Every morning, Rabbi Yaakov Lupolianski arrives at the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva at the central Israeli moshav of Nehalim. He teaches Talmud, Torah and religion, and then goes home to change. As the sun goes down, the bearded rabbi turns into a tough Muay Thai instructor, who teaches his students to kick, punch and defend themselves.
In the morning, the students call him "rabbi." In the evening, they get to break the distance and refer to him as "coach."
"Of course it's strange," he admits, "but not everything that's strange is wrong. I believe that a rabbi should not just be inside the Book, but should come out of it for many other things which are also considered Torah.
"When I'm a rabbi – I'm a rabbi, teaching Torah and not engaging in boxing. But when I teach Thai kickboxing, my personality is evident in the training – not by quoting verses, but by showing where Torah connects to the world of deeds and daily life."
Lupolianski is only 33 years old and has five children. He has been in the Muay Thai business for 20 years now, and has been teaching as a rabbi at the Nehalim yeshiva for eight years. His students also say he successfully combines between the two worlds.
"It goes together because the Torah and the kickboxing he teaches us come from the same place," explains 12th grader Shlomi Tanami. "We learn that boxing is also a correct way of life. Both in Torah lessons and in boxing you learn to listen and control yourself and your power."