BJJ & Self Defense

“However beautiful the strategy, one should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

Let me start out, as usual, by saying that I absolutely respect BJJ. BJJ is like chess on the mat, the practitioners have to be very smart and in awesome shape. Most of the instructors at the Krav gyms I owned did BJJ with my blessing. I had a BJJ black belt teaching BJJ classes at my gyms. I believe that we have to be well rounded and know what the heck we are doing on the ground. My son takes BJJ at a gym and I love what he is learning! I could have him in any discipline but I chose BJJ for him. There is nothing better for a school yard, one on one fight.

What slays me are the people advertising BJJ as the ultimate in self defense. I just ran across a web site for a bjj gym that said “Krav Maga will get you killed”. They actually said that statistically most fights are one on one bar room type fights with no weapon ivolved so it is a waste of time to train for anything but this type of one on one fighting. Even if this is a true statistical statement do we ignore any other type of attack because it is in the minority? Weapons certainly exist, run a daily google search for knife attacks or shootings across the country. Your in box will be full! People do get attacked by multiple attackers, people do get shot or stabbed and sexual assaults do happen. Because 50,000 of 80,000 daily attacks in the U.S. don’t involve a weapon or multi attackers that’s good enough reason not to train for weapons and multi attackers? What kind of logic is that…oh yeah, it’s the “I make money off of what I teach” kind of logic.

BJJ is an awesome sport but to train it alone for self defense absolutely ignores real world violence. It is absolutely betting the practioners life on the fact that there will only be one attacker and there won’t be a blade involved. BJJ’s philosophy is to patiently control an opponent until they can be submitted. In the real world every scumbag has a scumbag friend near by. We should always be looking to end things as quickly as possible and to get the heck out of there. I have a friend who told me about a buddy of his that went to a “BJJ for the street” gym. He got into an altercation in a bar and pulled guard on his attacker like he was taught. The guy drew a knife and stabbed him seven times. Another friend told me of a BJJ black belt who wrapped a guy up in a bar in just a few seconds, looked awesome doing it…right up until the guy’s buddy kicked the black belt in the face, broke his jaw and knocked him out. If you are on the ground tied up with someone you are absolutely making the assumption that he doesn’t have a knife and doesn’t have a buddy. These are not assumptions that will keep you safe.

Have you ever tried bjj on concrete or blacktop? I’ve had friends who have and they inform me that there is no good position. Being on the bottom gets you ground into hamburger. Knees and elbows get torn to shreds when in side control. The mount sounds good until the opponent starts bucking and your knees slam over and over into the pavement.That magic mount is such a strong position in the MMA ring. In the real world the dude on the bottom puts you in a big bear hug until his buddy can get over to ya and kick your head off. I had a friend who was a bouncer at a bar years ago. One night he took down a thug and broke his arm at the elbow with an armbar because the thug kept fighting. After breaking the thug’s arm he let loose, started to sit up and got cold cocked by the guy’s other fist. Broken bones and joints suck, but they aren’t an end all. Self defense ain’t over til you are safe and out of there.

I hate seeing women’s self defense instructors teach women to hit the ground. Women should be fighting with one goal and one goal only…to escape. Being wrapped up with the scumbag on the ground makes escape harder. Bad plan in my opinion. Worse yet is all of the law enforcement training I see being done with BJJ alone. Do you know why BJJ practitioners pin their opponents face up? To give the opponent a better chance of escaping. Law enforcement officers should definitely be putting suspects on their face, worrying about weapons and expecting a scumbag’s buddy to jump in. Trying to patiently control until you can submit isn’t smart in that context.

A while ago we did some training on a bus. Multiple attackers, blades, handguns, etc. We had some BJJ guys in the training. How much of their BJJ do you think worked in that situation? The only way anyone got on the ground was to fall just right in the aisle. Aisles are pretty tight, there was no room to move once there. They ended up just wailing on the attacker with fists, biting and head butting because that’s all they could do.

I will hear “but we can practice against a fully resisting opponent, that makes us the best.” BJJ practitioners are training against someone fully resisting a grappling match, not fully trying to kill you with a knife, kick to your head while you’re down, shooting you, etc. Yes, fully resistant attackers are a good training model but only if you are training for what you will find in a real life violent situation. If you are going full out on an opponent who is fully resisting and you both walk away unharmed what good could what you are doing possibly do you on the street when you need to put someone down, go through more than one and get the heck out of there? Self defense is going forward with rage and aggression, doing maximum damage in minimum time and getting to safety. IF you can go all out and the opponent is going all out and this “training” lasts for more than fifteen seconds that should be a red flag…you aren’t doing anything that causes damage!

