STRESS INOCULATION…

I’ve blogged about putting whatever you are learning for self defense under stress and exhaustion before and how if you aren’t training that way you are learning self defense techniques…not self defense. When I first went to Krav Maga training back in ‘98 I was blown away by the drills they put us through. They were rough, exhausting, vomit inducing and yet…the coolest thing I’d ever seen. It was an epiphany for me to see the way the Israeli’s were training for real world violence. At the time I was a 4th degree black belt in Taekwondo and thought I was training self defense. What I was doing wasn’t even close.

Why do we need to put techniques under exhaustion, stress, run scenarios and learn to do things when we are terrified? Our brains have 3 basic areas. The cognitive is the logical thinking part of our brain. The Middle brain is the emotional part. The Reptilian brain is the lowest, the part where our fight/flight/freeze responses lie. Under stress, exhaustion and fright our brain functions decrease a bunch. We get put into our Reptilian brain because this is where we need to be…deciding whether we need to fight, beat feet or freeze. All we are capable of at this time are gross motor/whole body motions. Everyone, from those who have never trained to combat vets, will freeze when stress overwhelms us. The difference is those who have never trained will be stuck there and those who have trained will have a plan surface quickly.

The U.S. Rangers and other special forces soldiers do this the best. These soldiers in combat will lose function like the rest of us under stress but they will regain function much quicker because they train correctly. They are stress inoculated. In their training to ready them for combat they have had all five senses assaulted under stress. They are torn down and made to fail. After they have failed up front (the beginning of their training) the trainers now have their undivided attention. Most are tough guys who win at everything and thought they would eat the training up. They are brought to failure, every one of them, then they can be rebuilt. The next thing the trainers will work is muscle memory. When they are put under stress in real life or death situations their blood pools to their core and they will lose fine motor skills, finger movement, vision, hearing, etc. just like the rest of us under stress. They have worked their muscle memory and mental memory skills so many times that the functions of fighting, loading and firing weapons, etc. will still be able to be performed. Their formula is 1) fail/frustrate with scenario based drills, 2) slow muscle memory drills and 3) scenario based drills mimicking actual combat and the jobs they must perform.

This is what we do in Krav. We learn gross whole body movements by the numbers, slowly and precisely. We then work them with a partner slowly, then faster as we get better. Lastly we put them under realistic attack scenarios and stress inducing drills. Studies shows that a person’s brain doesn’t recognize the difference between training and real attacks when it is under stress, exhausted and in a frightened state. So it goes to reason that if any one of our gym’s members are attacked, say by a choke from behind, their brain will think they have done this for real hundreds of times and they will react. There will be no thinking or freezing, what they have done so many times before will come out of them. They will get rid of the hands on their throat and beat the attacker into the ground…without thinking. This is what they trained for and what their brain thinks they have done for real hundreds of times!

Again, when someone comes to you for self defense training they are literally putting their lives in your hands. Don’t’ teach crap from a system just because it’s your system. Train them right, put them under stress & exhaustion and let their brains live “the fight” so that if it happens on the street they have “been there and done that”. BE SAFE!

RUN FORREST!

When there was trouble Forrest ran! This was a brilliant tactic as it kept him safe (even kept him from being fried in ‘Nam). When I give lectures on self defense the first thing I tell people is “don’t be there…don’t go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things”. The second major bit of advice I give is “run”. Run away, run to help, run to pick something up to use as a weapon but just RUN! When I teach knife defense seminars, for example, the first thing we do is practice sprinting away from someone who is going to their pocket. The second thing we practice is punching the dude going for his pocket…and then running. These are the best two knife defenses I have. Running is generally the best thing to do for your safety! If the local paper has me on the front page with the headline KRAV MAGA EXPERT RUNS FROM KNIFE I wouldn’t be offended. I would see that headline and think “a still living, very smart krav maga expert runs from knife”!

