WHAT IS SELF DEFENSE?

“Self defense is recovery from stupidity or bad luck.”
“Self defense is a short list of techniques and tactics that may get you out alive when you are already screwed.”

“When self defense becomes complicated, it is no longer self defense.”

There are a lot of systems out there who claim to be the “ultimate” in self defense. I don’t think anything is the “ultimate”…no matter how good you are you can still get hurt, can still be surprised, can still be outnumbered. Self defense means that you weren’t paying attention, were not aware of your surroundings…someone started the fight because of your lack of attention and now you are forced to react. It would be much better to be the ultimate in self protection! That would mean that you are aware of your surroundings. If someone looked like a threat you have either left the area or smacked them first! Self protection is way better than self defense!! “Krav Maga (self defense) is our support system for when our sucker punch doesn’t work!”

When it comes to self defense and self protection Krav Maga has some good thoughts;
-There is only one rule and that is STAY SAFE! We stay safe by cheating, being ruthless and refusing to lose. We stay safe by 1) not being there. Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things! 2) Run! The only knife defense that I know to be 100% effective is to run when you see someone with a knife! 3) Find something to pick up and beat the attacker. My second choice for a knife attack if running isn’t possible is to find a ball bat, pipe, chair, etc. Reach and impact go a long way in keeping you safe. 4) DESTROY the attacker. We aren’t safe if we fend off the attacker but then must go to the ER. We are safe if we are unscathed. We are unscathed when the fight is one sided and we go off like a bomb and end the fight without the attacker ever getting in a punch or kick. “If you are in a fair fight, your tactics suck!”

For self defense we believe that a system must be philosophy based, not technique based. Our philosophy in Krav Maga is to go off like a bomb, get rid of the danger & beat on the attacker until we are safe. This carries through the whole system. Handgun? Get it offline and beat the attacker. Knife? Block it and beat the attacker. Choke? Get hands off our throat and beat the attacker. Self defense must be that simple! If we are technique based we have too much to think about…what technique best suits this attack, which option for this particular attack should I use, did I practice it enough…with the attacker actually attacking hard, what happens if I leave a step out, etc., etc. If we learn 1000 techniques for 1000 attacks with the way the world is we’ll go out and be attacked by number 1001. We also believe that anything we do should be instinctual. This is why we “pluck” in our choke defense. The hands are doing this automatically when we feel pain on the throat. A learned motion is always slower than an instinctual one.

For self defense you have to train like you’re going to fight. I read in a few places that 80-90% of black belts in martial arts who are attacked on the street end up the loser. I was offended when I read this because I was a 4th degree black belt in a traditional system at the time. Looking back, this makes sense. In my traditional training we practiced a technique and then moved on to the next. One technique at a time instead of the philosophy of always go off and do many, many combatives at a time…kicks into punches into elbows into grasp and knee EVERY time we train. In my traditional training we never practiced against someone who was really trying to hit us, trying to not be hit, trying to overpower us. Worst of all, we rarely broke a sweat. We have seen this in our gym time after time. A black belt in another art will tell whoever answers the phone how long they’ve trained, who with, how good they are, their rank, etc, etc. only to come into our basic level 1 class and not be able to get all the way through a class. In Krav we train hard, run “hell drills” and test like maniacs for a reason. If our students are ever attacked they will have the cardio to outlast the attacker and, most importantly, they will have the “been there, done that” feeling. Fighting off the attack may very well be easier than the test they just took & their brain won’t freeze up on them!! BE SAFE!

REAL WORLD VIOLENCE – SURVIVING

Why do some people survive an event while others perish during the exact same event? Why can some survive months on the open sea in a life raft while others perish within three days? Why do some lost in the forest make it out weeks later while others die within 48 hours? Laurence Gonzales, in his fascinating book Deep Survival, goes in depth on this very subject. The answers are amazing. After years of studying accident reports, talking to survivors and studying this phenomena he has come up with 12 things that survivors did in common to get through hell. Here they are:
1. LOOK, SEE & BELIEVE; Immediately recognize, acknowledge and accept the situation.
2. STAY CALM: use humor and fear to focus. While others are flipping out start to work on a plan.
3. THINK, ANALYZE & PLAN; Get organized and set up small, manageable tasks.
4. TAKE CORRECT, DECISIVE ACTIONS; Be bold yet cautious while carrying out tasks. Don’t be paralyzed while over thinking!
5. CLELBRATE YOUR SUCCESS; Take joy in completing tasks.
6. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS; Be grateful – you are alive!
7. PLAY; Sing, play mind games, recite poetry
8. SEE THE BEAUTY; Those lost in nature who survived actually stopped to enjoy the scenery!
9. BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED; Develop a deep conviction that you will survive. It is fascinating that Mr. Gonzales found that those who prayed had a higher survival rate than those who didn’t.
10. SURRENDER; put away your fear of dying. Be matter of fact about it.
11. DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY; Do what it takes to survive. There are many stories of women who fought off would be killers and rapists by grabbing the blade of a knife. Certainly something that no right thinking person would do in everyday life but in a horrible situation they did what had to be done to survive.
12. NEVER GIVE UP; Believe that anything is possible.

