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!


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