But let’s think about this advice. Can you run? When is the last time you did any sprint work? The average violent criminal is a male ages 18-25. Can you outrun a young dude who is still in his athletic prime? I doubt I can anymore. Are we fit enough to not keel over dead after attempting to run thirty yards? Do we just hope that we are attacked only by overweight, slow and lazy people? Hope isn’t a strategy. So, first point of running for safety is to get yourself into shape. This is why we are so physical in our Krav classes. This is why we recommend to our affiliate gyms that they add CardioMMA and Crossfit. Techniques won’t save anyone. Being in better shape than the attacker, going off with rage, going forward and going hard is what will save us.

Next thougt; what are you wearing? Most guys I know, when they go out, are in athletic shoes. Most women, however are in things I couldn’t even stand in, yet alone walk or run in! During self defense for women seminars I talk a lot about this. Those “cute shoes” could be your downfall. How can you outrun anyone in those stiletto heels? Statistically violence tends to happen more often where young men gather and where minds are altered. This sounds like most bars, doesn’t it? If you are going to the bar those cute shoes may not be the thing to wear. How quick can you get them off and run barefoot? The second point is to plan and mind set. Wear things you can fight and run in…have a plan!

Last thought; Where are you running to? Again, have a plan and mind set. When you go into a restaurant, theater, etc. you should not only know where the exits are but also should have put yourself in position to get to them quickly. If outside in a city do you know where you can run to most likely get help? How about out in rural areas. Where can you run to quickly where help is available? In our self defense for women seminars I make the point that a tazer isn’t to be totally relied on. When you taze the guy it will lock him up for thirty seconds…if both barbs got him (happens less than 70% of the time). How far can you run in thirty seconds? When it lets go of him he may well sprint to wherever you are to do you harm.

So the next time you hear someone say “I’d just run (like Forrest)” ask them what shape they are in, what they are usually wearing and, in their plan, where are they running to. Thinking about these things ahead of time gives us a plan. Plans don’t get made up under stress but the plans we have do surface and our training will come out of us. BE SAFE!

CAN I DO KRAV MAGA?

When I owned gyms I got calls from all sorts of people who wanted to know if they could learn Krav Maga. They thought that they might be too old, that their physical problems might keep them from being able to participate or they may have even had a handicap. My answer was always “Krav Maga would be perfect for you”.

The history of krav maga shows how it was developed for everyone, not just athletic people. Imi Lichetenfeld was put in charge of the IDF’s hand to hand training when Israel became a nation in 1948. Problems that Imi had that benefit us today are that he had everyone in the IDF from ages 18-55…men and women. If you were an Israeli at that time you were in the military, no matter what shape you were in. Because of that you’ll see no jump, spin, flying anything in Krav Maga, you’ll see a lot of groin kicks! Also, he had recruits for only six weeks. Imi had to teach things that didn’t rely on brute strength or size because he had small women to train. It had to be easy to learn and easy to remember because he had them for such a short period of time. If you know anything about Israel, you know that it had to be effective. Krav Maga isn’t a Martial Art where things are done because of tradition. Israel doesn’t care about tradition, they care about survival. If something comes along easier to learn or more effective they’ll jump to that technique in a heart beat

I told these people who thought that they may not be able to participate in class that their age, physical problem or handicap didn’t automatically keep them from being a victim of a crime. In fact, it may have actually increased the odds so they certainly shouldn’t use any excuse to not become safer. They would be able to do most of what we did in class because whatever we teach in Krav Maga has to be effective for the smallest, weakest and most un-athletic in our classes. To have defenses that use size or strength to be effective is ignoring those who need self defense the most.

I would tell them to sit out of anything that looked like it would aggravate their problem or anything that looked too rough. If they only did half of each class they would still be learning self defense and would become safer than if they didn’t do anything.

When I trained people who were missing an arm, for example, it really paid off that Krav Maga is much more a system about a philosophy and not about techniques. Having only one arm would keep a student from perfecting a technique that takes two arms. They would never learn it correctly. However, the philosophy of “go off, go forward, go hard and destroy the attacker” is something we can all learn to do. Hitting with what ya got, blocking with what ya got and being full of rage will keep you safer than any able bodied black belt in a technique based system. In fact, for our level five test I make the students do the first half (it’s about a 4 ½ hour test) with one arm tied to their body. They have to figure out what to do with choke defenses, knife defenses, handgun defenses, etc. My thought is that their arm may have been shattered first thing in the attack. If they had only learned techniques they would be at a major loss only being able to use one arm. As it plays out, they all do great. They make it up on the fly and stay aggressive. I get to see a lot of head butts and knees!

