WHY DO WE ‘PLUCK’ IN KRAV MAGA?

The first technique a student learns when attending one of my krav maga classes is the front choke with the pluck. I love to show this one first because all of the concepts of krav maga are included. The first concept is to get rid of the danger is quickly as possible. When we feel pain our hands automatically go to that pain. When we are choked our hands start for our throats even before we know what’s going on. This cuts down on practice time, is more likely to come out of this under stress, etc. A natural reaction is always going to be quicker than a learned motion. The second concept of krav maga is to always defend and attacked simultaneously. The person choking us probably doesn’t have their legs crossed but is standing wide open. As our hands are busy doing the defense our legs are free to send that front kick to the groin. Not only have we gotten our first attack in (keeping the attacker in the OODA loop) but that attacker’s going to loosen the grip even that much more because of that groin kick. The third concept is to go off like a bomb and beat the idiot down until we are safe. So the pluck is in our defense because it is a natural motion that comes out of us and has that extremely effective groin kick to loosen up the attacker that much more. Before the attacker is recovered from that kick we are already into elbows to the head, kicks to the knee, knees to the throat etc.

I have seen several Krav Maga and organizations take the pluck out of their choke defenses. They give several reasons for this. One is that they do not like having several different choices for a choke defense. I totally agree with this thought however, all chokes aren’t created equal. Are we being choked in place? Is there a lot of momentum that has us being thrown forward or backwards? Is the choke from the front, behind, side, or some other odd angle? Lastly, how do we know that we will be standing when we are choked? We can certainly be laying in bed, on the ground, sitting in a car where we have a seatbelt on with doors closed.

One reason that i have heard to get rid of plucks is that standing still and being choked is an unrealistic attack, that we will always be pushed backwards with force….they seem to think that we have to suspend reality because, in their understanding, no one would “stop” when they choke you. As SGT Brannon Hicks (the co-lead instructor of the USKMA) says “The reality is that they are revealing inexperience with attacks in the real world. The reality is that in my career, one of the most common attacks in domestic violence in particular occurred when a man would choke a woman and pull her in close, like face to face to intimidate and terrify. The bicep to ear movement doesn’t work well in that instance because the attacker collapses in and bears his weight forward. It also makes it nearly impossible for a much smaller or weaker person to generate any significant rotational power, whereas the groin kick is easily accessible and the pluck does enough to buy fractions of a second and precious air. So they are right about the pluck not working well if you’re being driven backward. I point this out all the time. Again, regrettably, they’re teaching people from a point of inexperience that a very real and common attack is unrealistic.
If they rely on small muscle groups to do the pluck, they are doing it wrong. Their understanding of the pluck appears fundamentally flawed.”

I have heard several instructors talking about the groin kick being ineffective. This always makes me shake my head. Again, quoting SGT Hicks “On the matter of striking the jaw rather than going for a groin shot, this thinking is exceedingly narrow. Who is attacking and who is being attacked? Am I to believe that if my 12 year old daughter “cracks” a 200 lbs man in the jaw, she’s going to do enough damage while being choked that this will exceed the damage caused by a groin shot? I’ve crushed a lot of guys nuts on the street and found it to be incredibly effective. Conversely, I’ve beaten guys about the head until my hands and elbows nearly broke and swelled up by grapefruits. Keeping in mind that i’ve knocked a lot of men out in sport competition. I’m not sure what his balls are made of, but human balls are incredibly soft targets lol So, yes, striking to the jaw against a man of similar size might be very effective. Would that be the same if a 5′ woman were doing that against a 6’3″ man? Could she even reach him? I doubt it. I’m confident that she could kick him in the nuts though. I have heard instructors making a point about guys being cracked in the jaw during sports and they stop as opposed to taking groin shots and shaking it off. I don’t know what sports they are watching but MMA is 15-25 minutes of guys getting cracked in the head and pressing on to keep fighting, but if they take one good groin shot, we know what happens. Break time. They fall down.”

I guess my point is that there is no one size fits all technique and to talk in absolutes is usually a mistake. Our litmus test when trying any technique is how will it work for a very small female against a very large, strong male. The rip at the choke as she kicks to the groin is still the best we’ve seen in that situation. Too many organizations do what works for the head honcho and forgets that they are teaching small females to defend against that honcho! BE SAFE!

Listen To Those Voices!

Did you ever get an uneasy feeling about someone after just a glimpse of them? There are reasons this happens, don’t ignore your brain, it’s pretty smart! Malcolm Gladwells’ book BLINK is about this very phenomenon. Our brain is like a super computer, it picks up on things that we don’t consciously see or realize. We often get bad feelings and don’t know why so we ignore them, sometimes to our peril. As an example Gladwell tells the story of a statue that was supposedly thousands of years old and worth millions of dollars. The tests all showed that it was really that old, was from the area of the world that was claimed, etc. Three different experts took one glimpse at it and said that it was a fake. When asked why they thought this they said that they didn’t know, they just had a gut feeling. These experts were ignored because the “scientific” research said that it was real and a museum bought it for millions. It ended up being fake. The expert’s brain knew something that they didn’t even know that they knew!

