Archived entries: May 2010

We switched locations and had to manually archive our entries. Enjoy!
May 29: Self Defense for Women, Part 1 | May 23: You will get hurt | May 16: The Dump | May 9: The Freeze | May 3: Mind Setting


There is so much crap out there for women’s self defense that I am making WSD it’s own subject….and there’s enough to say that it will encompass two weeks of blogs!! First and foremost, why do most systems insist on teaching women different techniques than men? We believe that if it isn’t something that we would teach men it isn’t worth knowing. The “wet your pants to be too gross” or the “walk with your keys between your fingers” or the ever popular “say you have AIDS” and the “carry a whistle” isn’t ever told to men… should be ignored by women!! “But women are weaker and smaller than men” is the usual comeback. My thought is that a female grizzly, tiger or shark may indeed be weaker and smaller than the male but I don’t want to mess with any of them….especially if there are cubs involved!! Here is one place where size truly doesn’t matter…..attitude and fearing the crime more than you fear injury is what matters. A cat weighs 6 or 7 pounds but I’ve seen muscle heads let go of one in a hurry when it gets terrified and starts clawing! In Krav Maga we teach the same techniques, the same combatives, the same philosophy and the same tactics to women and men. Can a 100 pound woman punch as hard as a 200 pound man? She can if he is punching with only his arm and she is turning her whole 100 pounds into the punch. If they both have the technique down and punch with all their weight using proper leverage the man will hit harder but the woman is still hitting hard enough to do damage!

Martial arts for women’s self defense? Choose wisely. Most martial arts are a piece of the puzzle. They were developed by their originators to overcome specific problems. There is a martial art that was developed for warriors on a battlefield who find themselves without a weapon, there is one that was developed for unarmed peasants to be able to use farm implements against mounted and armored soldiers, etc. True story: I was a fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo. During my martial arts career I spent hundreds of hours practicing techniques in a horse stance (a mild squat). When I found out that the history of taekwondo’s horse stance was so that peasants who couldn’t afford horses could still pretend that they were on a horse and practice the techniques in hope of joining the military someday…..i was torqued at all that wasted time!! There are few martial arts that were designed for a woman to fight off an assault as their main emphasis. Furthermore, the most common way for a rapist to move a female from public to a secondary crime scene is to show a weapon and demand she obey. Would one of the militaristic martial arts which demand “yes, sir” and obedience every time the “Master” gives a command be good training for women in the real world?

There are so many “experts” in the field of self defense for women that it is easy to be confused. Do not ever go against your own common sense or experience on the word of an “expert” or with the majority’s opinion. Back in the 60’s an “expert” was telling women to carry around large hat pins to defend themselves. One poor older lady had her purse snatched and as the criminal was turning to run with the purse she remembered that expert advice and took out her pin and stabbed him with it. He promptly turned around and punched her in the face, breaking her jaw. Some advice!!

Whatever system or techniques are learned it all comes down to attitude. SGT Sanford Strong in his book Strong on Defense (a must read for women’s self defense) flatly states “Surviving violence is all about mental toughness.” He goes on to talk about mind setting and accepting that you will be injured (past blog topics) “Break fear and fight back by 1) deciding what you fear most, injury or being controlled by the criminal. Accept injury as the price you pay to escape. 2) mind set and visualize ahead of time. Focus on escape, not on what he is saying or doing.”

Why Krav? Krav Maga doesn’t blow smoke about it’s practitioners not being hurt or having “never fail” techniques. We mind set in our class drills preparing for violence. We make you exhausted and mentally tired during our drills to duplicate fear and pain. We teach techniques that will give you a fighting chance but mainly we teach attitude!! Swing for the fences, the bad guy is going down, I don’t stop til you’re unconscious ATTITUDE!!

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Another subject most martial arts and self defense systems fail miserably at is letting their practitioners know that they can and probably will sustain damage.  This can be a game changer!  If you rely on both hands to do a joint lock and break one….what do you do then?  If we’ve never trained thinking about an injury and then it happens our brains want to freeze because this wasn’t in the plan.  If your instructor tells you “do our techniques right and you won’t get hurt, the bad guy will” you probably need to look for another instructor!

SGT Sanford Strong, in his great book “Strong on Defense” interviewed many crime (especially rape) victims.  The ones who consistently fought back and got out of the horrible situation were those who feared the crime (the rape) more than they feared injury.  Injury will happen….tell yourself that right now!  The scumbag knows that you fear injury.  This is why he will say “Do what I tell you to and you won’t be hurt.”  Those who allowed themselves to be moved, tied up, etc. on the “promise” of no injury from the bad guy almost always paid dearly for it.  Those who were so afraid of injury that they did nothing but hope and pray the attacker was telling the truth needed to know that the bad guys always lie and they are good at it!   Please, please, please put in your brain right now that the scumbag is there to hurt, torture and probably kill you.  Injury is coming. It’s up to you to decide if it’s on his terms or if you are in control.  It’s up to you to decide if that injury will come to only you or if it will come with you injuring him back tenfold!!

