Let me start off by saying that I am not an expert on handgun training. I train often, have been through some good courses and even have certification as a basic handgun instructor…but I teach Krav Maga. The mindset, philosophy and thoughts on training that we teach for real world violence and unarmed self defense, in my opinion, matches up perfectly for handgun training.

If you are training handgun because you like target shooting, do it for fun or just think firing guns is cool, train anyway you like. If you are practicing with your handgun for self defense, there are some things that you should consider. First and foremost, study violence. Study what stress, exhaustion, the adrenaline dump, fear and pain do to you. As Rory Miller says in his great book on the subject MEDITATIONS ON VIOLENCE “You do not fight like you train unless you train clumsy, blind, deaf and stupid”. These things that our bodies do under stress can be a major game changer.

This was driven home for me when we had our black belt candidates go through an RBT course with us a few years ago. We had a couple of people in this training who were gun geeks. They had been to every shooting course known to man, had very good training. They could shoot the eye of a flea at 100 yards, they knew their weapons. We geared them up, gave them weapons with sim rounds and put them through a scenario. When it came time to make decisions, when the “bad guy” started shooting…they went to shit. They froze, stood there, fumbled with drawing and getting their weapons on target. They had trained for shooting targets that weren’t shooting back. The stress and adrenaline that they faced in RBT was something they hadn’t trained for.

Again, I am not an expert on handgun training. I do know Krav Maga, I do study the heck out of real world violence. For example; When we practice knife defenses we do not practice against a partner who thrusts at us once with a half assed stab and then keeps his/her arm straight and still for two seconds. We practice after already being stabbed by a blitzing attacker who is on us fast and furious. The attacker will keep us off balance, hit us hard, use their off hand to keep us from blocking or getting to the knife, will “hockey punch” with the knife over and under our block and pump that knife like a sewing machine needle. To practice against that first attacker will get us killed on the street because the attack on the street is much more likely to be like the second attacker. The other thing we do is slather KY jelly on both of our arms to mimic the slippery blood that is most likely going to be there. Now, when it happens on the street we have been there and done that.

Let’s start with stance while firing. I dislike the Weaver stance for self defense simply because if something startles me I am going to square up to it, thrust my arms out in front of me and hunch down (yep, just like the isosceles stance). This is a natural body reaction. To think during the stress, fear and adrenaline dump of an attack I will do anything else is a mistake.

Practicing on a range standing still and getting accurate is, of course, what we start with. We have to get basics down. In our Krav classes one big rule is that, once we have the basic technique down, we always go balls to the wall. We always go all out and hit things our hardest. In handgun training once we have these basics down we won’t train like that anymore. In the real world if someone is firing at me I had better be moving and looking for cover. At the range we had better be practicing this way. We had better fire on targets while egressing, retreating and moving sideways to cover. We had better practice firing from cover. IF I ever find myself coming under fire this is what I had better be doing so…this is what I better spend almost all of my practice time doing!

If in a gun fight must I always go forward to end things and take down the bad guy? I am not a cop nor in the military…I shouldn’t be training as a cop or soldier. The video above of Keanu i think is great training for the role he was playing. This isn’t necessarily what i want coming out of me for self defense. Again, i am not a cop nor military personnel where my goal would be to go forward and kill twenty guys who have weapons. There are scenarios where this may be the thing to do but for me…i want to train firing as i escape. Shooting as few times as i have to to get the heck out of there! Not firing at all and not being fired at would be perfect! Firing as I get the heck out of Dodge and run like I’m on fire to safety sounds like good training to me! You think during a fight for your life there is a possibility that you may trip and fall or otherwise be knocked down? Better practice shooting while lying on the ground as well then. Furthermore, if ever in a gunfight I would think that it’s a good idea to keep my eye on the person trying to kill me. On the range do you practice reloads and clearing jams while keeping your eyes on the target and not looking at your handgun? What you practice is what’s going to come out of you under stress.

Again, we need to practice for what we’ll see. Personally, I don’t like shooting steel plates that fall after one hit. There are three ways in which a human is stopped by bullets. One; an extremely accurate shot that shuts down the brain and central nervous system instantly which isn’t likely in sudden real world combat. Two; the person bleeds out, which means they keep shooting at us while they do. Three (and the one we should be training) is massive shock and trauma, putting as many bullets into the attacker as we possibly can in a short period of time. In the real world people take multiple hits mid chest and keep coming. I don’t want to train that one hit takes care of the problem.

We had better change our distances as well. Back to that knife attack. I had better be practicing fighting that off, accessing my weapon and shooting close range from the hip with my front arm keeping the target at distance. If this is what I am likely to see, this is what I had better have practiced. Since the FBI has documented that most shootings take place, or at least begin, within 3 to 5 feet, we feel that one of the most important aspects of self defense and gun training is the ability to go from empty hands to accessing the weapon and hitting a target at very close distance quickly.