Don’t just read over this list. Take time to commit it to memory. We never know when a situation will arise that will become gut check time!! BE SAFE!

KRAV MAGA & MARTIAL ARTS

Hi all,
I’ve been leading instructor training this week and haven’t had time to blog so i am re-running an old blog. This was my longest blog ever and the one i got the most positive comments on. I did add a paragraph so at least a bit of it is new. Enjoy!

First and foremost we in Krav Maga never bash any other system. Blogging about this topic by one system is almost always self serving and a put down to others. A few statements; 1) I was/am a 4th degree black belt in a traditional system. 2) I will say right off that any system can be used effectively if proficiency is achieved. We just don’t like for achieving proficiency to very long! When we in Krav Maga think self defense we believe it has to be easy to learn, easy to remember, come out of us instictually and be effective. We believe this because of the adrenaline dump and the effects of stress on a person.
There are many talented martial artists.

I know of Tai Chi masters who could whip 99.9% of us. I especially admire BJJ. Those guys are the most in shape, best conditioned people I know. If my son was to do a martial art I would want him in BJJ. But….BJJ’s philosophy is to patiently control an opponent until they can be submitted. Add a second attacker, a knife, etc. and that philosophy isn’t self defense. I have often said if masters from other systems came into my gym and challenged me in front of my students most would probably kick my butt and make me look stupid. However (and this is self defense) if that same guy was in my house and going to hurt my family I would come from behind, break a chair over the back of his head and then take one of the broken shards and see how far into his throat I could ram it. I would not lose. Krav Maga is doing what it takes to be safe, and refusing to quit.
Martial arts are great for kids. It teaches them manners, respect and a host of other good behaviors. For adults martial arts are great exercise, great stress relief, great for socializing and meeting other good, hard working people. However, i personally cringe when a traditional martial art calls itself the ultimate in self defense. All martial arts were designed to overcome the problems that the founder was facing. Some martial arts were designed for the battlefield, some for unarmed peasants to overcome soldiers wearing armor, some for using anything found in nature to make a weapon of, etc. I spent countless hours in my traditional martial art in a front stance only to discover that the front stance was designed for balance when fighting on board of ships, and even more hours in a horse stance to discover that that stance was for peasants who were too poor to own a horse to practice for the infantry! Krav Maga was designed by the Israeli Defense Forces to keep people alive in modern times against enemies with handguns, rifles, knives, sticks, throwing fists, throwing knees, choking them, grabbing their hair, etc., etc. We have a friend from another system whom we train with who just doesn’t like Krav Maga. He over thinks everything and wants pressure points, joint locks, etc. What he does is better than Krav Maga….for him. He doesn’t get that he is an unusual person who wants to spend hundreds of hours a year for many years getting proficient. He loves working on the stuff. Krav Maga is only concerned with getting people as safe as possible as quickly as possible. Are we the best at knife defenses? Maybe not but instead of spending hundreds of hours getting awesome at a knife defense only to have a handgun shoved in our face we want to learn enough of a knife defense to keep us safe and alive and then move quickly to learning the defenses to the other hundreds of ways a person can be attacked. I think most martial artists will admit that if someone takes their art for three months and quits that they aren’t very good and won’t be able to defend themselves very well. Three months in Krav Maga gets a person almost ready to be tested into level 2…and you are pretty darn good when you get that far.
Most martial arts made sense in their place in history or are now being designed by one man for modern problems. These that rely on one “founder” worry me. Techniques are designed in a gym with students as the attackers. I have seen a system that taught a straight knife defense as a crescent kick to the knife and a back kick to the attacker (you better have a quick crescent and a devastating back kick!!). I have also seen a system that taught it’s students a handgun disarm that consisted of doing a forward roll towards the gunman and then coming up from under the gun and twisting it away (with his students mesmerized at his awesome technique…scarey!!). A handgun defense that looks like it should work, and works with simunition guns, is being taught as gospel. Has the founder ever had someone try to shoot them, stab them, bash their head in with a brick? Krav Maga was designed by an entire military system. The bullshit didn’t make it through because there is no Grand Poobah who has an ego, there is no tradition to honor….there is only keeping people alive, period. When I hear someone say they have a way better handgun defense than what Krav Maga has I laugh. If their’s were easy to learn, easy to remember and effective it would be Krav Maga, we would have stolen it already. We don’t have a system that has to guard its traditions. We’ll switch to another technique in an instance if it works better. Keeping people alive and safe is all it’s about.
A lot of systems work for the head instructor. I can think of several systems where the head instructor is awesome and totally unbeatable (he’d kick my butt!) but the question is can that same system work as well for a 100 pound unathletic female as it does the six foot two, two hundred fifty pound instructor? In Krav Maga any technique that we use or add has that exact filter to get through. Will it work for our smallest, weakest practitioner?
