IS IT SELF DEFENSE?

“Instructors, when someone comes to you to learn self defense they are literally putting their lives in your hands!” M. Slane

If it’s complicated…..it ain’t self defense. Real violence is more sudden, more terrifying, closer and faster than any of us can train for. If whatever you do to fight back isn’t instinctual, if it isn’t something that comes right out of you, it will not keep you safe.

If it teaches you to fear no man & to charge into a knife, stick or other weapon……it ain’t self defense. Any good self defense system will tell you to RUN! We aren’t injury proof and we’d rather not have to defend ourselves. We’d rather not be there. We need to run, talk our way out, pick up an object to whack the scumbag with then, only as a last resort, use actual self defense techniques. Self protection is using awareness and avoiding. Self defense means you weren’t paying attention and are already in a bad situation that you now have to fight your way out of.

If it involves fine motor skills….it ain’t self defense. With stress and the adrenaline dump blood pools to our core. This makes our limbs weak, heavy and numb. There is no way we are doing finger manipulations in the face of real violence.

If it is regimented…..it ain’t self defense. There are arts where a choke defense, for example, has steps A through F that are followed and practiced every time. When, in the real world, the attacker doesn’t do what we expect and the technique derails at step C we will be lost.

If it is totally ground based….it ain’t self defense. Being on the ground takes two things for granted. That there isn’t a weapon involved and that there is only one attacker. Theses are two things that we should never be thinking won’t happen.

If it is practiced with space….it ain’t self defense. All knife defenses, for example, work when the attacker announces himself from six feet away. Whatever you are learning has to work late, after you’ve been surprised and have already taken damage. Another angle on this is if I am taking big circular steps in my technique, stepping several feet to perform a throw, etc. I am taking for granted that I will never be attacked in a crowded area, never in an aisle of a bus, etc.

If it isn’t a workout, isn’t developing cardio…it ain’t self defense. We have black belts in other arts come to our gym quite often. They almost never can make it through a class and almost never come back. How can you teach people to be safe if they can’t fight hard for more than a few seconds? We’d love our fights to be over in a few seconds but we can’t take that for granted. If the fight does drag out fatigue will get us hurt. We must be able to keep going until the danger is over.

If it relies on katas to develop skills for fighting off multi attackers…it ain’t self defense. We learn to fight multi attackers in Krav Maga by having multi attackers pad up and smack us around! Sounds logical to us!

If you spend most of your time practicing sword, chuks, kama’s and the like…it ain’t self defense. You think you’re gonna have those handy when violence finds you? Using those farm implements to defend one;s self made sense hundreds of years ago. Today any punk with a handgun will defeat your hundreds of hours of practice. When we in Krav spend time with weapons we’re on a shooting range.

If the system brags that it hasn’t changed in hundreds of years…it ain’t self defense. We aren’t attacked by armored soldiers on horse back anymore. The scum bags have changed tactics, we had better change our answers for them.

If it takes years to become proficient…..it ain’t self defense. If you knew that you would be attacked five years from now it wouldn’t matter what you studied. You’d be pretty good by then. Do you know when you’ll be attacked? It could this week, couldn’t it?

If it is sparring….in ain’t self defense. Despite what Hollywood leads us to believe real world violence is never like sparring. Sparring has rules, flow, set ups. Violence is a knife slashing at you non stop, three people standing over you stomping your head into the curb, someone grabbing you by the hair and throwing haymakers at your face. It is not feinting, changing levels, going in, backing out and throwing combinations. Sparring teaches some good skills, it just can’t be relied on to get us ready for real violence.

If you are studying something strictly for self defense make sure that it was developed strictly for self defense! BE SAFE!

GYM TECHNIQUES

I study a lot of other systems and go to a lot of self defense, safety and shooting seminars. I learn some good things but I also see a lot of gym techniques (or, in the shooting world, range techniques). By gym techniques I mean things that are taught that look good in the gym, make sense when explained, look devastating and way cool but, when you study real world violence & real world attacks and put some thought in to them….just wouldn’t work on the streets. Too many systems, both self defense and shooting, add layers of complexity to techniques to justify their “secret formula” I do believe. Academically what they teach may well make sense but the problem is they have never asked the opinion of someone who has lived through a violent attack. This blog isn’t to put anyone down but to challenge you to be a critical thinker and to study real world violence. Some of what I consider gym techniques;

-Most anything ground related that isn’t taught as “you got knocked down…fight and get the hell back up”. To patiently control until you can submit isn’t a sound self defense strategy. In the gym it may look way devastating as you snap my elbow or tear my shoulder to shreds but on the street as you are doing that my friend is kicking you in the head, I am pulling my knife and slicing you or…I am slicing you as my friend kicks your head. So you snap my elbow, it didn’t kill me. I now get up and beat the crap out of you with the three appendages I have left! Also, I need you to show me how awesome that stuff works out on the concrete…see how many times you want to knee drop as you take me down, stay on top of me as I buck and your knees smack the pavement, pull guard as your melon smacks the ground, etc.