How about time of day and weather? If the only time you ever shoot is on a nice, sunny day you are assuming that’s the only time/weather you can be attacked in. Night training, training in the rain, training during a snow storm when it’s zero degrees suck…but so does having to defend yourself in those conditions.

Part of the reaction to the fear, exhaustion and adrenaline (actually a cocktail of chemicals) is that your arms will feel heavy, your hands numb and your fine motor skills will degrade due to the blood pooling to your core (vasodilation). We had better be ready for this, had better practice this way! As a shooter I need to try to replicate this in my training. Instead of standing at a table and firing at a target down range while being all nice and comfortable I need to practice under stress and exhaustion. How do we train? We run several sprints, do push ups, do pull ups, have some partners push us around, knock us down and then, and only then, fire on targets. Get tired, get the pulse rate up, get shook up a bit then see where the holes are in our shooting. Did we keep dropping mag’s? Did we have a hard time getting the mag’s from where we keep them? Did we have things snapped or buttoned that we couldn’t maneuver very well? Our brains will scramble under this stress and exhaustion, we will not come up with plans but our training will surface automatically.

The point is, if we are practicing shooting for self defense we need to educate ourselves on what realistic attacks are, what our bodies will do under this stress and train for what we’ll actually see. We had better train real and not think that blasting holes in paper is all that we’ll need. If we are ever attacked we want a “been there, done that” feeling. Be safe, my friends.

Thanks to SGT Brannon Hicks for his help with this article. SGT Hicks is lead instructor for the USKMA’s Law Enforcement training, our RBT training and our handgun course. E mail us for info on these courses.

Mark Slane is the lead instructor for the United States Krav Maga Association. A black belt since 2003 (now a 3rd dan) he has taught thousands of LEO’s and civilians, has written four books on the subject (see his author profile on Amazon) and has had an article published in Black Belt Magazine. To contact email Mark@uskma.com.


Self Defense Lesson From 1297!!

“If you are in a fair fight, your tactics suck!” -unknown

Every now and then I get comments about how fighting dirty isn’t right. These comments always remind me about a group of martial artists that I overheard at a conference a few years ago. One of them told the others that Krav was just a system of cheap shots, that it had no honor and was basically cheating. This made me laugh out loud as I basically agreed with what they said but thought it was a good thing. One of my favorite all time quotes on the subject comes from SGT Rory Miller’s great book MEDITATIONS OF VIOLENCE. “Listening to the average martial artist talk about real world violence is like listening to ten year olds talk about sex.”

When I teach new instructors I have a lecture I give about real world violence. One of the things that I talk about is that we aren’t trying to instill a code of ethics, chivalry, honor or rules. If we have “honorable” rules like “never strike first”, “never inflict more harm than needed”, “always fight with honor”, etc. we are putting our practitioners behind the eight ball. If the scum bags don’t have rules we are hampering ourselves if we do. If the bad guys are going to use violence as a weapon we need to perfect that weapon and be more ruthless with it than the scum bags. If we are in a fair fight our tactics suck indeed!

When I hear talk about fighting right, with honor, etc. I know that whoever is saying it has no concept of real world violence and the kinds of human garbage that is out there preying on society. Here is a quote from a prison guard that I came across on the internet;
“Having these criminals on the streets should make you scared, very scared. If we don’t have a means to defend ourselves from criminals, we are prey. I am not joking by any stretch by telling you these criminals are animals. There are still those bleeding hearts who believe in the integrity of man and the desire to do the right thing when presented with a choice. I have now seen firsthand that there are people who are bad, and they are unfixable. They will take the low road every time, they will lie, steal, rape, murder and feel wholeheartedly that they are entitled to do whatever they please without respect to anyone else.”

Yes, there are bad people out there who the world would be better off without. Read about the human pieces of crap that perpetrate home invasions. They are recidivists (hardened criminals who have been in prison for violent crimes and then let back out) who don’t look at you and your family as humans but as entertainment. They will rape, torture and slaughter your family and then go have a hamburger. What honor and rules should you use if faced with these people?

Cheating, cheap shots and not fighting fair is the only way to survive a violent attack, especially when outnumbered or outgunned. One great example of this in history is The Battle of Stirling Bridge of the First War of Scottish Independence on 11 September 1297. William Wallace was vastly out numbered and the enemy had much superior armor and weaponry. How did his force win? They cheated and fought dirty! At the time fighting honorably and fair meant that armies would allow each other to set up before battle. They would wait as the other army crossed a bridge, etc. and got completely set before the battle would begin. William Wallace’s army attacked the English while they were crossing a long and narrow bridge and wiped them out. There was no honor in this. It was cheating and fighting dirty. They lived while the enemy died.

The only way to face ruthless, violent people and come away alive is to be more ruthless and more violent. This is why we do what we do in Krav Maga. Our classes, drills, testing, etc. is designed to get people past their breaking point and to make them ruthless, never say die, hard fighting, never quitting maniacs if they are ever in a life or death violent situation. BE SAFE!


