IN KRAV CLASS WHY DO WE…

Why do we do things the way we do in USKMA classes? I get asked this from time to time. When I do instructor training for new affiliates I give them a specific template for running classes. All USKMA gyms across the nation are pretty much teaching classes the same way. I emphasize that there are two reasons for everything we do in our gyms. Reason 1 is that whatever we do must make people safe. Our job is to save people’s lives. We will teach the most battle tested, cutting edge, effective, easiest to learn and easiest to recall self defense techniques and tactics that we possibly can. Reason 2 is to get people in the door. We teach a fast paced class, emphasize the workout and weight loss aspect and truly compete against the big box gyms, not martial arts schools. Showing gym owners how to grow a business is important, profit isn’t a dirty word. Now, we will not compromise one of these for the other. We will not teach “fluff”, water things down, take it easy or make an aerobics class out of our classes. That may get more people in but we will not teach anything that is BS just to make money. Likewise, we could run classes like an IDF boot camp. I know gyms that do this. We can go overly hard, make beginners practice outside defenses without padding to “toughen them up”, injure people, scream and belittle the whole time, etc. If we did this we would have tough as nails, studly students…all ten of them. I cannot make people safe who are not in class. Why would I have ego to run classes like this to make ten people safe when, if I do it right, I can make hundreds and even thousands of people safe? When I owned gyms in Columbus, OH we had 750 members. If you took one of our classes you left pretty sure that we weren’t taking it easy, that it was real self defense and that you were just ran into the ground. We didn’t do fluff but we also weren’t sadists. Below are questions I’ve been asked with two part answers. One part is why it’s done to make people safe, the other part is why it’s done to get people into our gyms.

WHY ARE CLASSES SO BASIC/SO MUCH PUNCHING AND KNEEING?
1) Basics will be what saves our butts if we are ever attacked! I know of three of my black belts who have been attacked over the past few years. One ended the attack with a punch, one ended the attack with an elbow and one hit the attacker with a six pack of beer upside the head. They all verbalized to me that they were disappointed, they all had this vast bag of techniques in their brains and that’s all they did. I told them that that is the point. The basics, done well, is what it’s all about. It is funny that most well known MMA or BJJ fighters who put out dvd’s have “advanced techniques” on them but when you watch them fight they only do basics. This is why they are champions, they do the basics better than anyone else. If it’s complicated, it isn’t self defense!

2) As a workout in class a ten combination attack would be slow, have to be demonstrated many times, have to be slowly added to and slow class down. A ten combination attack that is six punches, clinch and throw four knees is more effective, won’t have hesitation as we try to remember and anyone can do it after being shown once.

CAN WE SLOW THINGS DOWN AND WORK ON TECHNIQUE?
1) Nope, techniques won’t save your ass, going forward with rage and swinging for the fences will. Techniques degrade under stress, a bunch. If I can guarantee that this technique is going to pretty much fall apart if you are attacked (and have that adrenaline dump, blood pooling to your core due to vasoconstriction, brain jumbled and not thinking or remembering, etc.) why would we want to emphasize the technique in class? What will save us is having a ‘flinch’ reaction that has us going forward with hatred and rage to do the maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time. This is why classes are all about aggression and heart and why everything we teach is put under exhaustion and stress.

2) That’s what they do in martial arts class. How many adults are lining up to get into those?

WHY DO YOU HAVE FITNESS CLASSES AT YOUR GYM?
1) If you study self defense and read books that interview survivors of vicious attacks (Strong On Defense by SGT Strong, Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence by SGT Rory Miller) you will see two truths. One is that the first person to go balls to the wall generally wins. Two is that the person who exhausts first usually loses. If you go off first and can fight harder for a longer period of time than the attacker you are virtually unbeatable.

2) If we have a martial arts dojo and add Krav Maga we look like a martial arts dojo with a Krav class. If we have Krav Maga, CardioMMA, Crossfit, etc. in our gym we look like a fitness and self defense Mecca! Give members three of four things to attend every single day. The box gyms don’t tell members “you can come twice a week for this one hour class”. Since we are competing against them, neither should we!

WHY DO YOU HAVE OTHER CLASSES SUCH AS MUAY THAI AND BOXING AT YOUR GYM?
1) Our gyms had a BJJ class, a Muay Thai class, a boxing class and an MMA class every week that our members could attend. Beginners certainly needed Krav Maga if they were there for self defense but they could hit these other classes as well. Their hands could only get better if they went to the boxing class, their ground got better with BJJ, kicks better with Muay Thai, etc. Our advanced students in Krav Maga were certainly encouraged to hit everything. If all things were equal who would be better able to defend themselves…a ten year Krav Maga student or a ten year krav maga student who also had several years in BJJ, boxing and Muay Thai? Yep, that’s how we saw it as well.