I’ve got news for you, unless you are breaking limbs and tearing ligaments you are not going 100% all out and being realistic with a fully resisting (fully fighting back) opponent. You stop before you injure for safety reasons. I can certainly kick a shield full out and then, when kicking my partner to the groin, pull it at the end so as to not do damage. If we are going full out in training we would run out of training partners in a hurry. All training has limitations, there is nobody who trains purposely hurting people. If we carry this line of thinking to the next step they are saying that nobody training a knife art can really be getting good training unless they are actually slicing and stabbing their training partners, that the best way to really learn to shoot a handgun is to shoot at people who are shooting back at you. Do the special forces in our military go to boot camp to actually shoot at each other, throw grenades at each other, knock each other unconscious in hand to hand training, etc.? Of course not, yet these guys are the best of the best and are trained very well. A good couple of reads on how the military (and anyone else) can train effectively without going 100% with their techniques causing damage is Sharpening The Warrior’s Edge by Bruce Siddle and Training at the Speed of Life by Kenneth Murray .

I get grief for stating what i think is an unarguable point. That is that if a system says it’s against the rules to eye gouge, slam a head on the pavement, bite, kick to the groin, punch the back of the head, stomp on an Achilles, knee to the throat, etc., etc…that system isn’t teaching self defense but is sport oriented.

Again, I am not bad mouthing BJJ at all. I am bad mouthing those who are telling students that BJJ is all the self defense they need for real world violence. I believe BJJ is a great PART of a total self defense system. Now, instead of name calling and talking about my dear mama in the comment section how about we have a discussion we can all learn from where the above points are refuted? BE SAFE!


Training the Brain!

“…under sudden life-threatening stress, individuals will likely exhibit behaviour based on past experiences that they will automatically produce without conscious thought. This means [that there is a necessity to] not only [train] officers in appropriate tactics but also [to provide] sufficient repetition under stress so that new behaviours will automatically take precedent over any previously learned, potentially inappropriate behaviours that they possessed before becoming an officer”. Ken Murray

I recently watched a cool documentary on the brain. It was shot at the Navy Seals Special Warfare Command. It talked about how those in Seal training are introduced to chaos from day one because historically mistakes on the battlefield are almost always associated with fear and panic. At this training they are trying to find mentally tough soldiers more so than athletic studs. Each class has 140 men and only an average of 36 pass. They have had Olympic athletes fail while they once had a one hundred and forty pound farm boy from Nebraska who had never seen the ocean until training pass. Needless to say, they take neuroscience seriously.

Researchers have found that a part of the brain no larger than a finger nail called the Amygdala controls emotions, especially fear. The Amygdala instinctly pushes the panic button because this part of the brain gets impulses two times faster than the frontal lobes, which is where our rational thoughts and synchronized activity comes from. When something such as a loud noise startles us the Amygdala has our pulse rising, gets sweat started and has us moving before the Frontal lobes figure out whether it is something that we should be afraid of or not. If we relied only on the frontal lobes we would freeze until we figured out what was going on. The Amygdala gets us ducking, moving and orienting ourselves towards the danger immediately.

The Seal training exposes the soldiers to many scary situations. This helps them to get used to the danger and gives them a been there, done that feeling. This training helps to minimize delay by generating fast and accurate reactions to situations that they will face in combat. For example they fail more candidates in the pool competency training than anywhere else. In the pool competency training the candidates have on their tanks and breathing apparatus. While underwater on air the instructors mess with the candidates for up to twenty minutes by taking their tubes out of their masks and tying them into knots, shutting off their tanks, throwing their masks off of them, etc. They are without air as much as they are on air and must control the fear of drowning as they do the proper procedures to get back on air. When this happens in battle it won’t be nearly so scary as they have been in this position before, many times.

The Seals have a four step mental toughness program that include 1) goal setting, 2) mental rehearsal (mind setting), 3) self talk (they have found that we talk to ourselves by using between 300 and 1,000 words per minute. Those with positive self talk, the “you can do this” succeeded at a much higher rate than those who told themselves “this is impossible”) and 4) arousal control. This is the use of deliberate and slow breathing, especially long exhales. Since they started teaching this the Pool competency training pass rate has gone from ¼ to 1/3.

Watching this documentary had me standing in awe of Krav Maga’s founder, Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi was figuring this stuff out back in the 40’s and 50’s! The drills we do, the way we test and the general thoughts behind Krav training are in line with what the Seals are doing today. We train real, mind set and put students through rough times so that if they are ever attacked on the street they have that “been there, done that” feeling. How cool! BE SAFE!



