THE UNKNOWN HISTORY OF KRAV MAGA

Sigh…have you heard the quote that “the victors write the history books”? I’m finding out that the ones who do all the talking in the Krav Maga world have written their own history of Krav Maga. I got to spend several days with Grandmaster Yaron Lichtenstein and pick his brain as I asked him many questions. Yaron was Imi’s second student ever after Imi left the military and began to develop Krav Maga. Yaron was around Imi almost daily for over thirty years. Yaron was one of only ten men whom Imi trained from beginner to black belt. Yaron was given a document from Imi stating that he was Imi’s successor. Imi gave Yaron his own personal black belt as a gift. You think Yaron might know what really went on with Krav Maga? After bringing Yaron to the U.S. for a seminar (the first time he has been in the states in thirty years) and talking with him I honestly believe that right now I know more about the true history of Krav Maga than anyone else in the United States. This isn’t a boast, just me knowing how fortunate I am. What do I have to gain by blogging this info? Nothing. It actually makes me look dumb as I have told my students and affiliates for years a history that was wrong. Why do it? The truth is the truth…and I hate being lied to!

What we were told: Imi taught Krav Maga in the Israeli military.
Truth: Imi never taught Krav Maga in the Israeli military. The term “Krav Maga” was not coined until 1971. Imi retired from the military in 1966. Imi taught hand to hand self defense techniques in the Israeli military.

What we were told: Krav Maga was made to be easy to learn and easy to remember.
Truth: The above is true for the military hand to hand self defense techniques. When Imi created Krav Maga he intended it to be a martial art. The students were to wear gi’s and belts. It relied a lot on high kicks, jump kicks,etc. It was meant to take time to perfect and move up the belt ranks.

What we are told: Krav Maga is an open system meant to change throughout time.
Truth: Yaron made the statement “When Michelangelo was done with David did he leave the chisel and hammer there for others to change as time went on? Krav Maga was Imi’s masterpiece.” It was meant to be a martial art that was complete.

What we are told: Krav Maga isn’t a martial art, it is all about techniques that are easy to learn and master quicly.
Truth: Krav Maga was absolutely meant to be a martial art. Imi wanted all the moves to have Hebrew names no matter where they were taught just like Karate and Judo techniques all have Japanese names.

The way Imi taught some of the techniques is the exact opposite of how we teach some of them today. For example, they keep their hands down to “invite the attacker in”. We teach to keep hands up so we don’t get hit. He taught punches with arms only (they actually punch brick walls daily like the old martial art masters). We yell if our students aren’t turning their body to punch! We have taken most of the high kicks and jump kicks out of the system, Imi had a lot of these techniques in his Krav Maga. We kick with the shin to the groin. Imi called such kicks foolish and lazy…the reason to kick is for the reach advantage so it is done with the ball of the foot.

There are those running around claiming to have developed Krav Maga in the military who held office jobs while they were in the military. There are those claiming to be trained by Imi whom Imi never met. There are many claiming they got their black belts from Imi when he only gave ten out ever. There are those who bought their black belts. There are those claiming to be Imi’s favorite or the heir whom the original group of ten black belts tried to get Imi to throw out of the system. To quote Yaron “Money ruined everything”.

I was told specific things about specific people in the Krav Maga world that would have you shaking your head that I will refrain from talking about at the moment. I am certainly not disparaging all in Krav Maga. There are many, such as SGT MJR Nir Maman, who are working in Israel with law enforcement and military who are sharp, dedicated and are teaching techniques that save lives. We in the USKMA are certainly making people safer and healthier and showing gym owners how to make money teaching Krav Maga without being dishonest or selling out. Unfortunately there are many in Krav Maga who put money above honesty and integrity.

I have heard Grandmaster Yaron Lichtenstein called a crazy old man and a liar. Knowing even a bit about Yaron should put these people to shame. Yaron looked at Imi as a father figure. His respect and reverence for Imi is apparent every time I talk with him. He retired to Brazil years ago and was done with Krav Maga completely until his son told him that if he didn’t keep Imi’s Krav Maga alive it would die because he is the only one who teaches it the way Imi wanted it taught. He does what he does only for Imi’s memory. He is one of the few not teaching for the money. I know that he has gone to other countries to teach seminars and upon seeing the conditions people were living in refused any payment. I have also heard people go on about his videos and how bad he looks as if he couldn’t possibly be the real deal. Part of this is hands are down, not turning into punches, etc. that he does on purpose as talked about above. Part of this is he is in his 60’s for crying out loud. The only videos I ever saw of Imi doing Krav were taken when he was in his last years. He looked slow and not too sharp. Should I think he isn’t the real deal because he was older and didn’t look good…he was the creator!! I may be quicker and sharper looking than Yaron but I wouldn’t mess with him. He was a war hero who was shot many times and taken prisoner for months in the Yom Kippur war (this can be proven, unlike many in Krav Maga who were proven to be liars when they talked about their military record). This man has taken lives with his bare hands in his military days…more than once. Again, I wouldn’t mess with him! BTW, Yaron is the only one who had been invited to teach Krav Maga for Wingate in Israel (others merely rent out Wingate facilities).