2) When it was time to sign the agreement to join the gym we got a lot of “You mean I can do all of this for this one price?” That’s called adding value to their membership.

WHY DO MOST DEFENSES END WITH CLINCHING AND KNEEING?
1) Because it works! If I am defending a choke or headlock against someone who is bigger, stronger and better than me I don’t want to get their hands off and then move around and spar with them. They’ll win! As soon as I break their grip I clinch and knee them in the groin, before they’re recovered from that I knee them in the face, before their recovered from that… I don’t need a small female, for example, thinking of anything besides holding on and destroying this idiot. Keep them in the loop by hitting them over and over never letting them recover, throw them to the ground, stomp their Achilles and beat feet to safety.

2) You ever clinch and knee a pad holder with all your might for two minutes straight? One heck of a workout!!

WHY DOES EVERY CLASS HAVE TO END WITH THOSE DAMNED DRILLS?
1) If we, God forbid, are ever attacked on the street we will be stressed, confused and exhausted. IF we had learned techniques but never had them put under stress, confusion and exhaustion we didn’t prepare for what a real attack is. We don’t know how our body is going to react. We are freezing because we don’t understand what is going on. We learned self defense techniques, not self defense. There is a big difference! These drills are the best thing we do for self defense in class. No time to think about technique, just hit the target! We can hardly breath, stand or lift our arms but we are still fighting…we are going on heart! If ever attacked on the street we will have a “been there, done that” feeling!

2) As people are crawling out the door completely spent they will shake your hand and tell you what a great class that was! That is a workout! We have had many, many members over the years lose 60, 70…even 100 pounds. We made them both safe and healthy!

BE SAFE!

BE AN ANIMAL TO DEFEAT ANIMALS!

The theme of many of my blogs has been that techniques don’t save anyone…fighting with hatred and rage does. Fighting like an animal does. Krav Maga won’t save you. Krav Maga with rage and going first, going hard & going forward will.

Freddie Roach Jr. tells the story of being attacked by three guys at once in his younger days. He dropped the first guy with a punch. The next two had him on the ground and were on top of him before he could react. He went “animal” and actually bit one of the guys eye lids off. He says that he had eyelashes and skin in his mouth, actually thinks he bit the guys eye ball. It was over. The dude screamed and rolled off, his partner fled as well. The boxing technique saved him from the first guy, fighting like an animal saved his life.

From SGT Samford Strong’s great book STRONG ON DEFENSE he talks about a horrible situation that was gotten out of by going “animal”. He talks of a family camping in Mexico. Some local scum woke them up at night, got them all on their knees and had knives to all their throats. One of the scumbags made it apparent that he was planning on raping the nine year old daughter. Well, the mom went “animal”. She grabbed the blade of the knife with both hands (surgery later) and went so ballistic that she actually got loose and in the confusion her husband also got loose. He went for his weapon he had in the tent and the whole family was saved. Mama didn’t save them with any cool martial art or Krav techniques. She saved them by being an animal and being willing to fight to the death for her girl.

In the same book he talks about a woman who was awoken in bed by a man over her with a knife. She decided right then that she would rather die then submit and that she would fight. Fight she did. She grabbed the blade of the knife (again, surgery later) and fought…not with any technique or training but like a cornered animal. She ended up doing some pretty major damage to the scum bag.

There is a beautiful illustration of this in Chuck Holton’s book BULLET PROOF. The following is a couple of paragraphs from the book; “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 didn’t look for cover or run. He went “animal” and charged. That is what saved him.

I hope that we are learning that surviving real world violence isn’t done by learning any marital art, self defense system, etc. if we are only learning techniques. We survive with heart. We go forward, go hard, go off and win no matter what. The scum bags use violence as a tool, we need to perfect that tool and wield it better than they do. Be an animal to survive against animals. BE SAFE!

SMARTER THAN IMI?

“When any person, idea, technique, school, piece of gear, team or tactic is put on a pedestal, we risk stopping progress.” Rob Pincus

If you have read our book American Krav Maga you know that we don’t claim to be teaching Imi’s Krav Maga (Imi Lichtenfeld is regarded as the founder of Krav Maga). The United States Krav Maga Association is teaching a self defense system based on Krav Maga’s philosophy and techniques. Every now and then a fellow Krav Magaist will take offense to this. I get asked things like “Oh, are you smarter than Imi?”. Well, Imi was a legend and a genius. He came up with a system that is very effective, easy to learn and uses the body’s natural reactions. I certainly will never say that what I am doing is better than what Imi came up with. I do know that nobody, other than Grandmaster Yaron Lichtenstein in Brazil, is teaching Imi’s Krav Maga. Most systems are teaching Israeli military techniques and calling it Krav Maga…and then arguing over who is doing it the way Imi wanted. Imi truly wanted Krav Maga to be Israel’s martial art. After retiring from the military he started developing Krav Maga for civilians…and only then was it called Krav Maga (around 1974 was when the name was introduced). He wanted students in gi’s, bowing, calling the techniques by their Hebrew names, etc…just like every other martial art. Imi’s Krav had some flashy moves, high kicks and other things that you would associate with a traditional martial art.

