It’s not techniques…it’s aggression!

“Hey man, what art do ya study, what system you in, what techniques do ya know, who’d you learn from….wow, you’re a tough dude!” No, being a tough dude makes you a tough dude. Going forward, going hard and being mean as sin is what wins a violent confrontation, not what you know. It always makes me laugh when someone asks me who would win a fight between an (insert martial art here) vs. an (insert other martial art here) expert. I also get a chuckle when told that someone who studies (again, insert whatever here) would take a Krav Maga practitioner in a fight. I always tell them that the Krav Maga practitioner could well lose. It’s not about the art studied as much as it is about the individual fighter and his/her mindset. Watch this Youtube video;

The guy who wins this fight is doing a very flashy martial art. I see 50 things what would make his art something I wouldn’t want to fight with. Holy cow, he can’t move very fast all spread out like that, his front leg is asking to be stomped and broken as that front leg would get kicked all day long, his blocks are a longer motion than the punches he is blocking, he is standing bladed and would have no power with his strikes, etc. But…he won. True, it helped that the other guy didn’t have a clue but still, with all those problems, he won. The point is that the art isn’t as important as the mind set. If this guy had been a practitioner of bjj, muay thai, krav or anything else he would have still won. This is exactly what we are talking about when we tell people that there are no magic techniques. Krav has the best, most battle tested techniques anywhere but they won’t make anyone unbeatable. What wins a fight is an aggressive “I will not lose, I will keep fighting no matter what” mind set.

When I am told that someone doing (insert art or system) hasn’t lost a fight, is a bad ass, etc. I always reply that they would be a tough person and a good fighter no matter what they were using as a defense system. It’s way more about the fighter than the system. A tough guy with a “won’t lose” attitude is going to usually win no matter what he is doing. A high level Krav Maga instructor recently made the statement that the toughest guy he knows, the guy who has been in and won more fights than anyone he has ever met has no training whatsoever. He went on to say that he is studying this guy more than he is studying any techniques from any system right now…it will make him better.

It’s all about attitude, aggression and craziness. I have said many times that if you ask a cop whom they would rather face A) a very proficient martial artist or B) some nutso who wants to rip off their face and chew on their eyes they would all pick the martial artist A good example of this is a story the co lead instructor of the USKMA, SGT Brannon Hicks, tells about his toughest fight ever. The one who was kicking his ass (and he’s in more fights in any given month than most of us are in in our lives) was a fifteen year old, 90 pound female meth head. He says she was as mean as sin! She clawed his face, tried to bite his groin, spit on him, kicked and punched non stop and was doing more damage to him than about any other person he ever fought. Good thing he had backup!

The point is, what you know, what you studied, how much you practice, etc, etc. is nice but in the real world what saves you is swinging for the fences and being “mean as sin”. When i am asked what my definition is for effective self defense i say “Having a switch that enables you to go from overwhelmed, uncomprehending and terrified to going forward with hatred and rage to do the maximum damage in the minimum time…and then getting out of there.”

Why krav? We learn great techniques but also let our students know that techniques aren’t magic. We spend a lot of time developing the “can’t lose” mindset. Making people aggressive when they need to be, developing the “flinch” reaction of “go forward and go hard”, finding the switch to flip to go from overwhelmed, afraid and frozen to attack mode is what people need to be safe. Techniques are secondary! BE SAFE!

Philosophy of Krav Maga

“Self defense is recovery from stupidity or bad luck.”

“Self defense is a short list of techniques that may get you out alive when you’re already screwed”

“If it’s complicated it’s not self defense”

Krav Maga is a philosophy based system, not a technique bases system. Techniques are guaranteed to degrade massively under the sress, exhaustion, adrenaline dump and fear caused by a real attack. This is a point nobody can argue. So why get so caught up with techniques when they are going to fail you when you need them most? Our handgun disarm technique, for example, is battle tested, simple, effective and all that but basically we are teaching to grab the barrel and redirect it so the bullet doesn’t hit ya…and beat the crap out of the idiot with the gun. I can remember that under stress!

Krav Maga is simple. Simple to learn, simple to remember, simple techniques….so the philosophy is pretty simple to grasp! When it comes to self defense there are just a few things to keep in mind. 1) If somebody needs hit they need hit as hard as you possibly can! Teddy Roosevelt said something to the effect that “it is a sin to hit softly. Don’t hit at all if possible but if you must hit, hit with all your might”. We agree. We spend a lot of time in class working on striking. We want everyone, no matter their size, to have knockout power. We train for knockout power but we don’t take it for granted so….2) if someone needs hit once, they need hit many, many times. The thought here is if someone needed hit they were a threat to us. One strike may not have neutralized the threat. The threat needs pounded until it is no longer a threat. 3) Don’t stop hitting until you are safe. We are safe when they are unconscious. We can never pause to see if we’re being effective. Pausing is a break and recovery time for the bad guy.

The philosophy of our Krav Maga techniques (choke defenses, headlock defense, etc) are pretty simple as well. 1) Get rid of the danger. If a choke is on we have very little time before it will damage our trachea. A learned motion is always slower than a natural motion, this is why Krav Maga uses natural body motions. In the case of a choke there is pain on our throat so our hands are moving to the pain automatically. This is why we use the “pluck” technique. Our hands are doing the defense before we even know someone is there. 2) Always use a simultaneous counter attack. In that choke defense scenario we may pluck the attacker’s hands off but then what? He puts them back on us, hits us or draws a knife. This is why as we are plucking the choke we are sending a front kick at the same time. An attacker doesn’t choke with his legs crossed, he is asking for this groin kick! 3) Go off like a bomb! Maybe the groin kick devastated the attacker, maybe not. We aren’t going to wait to see. After the groin kick we send an elbow as we land forward then we grab hold and knee and front kick the bad guy into oblivion.

