Rank Does Not Matter!

“If you are not putting everything you are doing under stress and exhaustion you are learning self defense techniques, not self defense.” M. Slane

I have blogged on this subject several times. It amazes me that self defense arts and systems teach techniques that look effective but have never been put under stress, exhaustion, the adrenaline dump, etc. If we are ever violently attacked I can guarantee that there will be plenty of each of those. I see this often with handgun and knife defenses. The attacker stands there like a statue in a warm and dry gym and the practitioner practices a technique. On the street there is blood (that makes the weapon slippery), the weapon is moving constantly, the attack was a surprise, the attacker is hitting, kicking and cussing us, etc. IF we had not practiced for any of those things we will be lost. If we train with stress and exhaustion we will have a “been there, done that” feeling and our training will come out of us. This is what a realistic knife attack would look like;

Slather your arms with KY jelly to mimic the slippery blood and have your attacker come at you like the above…after you have ran sprints and sparred to where you can’t catch your breath and are so tired you can hardly stand up. That’d be way better training for real life violence than just working on a technique, don’t ya think?

The following paragraph is from a blog by the USKMA’s co lead instructor, Brannon Hicks;
“If I want to win BJJ tournaments, I should go to a BJJ school. If I want to win Muay Thai boxing matches, I should train at a Muay Thai gym. While my training at both of those gyms might be outstanding and produce the result I sought out, neither would adequately prepare me for the street. I train mixed martial artists as well, and Krav Maga is not what I use toprepare them for the cage; it simply would not produce the desired result. So, if I am a LEO who will have to fight a subject into handcuffs, or perhaps face multiple attackers with and without weapons in a violent encounter where I don’t win titles but I do win my survival, why would I only train in systems designed to win tournaments or sporting events? It is clear to me that when I train, the way that I train must prepare me to win the types of situations I may face.”

I couldn’t have put it better. If we are training for real violence on the street it makes no sense to practice a sport centered art or system. There are also those who seem to think rank is more important than actually having performed under actual violent attacks. For example, I can have someone teach Muay Thai who has been in the art for several years. They are proficient and know the techniques but haven’t sparred much. The other choice is someone who has been in the art only half of the time as the “master” but has been in dozens of fights. I’ll take the guy who has done it under stress and exhaustion over the master any day. I am not worrying about pretty techniques, I am worried about survival. Another example, I have a choice of who I am going to learn ground fighting from. The first choice is a BJJ master who is very proficient and a good instructor. My other choice is a police officer who has no real rank in BJJ but who is on the ground every month or so fighting a thug who is trying to kill him (or at least do great bodily harm). I want to learn from the guy who’s actually fought for his life, who has done it under stress and with great exhaustion. Theory and proficiency are great but i’ll take the guy who has done it under extreme exhaustion and stress in real violent encounters every time!

The point is rank is nice but if it’s just proficiency of techniques that have never been put under stress and exhaustion how do I know it’ll save my butt when my butt needs saved? I go with the doers and could care less who has what rank. BE SAFE!

Gotta Have Mental Toughness

I haven’t seen Survivor in years but there was a time I wouldn’t miss an episode. One of my favorite challenges each season was when they would see who could be uncomfortable the longest. They would do something like have the group stand on a log and see who would last the longest. This was really nothing hard, just stand there and keep your balance. Well, it was always funny to see that the least mentally tough would be done in an hour while the winner would go on for ten, twelve and even more hours. The most athletic, strongest or even the youngest wouldn’t win. The mentally toughest would. It was most often a woman, which always intrigued me. Here are a few that I found on youtube;

In Laurence Gonzales’ great book DEEP SURVIVAL (highly recommended along with Ben Sherwood’s THE SURVIVORS CLUB) he tells the story of Debbie Kiley. Debbie was on a yacht, the Trashman, that sank at sea. Before the accident happened she told of how the Captain and his first mate were heavy drinkers and actually drunk when they sailed. She goes on to talk of the first mate’s girlfriend and how helpless she acted. The one’s doing all of the work were Debbie and another crew member. After the accident they all got on a small raft that was being severely tossed in the storm. The two who kept control of their thoughts and attempted to think of solutions (Debbie and the hard working crew member) were rescued many days later. The other three died during the ordeal. The difference? Mental toughness.