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Run…like Forrest!

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!

The Power of Awareness!

USKMA Black Belt, Karissa Walton gave a speech this week at her school entitled The Power of Awareness

The speech is this weeks blog. Thanks, Karissa!

Are you aware that…
– …Phoenix is considered to be the kidnapping capital of America?
It is currently ranked #1 in the US and #2 in the world, next to Mexico City
370 recorded cases last year  on average, at least one victim goes missing each day
– …Phoenix is known as the “largest drug gateway into America”?
In 2013, AZ DPS reported 18,334 drug-related arrests in Maricopa County alone
1 in 4 felons serving drug sentences in US prisons are not US citizens – they are the foot soldiers for the Cartel
– …With drugs comes violence?

Overall crime rate in Phoenix is 45% higher than the national average
I’m not sharing this information to frighten or dishearten you, but rather to make you aware of the harshness of reality. I think that as naturopathic students, it is so easy for us to get caught up in exams, clinic shifts, and trying to live a healthy lifestyle that we often lose sight of what goes on beyond these walls. We become unaware of the world that surrounds us.

About 7 years ago, I began my transition to awareness through a system called Krav Maga. Some of you may be thinking “what did she just say… Kraw McGraw? That must be one of another one of those weird martial arts… That’s just not my thing.” Well, the thing I love most about Krav is that it doesn’t have to be your thing. It is a philosophy-based system that was designed for to be effective for anyone and evolve over time.

Krav Maga was first developed before WWII when the Nazis invaded Poland. The Jews were disarmed and left defenseless. At that time, Imi Lichtenfeld, an Olympic boxer and wrestler, developed a system for the Jews to defend themselves on the streets. When Israel became a country after WWII, Imi was put in charge of the combatives training for the Israeli Defense Force. He was able to refine the system and teach to students from around the world. One of his students, Darren Levine, brought Krav to the US in the early 1980s. He passed the training on to the instructor who eventually passed it down to me.

People often ask me why I practice and teach this “Krav Maga.” Why have I spent countless hours in the gym training to complete exhaustion with nothing in return but some bruises and sore muscles? However, that is not the case at all… In return, I have gained an invaluable gift that I can now share with others – a little something I like to call “awareness.”

In Krav, we train for the worst case scenarios. In doing so, we must accept that the worst can happen. The direct byproduct of this acceptance is awareness. Once you become aware of what is around you and what can happen to you, you begin to carry yourself differently. You begin to prepare. You begin to find strength inside yourself that you never knew you had. This doesn’t mean that I walk around sticking out my chest proudly as if I’m looking for a fight. This also doesn’t mean that I walk around cowering as I anxiously scan every little thing around me. It means that I walk with confidence and mindfulness of my surroundings. I am mentally prepared to defend myself or my loved ones if the need ever arises.

As a Krav Maga practitioner, you are constantly coming up with new ways to exercise techniques under stress. As all of us here are aware, when your body is in a sympathetic state, fine motor skills are one of the first things to go. Knowing this, we train to exhaustion (and beyond) in order to induce a realistic simulation of being attacked. During these “stress drills,” you become aware of the physiological changes that your body experiences. You learn to maximize the effect of your natural responses and find power you didn’t think you had left. The more aware you become, the more you can train your “fight or flight” response to fight if necessary and get away as safely as possible.

Since my journey of awareness began, I have noticed changes in the way others approach me as well. While filling up at a gas station or walking through parking lots, I used to constantly be approached by people who were looking for more than an innocent “hello.” Now, it is a very rare occurrence. If you are alert and observant, you simply don’t look like a target and people will recognize that. This has saved me from many unwanted encounters that could have escalated to a dangerous situation quickly.

Not only have I been able to see this transformation in myself, but I have witnessed it in those I teach as well. It has been so rewarding to see the confident yet humble presence of those who have become aware. I have trained women who were previously unaware and unfortunately became a victim to physical or sexual abuse. With a heightened level of awareness, these women have been released from an unspeakable past. They are now able to maintain their composure under stress, while having a much deeper appreciation for the safety of themselves and loved ones. They are empowered.

As Imi (the founder of Krav Maga) once said, “People respect power, and it comes in many forms, Krav Maga is power, and people will respect you for knowing it.” There are many forms of power, so even if you don’t decide to take up Krav Maga tomorrow… I hope that you find power in standing up for what’s right. Find power in not victimizing yourself. Find power in awareness.