Really the philosophy of Krav Maga can be summed up in two words. BE SAFE. When people hear that I teach Krav Maga they say “oh, that brutal stuff”. I always say “not brutal, effective”. I don’t see it as brutal. I didn’t start the attack. When someone wants to hurt you or your family what is “brutal”? Everything goes and anything less won’t keep you safe. So….BE SAFE!

Sparring Isn’t Self Defense

During higher level tests that I run there is always a time I have those testing gear up and “fight”. After giving the command to fight I always have to stop them and yell. In the upper level’s they are getting to be very proficient at sparring…but sparring isn’t what I want to see. I stop them and say “You all look really pretty, such nice movement and techniques. What does that have to do with the real world? In the real world the circling, feinting, going in and out, dropping levels, etc. isn’t getting you to your goal. Your goal is to smash the idiot and get out of there. If you spar you will prolong the fight. He/she may be better at sparring than you and you are certainly at a much greater risk of his/her buddies showing up to help as you prolong the encounter. I want to see knees, elbows, eye gouging, groins being kicked and people hitting the ground…destruction right away and then get out of there!”

In krav maga every combative we throw is thrown as hard as we can. We are looking to knock out and do damage with every blow. In sport fighting it’s different. They are not fighting for their lives, they know that they only have one opponent, they are fairly equally matched with someone their own weight, they don’t have to worry about a weapon, there is a ref to stop the other guy from stomping their head if they hit the ground, etc. I’ve seen many a boxing match where one opponent is trying to outpoint the other and never once really swings for a knockout. Put a handgun or knife in the attacker’s hand and we really have a problem with this approach to fighting.

In sparring the opponents have several rounds to get through so they pace themselves. They feel each other out for a few rounds and only go in hard when there is an opening. Fighting for your life is anger, rage and going forward without slowing down until the attacker is unconscious! As Rory Miller says “The first person to go balls to the wall usually wins.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are some mighty good sparrers out there and sparring helps us to train avoiding being hit, helps us to know what getting rocked is really like & how it effects us and it works our combative skills. There are many a boxer, kick boxer, bjj practitioner and MMA fighter that, if they came to my gym and challenged me, would kick my butt. Here is where it differs…if the same guy was in my house and going to hurt my family I WOULD NOT LOSE! I would come from behind, break a chair over their head and then see how far I could shove one of the wood shards down their throat. Real life is different, dirty fighting is winning fighting. If you find yourself in a fair fight your tactics suck!

My biggest problem with teaching sparring as self defense is that what we train will come out of us. IF attacked there will be an adrenaline dump (a host of chemicals actually, not just adrenaline), stress, exhaustion, fear, etc. Our brains go to “mid brain” and we cannot think or plan but our training will come out of us. I want to train my students to go forward with rage and aggression to do the maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time and then get to safety. I do no want circling, pacing, feinting, throwing and then retreating, etc. to come out of them.

So spar to work your skills but don’t end there. Learn how to fight…go off with rage, go forward and swing for the fences until you are safe. BE SAFE!

This is a fairly lame video but contains several “street fights”. How many of these resemble sparring at all?

Self Defense for us Regular Folks…

I am sent videos of other defense systems quite often by friends across the nation. They always want to know what I think of the system and of the system’s head honcho. More often than not the video is awesome. It shows an expert smashing people, flipping and throwing big guys around and whooping three knife wielding attackers at the same time as he is disarming another attacker of an M-16 or the like. Sometimes I get the feeling that the person who sent me the video is trying to tell me how much cooler they think that system is than Krav Maga. Cool ain’t all there is to it!

I’m nearly always blown away by the talented instructor. The problem is that the talented instructor is usually a physical marvel. He is six foot three, weighs a chiseled two twenty five and is super athletic. Yes, his system looks awesome when he does it but…how does that translate to the five foot, one hundred pound female in his class? Too often the techniques I see being used are based on size and strength. The throwing, putting people down with one blow, beating up three dudes at once, etc. work for him…he’s a physical marvel. To expect the 99 pound weakling in class to do the same is expecting a miracle.

The other problem is that the big ol’ muscle head instructor certainly won’t run away from danger, that would hurt his ego. I teach (in this order) to stay away from bad places, to run away, to pick up an object to use as a weapon and then, as a last resort, to use Krav Maga. People must be taught to avoid fights, to run when possible, to always be looking to escape. To teach people to fight when de escalating and running are better choices is setting people up to be hurt, maybe even killed. The macho instructor teaches his students to be macho. It ain’t macho to have a colostomy bag for the rest of your life, to be brain damaged for the rest of your life, to be disfigured for the rest of your life or to sit for kidney dialysis three times a week for the rest of your life.

In Krav Maga any technique we teach has to pass the litmus test of being able to be done by the smallest, weakest and most uncoordinated person in our gym. How can I teach a group of women techniques that work only if the attacker is smaller than them? That would be setting them up for failure and failure in self defense means they get hurt. In our classes we have people of all ages, sizes and both sexes. To teach techniques that only half of the class could defend themselves with is stroking the instructor’s ego and not keeping people safe.

Below is one of my favorite techniques for a smaller, weaker person to defend themselves with…the head butt. Watch the small female knock the bouncer out…it ain’t nothing fancy!

When people come to your gym to learn self defense they are literally putting their lives in your hands. To teach something flashy that you look awesome doing but won’t keep them safe is unforgiveable. BE SAFE.