric rise as a coach, an outstanding reputation and incredible results. His club has 21 consecutive Israeli Taekwondo championships, and several of the men and women graduates of the Jerusalem club, such as Ilan Barjinski, Moti Lugassi and Bat-El Gatterer, have become famous on the world stage thanks to medals gained at the European championships.
Wearing his white kimono and his black belt, Kadouri seems peaceful and thoughtful before uttering a single sound when I interview him. Questioned about the secrets to his huge success, he hesitates, then answers: “Work, patience and faith in God.”
Taekwondo, for Kadouri, is not only a sport, but also a lifestyle.
“When you have hardships in your life, you try to do your best,” he says. “You are stressed, you act hurriedly. Thanks to Taekwondo, you remain positive. You are physically fit and you keep on being motivated. Everything becomes easier.”
Kadouri, 64, started martial arts practice at the age of 16, after trying both football and basketball. Since then, he never stopped progressing. In 2018, he became an 8th dan, a senior master instructor. He is considered the second-best Taekwondoist worldwide, after the Croatian Miro Brezan, who has a 9th dan.
He says his success was built from self-sacrifice and strength.
“When some young people tell me they cannot move ahead,” Kadouri says, “I answer them: ‘Never say that. Start slowly, step by step.”
Still, despite his great rate of success, he says, it is not for everybody. “Taekwondo is like chess. If you haven’t got any strategy, if you don’t advance the pawns, you don’t achieve anything. In order to succeed in sport, you need to get flexibility. You start raising your foot one meter. You repeat the efforts, you work hard and only after that, you are able to reach your goal. To achieve this, only hard work has value.”
More than a trainer, he is a mentor, father and friend to his students.
Erez, 16, who has been a member of his club since the age of 11 and recently competed in the lightweight category of the European Championships, attributes his progress to his inspirational coach. “Avi’s highest quality is his patience,” Erez says. “He is totally devoted to my training. He is always there to listen to me and doesn’t put any pressure on me during the competitions.”
Respect, for Kadouri, is a quality that prevails over everything.
“Each student is different and each one needs a different approach,” Kadouri says. “One mustn’t be only a sports coach, but also a friend, a confidant, a shoulder on which my students can rely.”
Ahi Yehuda (www.ahiyehuda.com) has classes for women in self-defense and martial arts taught by women, as well as classes for at-risk teens, children with special needs and senior citizens. It has three competitive teams with three coaches in three different locations. A Taekwondo student from the Ahi Yehuda group saved a woman’s life in a terrorist attack 16 years ago, due to the skills she learned in the classes.
Kadouri is “a father figure” at work and at home, where he is a loving husband and father of four children. Shlomi, his second son, glows with pride when talking about his father’s qualities and achievements.
“I try to be like him as much as I can,” Shlomi says. “He is among the best Taekwondoists worldwide. On top of being very good, he is respected and much loved by everyone who knows him. This is the most important thing. Thousands of people come to his club, especially to learn from my father. He is a model to be emulated for everybody.”
Along with Getterer, who represented Israel in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and became the 2010 European featherweight champion, Noah Shmida was a runner-up in the world and European teen championships. Lugasi came in third place in the European Championship in 2010, and Braginski came in third place in the Under-21 category in 2012.
After three decades of teaching, Kadouri has also become an international judge and referee. When he started the sport, Taekwondo was not widely known in Israel, but he has helped it to become much more popular. “I didn’t win any trophy, but I am healthy, thank God,” he says. I have got a wonderful job which allows me to help others reach their goals and this is what is worthwhile.”