-I have heard of entire weekend seminars on how to get out of restraints. I have been to home invasion seminars where they spend 1/3 of the day showing how to break zip ties from around your wrists. This seems like a good skill to have…until you think about it. I refuse to train this…I don’t want it in my head that I will ever be restrained. I have decided (mind setting) that I will fight five guys with shotguns aimed at my head before I will be restrained. Once restrained my options go way down. I will only survive then if the scumbags decide to let me. I will have that say, not them. Those who teach this will say “Well, you could have been knocked out and woke up bound or they could have a gun to your kids head.” Again, academically this makes sense. To me, they don’t. About the being knocked out…the only reason I wake up from being knocked out is that the scumbags decided to not kill me. So right off the bat my scenario is based on being knocked out by good Bad Guys! When I do wake up so many things could have happened. They could be gone, they could have tied me hand and foot and done it right, I could be locked inside somewhere, I could be blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. I think training for a wishful thinking scenario is kinda a waste. Now, as far as the gun at my kid’s head and I better comply, again, this decision has been made ahead of time. I will rush the gunman and pray that he points the gun at me as I approach. Even if I take a fatal wound I will take this piece of crap with me. If you study home invasions you know what the other alternative is. You will be forced to watch your family tortured, raped and probably killed. I ain’t going out that way my friends.

-In the shooting world I have seen a system that teaches that if you pull the trigger and the gun doesn’t fire to shuffle your feet moving back and forth as you clear the jam and put the weapon back in service. Again, this makes logical sense. As you are clearing that jam or reloading don’t stand in one place as that makes it easier to hit you. I have had officers who have had to fire while being fired on tell me “Bull shit. If that gun don’t go boom It could be it’s empty, could be a jam and could be that it is broken and aint’ gonna fire any more no matter what I do to it. Even if I fix that jam in a second and a half I am not staying in a three foot area shuffling back and forth as the idiot can fire 10 rounds at me in that time. If my weapon goes click I will sprint like I am on fire to the nearest cover and clear that jam as I am running. If and when I get it back to working order then I can get back on target and fire.”

-Some training tools seem cool but make no sense to me. The one I am asked about often are those cool shock knives. They are training blades that have a battery and will give you a jolt if they touch you. When I am asked if we have these I always say “what purpose would they serve?”. Yes, it will let me know when the knife touches me but what is that saying…that if I get touched by a knife I did the defense wrong? I say BS to that! It’s a knife, you are going to get cut! If you are practicing knife defenses and not getting touched by the knife it is because the attacker isn’t attacking you anywhere near realistically. “To fight on after you feel pain” may be a logical answer as well. Study the adrenaline dump and stress I would say. You aren’t feeling anything while it’s going on. The pain comes later when things are done.

-While we’re on it, most any knife defense you have ever seen is a gym technique. If you can run that should be your first choice. If you can’t run find something to smack the idiot with (a ball bat would work nicely). If those two things can’t happen block as good as you can while punching the attacker’s throat and kicking him in the groin. That’s about as good as it gets if there is a knife involved. All those cool joint locks and ninja moves? When someone wants to show you one first slather baby oil or ky jelly on both of your arms from fingertip to elbow. When they cry “foul” point out to them that a knife is made to cut. If there is a knife involved there is blood involved. Blood is one slippery substance.