If you really want to read about mental toughness get some of the books written by the Viet Nam war POW’s. One story I read recently was that of Jim Thompson. After being captured Jim was forced to live in a small wooden cage that he could neither sit up in nor stretch out in. Several months later he was moved to solitary confinement…for four years! Finally he was moved in with other prisoners, but of course the torture and beatings continued the entire NINE years! Oh, and during all of this he managed to escape five times, only to be recaptured and tortured some more. Fellow prisoners at time thought he was a corpse in the next cell as he weighed all of ninety pounds when he finally was released. Other POW’s facing the same treatment didn’t last six months. Jim’s mental toughness was immeasurable! Sadly Jim did die…30 years later, of natural causes, in Florida!!

I love watching the Ultimate Fighter. You can pick the mentally tough ones out early…and the not so tough. They all think that they want to be in the UFC, think they are bad dudes. It seems like the ones who do all the talking about how great they are, how they’ll die in the ring before losing and how losing isn’t an option are the first ones to just stand and freeze in the ring or purposely give up their backs so they can tap out. The mentally toughest usually last the longest in that show and, I would think, in a true violent situation.

I don’t care what techniques, system or art you are learning, if you aren’t building mental toughness you won’t last long when confronted with real world violence. I would bet on a mentally tough person with little training in a horribly violent confrontation way before I would a black belt from any system or art that isn’t mentally tough. This is why you have heard me say many, many times that it isn’t the art, system or techniques that will keep us safe if violence ever finds us. It is attitude and mental toughness. This is why Krav Maga is based on philosophy and not techniques I don’t care what techniques you know if you don’t have the “flinch reaction” of go forward, go hard, go now and go until the scumbag is down. Even if injured, even if outnumbered, and even if afraid for our lives we go off with rage and swing for the fences.

This is why when students in class ask me to slow the class down so that they can learn the techniques better I tell them “no”. Those techniques won’t save them. Learning to keep going with the stress, exhaustion and not knowing what’s coming next in our drills is what will save them. Developing mental toughness is way more important in keeping our students safe than any of those cool techniques! BE SAFE!

Run Forrest, Run!

When there was trouble Forrest ran! This was a brilliant tactic as it kept him safe (even kept him from being fried in ‘Nam). When I give lectures on self defense the first thing I tell people is “don’t be there…don’t go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things”. The second major bit of advice I give is “run”. Run away, run to help, run to pick something up to use as a weapon but just RUN! When I teach knife defense seminars, for example, the first thing we do is practice sprinting away from someone who is going to their pocket. The second thing we practice is punching the dude going for his pocket…and then running. These are the best two knife defenses I have. Running is generally the best thing to do for your safety! If the local paper has me on the front page with the headline KRAV MAGA EXPERT RUNS FROM KNIFE I wouldn’t be offended. I would see that headline and think “a still living, very smart krav maga expert runs from knife”!

But let’s think about this advice. Can you run? When is the last time you did any sprint work? The average violent criminal is a male ages 18-25. Can you outrun a young dude who is still in his athletic prime? I doubt I can anymore. Are we fit enough to not keel over dead after attempting to run thirty yards? Do we just hope that we are attacked only by overweight, slow and lazy people? Hope isn’t a strategy. So, first point of running for safety is to get yourself into shape. This is why we are so physical in our Krav classes. This is why we recommend to our affiliate gyms that they add CardioMMA and Crossfit. Techniques won’t save anyone. Being in better shape than the attacker, going off with rage, going forward and going hard is what will save us.

Next thougt; what are you wearing? Most guys I know, when they go out, are in athletic shoes. Most women, however are in things I couldn’t even stand in, yet alone walk or run in! During self defense for women seminars I talk a lot about this. Those “cute shoes” could be your downfall. How can you outrun anyone in those stiletto heels? Statistically violence tends to happen more often where young men gather and where minds are altered. This sounds like most bars, doesn’t it? If you are going to the bar those cute shoes may not be the thing to wear. How quick can you get them off and run barefoot? The second point is to plan and mind set. Wear things you can fight and run in…have a plan!

Last thought; Where are you running to? Again, have a plan and mind set. When you go into a restaurant, theater, etc. you should not only know where the exits are but also should have put yourself in position to get to them quickly. If outside in a city do you know where you can run to most likely get help? How about out in rural areas. Where can you run to quickly where help is available? In our self defense for women seminars I make the point that a tazer isn’t to be totally relied on. When you taze the guy it will lock him up for thirty seconds…if both barbs got him (happens less than 70% of the time). How far can you run in thirty seconds? When it lets go of him he may well sprint to wherever you are to do you harm.

