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!

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2 Comments

  1. This article is gold. The only way to know if this techniques will work is to use it under extreme pressure.
    I wonder if that’s why Haim Gidon changed IKMA ‘s Krav Maga as Gidon system.

  2. The best self defense system is one that is always EVOLVING!


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