You would expect me, a krav maga instructor, to answer that in the affirmative. Krav Maga is designed to work for everyone…no matter how small of stature, how much strength they have, how athletic they are, and no matter what sex they are. I teach a lot of self defense for women seminars, have written a book on the subject, read everything I can on the subject, etc. so I think I’m qualified to speak on the subject. Popular or not, here is my opinion…

I do not wish to offend my female krav maga instructors and students but I do believe that in a stand up fight, there are very few females who can fight a man and win. I know a few who I would put money on, but only a few. I have a female affiliate in the Chicago area that I do believe could. She is mean, nasty, tough as nails and has better skills than I do. She is in the vast minority! A man is generally bigger, stronger (especially upper body strength), quicker and, thanks to testosterone and the way we are raised, meaner. When thinking about teaching women self defense I have to imagine my nightmare attacker. The dude weighs 70 lbs. more than me, is way, way stronger than me, is way faster than me, is way more aggressive and has trained one hundred times more than me. His best punch to my head will for sure knock me out and has a good chance of killing me. My best punch to his head is just going to piss him off and he’ll come at me even harder. Pretty damned scary to me! This is the starting point for a woman learning self defense. My nightmare attacker is her likely attacker. I certainly wouldn’t go toe to toe and spar that attacker. My only hope is to do major damage quickly and run like I’m on fire!

Krav Maga will help even the odds a bit, but still won’t make a female the favorite. I thought of this blog after leading some instructor trainings with a few females who, because of their martial arts training, honestly thought they could win a fight against a man. They were both fairly small teenagers but, unfortunately for them if ever attacked by a man, black belts in their art. Everyone had told them how great they were, they break boards with their kicks, they train many hours a week, they spar often and yet, they wouldn’t have much of a chance against a male attacker. I told one when we were doing a drill to get off the ground, that she didn’t want to be there. She told me that she could take the guy who was running the drill with her on the ground, that she had tapped him a few times in the past. He was a six foot two, two hundred and twenty pound guy. I just stood there shaking my head in disbelief that she didn’t know the difference between a nice guy in class taking it easy and letting her train and that same guy being enraged and blitzing her to the ground, beating her with his fists and knees. Another woman (a high level martial artist but a fairly small lady in her mid 50’s) was very upset with me when I flunked her during her krav maga testing. She made the comment “if this were for real I could whip every man in here.” This absolutely stunned me. There wasn’t a guy in the room she had even a small chance against. This false security of a martial art and others telling her how awesome she is will get her hurt if she is ever attacked for real. She won’t be trying to do damage and flee, as she should, because she had been taught to believe she can whip large, enraged men.

There are very few techniques that a woman can hurt a man with. Knees and kicks can be effective. Fingers in eyes, head butts, stomping the Achilles, crushing testicles and a few others. Doing these under stress, exhaustion and with the adrenaline dump against an enraged, scary as hell, blitzing attacker who is punching and kicking is the hard part!

I absolutely believe that Krav Maga will make you safer…a lot safer. I just want to make sure that you are training to escape, not win. If you are ever attacked the only thing that is going to work is to go off with hatred and rage, to go forward hitting targets over and over with all you have with the end goal being to escape. Run!

A few comments on this subject from my video blog argued the point by telling me they know of high level BJJ female practitioners who tap out lower belt level men often. Well, in BJJ it is against the rules to punch, elbow, knee, kick, attack the groin, crush the groin, gouge the eyes, stomp the Achilles, stomp the knee, stomp the skull, bite, thumb the eye, headbutt, slam, use a weapon, hit from behind and run away, grab the hair and slam the head into a wall or the pavement, or have multiple attackers? A sport with rules is totally different than a scumbag going ballistic with the intent to harm.

An example of uneducated crap making it’s rounds on Facebook recently…that some people evidently believe;

This makes me want to puke! A single woman, because she is a superwoman BJJ practitioner, should go out and confront home invaders unarmed. She doesn’t know how many there are, what training they have, if they have weapons, etc. but, shoot, she knows bjj! Good thing these idiots don’t attack at the same time, get on two sides of her, have weapons, use their superior strength, etc. Hell, I’m a 6′ 210 lb. krav maga black belt and I ain’t going out there without a shotgun!! It almost makes a great point about why bjj isn’t the best thing to use as self defense. She is on the ground putting one of them in an arm bar while the other is approaching to kick her in the head….but…she is superwoman and does a spin move to save the day. Hollywood fantasy bullshit!!!!

Back to my point. If ever attacked by a larger, stronger male there is only one option that has any chance of saving your ass in that situation. That is to go forward with all the hatred and rage you can muster, become an animal. Spit, cuss, claw, bite and smash targets (eyes, throat, groin, knees, Achilles) over and over…always looking to escape. If that is the only thing that is gonna work for you that is what you better be putting your training time into. BE SAFE!