One great lesson that I’ve learned from the co-lead instructor of the USKMA, Brannon Hicks, is to ask “Is this person rational?” He leads a great RBT class and when critiquing A scenario the question he asks over and over to the officer is “Was this a rational person?” Thinking in those terms helps the officer to make decisions much quicker.

I taught a third-party protection class recently where one of the scenarios was that they were walking a spouse/significant other and a belligerent person came up threatening the spouse. The student playing the belligerent person never laid hands on the spouse but kept coming forward and yelling threats over and over. Because there was no actual contact many of the students were confused on what they should do. After the scenario I would ask them “Was this a rational person?” Would a rational person be belligerent, keep coming forward even though you’ve tried to walk away and threaten to do harm to another person? When the answer was “no, this is not a rational person.” the solution seemed to show itself. It is not rational to threaten a stranger and to keep coming forward as if to do harm. My thought was if I know this isn’t a rational person and I have clearly try to get away and leave the situation and de-escalate, if that person keeps coming forward I probably need to strike first. I can justify in my head, and in a court of law, that I believed this was not a rational person, they were threatening to do harm, and I was not going to wait on them to draw a knife or to follow through with your threat. Again, I would have witnesses stating that I was doing the rational thing. I was trying to leave I was trying to de-escalate I was trying to break contact with this person

SGT Hicks shows a video of a law-enforcement officer who waits way too long to put hands on a criminal. The first thing the officer does is point a taser at the man and tell him to stop coming forward. The man continues to come forward. If this officer would have just thought “This is not a rational thing. I am a law-enforcement officer giving a command and pointing a weapon at this person and yet they keep coming forward”. If he would have decided right then and there that he was dealing with an irrational person and did something about it it would’ve saved him a lot of trouble. It ended up that this criminal drew a knife and stabbed the officer and the officer had to shoot and kill this man.

In my mind setting I tell myself over and over to ask that simple question. Is this person rational? Again, a rational person would not threaten a stranger, act violently, put himself in my face, or any other such thing. Unless we thought about this in our heads ahead of time we may end up frozen thinking “Why is this person doing this, do I know this person? I need to de-escalate this, I need to keep giving orders, keep giving commands, I need to talk my way out of this.” It goes without saying that you’re not going to talk an irrational person out of anything. In my opinion, it is time to go hands-on if I’ve tried to leave, de-escalate, etc. and it’s not working. Any rational person is not going to do the expected. An irrational person is a dangerous person.

In any situation ask yourself that question. Is this person being rational? If they are rational we can talk. If there irrational it may be time to go hands-on. Be safe!

Permission to Strike First!

This blog by guest blogger; Matt Kissel – 2nd degree USKMA black belt and Law Enforcement Officer

Permission to strike first!

Traditional martial arts often wait for the first punch. We don’t live in a traditional world. Your attacker is not raised with Honor, Discipline and Respect for others. He has chosen you as his victim and wants to prey on you.
The attack comes on fast and brutal. Sometimes without our ability to even see it. A full on ambush from your blindside and you enter the fight from the worst possible time. You’ve been hit, cut, knocked to the ground, swarmed… But not all attacks start this way. I want to discuss the ones that start a bit more slowly.

We have all heard of the X. The place the attacker has chosen. He is waiting for his prey to arrive at it. Your there and he approaches. The setup, The attacker may use a ruse to gain your attention or distract you from their real intent. “Do you have some change.. Know what time it is.. I lost a puppy. “. No matter how benign it may sound you have to trust your guy. Is this guy legit or setting me up?

The confrontation. His real intent comes out. He produces a knife or gun. Maybe he just grabs you or blocks your way. Now is the time to ask your self. “Can I get away?” If you can run! The attacker is looking for “easy prey”. Your running metamorphous you into the difficult prey or better yet ” an opponent”. If you can’t, should you do what he demands. He can have my money, there isn’t much there anyways. He can use my credit cards. The detectives will get pictures of him buying gift cards at the gas station. Someone will know him. He will get caught. It’s my immediate job to get home to my wife and family.

But what if I can’t get away? What if giving him what he wants won’t satisfy him? What of he wants something from you like rape? What if he wants to take you somewhere? You are going to be in a fight very soon.

I say start it. Be the one that hits first, knocks him to the ground, ambushes him. Come in strong, fast and brutal. In Swat we call it the trinity (speed, surprise and fierceness of action). It must have all three to be an effective counter attack. If you lose one of them you have to work very hard to get back in control of the situation.