NOBODY other than Yaron is teaching Imi’s Krav Maga. All those running around in their camo’s and claiming to be THE authority on Krav Maga are teaching military self defense techniques. Krav Maga, the way Imi intended it to be, is a martial art that only Bukan (Yaron’s school name) is teaching. Period. This is why you will hear that what I am teaching is “American Krav Maga” from now on out of respect for both Imi and Yaron.

YOU WILL GET HURT

Another subject most martial arts and self defense systems fail miserably at is letting their practitioners know that they can and probably will sustain damage. This can be a game changer! If you rely on both hands to do a joint lock and break one….what do you do then? If you rely only on jump kicks and the attack starts with your ankle being crushed…what do you do then? If we’ve never trained thinking about an injury and then it happens our brains want to freeze because this wasn’t in the plan. If your instructor tells you “do our techniques right and you won’t get hurt, the bad guy will” you probably need to look for another instructor!

SGT Sanford Strong, in his great book “Strong on Defense” interviewed many crime (especially rape) victims. The ones who consistently fought back and got out of the horrible situation were those who feared the crime (the rape) more than they feared injury. Injury will happen….tell yourself that right now! The scumbag knows that you fear injury. This is why he will say “Do what I tell you to and you won’t be hurt.” Those who allowed themselves to be moved, tied up, etc. on the “promise” of no injury from the bad guy almost always paid dearly for it. Those who were so afraid of injury that they did nothing but hope and pray the attacker was telling the truth needed to know that the bad guys always lie and they are good at it! Put in your brain right now that the scumbag is there to hurt, torture and probably kill you. Injury is coming. It’s up to you to decide if it’s on his terms or if you are in control. It’s up to you to decide if that injury will come to only you or if it will come with you injuring him back tenfold!!

A greate quote from Meditations on Violence by SGT Rory Miller; “This fear of escalation is based on unknowns. The attacker has already decided to hurt the victim and largely how much. The feared “greater level of damage” is only in relation to the level of damage, unknown to you, that the threat has already planned. If he is already planning to torture and kill, the feared escalation is meaningless…the fear of provoking a beating or torture or death will not help you if the attacker has already decided on the beating, the torture or the murder.”

Why Krav? Any class that would include being injured on purpose would be a short lived one! We don’t purposely injure anyone but we do go hard. Our drills don’t cause injury but they do wear us out, make us feel like we can’t go on and cause general discomfort. This is for a reason. We want to know that we can continue no matter what! Krav Maga’s techniques are such that losing the use of a limb, in general, doesn’t affect us. Let me explain; no joint locks or fine motor skill movements in our techniques but whole body, gross motor skills that we do in an extremely pissed off stage of mind…..that keep going til the bad guy is done mentality!

THE DUMP

THE DUMP
We’ve all felt the effects of the adrenalin dump. Something scares us (like a close call in our car) that leaves us tingling, breathing faster, heart rate up, etc. If this happens in an almost accident imagine how much more pronounced it will be with life threatening violence. This will happen…and, sadly, this is something that is totally ignored in most self defense systems.

Effects of fear (the “dump”) include;
-your mind will change! The mind you have will not be the one fighting for you when attacked. Too many martial arts take a logical and mental approach to visceral and chaotic problems. Memories can be wildly distorted. Perception and auditory input can become very messed up. This is seen when those being attacked remember, for example, a knife that was four inches long being a machete, a handgun going off by their ear repeatedly that they didn’t hear, etc. Irrelevant thoughts can intrude in our heads. Off the wall thoughts can seem like brilliant ideas. We can get tunnel vision and not see the other attacker or the weapon. Behavioral looping can easily occur with trained fighters. They will use a technique that isn’t working but get stuck on that technique and try it over and over. Sadly, if we haven’t used mind setting and had a plan for this attack already formed we won’t come up with one now because our mid-brain is now in charge and it will be stuck in freeze mode…trying to scan for any training for this scenario.