A lot of martial arts are technique based while Krav Maga is philosophy based. For example, when a knife is coming towards our mid section we want to deflect it, counter at the same time if possible and then either get the heck out of there or control the weapon and beat the idiot senseless. The traditional martial art I took had of 30 different techniques for a straight knife stab. Hick’s law states that when we have more than one choice it takes time to decide between them. How much time do you have when a knife is being thrust into your gut? Another problem is a lot of techniques have many steps. If in practice I always must do A through F I get lost in real life when it derails at step C. One other big problem I have with martial arts and real violence is students buying into what they are taught and having it be bad training and getting them hurt. SGT Rory Miller in his great book Meditations on Violence talks about the time he visited a martial arts school and was sparring with one of the black belts. He got punched in the nose and threw a technique back at the black belt. The black belt stopped and bawled him out saying that they train realistically and that if he broke Rory’s nose in a real fight the fight would be over. Rory told the black belt that he has had his nose broken from a punch three times in his life and it never ended the fight, that he did indeed go after the puncher harder! If that black belt is ever in a real fight he’ll deliver a nose punch that he was taught would devastate the other guy, stop fighting, and get creamed!
One last thought about martial arts and why some of them do not make sense for us today is “assumptions”. Too many martial arts make assumptions. For example, an art that teaches to take an attacker to the ground is assuming that you will only ever be attacked by one person. An art that relies only on joint locks and joint manipulations assumes that you will always have two hands. What happens to those techniques when you break an arm in the fight? We have our students at higher level tests put one hand in a belt that is tied around their waste and figure out how to defend themselves with one arm. Easy if you have a philosophy of “get rid of the danger and beat the attacker senseless”, not so easy if you are technique based. Another art may rely on high, jumping and spinning kicks. What do they do if they break an ankle first thing in their fight? Lastly, way too many knife and stick defenses that I’ve seen totally rely on the attacker coming from a distance and the practitioner seeing the attack coming. It is wrong to assume that you will always see the attack coming from a distance! We throw out any knife or stick defense that doesn’t work late (when you don’t see the attack until it is inches from striking you).
MMA? These guys have the Krav Maga philosophy for training. Be ready for anything. If you are great on the ground but are facing a stand up guy or vice versa you are in trouble. It makes sense to be good no matter where the fight is. The UFC has taught us that there is no unbeatable martial art but that you have to be good at several. The main problem with mma training is that it is for sport. One of my instructors carries around the rules for MMA in his bag and when someone asks him what we do in Krav Maga he shows them the rules and tells them “We want to do everything that is illegal in MMA fighting”. We want to bite, head butt, poke eyes, kick to the groin, etc. These are illegal in MMA because they cause damage. Causing damage is what we want to do in self defense. Really, self protection and self defense in MMA would be to bring a knife with you into the ring, to hit him from behind before the bell or to know that your fight is Saturday afternoon but find your opponent on Thursday morning, bring some friends with ball bats, and have at him. I certainly don’t condone this but the point is a fair fight means your tactics suck!!
Again, we are not bashing any other system. We just believe that when it comes to self defense people need to think about what real violence is. Flashy techniques, training incorrectly, training for situations that no longer exist and complicated moves get people hurt. Remember, if it is complicated it isn’t self defense. Our number one rule in Krav Maga is BE SAFE.

ARE YOU AN EXPERT?

Quite often I get introduced as a Krav Maga expert. When I tested for black belt there were only a few dozen black belt holders in the U.S. Krav Maga has been my life for 12 years. Shoot, I have a student (who is also an instructor in one of my gyms) who I would say is one of the top five Krav Maga instructors in the nation. But, I never call myself an expert. I hate that term. In my opinion, as soon as someone thinks they are an expert they also think they know it all. They won’t listen to anyone else’s viewpoint, won’t take seminars or training from anyone else and, therefore, won’t grow.

There are other Israeli self defense organizations who’s “experts” have told prospective affiliates that if the affiliate joins their organization they are not allowed to teach any other martial art or defense systems in their own gym! I know of one who said that if the affiliate made any changes to the curriculum the organization leaders would come to their town, get in the newspapers and ruin them (yes, that really was said). There was another that certified an instructor in Law Enforcement Instruction but told him he absolutely couldn’t teach civilians because that was another course (that they charged several grand for). They also told their affiliate (who had level one classes for a year but no level two and were losing a lot of students because of it) that they absolutely couldn’t teach level two until they had been certified by them (for…you guessed it, several thousand more dollars). Wow! I want my affiliates to feel like part of a family, not a dictatorship. I tell my affiliates that they are putting food on their family’s table, I am not their boss and they need to do what they need to do to run a successful gym.