So the next time you hear someone say “I’d just run (like Forrest)” ask them what shape they are in, what they are usually wearing and, in their plan, where are they running to. Thinking about these things ahead of time gives us a plan. Plans don’t get made up under stress but the plans we have do surface and our training will come out of us. BE SAFE!

Intimidation; Winning a Fight Without Fighting!

“Humans usually don’t want to hurt another human. It’s inefficient and dangerous. Whether the human seeks respect or fear or status or money, it is much easier and safer to scare someone into submission than to beat them into submission.” SGT RORY MILLER in Facing Violence.

“Give me a ball bat and an attitude over a black belt in any system!” Mark Slane

If we ever lose a fight it is because we gave up out of fear. Fear of more damage, fear of death, etc. Unless we have had our brainstem shut down or have had every long bone in our body broken we can still continue to fight. This is the same with a war. Unless every able bodied person in a country has been killed they could have continued to fight. People and nations are almost never beaten…they give up.

Now those who have read my blogs know that I am not recommending that you fight. If we can we run. Next option is to de-escalate. After this we find a weapon to use from the environment that we are in. If we have to fight, we go all out. We will have an attitude. We will not lose if in a fight for our life!

The scumbags use this tactic all the time. When they puff up, get loud, threaten us, etc. they are trying to win the fight without fighting. If they can scare us into submission there is no risk for them. They may have lost a fight with us, may have won but taken damage, may not have gotten what they were after. It is just natural when a large, belligerent and angry man demands something from us that we do it to out of fear. We believe that if we don’t give in we will take a beating. Once you know the strategy that the idiot is using it is much easier to not be intimidated. Realize that they are acting so tough, giving that hard look and acting like they can do major harm not necessarily because they are or can but because they are a coward who doesn’t really want to fight us. Keep in mind that we are not fighting bodies but minds. Losers of a fight rarely had their body’s capability to fight taken away, they had the will to fight taken away.

This is why bodyguards and bouncers are usually huge muscle heads. They may have no skill (and the one’s I have trained can’t fight for more than 45 seconds because they have no cardio stamina) but they look like they can do major harm. This is all they need to portray. If people think the huge guy can beat the snot out of them they won’t ever try to see if they really can!

A great example of the tactic of winning by intimidating from SGT Miller’s book is Napoleon’s army. They used what was called the “Napoleonic column” when in battle. This was an inefficient way to use musket men. The math doesn’t work as there is a relatively small front line and an enemy putting a line of muskets across the column had a definite numeric advantage. These columns worked very well for a long time because they looked very intimidating. Superior forces with better tactics would run away.

Another example SGT Miller uses is the fact that until the mid 1800’s the bow would have actually been a much better weapon to use than the muzzleloader. The bow was much more accurate and could be fired up to 4 times per minute faster. But the bow didn’t make a loud boom, blow smoke…didn’t intimidate men and scare horses!

From the U. S. Marine’s manual “Warfighting”…We see that the aim in maneuver warfare is to render the enemy incapable of resisting by shattering his moral and physical cohesion…rather than to destroy him physically.”

Keep in mind that the winner of any conflict isn’t the person who is bigger, stronger, more athletic or meaner. The winner of any fight is the last one to quit! Think about any sport fight you have seen, whether boxing or mixed martial arts. I can point to many instances where the guy who took the worst beating, the guy who was the most bloodied, the guy who was on the ground constantly still won. He did this because something inside of him wouldn’t let him quit. The winner may have ended up in the hospital after the fight while the loser of the fight was fine and went out partying but the winner was the winner because he made the other guy quit. He was just more stubborn. He wasn’t going to lose even if the other guy beat the crap out of him. It was all about his attitude. He got the surprise knock out or forced the other guy to tap out even after taking a beating.

Another great but tragic example of this is the Vietnam war. The U.S. troops in Vietnam were definitely stronger, better equipped and had much more devastating weaponry. The U.S. tragically lost over 60,000 brave men. Vietnamese losses, however, have been reported as up to THREE MILLION! By those calculations it certainly looks like the U.S. won that war. As we all know, the U.S. didn’t because the winner was the last one to quit!!

When it is go time it is go time. Don’t look at how big he is, how mean, how good of a fighter he seems to be and certainly don’t listen to a thing that’s coming out of his mouth. Look at targets…see only targets. BE SAFE!!