MENTAL TOUGHNESS!

I haven’t seen Survivor in years but there was a time I wouldn’t miss an episode. One of my favorite challenges each season was when they would see who could be uncomfortable the longest. They would do something like have the group stand on a log and see who would last the longest. This was really nothing hard, just stand there and keep your balance. Well, it was always funny to see that the least mentally tough would be done in an hour while the winner would go on for ten, twelve and even more hours. The most athletic, strongest or even the youngest wouldn’t win. The mentally toughest would. It was most often a woman, which always intrigued me. Here are a few that I found on youtube;

In Laurence Gonzales’ great book DEEP SURVIVAL (highly recommended along with Ben Sherwood’s THE SURVIVORS CLUB) he tells the story of Debbie Kiley. Debbie was on a yacht, the Trashman, that sank at sea. Before the accident happened she told of how the Captain and his first mate were heavy drinkers and actually drunk when they sailed. She goes on to talk of the first mate’s girlfriend and how helpless she acted. The one’s doing all of the work were Debbie and another crew member. After the accident they all got on a small raft that was being severely tossed in the storm. The two who kept control of their thoughts and attempted to think of solutions (Debbie and the hard working crew member) were rescued many days later. The other three died during the ordeal. The difference? Mental toughness.

If you really want to read about mental toughness get some of the books written by the Viet Nam war POW’s. One story I read recently was that of Jim Thompson. After being captured Jim was forced to live in a small wooden cage that he could neither sit up in nor stretch out in. Several months later he was moved to solitary confinement…for four years! Finally he was moved in with other prisoners, but of course the torture and beatings continued the entire NINE years! Oh, and during all of this he managed to escape five times, only to be recaptured and tortured some more. Fellow prisoners at time thought he was a corpse in the next cell as he weighed all of ninety pounds when he finally was released. Other POW’s facing the same treatment didn’t last six months. Jim’s mental toughness was immeasurable! Sadly Jim did die…30 years later, of natural causes, in Florida!!

I love watching the Ultimate Fighter. You can pick the mentally tough ones out early…and the not so tough. They all think that they want to be in the UFC, think they are bad dudes. It seems like the ones who do all the talking about how great they are, how they’ll die in the ring before losing and how losing isn’t an option are the first ones to just stand and freeze in the ring or purposely give up their backs so they can tap out. The mentally toughest usually last the longest in that show and, I would think, in a true violent situation.

I don’t care what techniques, system or art you are learning, if you aren’t building mental toughness you won’t last long when confronted with real world violence. I would bet on a mentally tough person with little training in a horribly violent confrontation way before I would a black belt from any system or art that isn’t mentally tough. This is why you have heard me say many, many times that it isn’t the art, system or techniques that will keep us safe if violence ever finds us. It is attitude and mental toughness. This is why Krav Maga is based on philosophy and not techniques I don’t care what techniques you know if you don’t have the “flinch reaction” of go forward, go hard, go now and go until the scumbag is down. Even if injured, even if outnumbered, and even if afraid for our lives we go off with rage and swing for the fences.

This is why when students in class ask me to slow the class down so that they can learn the techniques better I tell them “no”. Those techniques won’t save them. Learning to keep going with the stress, exhaustion and not knowing what’s coming next in our drills is what will save them. Developing mental toughness is way more important in keeping our students safe than any of those cool techniques! BE SAFE!

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KNIFE FIGHTING!

A conversation with one of my black belts about how the USKMA’s black belt and 2nd degree black belt curriculum is so sparse is what got me on this subject. He asked if we would ever include more offensive knife. I know of other krav maga curriculums that have a ton of stuff in the upper belt curriculums…a ton of unrealistic stuff thrown in there just to have techniques to keep teaching. I always felt that if Krav Maga is supposed to be easy to learn and easy to remember as well as designed for real life violence there wasn’t a whole lot of need for multi attackers with chain saw defense, urban warfare tactics or complete stick and knife fighting curriculums.