The one that really cracks me up is a quote by a famous Krav Maga instructor who says if your Krav gym teaches Cardio Krav then it isn’t a real Krav gym. What? He said this at a seminar that he was running in a gym that hosts basketball, volleyball, yoga, etc. Wouldn’t that be the same thought…you couldn’t possibly be teaching real Krav Maga at a seminar in a gym that has other things? They can’t be separate classes? We noticed that when we added CardioMMA and Crossfit to our gym our people looked better in tests…they were in better shape. Doesn’t that, in turn, keep them safer? This same guy tells us it isn’t real Krav and it is sissy if you let people use forearm pads or focus mitts to practice outside defenses. My thought on that is I am training housewives and doctors to be able to save themselves the one time in their lives when someone swings a knife at them, why would I want them afraid to come to class? He believes in belittling students, yelling at them, forcing them to do military style training. If he actually had a gym (instead of just an organization, supposedly training gym owners) he would have very hardcore, tough, ready to eat nails students…all ten of them. If we believe Krav Maga makes people safe why teach it to a few who want to show how tough they are? Why not make it attractive to the masses? We have over 500 adults in our Krav gym and I don’t think a one of them would tell you that classes are easy or watered down…especially those who have been through our tests!

Back to my student who is as good an instructor as you’ll find in the U.S. He is constantly looking at the internet, at other arts, systems and techniques. Anytime there is a seminar around, even when taught by someone we don’t necessarily respect, he’ll go to it…and I encourage him to do so. He loves working with guys from other systems in his own gym to see if there is a technique we can use, to see how our techniques work against some weird stuff and to just learn. He isn’t an expert…. he’s just an awesome instructor with a passion for teaching!!

LISTEN TO YOURSELF!

Did you ever get an uneasy feeling about someone after just a glimpse of them? There is a reason that this happens. Don’t ignore your brain, it’s pretty smart! In Malcolm Gladwells’ book Blink he talks about this very phenomenon. Our brain is like a super computer, it picks up on things that we don’t consciously see or realize. We often get bad feelings and don’t know why so we ignore them, sometimes to our peril. He talks about an example of a statue that was supposedly thousands of years old and worth millions of dollars. The tests all showed that it was really that old, was from the area of the world that was claimed, etc. Three different experts took one glimpse at it and said that it was a fake. When asked why they thought thia they said that they didn’t know, they just had a gut feeling. These experts were ignored because the “scientific” research said that it was real and a museum bought it for millions. It ended up being fake. The expert’s brain knew something that they didn’t even know that they knew!

Another thought that Gladwell talks about in his book is that of our brain seeing “thin slices”. He believes that things that can actually happen so quickly that they can’t be picked up by our conscious can still be seen by our brain. An example that he uses is a video of a married couple talking about their relationship. It sounds like they are very positive and have a good relationship when the video is only listened to. When it is watched he and others who were studying with him had a feeling that the couple was in trouble. They ended up divorcing shortly afterwards. When Gladwell played the video in slow motion and looked at it frame by frame he saw negative body language….rolling eyes here, looks of disdain there. He was fascinated that these things that happened too fast to notice were actually picked up on by the brain.

One of my own students had a great but horrifying illustration of this happen to him. As he was opening up his shop he saw two guys pass by the window. He thought “if I had to describe those two to the police, what would I say”? He didn’t have any idea why he would have thought such a thing. Sure enough, a few minutes later they were in his shop and had a gun to his head.

Ladies, this is exactly what “women’s intuition” is. Listen to it every time. For example, a guy gets on an elevator with us when we are alone. Something doesn’t feel right but we know that if we get off before the door closes he’ll be offended. Who cares? He is a stranger who, even if he is offended, will have forgotten about it five minutes later. If we stay on and were right we will regret it for much longer than five minutes. Men know they make women uncomfortable. If a guy gets on an elevator and there is a woman there by herself he will automatically go as far to the opposite side of the elevator as possible. We may never have consciously thought about this but this is why if he gets closer the “women’s intuition” kicks in. The same thing is true with walking down a street. If a man is approaching a woman from behind (because he is walking faster) he will automatically go as far over to the curb as he can if she is on the inside, or he will go to the inside if she is by the curb. He will do this at a great distance away and not wait until he is up on her. If the bad guy doesn’t do this, the old intuition may try to tell us that something isn’t right. We must listen to our brain!!

There are reasons for uneasy feelings, for bad feelings about someone or for being “creeped out” by someone. Our brains are noticing everything and computing the data for us in split seconds. Listen to these gut feelings and stay out of trouble. BE SAFE!