-Oh, I’m not saying Krav Maga has no gym techniques. I have found several that I’ve been taking out of the curriculum. For years we taught long gun and hand gun defenses to both the live and dead side. We would say that we have to be able to redirect the barrel to either our left or our right because we may have someone with us on our right (or left), there may be a barrier to one side, there may be another bad guy we want to redirect the gun towards, etc. Again, these make logical sense, are academically good reasons. After studying how stress and the dump effect our bodies I am convinced that if I turn around and a barrel is pointed at my head my thought will be “Holy crap, I’m about to die” and that there could be tap dancing elephants beside me and I’m not going to notice. The side I’ve done most of my reps on and feel the best with is the side I’m using to redirect that barrel. Another is what we called our “choke with a head butt” defense. We would start off teaching that technique by saying “if someone grabs your throat and simultaneously head butts you they will hit you, you didn’t see them. This is for when they grab your throat and you see them lean back to head butt you”. So, right off the bat, we were relying on the attacker not being well trained. Then we noticed when the students had other students attacking them with several different types of chokes (front, back, side, being pushed, etc.) that they never seemed to see the head butt coming and wouldn’t do that defense when it was called for. As a new instructor I would bawl out the class telling them they needed to pay attention. As a (much) older and (slightly) wiser instructor I can figure out that if they aren’t seeing it coming in training they surely won’t see it coming on the streets. This is no longer taught because it was a gym technique.

-Any move that relies on squaring up and acquiring some distance is probably a gym technique. Violence just doesn’t give you time to do that. It is on you fast and furious. Techniques with a lot of movement, big steps, pushing forward then pulling back, etc. are gym techniques. Learn to rely on having space and then you’re screwed the one time you really are attacked and it’s in a bus isle. Techniques that rely on being stronger or bigger than the opponent (I see a lot of these) are gym techniques…do you know in advance who is going to attack you? Any technique that you can’t perform tired, stressed and confused is a gym technique. Put everything you learn under stress and exhaustion.

As I say in one of my lectures to new instructors “don’t put your personal safety in the hands of some self appointed expert. Never let anything over ride your own experience and common sense. You are not children, think for yourselves!”. BE SAFE!

Trainers…watch that ego!

“If ya gotta blow your own horn you’re probably the only one blowing the darned thing.” MS

I just got done leading black belt training and a level five test for an awesome group this past weekend. In this group we had pro and amateur MMA fighters, kickboxing champions, an Olympic gold medalist, several cops, swat team members, an Army Ranger and several masters of other arts. I can’t tell you how often, as we practiced a technique, I asked the group “anything to add?”. After teaching a kick I would say to one of the masters of a kicking art “Please come here and demo, yours is better than mine!”. After talking about a third party situation I would ask the Ranger or the law enforcement officers “How do you see this?”. The way I saw it, I had people who were experts in certain techniques and tactics at this training and if I want my people to be as good as possible and as safe as possible why wouldn’t I use the experts I had there?

When we were doing handgun scenarios with simunitions something stood out to me big time. We had several people who had done a lot of handgun training with big time, well known instructors who knew guns and could hit the eye out of a fly at thirty feet but who had never put anything they learned under stress. It was a whole new ballgame with someone shooting back! We all learned a lot and had some awesome training. During the training Brannon (the USKMA’s co-lead instructor and cop extraordinaire) made the statement that a lot of shooting courses compared to what we were doing that day are like martial arts vs. krav maga. Some instructors know the science, are very academic and add layers of complexity to justify their “new way” of shooting. What we were doing was simple stuff. Someone is shooting at you…it’s all about getting through the loop quickly and keeping the attacker in it. Complex doesn’t cut it. We had at least three guys in the room who had had to save their own butts with a handgun in the past. Guess who we asked a lot of questions? Instead of an academic bent and science we wanted to know how real people got out of crap situations in the real world!

As we talked about the other courses we attended in both the self defense and the shooting arenas Brannon made the statement “A lot of the guys who do that for a living are doing it because they have the ‘look at me’ type of personality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just their personality. What ticks me off is if they are teaching a shooting course and they have several long time swat operators and the like attending and never ask them for their opinion, thoughts or stories. That is an instructor with a closed mind.”

I thought this was good advice. I attend a lot of other people’s training. I want my staff and students to do the same. If we can pick up one thing to make people safer it is worth the weekend’s training. When I attend other trainings it seems that generally I’ve seen 90% of it, 5% of it is bat $#!T what is he thinking crazy and 5% of it I can use…something new I had never thought of. The trainings I leave? The one’s with egotistical instructors. A big red flag is if they have to put down other systems or instructors. How do you build your house when you’re tearing down someone else’s. I had a friend walk out of a very expensive training put on by a very well known instructor when one of the first things out of his mouth was how much better what he does is than “krav m’gay”.

None of us know it all, nobody is always right. We change techniques often in our system, we want to stay cutting edge and keep people as safe as possible. We learn new techniques by scouring the internet, attending trainings, reading, watching videos and being open minded. Crap, it sounds like I’m blowing my own horn! The point is, nobody has all the answers. Learn from all but don’t look at any one instructor as THE authority. BE SAFE!