Another discovery that Gladwell talks about in his book is that of our brain seeing “thin slices”. He believes that things can actually happen so quickly that they can’t be picked up by our conscious can still be seen by our brain. An example that he uses is a video of a married couple talking about their relationship. It sounds like they are very positive and have a good relationship when the video is only listened to. When it is watched he and others who were studying with him had a feeling that the couple was in trouble. They ended up divorcing shortly afterwards. When Gladwell played the video in slow motion and looked at it frame by frame he saw negative body language….rolling eyes here, looks of disdain there. He was fascinated that these things that happened too fast to notice were actually picked up on by the brain.

One of my own students had a horrifying illustration of this. As he was opening up his shop he saw two guys pass by the window. He thought “if I had to describe those two to the police, what would I say”? He didn’t have any idea why he would have thought such a thing. Sure enough, a few minutes later they were in his shop and had a gun to his head.

Ladies, this is exactly what “women’s intuition” is. Listen to it every time. For example, a guy gets on an elevator with you when you are alone. Something doesn’t feel right but you know that if you get off before the door closes he’ll be offended. Who cares? He is a stranger who, even if he is offended, will have forgotten about it five minutes later. If you stay on and were right you will regret it for much longer than five minutes. Men know they make women uncomfortable. If a guy gets on an elevator and there is a woman there by herself he will automatically go as far to the opposite side of the elevator as possible. We may never have consciously thought about this but this is why if he gets closer the “women’s intuition” kicks in. Animals listen to their intuition every time. There are no rabbits thinking “he looks like a nice fox, it would offend him if I ran away”! There are no deer thinking “I am just being silly, it looks perfectly safe. I’ll just stay here for awhile.” We humans alone ignore our intuition.

There are reasons for uneasy feelings, for bad feelings about someone or for being “creeped out” by someone. Our brains are noticing everything and computing the data for us in split seconds. Listen to these gut feelings and stay out of trouble. BE SAFE!

GET IN, STAY IN!

One of Imi Lichtenfied’s students tells a story about the time that there was a TV on with a Bruce Lee movie playing. The student asked Imi “what do you think of Bruce Lee”? Imi said “Well, the boy is very good, however, if he has time to duck he has time to go in and finish….but that would make for a short movie I suppose.” Krav Maga training has a technique that is very unique called “bursting.” We push off of a foot like a sprinter leaving the starting blocks to put our whole weight behind an attack or block and to get inside. We want to be inside because we never think that one punch, elbow, etc. will knock out the attacker (it indeed may but we can’t take that for granted) so we want to be close to clinch and attack and attack again until the bad guy is done.

A person in a sparring match can move, strike, move some more, circle, strike again, etc. This works because in a sparring match there are two evenly matched opponents competing with a set of rules. In the real world fighting like this only works if we are better, stronger, aren’t worried about a second attacker, have time, etc. In Krav Maga we realize we don’t have those luxuries so we want to burst in, hit the bad guy many times, finish him as quickly as we can and never give him the chance to strike at us more than once. In a choke, for instance, getting the bad guy’s hands off or our throat and then backing off, squaring up to fight and then throwing punches would only work if we are the better fighter. Instead we remove the attacker’s hands, simultaneously kick his groin, land forward, clinch the attacker and throw non stop knees & front kicks until he is done.

We show this concept from the very first intro lesson at our gym. We show a front kick, let the new student do a few, and then stop the student to teach Krav philosophy. We tell them that their kick was fine (it’s an easy technique) but not to kick and put their foot back where they started. If they kick and put their foot back they have to kick again to get back close to the attacker. We show them to kick and put their foot down forward because then the attacker is right there for a knee with the other leg or they can just clinch the attacker and deliver multiple combatives.

When there is a weapon involved this becomes even more important. If we can’t run or pick up something to smack the attacker with we want to go in. If it’s a handgun we direct it off of us and go in and beat him unconscious. In the case of a knife or stick the attacker expects us to back up. Backing up puts us in greater danger as we are going to the most dangerous part of the stick (the end) or into the arc of the blade. In the case of the stick going in keeps us from being hit by the part going the fastest but instead takes us into the hand or forearm of the person swinging the stick. There isn’t much damage the bad guy is going to do to us there. We aren’t just moving in to escape the danger but when we do get in we deliver a strike. This strike has a lot of power as our whole body was behind it. While inside, after this first strike, we clinch and throw knees, elbows, head butts, etc. until we are safe.