FIT & SAFE IN 6 COMING TO YOUR AREA!; After the first of the year search for a USKMA affiliate near you and get in on the new Fit $ Safe In 6 program. Six weeks of fitness and self defense training. Not the usual workout…it is actually fun to do and you will be learning skills that could save your life! More info in next month’s newsletter!

UPCOMING EVENTS; Keep an eye on the events page of Facebook and for upcoming training including;
– Level 4 Instructor training Ft. Myers, FK Nov. 4-6
– Be Safe Seminars at Elite in Richmond, KY Dec. 3
– Black Belt Testing at Hahn’s in St. Louis. Jan. 21

KRAV MAGA VIDEO BLOG; The Walking Dead and Self Defense!

MONTHLY STAFF MEETING ON OUR AFFILIATE PAGE; The staff meeting this month is on Talking With Customers.

SELF DEFENSE QUOTE OF THE MONTH; “The problem with bad self defense advice is you won’t know it’s bad until after it’s gotten you into deep shit.” Marc MacYoung




USKMA affiliates get a proven system including how to run classes, intros, market, talk to customers, etc. as well as social media ads and content made for their gym weekly, the affiliate page of (includes videos and resources for everything you could want to run a Krav Maga & Fitness gym), ongoing training, a landing page on and unlimited consultation. Hit us up with questions and anything you need at!

Overcoming Experience!

From Guest Blogger and USKMA co-lead instructor, Brannon Hicks

As I walked out of the 24 hour Walmart and into the dark parking lot, I saw a large man (I’ll call him Jon) walking hastily and looking about nervously. The only other person I saw was a smallish woman (I’ll call her Sally) in her mid 40′s looking at her cellphone and presumably texting as she walked toward the store; oblivious to her surroundings. I turned my attention back to Jon, as his apparent nervousness kicked in the instincts I had developed over the years in Police work. He approached Sally and asked if she had the time. I noted that he was wearing a watch. She stopped, startled, and looked up. I started toward them and called out, “It’s about 2:30 buddy,” as I looked Jon in the eye and stopped walking. He looked back at me for a moment, then back at Sally before walking off without saying another word. Now, was he going to rob, rape or abduct her? I can’t say for sure, but my experience has taught me that strangers who nervously approach others in dark parking lots don’t always have good intentions. Sally had likely never been attacked in a dark parking lot; otherwise I’d wager she would have been much more attentive to her surroundings.

I teach a course entitled “The Tactical Crystal Ball” to law enforcement, and a similar course entitled “Misfortune Telling” for civilians. The overall course focuses on the processes that humans go through in detecting threats and the actions we can take to evade or deter the threats. In that course, I try (hopefully I succeed) in illustrating the point that we rarely rise to our best; rather we fall to our most effective training. Not our highest level but our most effective.

The human mind, under stress, will generally rely upon our primary or most recent training or experience during stressful events. In other words, we search our memory banks for the primary response (what we usually do), or we react as we did with our most recent response. Now if Sally had been attacked by Jon in that parking lot, which would she have gone to; primary or recent response? Herein lies the problem. The freeze reaction is often a result of never having experienced such an encounter before (no recent response) and/or never trained for such a response (no ingrained or primary response). Many people have described the phenomenon of their lives “flashing before their eyes.” Sgt. Rory Miller writes at length about this phenomenon in his book “Meditations on Violence.”

Miller believes that the phenomenon is literally the mind searching through its vast data bank of experiences for the most appropriate response to the situation. This my friends, is the real benefit of effective training. Effective training allows us to access the skills we develop almost instantaneously. Hicks’ law of stress management states that the more choices we have to make under stress, the longer we will take to make them. In Krav Maga, we follow the KISS rule. Keep It Simple Stupid. All of our reactions should be trained from a position of disadvantage and most importantly; under stress and exhaustion. Our concepts are simple and direct, because complexity often breeds confusion, and therefore inaction under stress.

In the Law Enforcement community, we often review videos of officers engaging in deadly force encounters for training purposes. Far from “armchair quarterbacking,” we are relying upon the experience of others to build up our own responses; to sharpen the sword so to speak. Just as often, we see Police Officers killed or severely injured when a good tactical response is delayed by the fact that the officers had never encountered such violence before or been effectively trained to respond to it. As individuals, no one is more responsible for our safety than we are. In my estimation, Sally had never prepared herself for a violent encounter. I wager no one had ever attacked her beforehand. If Jon had wanted to victimize her, it likely wouldn’t have been difficult for him, precisely because Sally’s experience thus far in life left her in a position of disadvantage. Don’t leave yourself in the same position.