In Krav Maga class why in the world 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.

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.

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?

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!

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.

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!!

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!




You will never hear us say that krav is better than any other system. They all have some merit. We only claim to be best at getting people from zero self defense skills-wise to being able to truly protect themselves faster than anything else. When I am shown other handgun or knife defenses, for example, I see some that are good and make sense but would need too many hours to become proficient with. The IDF only had soldiers in boot camp for six weeks…and they had to become proficient enough at everything to not get killed by the end! Most martial artists would admit that if you would spend three months in their art that you wouldn’t be very good, that you would need more time. Three months in Krav Maga will get you to the point where you can test into level two…and you are pretty darned good when you get that far and could truly take care of yourself in most bad situations.

If someone had 20 hours to train for a knife attack that they knew was coming they would train knife and maybe learn some more advanced techniques than we are going to bother with in Krav Maga. What a bummer if at the end of that twenty hours they were attacked by a handgun wielding maniac instead! Krav doesn’t get into anything complicated but teaches things that are easy to learn, easy to remember and, most of all, effective. We believe that we can’t put a ton of hours into any one thing because in the real world we can be attacked so many different ways. We want our students good at choke defenses, fighting, handgun disarms, knife defenses, stick defenses, long gun disarms, sucker punch defense, kick defenses, ground fighting, head lock defenses, full nelson defenses, hair grab defenses, etc., etc. There are different “arts” that focus on each of these things that together will get you very, very proficient at all of the above. You could go from one art to the next for several years to be an expert at defending yourself for all of these. At the end of those several years you will be one bad person!! Or, you can take Krav Maga and in six months maybe not be an expert but be able to defend all of the above.

How does Krav do it? We don’t teach techniques per se but philosophy. A knife system that I once learned had 30 techniques for a straight stab coming at your gut. To learn all of these took many, many hours. Krav teaches to block the knife, smack the attacker hard and often and control the knife when you can or push off and run and/or pick something up to smack the attacker with some more!! We train our mindset with drills so that we can turn on aggression and fight with rage. When it comes time to be afraid in a real life attack we’ve kinda been there, done that where the technique guy has learned techniques but always used them in a controlled, static environment. The stress of “I’m gonna die” does amazing things to the unprepared brain!!

As far as our techniques go, we use natural body reactions in our defenses. Because it is something that our body does automatically it doesn’t take much practice or memorization. For our choke defense we “pluck”…our hands go to the wrists of an attacker and we rip their hands off our throat. People tell me often that they have a better defense for a choke. I tell them they don’t have an easier one…it is natural to grab the wrists of the attacker because our hands go to where the pain is. We have started our defense before we even realize that we are being choked. As far as weapon defenses go, we try to have one that works for many different positions and attacks. Our handgun defense, the cupping technique, works for a handgun in front, to the side, while on our knees, mounted, attacker in our guard and attacker standing over us. When a handgun is pointed at us we don’t have to think about which defense is needed…they are the same defense. We want to have one answer for many questions.

Again, we don’t claim to be the best at anything besides getting people proficient quickly. We’ve been called simple and brutal among other things. That is usually said as a slam but we see it as a compliment. In a real world, violent attack simple and brutal is all that’s really going to work! Be safe!!

The OODA Loop, RBT Training and Other Important Stuff!!

The one thing that really good and effective self defense training, aerial combat training, SWAT training, infantry training, etc. has in common is that it teaches the student to fly through the OODA loop while keeping the enemy in the OODA loop. So, what is the OODA loop (or Boyd’s Circle)? OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. When we do anything this process is what our brain must go through. We observe that something is happening, orient towards it (figure out what it is), make a decision as to what we need to do and then act.

The “OODA Loop” principle was developed by Lt. Col. John Boyd for aerial combat in the Korean and Viet Nam war era. John R. Boyd figured this science out as a young U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. John was cocky even by fighter-pilot standards…he issued a standing challenge to anyone who dared to try to defeat him in mock aerial combat. To make it even more of a challenge for him once in the air he would start from a position of disadvantage. He bet that he’d have his jet on the challengers tail within 40 seconds, or he’d pay them $40. Legend has it that he never lost. His amazing ability to win any dogfight in 40 seconds or less earned him his nickname “40 Second” Boyd.

What Lt. Col. Boyd discovered was that if he could keep the opponent in the loop, and he got through OODA, that he had a great advantage. For example, if the enemy was observing Boyd roll right, was orienting to this move but before he could decide or act Body rolled left it made that enemy have to start the OODA loop all over again.