The point is that you can dance and prance if you are in a fair fight. If you are fighting for your life go forward, get in deep and beat on the bad guy until he’s done! BE SAFE!

PRESS FORWARD!

“Danger. If you meet it head on and without flinching you will remove the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never.” W. Churchill

One of the keys of Krav Maga training that I blog about often is that there are no magic techniques. Aggression and developing a switch so that our “flinch” reaction enables us to go from overwhelmed and surprised to going forward and destroying the attacker is what keeps us safe. The one thing that we can develope to make us safer than any system, art or technique is aggression and the mindset to go forward and go hard no matter what. I wrote about this a few weeks ago in the “slow it down” blog. We go hard in classes and work aggression and a “fight no matter what” mindset and worry about perfecting technique later.

I found a beautiful illustration of this in Chuck Holton’s book BULLET PROOF. The following is a couple of paragraphs from the book; “Capt. Brian Chontosh, found himself leading a patrol through the small town of Ad Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. In what seemed like a single heartbeat, his unit was hit with a coordinated attack of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine-gun fire. Chontosh knew immediately that it was a near ambush…and that he and his men were in the kill zone. Retreat was not an option. Dying was.

But Captain Chontosh wasn’t about to let that happen to his Marines. The love he felt for each of them instantly transformed into rage at those who would try to kill his men. He ordered the driver of his Humvee to plow directly into the enemy trench, and with a violence of actian that came from hard training, he leaped from the vehicle and attacked the attackers until his rifle ran out of ammo. He then pulled out his pistol and continued killiing the enemy until that, too, ran dry. He picked up an enemy weapon and continued fighting. Then another. Then another. When it was over, more than twenty enemy fighters were out of commission and his men were saved.”

When in doubt go forward and go hard! BE SAFE!

Hollywood BS!

Some of my blogs are informational…some are just me railing on something. This one is in the “railing” category! My wife hates watching movies with me. I am constantly pointing out the improbabilities, the impossibilities and the down right stupid stuff that movie makers want us to believe. They must think that we are stupid! Most people want to be blissfully ignorant and be entertained I guess but it drives me crazy. The stuff you see in movies that just don’t happen in the real world:

-In the movies guns are magic. Watch how many people in the movies who have a gun pointed at them just freeze. The gunman has the gun pointed at their head from a foot away and is looking somewhere else yet nobody ever thinks to grab the gun and beat the bad guy into the ground. Duh.

-The bad guy can hit a running target from fifty feet away. When someone asks me what my defense is if the gunman is ten or twenty feet away I tell them I’d use the Nike Defense. Friggin run! Even a trained shooter has a very hard time hitting a moving target.

-Ever see someone get shot in a movie and they go flying off their feet? It’s physics. If a projectile has the force to send someone flying it had to send the person who fired the projectile flying as well.
-Those little bitty silencers on handguns? No such thing. The silencers would have to be much larger and the gun use sub sonic rounds…usually a .22 round. There is no such thing as a silencer on a revolver. The gas (and noise) escapes around the cylinder.

-Hollywood must have magic bullets. People seem to drop every time a bullet hits them. In the real world people take full clips to their mid chest and still keep trying to slice or otherwise beat on the person with the handgun. I read of a criminal who took four .357 magnum rounds to the mid chest, another round that went arm pit to arm pit through the dude and several more in the arms and legs and was still fighting the police officers who shot him. If you have ever gone deer hunting you know that shooting that deer with a slug doesn’t drop him right there…and we’re talking about a huge slug! You have to track the darned thing for miles afterwards.

-One last observation on guns. How many movies have you seen where a car blows up because someone was shooting at it? Supposedly they hit the gas tank. This is an impossibility. Even with phosphorous tipped rounds shooting a stand alone gas tank (no other metal to penetrate) it is virtually impossible to blow that tank. Sheesh.

-Kids and small women can whoop on trained fighters. In the real world size and strength matters. A good big guy will beat a good small guy most of the time. I want to puke when a 60 pound kid kicks a 200 pound adult in a movie and the adult goes flying. This ain’t happening. As good as our female Kravists are, they know to hit vulnerable spots and to be looking to escape. All my female instructors would kick the crap out of those female movie starlets yet those starlets somehow can stand toe to toe with a large, trained fighter and kick his butt. Stupid!

-The hero takes knives away from dudes in a fight and never suffers a cut. Even when successful with knife defenses you rarely come away unscathed. The writers must have never heard the old adage “the winner of the knife fight is the one who dies tomorrow”. This is why we train knife defenses with KY jelly slathered on our arms. A lot of the joint locks and grabs just don’t work when there is a slippery substance involved. Guess what? Blood is pretty friggin slippery!