-You don’t feel pain and don’t bleed as badly due to vasoconstriction. This is one of the few good effects of the dump. Remember, however, that the attacker is in the same state and doesn’t feel pain either. That awesome joint lock that you never fail with in class doesn’t faze the bad guy….and we freeze because our brain said that it should end the fight.

-Skilled techniques degrade under stress….a bunch! Our heart rate goes way up. Blood is pooled into our internal organs. This makes our limbs feel heavy and we feel weak. Our skin gets cold and clammy. Fine motor skills go to pot.

The dump is the bane of Self Defense Instructors as it makes the untrained more dangerous and the trained less! A great example of this is police officers. When they are shooting at a target at the range within ten feet most have over 90% accuracy. Under fire on the street? One major city studied police hit statistics under live fire over a six year period and found that their officers from contact range to six feet out hit the bad guy only 38% of the time. There is a big difference in how our body reacts on a range and with someone actually trying to kill us!!

Truth is, the dump makes those who are trained fight worse….and the untrained actually fight better. Why is this? God put this response into man at the beginning. It wasn’t for self defense but for self preservation against wild animals! No amount of technique will drive off a tiger, but a flailing, focused (tunnel vision), repetitive (behavioral looping) defense might. Not feeling pain and not bleeding like we usually would comes in handy when limbs are being bitten. At the worst stage we freeze, drop and even have bladder and bowel evacuation…..this is good as a last resort with a wild animal who may think you are dead and save you for later! If you ever hear someone say “if it were for real, I would have done a lot better” try not to laugh at them!

Why Krav? In our classes we don’t teach a lot of joint locks or things that need fine motor skills? This is the reason! Under attack we want to think only of hitting the scumbag, grabbing hold of him any way we can and then kneeing and kicking him into oblivion. We don’t teach that one devastating attack will end the fight…because when that technique doesn’t end the fight we won’t know what to do. We teach attacking with whole body, gross motor skills and we teach to go with all we have until they are on the ground, balled up and knocked out!!

THE FREEZE

The freeze is a common phenomena reported by those who have faced real violence….and is totally ignored by most self defense systems. It will happen! There are a couple of reasons why we “freeze”.

1) When a horrible situation happens that puts us in extreme fear for our lives our brain will work for us. If we had not trained for the attack, or had never even thought about the situation possible happening, our brain will look at the violent attack and literally scan our entire life to see if this situation had ever happened before and how we got out of it. It does this faster than any computer but it takes a few seconds. A few weeks ago we learned about mind setting. For facing real world violence mind setting is priceless. If we had planned for this encounter the plan will surface quickly. An interesting quote from Meditations of Violence by SGT Rory Miller…“The closer the events reflect previous experience, the less time it takes to orient. If the event is completely new there is nothing in the past to orient to, which explains the effectiveness of Judo in 1888, Jujutsu in America in the 1920’s, Karate in the 1950’s and BJJ in the 1990’s.”

2) Almost as bad as no training, as far as the freeze is concerned, is the wrong training. There is something called “Hick’s Law” which states that the more options you have, the longer it takes to choose one. I remember reading an advertisement for a martial art that bragged that they had 7,000 different techniques! What kind of selling point is that? If you have more than one choice in an attack your brain has to choose one! Another example of the wrong training is techniques that are too regimented. If we train a defense that has six steps and it derails at step number two we have a hard time orienting because the plan isn’t being followed as we practiced.

3) The attacker’s words. We expect people to be reasonable like we are. We expect people to be truthful like we are. When the predator is telling us to obey him and he won’t hurt us it causes us to not spring into action because we reason that if we do what he says he will keep his word. Most people in other bad and very dangerous situations such as a natural disaster or an accident jump into action to save family, friends or themselves much quicker than we do in a violent attack. The predator knows this, he knows what works. Always remember, if he had any humanity, would have any remorse, had any good in him at all, he wouldn’t be attacking you in the first place.

Why Krav? What makes Krav Maga such a great real world self defense system is that it isn’t technique based, it is philosophy based. One of my instructors years ago loved saying “if I learn 1,000 techniques, with my luck, I will go out on the street and be attacked by number 1,001.” We want our first reaction, our “flinch” reaction, to be GO FORWARD AND GO OFF. When the surprise violence starts, when most people are freezing, we want our reaction to be to go forward with great violence….we don’t want to even think about it. Our drills, everything we work on in class and our whole philosophy is to keep it simple, to go right now and to make it as violent as possible. This isn’t brutal, it is effective! Our only chance in a real life violent encounter, according to experts who have survived deadly violence, is to go right away and to go hard. When the punches are landing and we can’t figure out why or from whom we want to be able to automatically switch from confusion to absolute rage with the only thought running through our head to be “hit the Scumbag”!!