Everyone can’t become a black belt in Krav Maga but everyone, no matter what their handicap, can become safer. Don’t let any excuse get in your way! BE SAFE!

SELF DEFENSE CLASS?

There are several things that I see in most self defense classes that I don’t agree with. Am I right and everyone else wrong? Nah, I don’t have the ego BUT here are some things to think about.

Warm ups. I don’t like wasting time! When I teach a class I feel that I have 50 minutes to make all in attendance as safe as possible. I have been to classes that warm up for half an hour. I always felt that I was there to learn Krav Maga, not do pushups. I can do those at home. We warm up for 7 minutes in classes I teach. In those warm ups we do “Krav” motions so that I can correct and work on form. Punching and throwing elbows will warm up shoulders. These are motions we want reps on because they make us safe. Arm circles, etc. warm up shoulders as well, but we aren’t repping anything we’ll actually use in self defense!

Learning techniques. My opinion is that there are no magic techniques. Techniques will not save us in real world violent attacks!! I tell students “Aggression is our number one technique. Aggression and going totally off like a crazy person is the number one thing to work on to keep us safe in the real world.” I have read several studies that seem to indicate that between 70 and 85% of martial art black belts who get into a real world fight…lose! When I read this as a martial artist I was offended. Now that I can look back I see how this can be, I see the flaws in the way I was training. The martial art that I was in involved a lot of “technique training”. We would practice a kick on a target for many reps. We never worked on hitting a target that was moving and didn’t want hit. We never practiced on a target that was trying to hurt us. We never had a plan for what we would do if that kick didn’t devastate the target. We didn’t practice a philosophy of “go hard until the target is down”, we just practiced a technique.

Class pace. This goes along with the above paragraph but to not run people into the ground in class is a mistake. Everything we teach we put under stress and exhaustion. If we are ever attacked on the street I can guarantee that there will be lots of stress and exhaustion. To rely on anything that hasn’t been practiced under the circumstances we’ll face in the real world is a mistake.

Drills. This is the most important thing we do in class for self defense. We go as hard as we can with multiple attackers for 1 to 2 minute rounds. This is gut check time. We may not be hitting as hard at the end of the drill as we were at the beginning but we are still hitting! We will outlast the scum bag. NO matter how tired, cramped, etc. that we are we will not quit until the threat is down. We will keep going no matter what! BTW, when running drills make it hitting things, not calisthenics. As my friend and 2nd degree Krav black belt Matt Kissel says “I’ve never had to do a burpee in the middle of a fight”. Train for what you’ll see.

Knife on Knife, stick on stick, etc. training. If someone has a knife I don’t want to fight them with a knife. Heck, if you are in a fair fight your tactics suck!! I want a ball bat against a knife. I’ll take a ball bat and an attitude over a black belt in any system! Even better, I’ll take a handgun and distance. We actually train handgun quite a bit in Krav Maga. I’ll argue that ten hours of handgun training makes us safer than 1,000 hours training with any other weapon. We need to teach people to run from weapons. Most of the weapon vs. weapon training that I see has a fatal flaw…they are one against one training. Every asshole has an asshole buddy close by!

Training tools. The training tool that is popular with Krav people that I don’t get are the shock knives. They don’t hold up that well, are expensive and…pretty friggin worthless in my opinion. What is the reason to use shock knives (or the old put lipstick on a rubber knife and wear a white t shirt)? Are you saying that if you get touched by the knife you didn’t do the defense right? I call bullshit on that. In a knife attack you are going to get cut. We don’t even call it “knife defenses” in our seminars, we call it “knife survival”. If you are doing defenses and not getting touched by the knife I can guarantee you that the attacks aren’t realistic. We expect to get cut, we are trying to avoid the 40 stab wounds to the chest that the average psycho is attempting to deliver. I’ve also been told that the “shock” mimics pain and teaches us to keep going when we feel it. I would suggest that people who believe that go study the adrenaline dump and stress. You ain’t feeling pain under the stress of someone trying to kill you…that comes later!