-The hero takes on 3 and 4 attackers all movie long and wins every time. BS! I don’t care how good you are you cannot see behind yourself. If even two guys get you between them you are in trouble. You can’t block 8 appendages with 4 consistently, especially if you can’t see them because they are coming from behind.

-Those witty one liners and smart aleck comments that the hero makes during and after fighting…wow. In the real world with an adrenaline dump, stress, etc. due to someone trying to kill me I’m going to be lucky if I even remember my name!

-Unbeatable heroes. I wish. No matter how bad you are there is always someone badder. Anything can happen. I was told of a special forces soldier who had seen combat in Afghanistan who was finally home. His first week at home he was in an altercation in a bar. He was punched once by a regular looking guy, fell back, hit his head and died. This was a tough dude, a real fighter and a hero…and he died that quickly.

-The hero takes a bunch of damage and bounces back to win…and in the next scene he doesn’t even have a limp! Bodies are fragile. To be taking a whipping and then catch a second wind isn’t going to happen. Broken bones, punches in the head and kicks in the groin aren’t something that you’ll be recovered from mid-fight. Those long choreographed fight scenes only work if the fighters don’t take damage. Real violence is fast, terrifying and devastating.

-In Lt. Col. Grossman’s book ON COMBAT he interviewed several WWII combat vets who stated “I won’t watch any WWII movies until they show them boys pissing their pants cuz that’s what happened to almost all of us.” Fear, adrenaline, exhaustion, etc. do some amazing things to our bodies. “You fight like you train is only true if you train clumsy, dumb, blind and deaf.” SGT Rory Miller

-Why doesn’t the bad guy ever kick the good guy in the groin? Watch an MMA fight. Those dudes are tough as nails but they drop in a hurry when they get kicked in the groin. The ref has to stop the fight and let them recover.
OK, I’m done railing. Go enjoy your movie. BE SAFE!

“I’m gonna kick your ass!”

“No intelligent man has ever lost a fight to someone who said ‘I’m gonna kick your ass’.” SGT Rory Miller

The threat of violence is a gift. The scumbag doing the threatening is giving us time to react. Sudden violence is a hit in the back of the head or a knife in the gut before we even knew that there was trouble around. The threat of violence is an idiot giving us the gift of time. With this gift we should either be moving or attacking.

If someone says “I’m gonna ______ (fill in the blank) to you”, why wouldn’t you believe it and act on it? Law enforcement and military units would love to have this kind of advance intelligence! When a threat tells you that they are going to punch, kill, beat, kick your ass or anything else believe it and act on it…do not wait to see if they were telling the truth! “Threats of violence” aren’t always verbal. Be on the watch for anything telling you that trouble is coming. Is he reaching behind his back (for a weapon in his belt), reaching for his pocket, taking off his jacket, walking straight at you with his eyes burning a hole through you, picking up a bottle, pool cue or similar? Act quickly and decisively, he gave you the clues that he meant you trouble. Also pay attention to his body language. Are his shoulders rising, neck veins bulging, teeth clenched, hands clenched and or is he shaking? Again, act on this threat of violence.

Think about the “monkey dance” bar fight scenario. It starts with one over testosteroned dude looking at another. Words are passed. They both puff up and chest bump for a bit. Then a punch is thrown and the fight is on. Ego pulled them right along the same path that has been travelled many, many times. The problem is that one is expecting the other to know the rules. Many have died thinking they were in a fight only to have the other believe that they were in combat. When we do this “monkey dance” we don’t know what the other is thinking, if he has weapons, if he has killed before.

I was told about a tragic incident in a club in Florida. For some reason this club decided, on the same night, to have country and western on one side and hip hop on the other. One of the good ol boys was stabbed and killed by one of the hip hoppers. It turns out that the good ol boy was known for bar fights. His fun was going to the club on weekends and getting into a scrap. He started a fight with a guy and believed that everyone knew the rules to a bar fight. It was just two guys having fun and beating on each other a bit. The hip hopper came from a different society. A fight to him was combat and somebody usually got killed….he was gonna make sure it wasn’t him. The man who died believed he was in a bar fight with the usual “monkey dance” rules and his opponent believed he was in a fight to the death. Only one of them could be right.

If these young men used the threat of violence tactically there would be more of them around. As soon as someone is looking at us funny, says something threatening, is heading for us, etc. we should be doing something besides going into a fight. We need to create distance, pick up something to defend ourselves with or attack the attacker before he gets a punch in. This is what keeps us safe. Standing there waiting for a fair fight against someone who we cannot possibly know wants a fair fight is stupid, and can get us killed. If you are in a fair fight, your tactics suck. When it comes to protecting yourself and your family be proactive, not reactive. BE SAFE!

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!