A greate quote from Meditations on Violence by SGT Rory Miller; “This fear of escalation is based on unknowns.  The attacker has already decided to hurt the victim and largely how much.  The feared “greater level of damage” is only in relation to the level of damage, unknown to you, that the threat has already planned.  If he is already planning to torture and kill, the feared escalation is meaningless…the fear of provoking a beating or torture or death will not help you if the attacker has already decided on the beating, the torture or the murder.”

Why Krav?  Any class that would include being injured on purpose would be a short lived one!  We don’t purposely injure anyone but we do go hard.  Our drills don’t cause injury but they do wear us out, make us feel like we can’t go on and cause general discomfort.  This is for a reason.  We want to know that we can continue no matter what!  Krav Maga’s techniques are such that losing the use of a limb, in general, doesn’t affect us.  Let me explain;  no joint locks or fine motor skill movements in our techniques but whole body, gross motor skills that we do in an extremely pissed off stage of mind…..that keep going til the bad guy is done mentality!

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We’ve all felt the effects of the adrenalin dump.  Something scares us (like a close call in our car) that leaves us tingling, breathing faster, heart rate up, etc.   If this happens in an almost accident imagine how much more pronounced it will be with life threatening violence.  This will happen…and, sadly, this is something that is totally ignored in most self defense systems.

Effects of fear (the “dump”) include;

-your mind will change!  The mind you have will not be the one fighting for you when attacked.  Too many martial arts take a logical and mental approach to visceral and chaotic problems.  Memories can be wildly distorted.  Perception and auditory input can become very messed up.  This is seen when those being attacked remember, for example, a knife that was four inches long being a machete, a handgun going off by their ear repeatedly that they didn’t hear, etc.  Irrelevant thoughts can intrude in our heads.  Off the wall thoughts can seem like brilliant ideas.  We can get tunnel vision and not see the other attacker or the weapon.  Behavioral looping can easily occur even with trained fighters.  They will use a technique that isn’t working but get stuck on that technique and try it over and over.  Sadly, if we haven’t used mind setting and had a plan for this attack already formed we won’t come up with one now because our mid-brain is now in charge and it will be stuck in freeze mode…trying to scan for any training we’ve had for this scenario.

-You don’t feel pain and don’t bleed as badly due to vasoconstriction.  This is one of the few good effects of the dump.  Remember, however, that the attacker is in the same state and doesn’t feel pain either.  That awesome joint lock that you never fail with in class doesn’t faze the bad guy….and we freeze because our brain said that it should end the fight.

-Skilled techniques degrade under stress….a bunch!   Our heart rate goes way up.  Blood is pooled into our internal organs.  This makes our limbs feel heavy and we feel weak.  Our skin gets cold and clammy.  Fine motor skills go to pot.

The dump is the bane of Self Defense Instructors as it makes the untrained more dangerous and the trained less!  A great example of this is police officers.  When they are shooting at a target at the range within ten feet most have over 90% accuracy.  Under fire on the street?  One major city studied police hit statistics under live fire over a six year period and found that their officers from contact range to six feet out hit the bad guy only 38% of the time.  There is a big difference in how our body reacts on a range and with someone actually trying to kill us!!

Truth is, the dump makes those who are trained fight worse….and the untrained actually fight better.  Why is this?  God put this response into man at the beginning.  It wasn’t for self defense but for self preservation against wild animals!  No amount of technique will drive off a tiger, but a flailing, focused (tunnel vision), repetitive (behavioral looping) defense might.  Not feeling pain and not bleeding like we usually would comes in handy when limbs are being bitten.  At the worst stage we freeze, drop and even have bladder and bowel evacuation…..this is good as a last resort with a wild animal who may think you are dead and save you for later!    If you ever hear someone say “if it were for real, I would have done a lot better” try not to laugh at them!

Why Krav?  Have you noticed that in our classes we don’t teach a lot of joint locks or techniques that need fine motor skills?  This is the reason!  Under attack we want to think only of hitting the scumbag, grabbing hold of him any way we can and then kneeing and kicking him into oblivion.  We don’t teach that one devastating attack will end the fight…because when that technique doesn’t end the fight we won’t know what to do.  We teach attacking with whole body, gross motor skills and we teach to go with all we have until they are on the ground, balled up and knocked out!!

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The freeze is a very common phenomena reported by those who have faced real violence….and is totally ignored by most self defense systems.  It will happen!  There are a couple of things that cause this “freeze”.

1) When a horrible situation happens that puts us in extreme fear for our lives our brain will work for us.  If we had not trained for the attack, or had never even thought about the situation possibly happening, our brain will look at the violent attack and literally scan our entire life to see if this situation had ever happened before and how we got out of it.  It does this faster than any computer but it takes a few seconds.  Last week we learned about mind setting.  For facing real world violence mind setting is priceless.  If we had planned for this encounter the plan will surface quickly.   An interesting quote from Meditations of Violence by SGT Rory Miller…“The closer the events reflect previous experience, the less time it takes to orient.  If the event is completely new there is nothing in the past to orient to, which explains the effectiveness of Judo in 1888, Jujutsu in America in the 1920’s, Karate in the 1950’s and BJJ in the 1990’s.”

