What you believe can get you killed!!

On September 28, 1994 at around 1 a.m. the cruise ferry Estonia became one of the worst maritime disasters in history. 852 out of 989 passengers and crew members died in the Baltic Sea. There were many things at work against the passengers. They were far from shore, the seas were very rough, the water temperature was cold enough to cause hypothermia quickly and rescue took a long time to arrive.

The cruise ferry Herald Of Free Enterprise sank as well just outside the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. 193 of the 539 crew and passengers on board perished. Experts and rescuers were baffled by the number of dead. The water wasn’t that cold, the seas were fairly calm, it happened in shallow water just off shore and rescue helicopters arrived within 28 minutes. The leading expert in the field, John Leach, believes these people died because they believed they were supposed to. They had heard of other large ships capsizing and knew there was always a huge death toll. They believed that they were doomed so they were!

In August of 2004 a thirteen year old inner city youth was at a summer camp for underprivileged kids in New Hampshire. The youth and a counselor came across a black bear and took off running. Soon the counselor realized the youth was no longer with him. When he found him the poor kid had said he was too scared to run, soon developed breathing difficulty and died. The official reason for death was stated as basically scared to death. The youth believed he was a goner…even though a bear had not killed a human in New Hampshire since 1784.

If you have followed these blogs you know where this is heading! What we believe about self defense and fighting can get us killed as well. I was told about a tragic incident in a club in Florida. For some reason this club decided, on the same night, to have country and western on one side and hip hop on the other. One of the good ol boys was stabbed and killed by one of the hip hoppers. It turns out that the good ol boy was known for bar fights. His fun was going to the club on weekends and getting into a scrap. He started a fight with a guy and believed that everyone knew the rules to a bar fight. It was just two guys having fun and beating on each other a bit. The hip hopper came from a different society. A fight to him was combat and somebody usually got killed….he was gonna make sure it wasn’t him. The man who died believed he was in a bar fight with the usual “monkey dance” rules and his opponent believed he was in a fight to the death. Only one of them could be right.

There is a famous martial artist who is teaching a handgun defense as a forward roll towards the gunman to come from underneath the gun and twist it free. This instructor is teaching his students something that will get them killed….and they believe in his technique becaust he is an “expert”!

In SGT Rory Miller’s book Meditations On Violence he talks about a time he was sparring a black belt at a school he was visiting. When this person delivered a backfist to SGT Miller’s nose they stopped and yelled at him for continuing. He didn’t understand so he asked the black belt what it was that he done wrong. The black belt replied “If I would have broken your nose for real the fight would have been over.” SGT Miller told the black belt “I have had my nose broken three times in fights and I can assure you that I never stopped, I kicked the guy’s ass”. This black belt’s instructor had his students believing that breaking an attackers nose would end a violent altercation. If, in the real world, his students would have delivered a hard shot to the nose they would have stopped because they believed the fight would be over…and they would have gotten hurt.

I recently heard of a person who got into a fight at a bar. He went to a gym that taught BJJ “for the street”. He took the guy to the ground and jumped guard as he had been taught….and was stabbed several times with a knife. The only reason he didn’t die was that none of the stabs hit anything vital….grace of God.

I’ve said many times that when someone approaches an instructor to learn self defense they are literally putting their lives in that instructors hands. To teach crap from a system because it’s your system is pathetic. If someone gets to a place where they need what we taught them to save their lives and their families lives we had better have taught the best, most up to date, most battle tested tactics and techniques that we could find! I’m all for pride in a system but if you are claiming that your system is the ultimate in self defense, it had better be. The only reason a person believes what he/she is teaching is the best is because he/she is teaching it. If fate would have had him or her in another system he/she would think that’s the best. Don’t let your pride get people hurt! BE SAFE!


When I am asked about the principles and/or the philosophy of Krav Maga I say the main principle of Krav Maga that all others branch off of is to STAY SAFE. We stay safe by first and foremost, not being there. Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things! The second rule is RUN. Really, run when in danger…run when in doubt. I don’t care if the local paper has a picture of me running from a knife wielding punk with the headline “krav maga expert runs from knife”. I would be a smart, still living Krav Maga expert! Our third rule is to pick up something to whack the bad guy with. Why go into a knife with just my hands when I can pick up a pipe or stick and have distance and impact on my side? The fourth rule is to DESTROY the attacker. We aren’t safe if we merely fend off the attacker but still have to go to an ER afterwards. We aren’t safe if we win the fight but have months of rehab ahead of us. We are safe if we are unscathed. If we go hard, go first and go until the threat is gone we have a much better chance of being unscathed. Notice how far down the list that the actual Krav Maga techniques are used. If you get to the techniques you weren’t paying attention or were in a stupid place to begin with!

Wikipedia says the principles of Krav Maga are: 1. Do as much damage in as little time as possible. 2. Change from defending to attacking as quickly possible (including simultaneously). 3. Use items around you as weapons. 4. Be aware of everything that is happening around you. Let’s look at these one at a time and think about why they make so much sense for self defense.

1. Do as much damage in as little time as possible. This goes back to a few of my blogs where I talk about not sparring but ending. Sparring is moving around, throwing a combo, backing out, changing levels, going back in, etc. This is never a good idea as it extends the time that we are in danger. The attacker may be a better sparrer than we are and (more importantly) extending the fight gives his buddies time to get to you. As a wise man once said “every asshole has an asshole friend nearby”. Our goal in a real world violence situation should be to end things and get out of there…as quickly as possible. This is why in class we teach to go forward with rage, swing as hard as you can and strike targets that do the most damage. Keep hitting until you can escape, which is when the attacker is unconscious generally.