Martial Arts vs. Self Defense

First and foremost we in the USKMA 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 differ in that we don’t believe it is prudent that achieving proficiency takes years.

When we in Krav Maga think self defense we believe it has to be easy to learn, easy to remember, come out of us instinctually and be effective no matter what the size and strength difference may be between our attacker and ourselves. We also believe in training everything we do must be put under stress and exhaustion to ready our practitioners for the adrenaline dump and the effects of stress that a violent attack will produce.

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. I have my son was 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 not lose. 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. I spent 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 calvary! 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. 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 on 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.

I know of several systems that are now being designed by one man for modern attacks. These that rely on one “founder” worry me. Techniques are designed in a gym with students as the attackers. A lot of systems work for the head honcho. 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 un-athletic female as it does the six foot two, two hundred thirty 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, least athletic practitioner? I have seen a system that taught a straight stab 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 defense was 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 we’re about.

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 a real attack when it derails at step C. One other big problem I see too often is students not being allowed to questions techniques or to think for themselves. 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 attacker even 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).

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.

GOTTA MIND SET!

Most self defense systems, martial arts, etc. fail to one extent or another in that they don’t consider what effect real violence has on the one being attacked. As Winston Churchill said “No matter how enamored one is with their plans, from time to time one must consider the enemy.” A real world attack will be at such speed (the attacker knew what was coming, you didn’t), such close range and with such violence that it will overwhelm us. It is not uncommon for the person being attacked to just freeze. Mix in the fear of injury, the “this can’t really be happening” thoughts and the fact that we may have taken damage and been dazed before we know what’s going on and we are starting way behind the eight ball.

Mind Setting is the best thing that we can do to prepare for this random, sudden violence. Mind setting is rehearsing and visualizing actions in your mind. Military and Law Enforcement do this all the time. Very interesting is the fact that as violence in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past few decades murders of citizens have also skyrocketed but murders of police officers since the mid 1970’s have decreased by 43%. This is attributed to what law enforcement started preaching and training at that time……Mind Setting. Mind Setting is making a plan for whatever the attack is. Officers started planning with their partners. “What will we do if at this stop light a gunman comes from your side, from behind, from my side?” “When we pull up to this house what will we do if a gunman comes out the front door, from the side, is behind us across the street?” Under stress and the dump our brains go to “animal” setting. We are not coming up with plans then. This is why tragedies like the Luby’s restaurant massacre happen where people just sat in their seats and stared at the gunman as he went table to table and murdered over a dozen people. If we had a plan made beforehand it will surface!

For example, think about what you would do this evening if you were watching TV and someone were to kick in your front door, what you would do if you opened your eyes in bed at 2 a.m. to find someone standing over you, if you were suddenly surrounded by three large men in the parking lot at the mall, etc. etc.? Decisions about what you are going to do in a violent attack must be made well before the attack happens. The people who survive violent attacks are those who go off with rage….and do it immediately. When you are watching the news, reading the paper, etc. and come across a violent crime don’t think “poor person” and move on or worse, “that couldn’t happen to me”. Think about exactly what you would do in that situation. I’m not talking about thinking how you will devastate four attackers with spinning high kicks (that is dreaming) but think about how you can escape (either right away I am running or I will smash this guys face and then run….if i am blocked i will kick and punch and hit with anything i can find on the ground until i can get out of there, etc.). Go over and over “what would i do” for every situation possible. If you think it can’t happen to you, you won’t plan for it. The U.S. government’s own Justice department states “Every U.S. citizen now has a realistic chance of being a victim of random violence.”

When attacked Mind Setting gives us the “been here, done that” feeling and gets us moving into action. When mind setting 1) visualize being in the crime. Not watching….in the crime. 2) visualize your actions to escape and 3) visualize being shot or stabbed or hurt in some way and still escaping (the subject of another blog…very important).

Why Krav? We do drills at the end of every class. They suck because they wear us out but these drills are the most important thing we do in class. What is a drill? Think about it. In a drill we are being the victim of an attack. There are usually two or more partners pushing us, we are fighting back, we are going all out, etc. This is Mind Setting…..but doing it physically. When attacked in real life by two or more the “been there, done that” comes out as we have indeed been there and done that!!

“You are not paranoid when you worry about people out there who might try to kill you when there are people out there who might try to kill you” SGT Strong
BE SAFE!