2)  Almost as bad as no training, as far as the freeze is concerned, is the wrong training.  There is something called “Hick’s Law” which states that the more options you have, the longer it takes to choose one.  I remember reading an advertisement for a martial art that bragged that they had 7,000 different techniques!  What kind of selling point is that?  If you have more than one choice in an attack your brain has to choose one!  Another example of the wrong training is techniques that are too regimented.  If we train a defense that has six steps and it derails at step number two we have a hard time orienting because the plan isn’t being followed as we practiced.

3) The attacker’s words.   We expect people to be reasonable like we are.  We expect people to be truthful like we are.  When the predator is telling us to obey him and he won’t hurt us it causes us to not spring into action because we reason that if we do what he says he will keep his word.  Most people in other bad and very dangerous situations such as a natural disaster or an accident jump into action to save family, friends or themselves much quicker than we do in a violent attack.  The predator knows this, he knows what works.  Always remember, if he had any humanity, would have any remorse, had any good in him at all, he wouldn’t be attacking you in the first place.

Why Krav?  What makes Krav Maga such a great real world self defense system is that it isn’t technique based, it is philosophy based.  One of my instructors years ago loved saying “if I learn 1,000 techniques, with my luck, I will go out on the street and be attacked by number 1,001.”  We want our first reaction, our “flinch” reaction, to be GO FORWARD AND GO OFF.  When the surprise violence starts, when most people are freezing, we want our reaction to be to go forward with great violence….we don’t want to even think about it.  Our drills, everything we work on in class and our whole philosophy is to keep it simple, to go right now and to make it as violent as possible.  This isn’t brutal, it is effective!  Our only chance in a real life violent encounter, according to experts who have survived deadly violence, is to go right away and to go hard.  When the punches are landing and we can’t figure out why or from whom we want to be able to automatically switch from confusion to absolute rage with the only thought running through our head to be “hit the Scumbag”!!

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Most self defense systems, martial arts, etc. fail to one extent or another in that they don’t consider what effect real violence has on the one being attacked.  As Winston Churchill said “No matter how enamored one is with their plans, from time to time one must consider the enemy.”  My first several blogs will be on “Real World Violence”.  This also happens to be the theme of our Spring Camp in a few weeks.

A real world attack will be at such speed (the attacker knew what was coming, you didn’t) and so violent that it will overwhelm us.  It is not uncommon for the person being attacked to just freeze (next week’s topic).   Mix in the fear of injury, the “this can’t really be happening” thoughts and the fact that we may have taken damage and been dazed before we know what’s going on all work very much against us.

Mind Setting is the best thing that we can do to prepare for this random, sudden violence.  Mind setting is rehearsing and visualizing actions in your mind.  Military and Law Enforcement do this all the time.  Very interesting is the fact that as violence in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past few decades murders of citizens have also skyrocketed but murders of police officers since the mid 1970′s have decreased by 43%.  This is attributed to what law enforcement started preaching and training at that time……Mind Setting.  Mind Setting is making a plan for whatever the attack is.  For example, think about what you would do right now if someone kicks in your front door or if surrounded by three large men in the parking lot at the mall, etc., etc.

Decisions about what you are going to do in a violent attack must be made well before the attack happens.  The people who survive violent attacks are those who go off with rage….and do it immediately.   When you are watching the news, reading the paper, etc. and come across a violent crime don’t think “poor guy” and move on or worse, “that couldn’t happen to me”.  Think about exactly what you would do in that situation.  I’m not talking about thinking how you will devastate four attackers with spinning high kicks (that is dreaming) but think about how you can escape (either right away I am running or I will smash this guys face and then run….if I am blocked I will kick and punch and hit with anything I can find on the ground until I can get out of there, etc.).  Go over and over “what would I do” for every situation possible.  If you think it can’t happen to you, you won’t plan for it.  The U.S. government’s own Justice department states “Every U.S. citizen now has a realistic chance of being a victim of random violence.”

When attacked, Mind Setting gives us the “I’ve been here, done this” feeling and gets us moving into action.  When mind setting 1) visualize you being in the crime.  Not watching….in the crime.  2) visualize your actions to escape and 3) visualize being shot or stabbed or hurt in some way and still escaping (the subject of another blog…very important).

Why Krav?  My entries will end with this “Why Krav” question.  We do drills at the end of every class.  We hate them because they wear us out but you have heard us say many times “this is the most important thing we do in class”.  What is a drill?  Think about it.   We are having you be the victim of an attack.  There are usually two or more partners pushing you, you are fighting back, you are going all out, etc.   This is Mind Setting…..but doing it physically.  When attacked in real life by two or more we hope and pray that the “been there, done that” comes out as you have been there and done that!!

“You are not paranoid when you worry about people out there who might try to kill you when there are people out there who might try to kill you”   S. Strong

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