2. Change from defending to attacking as quickly possible (including simultaneously). I talk about this in my self defense for women book. When we are attacked we are a victim. As soon as we fight back there is no longer a victim and an attacker, there are two opponents. Most scum bags are looking for a victim, not for someone who will fight back…and fight back hard!

3. Use items around you as weapons. Absolutely! I know some “great” unarmed knife defenses but why would I want to use them if there is a pipe laying close by? Something with impact and distance is a good idea…I bleed! As I’ve said in previous blogs, a person with a weapon and just a small amount of training will beat a well trained person who is empty handed more often than not.

4. Be aware of everything that is happening around you. This is talking about self protection and being aware at all times. Self defense is you grabbed me so I had to react. Self Protection is I saw you coming and avoided you. Self defense is I went into a seedy looking bar and, sure enough, I got into a fight. Self protection is the bar looked seedy so I didn’t go in. Self defense is you were hitting me so I smacked you back. Self protection is you were in my space looking like a threat so I smacked you. We are much better off (and we must teach this) to learn and live by self protection than we are self defense. We must teach our students to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid trouble and to “mind set” (we covered this in a few past blogs). We are doing our students a disservice if this isn’t taught and talked about in every class. If we are only teaching self defense techniques we are failing them. Self defense is recovery from stupidity or bad luck. BE SAFE!


I have blogged on this before but I just heard another “expert” talk about how bad Krav Maga’s handgun defenses are because we grab the barrel of the handgun. He went on about what a bad idea that is, how nobody is fast enough to do this, etc. Here is an article on our main defense for handguns:

Sigh…..First off, anyone who has practiced these can see for themselves that a person is definitely fast enough to redirect the weapon before the assailant can fire it. We’ve done this with airsoft, pellet, bb, etc. guns many times. After people work on these techniques at our seminars the main question that we are asked is if we will get burned or cut while grabbing the weapon. I have three stock answers. One is fairly serious, the other two are smart aleck!

Answer 1: Yep, you may well get burned or cut by the handgun. Supposedly Myth Busters showed that a revolver has enough gas discharge to take off a finger. The thing is, you won’t know it until after the incident. With the adrenalin dump and the stress it will be much later when you notice that you are bleeding or burned. We’re not teaching magic tricks and never said you’d be unscathed.

…then again, it may not;

Answer 2: Well, we were trying Jedi mind tricks but kept getting people shot. You gotta physically move the barrel so that it isn’t pointed at you when the thing goes boom! The hand seems the logical thing to use to get the friggin thing offline!!

Answer 3: Yep, you’ll burn your hand or maybe get cut. The other option is to take a bullet…seems a no brainer. Is grabbing the barrel of a handgun that is being fired something I would want to do? Nope. That’s a s#!tty thing to do. The problem is that if a handgun is being pointed at me and fired I am in a world of s#!t. I have a list of only s#!tty answers. Standing there and getting shot is at the bottom of the s#!tty answer list, grabbing the handgun and getting it offline is at the top of the s$!tty answer list. The only good answer is…don’t be there with a gun pointed at you!!

…and that’s the way it is. BE SAFE!!


U. S. Marine pilot recruits have a course in Miramar, California that they must get through to be pilots. It is called the Aviation Survival Training Center. They take men and women barely out of high school with no prior experience at surviving the unimaginable and mold them into survivors and warriors. While at this training center:
-They have the pilot put on full flight gear and tread water…for a long time, as long as it takes to break them. This readies the pilot to stay alive in the open water when they ditch…for as long as it takes to be rescued.
-They have the pilot submerge, swim to a door with several types of handles that they may find in an aircraft, open the door and get through it before they can surface. When they do it right they get to do it again with blackout goggles.
-They whip them across a pool with pulleys and wires dragging and dipping them in the water. This simulates a parachute dragging the pilot across the ocean.
-They yank the pilot up a cable and drench them with the most powerful showerheads you can imagine to simulate rescue helicopter rotor blasts.
-They strap the pilot into a chair hanging on a crane that is then crashed into the pool where it flips over. The pilot must get himself unstrapped and to the surface. This simulates ditching their plane into the ocean.

This training imitates, as closely as they can, what the pilot will actually be facing in bail out and crash situations. They are trying to show the pilot what it will really be like, adding stress, exhaustion and stacking the odds against them. This training has saved countless lives. This is training to survive.

In Krav Maga we train regular citizens for what will, in all likelihood, be the worst incident that they will go through in their lives. When the crap hits the fan and real world violence finds our students we better have given them the best, most realistic training that we possibly can. Training is blueprints and plans, nothing more. We cannot possibly replicate the stress, exhaustion and adrenaline dump that real world violence will produce…but we try. In our class we push people to exhaustion. We drill “go forward and attack” over and over so that it becomes our flinch reaction. We do drills at the end of class that represent multi attackers and we go on with this drill until they can hardly continue…but they find a way to. We don’t just work on handgun defenses with an “attacker” standing like a statue but we have him cuss, punch, kick and beat on the person they are working with to simulate a real scumbag.

When we test in Krav Maga we test harder than any other system I have ever seen. We push people to and beyond their breaking point and exhaust them until they can barely stand. This is something else we picked up from the way the military trains. Rangers, for example, are trained so long and hard, with no sleep and a lot of physical discomfort, that many who finally get into combat claim combat is easier than the training. We want, if ever our students are attacked, for them to think beating down a punk with a knife was easy compared to what they went through in their last test. This makes people safer!

As I’ve said so many times before…if you aren’t training with realism and using exhaustion and stress drills in your classes you are teaching self defense techniques, not self defense. There is a difference! BE SAFE!