In the USKMA 2nd degree black belt curriculum we do have some offensive knife/knife vs. knife. It is exactly four moves. If I am being attacked and must protect myself and my family and have a knife with me I only need to know where to cut to stop the attacker and how to deliver that cut. Why make it complicated? As Bruce Lee once said “I do not fear the man who has practiced 1,000 kicks one time, rather, I fear the man who has practiced one kick 1,000 times.” If we had a whole system for knife there would be a lot of “fluff”. Krav Maga doesn’t do fluff! My cop friends tell me when they see surveillance videos of knife attacks, even from trained knife fighters, it ends up being the same slashes and stabs that anyone else would use. Stress and adrenaline bring out the basics.

Don’t get me wrong, the knife fighting arts are deadly. If there was an offensive knife instructor in my town I would go take lessons. It would be cool and a ton of fun. However, of the three or four self defense scenarios that I can think of off the top of my head knife fighting doesn’t make a lot of sense for any of them.

Scenario one would be a knife against another weapon. I have said many times that if an attacker is close to me I would much rather him have a handgun than a knife. However, at ten feet and out I would much rather they have a knife. If I were to carry one or the other it would be a handgun. I’ve heard knife guys say that they would slice me up before I got to that handgun. Well, that’s a silly thing to say. There are too many variables that they couldn’t know beforehand. Did I start first, see it coming first, have distance on my side? Am I the aggressor, have we started after already injured, etc., etc.? Yes, I know of the Tueller drill. I may well get sliced as I draw that gun, may even receive a fatal wound. I would do this as I am putting ten hollow points center mass. What would have been your goal…to have “I got him too” on your tombstone?

Scenario two would be an unarmed attack like a bar type altercation. If someone is punching you and you slice them up I would imagine that you are going to jail and being sued. You would certainly have to prove to the jury that you were afraid for your life to justify the use of a deadly weapon. As soon as they find out you train Krav Maga that’s out the window!

Using a knife against multi attackers would be easier to justify in court. I’d still rather have a handgun than a knife in that situation.

Lastly, using a knife against someone who has a knife really isn’t anything I’d want to do either. I would rather have a ball bat or something similar that would give me reach and impact. Better yet, I’d run. Even if I had practiced offensive knife a bunch it would still be a gamble, the other guy may be pretty good too. The old saying “The one who wins a knife fight is the one who dies the next day” I would think is too true. I have been told that the top ten Filipino knife masters of all time have all died the same way…knife wounds. If they all died in a knife fight what makes me think I’ll get good enough to be unbeatable? Knife fighting would be too even of a fight. We always want to have the advantage in Krav Maga. If we find ourselves in a fair fight our tactics suck!!

So no, we won’t have a whole knife fighting curriculum in USKMA Krav Maga anytime soon. Practice the few moves we have and keep it simple. That’s our way! BE SAFE!

ATTITUDE

Before I start this blog I want to congratulate nine new USKMA black belts. The five and a half hour test has been likened to running a marathon with people beating on you the entire time. Black belts are hard to get and definitely earned when awarded. I couldn’t be prouder of Brannon Hicks, Alexis Acosta, Juan Acosta, Jesse Tucker, Brock Inman, David Inman, Travis Dillow, Russel Sweeney and Will Schneider!!

ATTITUDE
My USKMA co-lead instructor and law enforcement trainer extraordinaire Brannon Hicks showed a video during our Affiliate Training weekend of a police officer in a gun battle with a crazy man that was horrifying. The officer ended up getting killed. It was easy to see by the way the officer acted, the tactics he used and his other actions that his main goal in the gun battle was to not get shot. It was just as easy to see by the crazy Viet Nam combat vet’s actions, tactics, etc. that his main goal was to kill the officer. Unfortunately the criminal had the right attitude for combat. Attitude.

From Chuck Holton’s book BULLET PROOF. “Capt. Brian Chontosh, found himself leading a patrol through the small town of Ad Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. In what seemed like a single heartbeat, his unit was hit with a coordinated attack of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine-gun fire. Chontosh knew immediately that it was a near ambush…and that he and his men were in the kill zone. Retreat was not an option. Dying was.