A much better training tool for knife defenses would be KY jelly. Any defense you are teaching should be able to be used with that stuff slathered all over your arms and hands. There is blood on the scene of almost every knife attack. Blood is one slippery substance. If the defense can’t be used effectively all slicked up like that it isn’t a good defense. Guess what, most every defense you know for a knife fails under that test. What works best? Punching or kicking the attacker as hard as you can as you attempt to block the blade…and creating distance to get the heck out of there or access a better weapon (such as a ball bat).

Don’t teach classes without thinking about everything that you are doing and how it actually applies to the real world. BE SAFE!

GO AHEAD, GET MAD!

“the problem with most martial arts is that they take a logical and cerebral approach to a chaotic and visceral situation ” SGT Rory Miller in MEDITATIONS ON VIOLENCE

“When things are at their darkest and it seems like there’s no hope of surviving, well, that’s when you gotta get mad dog mean” The Outlaw Josey Wales

Different “arts” and systems seem to take different approaches on how they view emotion. In sports fighting we are told that you can’t fight mad, that you must be under control. Most martial arts preach Zen-like attitudes and to be calm under pressure. We root for the martial arts hero in the movies who seem calm and at peace as they whup butt.
These things just don’t transfer to the real world. Fighting mad in sports makes you go hard and wear out…and you have several rounds to get through. The not fighting mad makes sense in that arena. The magical martial arts and their Samurai code are cool to study, great for self-discipline, fairly good exercise….and are fairly worthless when it comes to real violence.

When attacked on the street by a couple of scum bags who want to do you and your family harm going off with all the rage and hatred you can muster and fighting like an animal is the best chance you have of surviving. In SGT Samford Strong’s must read book STRONG ON DEFENSE he interviews dozens of people who have made it through horrible, unimaginable crimes. His main points that come through again and again are that the people who survived these horrible attacks had two things in common. 1) they worried more about the crime being done to them than they worried about injury. They accepted injury and pain and decided to pay it back to the attacker ten-fold. 2) the ones who consistently fought back and won were those who went off with anger, hatred and rage.

The thought “how dare you think you are going to harm me, I will tear you apart” and then attacking like a wild animal has a much greater impact on survival than any techniques, system or art. We cannot worry about staying fresh for a prolonged fight as we want to destroy the attacker as quick as we can and get out of there. We certainly can’t live by a “never strike first” or chivalrous code because the attacker’s don’t.

I tell student’s all the time that Krav Maga will not save you, it is not magic. Mixing our techniques (which are easy to learn & remember, use gross, whole body motions and are designed to do as much damage as possible) with going off like a bomb brining out all the anger and rage you can muster is the best chance you have of surviving violence. Ask any law enforcement officer whom they would rather face; 1) a very proficient and talented martial artist or 2) some crazy who wants to claw off their face and chew on their eyes. They would much rather face the martial artist. If we can be both the crazy person and be proficient with our techniques we will be a scary opponent indeed.

We bring this out in our classes by not just learning techniques but by putting what we learn under stress and exhaustion. We run drills in our class that wear people out and make them want to quit. At that point it is all heart that gets them through it and heart on the street is worth more than any technique or system. We encourage people to yell and cuss during these drills. Not the “hiiiiii yaaaa” of those oh so controlled martial arts but we call the attacker a “son of a bitch”, etc., etc. This may sound over the top but if we can see the scum bag in training, yell at him and hate him we are much, much safer on the street when it’s for real and we have that “been there, done that” feeling.

The scum bags use violence as a tool, we must perfect that tool and wield it better than they do. If your butt is ever on the line get mad, get mean and fight with rage and hatred. It’s the best chance you have. BE SAFE!