As Boyd taught the principal and taught airmen to get through the loop (and keep others in it) he discovered that after five go rounds at actual air combat that pilot became virtually unbeatable. After five they would not get caught in the loop but would rapidly get through it and act first. He put science behind what pilots had somehow knew in WWI and WWII as they called a pilot who shot down five enemies an Ace.

As an aside my good friend (and USKMA co-lead instructor) Brannon Hicks, while reading the FBI’s LEOKA report (Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted), discovered a bone chilling fact for Law Enforcement Officers. This report is based on interviews with all those who have been arrested for assaulting police officers. Remember how the pilots were virtually unbeatable after five times facing combat? According to this report the average person who attacks a law enforcement officer in a deadly force engagement has had an average of five uses of deadly force in their past. This is why RBT (reality based training) is so important. Our brain’s do not know the difference between real events and events in training. Using scenarios and sim-nitions we can get officers through dozens of deadly force engagements…and learn from them!

In self defense we want to get through the loop and keep the attacker in the loop. This is why, for example, in Krav Maga our weapon disarms always have a punch, knee or kick in them. If we just use leverage and attempt to take away the weapon the attacker can observe, orient, decide and act to pull the weapon back, fight for it, etc. If, while the attacker is observing and orienting to our defense we kick them in the groin their brain will automatically go back to observing and orienting. When they get to the orienting about the kick we then elbow thier throat and start the loop all over again for them. Keeping the attacker in the loop while we are to the action phase of the loop is a big step towards winning the battle. BE SAFE!


“A nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man will have it’s fighting done by fools and it’s thinking done by cowards.” Sir William Francis Butler

I tell those going through the USKMA’s instructor training that if they teach self defense to others and don’t read these books listed below it is like asking someone to learn from a history professor who has never read a history book! Sometimes I hear “I don’t like to read.” My thought on that is that I don’t like to exercise but I do it because it’s good for me! I want USKMA instructors to be educated, not just parroting what others told them. When students come to us for self defense they are literally putting their lives in our hands. We should know what real violence is, know what stress, the adrenaline dump and exhaustion do to us, know what kept people alive who have actually been there, etc., etc. The reading list I recommend to anyone teaching self defense (in order of my recommendation);

-Meditaions On Violence by SGT Rory Miller. An amazing book. Learn about real world violence from a guy who’s seen a bunch of it.

-Facing Violence by SGT Rory Miller. Goes over everything you could want to know about having to face real world violence. Talks about how to spot potential conflict, body language to look for to tell you an attack is coming, what stress and adreniline will do to you, how you will feel afterwards, what the police will want to hear and what they will do, what the court system will do to you, etc, etc. A must read!

-Strong On Defense by SGT Samford Strong. A tough read but a must read for those teaching self defense. Several interviews with people who have survived crimes.

-Conflict Communication by SGT Rory Miller. See the monkey dance and head it off.

-The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. Another must read. Will have you listening more to those voices in your head.

-On Killing and On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Shows us what BS the movies have told us about killing and violence. Studies how stress, adreniline, etc. will effect us.

-Blink by Malcom Gladwell. Ever just had a feeling about something? This book explains why and will have you listening to those feelings from now on!

-The Book Of Five Rings by Miyomato Musashi. There really is nothing new. What some self defense guru’s are saying is theirs and new was done thousands of years ago!

-In the Name of Self Defense by Marc MacYoung. Marc’s been writing books for decades…you can’t go wrong with any of them!

-Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Why do some survive an incident while others perish during the same incident? Cool book.

-The Survivor’s Club by Ben Sherwood. Very similar to the book above.

-Sharpening The Warrior’s Edge by Bruce Siddle. Scientifically explains how we should be training for life and death situations.

-Training at the Speed of Life by Kenneth Murray. Similar to the above book.

-Combat Focus Shooting by Rob Pincus. Takes the no BS approach to shooting that Krav Maga does with self defense.

-Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow. A bit dry but you’ll understand the scumbags better…and quit feeling sorry for their poor childhoods.

-The Truth About Self Protection by Massad Ayoob. An expert in the field.

-Mark Slane has a couple of books that are definately recommended by…Mark Slane. Be Safe, Self Defense For Women in the Real World, American Krav Maga and Krav Maga for Law Enforcement. Available on Amazon or on

-Probably should have been at the top of the list but the Bible. Cool stories of dudes taking on long odds and kicking butt. Even one about a guy who took the jaw bone of an ass and killed 1,000 heathens!


Final Krav in America cvr