There is no military or police unit in the World still training the same techniques that they trained in the 1950’s and 60’s. When a tactical group cross trains they see other ways of doing things, they then put their heads together and make it even more effective. Years of seeing what others are doing and testing things in the field means that military and police tactics and techniques keep evolving. A martial art can keep teaching the same techniques the way they were shown hundreds of years ago because it is an art and they are “respecting” the founder. Trouble is, what they are teaching isn’t cutting edge self defense, it is an art. To think that the way a defense was done a thousand years ago is as good as it can be done and it should never be changed is silly thinking. We in the USKMA scour the internet, attend seminars, read and watch everything we can get our hands on to keep making our system more effective for those who practice it. I do not look at this as disrespecting Krav Maga’s founder. I look at it as taking very seriously the job of keeping people as safe as possible.

Also, in America in 2014 we have to think of techniques and tactics for things that didn’t exist in Israel in the 50’s and 60’s. There probably weren’t many car jackings, for example, at that time and place. We must have answers for those now. For some reason I learned quite a few knife defenses when I was learning Krav Maga but never saw one for a shanking or a hockey punch type of attack. Those are the ways criminals attack people today. Baseball bats, recidivist home invaders, curb stompings, etc. are common in present day America and virtually unheard of in 50’s Israel I would think.

Techniques that I was taught when I learned Krav Maga that we have changed recently include;

-Machine gun takedown. We have kept these in the system only for a few handgun scenarios. These were developed right after WWII. We have all seen the WWII movies of the German prison guards with the machine gun slung over their shoulder and hanging by their hip. This was designed to spray a room. The defense for this made sense at the time. Nobody carries a slung weapon on their hip today. Today the sling is tight around the shoulder to fire the weapon from the shoulder. This is designed so that if someone grabs that weapon the person with the slung long gun can let go and access a handgun. We have a defense for this type of sling now that wasn’t needed fifty years ago.

-Long gun defenses. I was taught one for live side, one for dead side and one for from behind. These were all as different as night and day from each other and had a lot of moving parts. We now teach basically one defense that works for all of these attacks.

-Knife defenses. I was taught a lot of knife defenses that included grabbing wrists. I never felt that any of them were a good answer. In the gym with a half-hearted attack they worked ok but as soon as someone attacked aggressively with a sewing machine needle type of attack they went to pot. When we add KY jelly, baby oil, etc. to our arms and try these techniques they hardly work at all. These slippery substances mimic blood. If there is a knife there is probably blood flowing. We want to train for worst case scenario so to ignore the blood while developing a technique could be a deadly mistake. We take both of our arms and wrap and hug the attacking arm with all of our knife defenses now. Training and watching videos of actual knife attacks has shown us this is a better answer.

-Knife held to neck. I was taught that if the blade is on my right shoulder side to push it towards my right shoulder and then disarm with a cavalier and the exact opposite if it’s pointed towards the left. This works in the gym but on the street with the stress of “I’m about to die” how can I know which way it’s pointed? I can’t see it. If it’s pointed towards my right and I push it left I slice my own throat. I’d say in the real world with stress and adrenaline I have a 50-50 chance of slicing my own throat…those aren’t odds I liked! We now collapse down on the knife holding arm with both of our arms (hugging the attacker’s arm to our body) to start our defense. This works whichever way the knife is pointed.

-High kicks, spinning kicks and jump kicks. We moved them way back in our system…to black belt. Imi wanted them in the system so we kept them but we see no reason to have them early in our training. The time spent to get good at these techniques is better spent on basics. Basics is what will save us in a real encounter!

-Baseball bat swing stick defense. We have pretty much stopped teaching this. When we taught the two defenses (over head and baseball bat) and had the attacker choose which they would attack with the practitioner always hesitated a split second to decide which defense to do. We are safer if we just go in…do the overhead defense no matter what they are swinging. Hesitation gets us hit and if we guessed ballbat and it’s overhead we get our head’s split open.

-Hair grab from the front. Why complicate this? If they grab your hair from the front kick them in the groin or punch them in the face. They’ll let go.