But Captain Chontosh wasn’t about to let that happen to his Marines. The love he felt for each of them instantly transformed into rage at those who would try to kill his men. He ordered the driver of his Humvee to plow directly into the enemy trench, and with a violence of action he leaped from the vehicle and attacked the attackers until his rifle ran out of ammo. He then pulled out his pistol and continued killing the enemy until that, too, ran dry. He picked up an enemy weapon and continued fighting. Then another. Then another. When it was over, more than twenty enemy fighters were out of commission and his men were saved.” Capt. Chontosh didn’t do what was expected. He had an attitude…one that he wouldn’t let his men die. Attitude.

Back in the day Mike Tyson was unbeatable! It wasn’t because he was the biggest or most skilled. He was intimidating to the point where most of his opponents got into the ring with the goal of not getting knocked out, with surviving. Mike’s goal was to knock his opponent out. Attitude.

Brannon also told of a law enforcement gun battle of a few years ago where several officers were shot. Two of the officers received very similar injuries. Officer 1 talked afterwards about how as he lay there all he could think about was his wife and children, how his death would hurt them and similar thoughts. Officer 2 talked afterwards about how he knew there were other officers pinned down and how the scum bags were still firing. He was trying to figure out how he could drag himself over to where he could do some damage to the criminals. Officer number 1 never went back to work but went out on disability. Officer number 2 returned to work and was on the force until his retirement. Attitude.

I have blogged many times about how techniques won’t save us if real violence should find us. No system or art will save us. An attitude of go hard, go forward, go now and go until the attacker is a puddle of goo on the ground will.

The first time my wife saw me run a Krav Maga test she was furious at me. She told me that I was an ass, a jerk, mean and didn’t care about people. I had to explain to her that I wasn’t trying to get people to the next belt, wasn’t trying to make people feel good about their accomplishments. My job is to make people tough. Tough enough to survive what, if ever attacked, would be the worst few minutes of their lives. An attack that, if they lost, could find their families dead. She understands now that my only job is to make people safe by giving them a warriors attitude! BE SAFE!

FEAR NO MAN!

Just read about another system who’s ad started with something like “Train with us one evening and you’ll be able to destroy any attacker”. Did the system have any merit? I don’t know, i quit reading after statements like that. It may be a fine system, even on par with Krav Maga but they lost me with that sentence. I hate crap like that, like the one who tells us we will “Fear No Man” and “easily defeat multi attackers, even if they have weapons” if we learn their system.

Guess what, we had better fear man! There are psychopaths out there who will torture and kill you and your family and then go have a hamburger. There are scum out there who will find you at your weakest and most unprepared, come at you from the greatest advantage they can muster and wipe you out. There are mean, tough and huge guys out there who could pound me and you into the ground in a fair fight. There are punks out there with knives and handguns that could off us before we even know we are in trouble.

I heard of a special forces soldier on leave in Florida who got into an altercation in a bar. This was a tough guy who had killed the enemy overseas. He was in shape, smart, a trained killer and just facing off against a regular dude in a bar. He somehow fell, hit his head on a pipe and died. How am i going to tell you that i can make you unbeatable?

This crap makes me sick. When someone is coming to you to learn self defense they are literally putting thier lives in your hands. To teach crap, have an ego and tell prospective students things like “you’ll fear no man” is unforgivable.

What do we teach? First and foremost we teach not to go where trouble is. Don’t go to bad parts of town or a seedy looking bar in the first place. Self defense is recovery from stupidity or bad luck. Second we teach RUN. Run from danger. I am a third degree black belt in Krav Maga and make my living teaching the stuff but i would rather run (no matter how chicken shit I look) than go into a blade or two on one (or just one on one as a matter of fact). Third, use a weapon. Pick something up and use it to fight with. Against a blade, for example, i’d rather have ball bat than any of my empty hand krav techniques. Fourth, and as a last resort, we teach to use our krav maga. Go hard, go forward and go until the scumbag is done.

Doesn’t sound like the teaching of a bad ass does it? Well, I’m not one. I am human and any skinny punk with a blade or bullet could end my life. Any two guys who can get one behind me can end me with a punch to the base of the skull. I refuse to have an ego or to blow smoke up people’s butts. My job is to make people safe and i take it seriously. BE SAFE!