-Handgun disarms. We have taken out the “pin the handgun to the hip and punch” that most systems do. The cupping technique is our answer to handgun from the front. It is a better and stronger technique. If I am teaching a two hour handgun disarm seminar to a small female officer, for example, it could take the whole two hours to get her a decent punch…and then I wouldn’t bet on her hurting a large man with it. The cupping has a front kick to the groin. I have no faith that she can pin that handgun to a large, muscular and enraged man’s hip. The cupping has her keeping both hands on the weapon and using leverage. It is also much easier to go “off hand” with…it’s ambidextrous. The beauty of this technique is that we learn it for gun from the front and then the same technique is used for handgun front on knees, mounted, from side of head, from guard and standing over.

Our only purpose in what we teach is to keep people safe. We teach (in this order) to stay away from bad places, to run, to pick up something to use as a weapon and, as a last resort, to use Krav Maga. We teach the most battle tested, real world techniques that we can find…and then tell people that techniques won’t save them. Our main goal in class isn’t to teach techniques but to give people a switch to go from overwhelmed, confused and uncomprehending to going forward with hatred and rage to do the maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time. As I’ve blogged many times, ask any cop whom they would rather face. Their first choice is a very proficient black belt martial artist. Their second choice is some crazy who wants to claw off their face and chew their eyes. They would pick that martial artist every time. If we can make our practitioners the crazy (when they needed to be) and give them skills we are making some very safe people indeed. We are getting people ready to defend the type of random violent attacks seen in the U.S. Getting people ready for the gang tactics, weapons, home invasions, car jackings, rape attempts, beatings, etc. that we see in the U.S. BE SAFE!

RAGE TRUMPS FEAR

I just got done re-reading NO GREATER ALLY by Kenneth Koskodan. This is the untold story of Poland during World War II. Very informative and a travesty that the story has been largely ignored and hidden. The one theme that the book mentioned over and over was how the German’s hated coming up against the Polish troops. The Poles were notorious for ignoring their own safety to kill Germans. They would charge through the teeth of the battle and ignore the machine gun and artillery fire (that had other troops turning back) to kill their enemy. They volunteered for the dangerous assignments and cheered when they got them. In the air the Germans’ always knew when it was the Poles flying against them because they would do things other airmen wouldn’t. They would fly straight at the German aircraft through withering fire and not fire themselves until they were closer than any other pilots dared be. They wanted to make sure their bullets were effective. When they were outnumbered it didn’t effect them whatsoever, as others fled they fought on.

Why did these men have no fear? The truth is that they probably felt fear as much as any other men. They felt fear but their great rage and hatred for the Nazis overshadowed the fear. They weren’t any braver than other soldiers but they had family in Poland being raped, tortured and slaughtered by the Nazis. The Germans were especially brutal in Poland. Upon advancing in Poland they executed anyone they thought was influential. They killed every military officer, clergyman, teacher, professor, priest, business owner, etc. the minute they found them. They raped and pillaged the land and sent young people to slave labor camps where they would be worked to death. If one German soldier was assassinated by the underground they would round up a hundred men, women and children and execute them in public for payback. The Polish soldiers knew every second they could shorten the war by killing these hated people the more Polish lives they would spare.

This is what we preach in krav maga…going off with “hatred and rage”. SGT Samford Strong’s great book STRONG ON DEFENSE talks about this very idea. He has interviews with many crime victims in this book and states that the one’s who seem to have the greatest odds of avoiding horrendous crimes are the one’s who fight back with hatred and rage. Those who ignored the injury or the threat of injury and got mad were the ones who fought back with such ferocity that they got away from their attacker. The Scum Bag is looking for a victim, not a fight. When it’s go time we have to go with such rage and anger that there is no room for fear. One story in the SGT’s book is about a woman who woke up in bed with a would be rapist on top of her and a knife against her throat. She ignored his “do what I say or I will kill you”, grabbed the blade of the knife with her hands and fought and kicked and screamed until he eventually fled. As she was being taken to the hospital to get her hands stitched up she was asked if she were afraid. She said that if she was afraid she would have just laid there and been a victim. She says all she felt was anger and rage that someone would do this to her and she became a crazed woman who would have to be killed before she would submit. This is what we are talking about!

The martial arts and their Zen way of thinking makes sense in some areas. The training on techniques and the slow pace of classes has it’s benefits, self defense just isn’t one of them. We train the way we do in Krav for a specific reason. There is a saying “Violence of action trumps technique”. I often say in class that I would rather you go off right now and hard with the wrong technique than hesitate to use the correct technique. Going “loony” and “animal” is much more effective than doing a perfect technique half assed! Violence of action absolutely trumps technique…every time! We exhaust people, run stress drills and run testing near most people’s breaking point for a reason. We train them to not look at how big or mean the bad guy is, or how many there are, but to get mean, look at only targets and attack, attack, attack! When they need this mental attitude in the real world they have been there. BE SAFE!