Make witnesses that see and hear you with your stance, open hands palm out, yell “stay back” back off, call 911. “. Criminals never yell these things. We need witnesses from near and far. Someone that will point out my actions before the fight starts so the police will list me as the victim. Get to a safe spot, Be the first to report the attack.

We as instructors have to give permission to strike first. Those that trust us to teach them to protect themselves also trust us to tell them the truth. You can not block all the attacks. You can not always absorb the first punch. If you wait to be struck first you may be too late and not survive the attack. Tell your students it’s O K to strike first. Use roll play with attackers and let them explain their actions afterwards.

Bottom line; If you identify the setup and confrontation and decided you can’t get away without becoming physical. You have permission to strike first.

A story from my job as a police officer; We had a criminal attempt to rob a pizza delivery driver. The driver saw the knife and slapped the knife hand and delivered a right cross that knocked the robber out. Bet he didn’t see that coming. We never solved the robbery but we never had any more either.

In law enforcement we have a saying to each other ” be safe!” I say ” be dangerous!” Be the most dangerous prey he ever crossed.

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!

Keepin’ It Real

“If it’s not simple, it’s not self defense.” R. Hoover

KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! In Krav Maga we want to have the fewest answers to the most questions. Our weapons defenses, especially, rely on simplicity. In our handgun defenses seminar we show a “cupping technique” that we learn for a handgun from the front that also works for handgun from the side of head, from a kneeling position, from a gunman in the guard, a gunman mounted, a gunman standing over us, a gunman across a bar or table…you get the picture. We have changed our long gun defenses so that one defense works from the front with the weapon aimed high, from the front with the weapon aimed low, with a slung weapon, from behind, etc. Same with our knife. We wrap the arm and beat on the attacker whether the attack is overhead, under/upward, straight stab, shank, slash, etc.

This is gold when we teach law enforcement officers…or anyone else for that matter. A lot of LEO’s that we teach are mandated a whopping four hours per YEAR of unarmed training. They are not going to spend much time practicing what we show them…they have a lot of other things to do. To show them one defense that will work for several different attacks saves lives! They do not have to think of which defense works for that situation, didn’t have to practice it much for it to come out of them and get good at the defenses with much fewer reps.

From time to time we get someone who believes that they have a much better stick, knife, long gun or handgun defense. I tell them that what they are showing me may well be better…but think about it. That defense you show me for, say, a handgun from the front may indeed be five percent better…a touch more effective, a touch quicker, etc. Now when you show me your handgun from the side and then from kneeling they are as different as night and day. Completely different muscle memory. Maybe one in sixty officers we teach are the type who love training, will spend hours working your different handgun defenses and get good with them. The other fifty-nine your five percent better defense made forty percent less safe! They won’t practice, will hesitate when a handgun is shoved in their face thinking about which one of their twenty defenses they should use and will screw it up because they have so many defenses in their head.

Let’s say you have a knife defense system that is just awesome but it takes 150 hours of work to be fairly proficient with it. What if on hour 148 someone puts a gun in my face? The only thing that we claim to do better in Krav Maga than anything else is to get people from zero to being able to defend themselves quickly. In four two hour seminars we can get people proficient enough in handgun, long gun, knife and stick to give them a good chance of being able to defend themselves and live through an attack.

We are not in a Hollywood movie! We want to avoid flashy. Learning one simple defense with as few moving parts as possible that works in many situations saves lives. This is Krav maga! BE SAFE!

E mail us at for info on our upcoming Law Enforcement Instructor training Oct. 24 – 29 in PA and our level 1 instructor courses in AK and MT next month.

The OODA Loop, RBT Training and Other Important Stuff!!

The one thing that really good and effective self defense training, aerial combat training, SWAT training, infantry training, etc. has in common is that it teaches the student to fly through the OODA loop while keeping the enemy in the OODA loop. So, what is the OODA loop (or Boyd’s Circle)? OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. When we do anything this process is what our brain must go through. We observe that something is happening, orient towards it (figure out what it is), make a decision as to what we need to do and then act.

The “OODA Loop” principle was developed by Lt. Col. John Boyd for aerial combat in the Korean and Viet Nam war era. John R. Boyd figured this science out as a young U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. John was cocky even by fighter-pilot standards…he issued a standing challenge to anyone who dared to try to defeat him in mock aerial combat. To make it even more of a challenge for him once in the air he would start from a position of disadvantage. He bet that he’d have his jet on the challengers tail within 40 seconds, or he’d pay them $40. Legend has it that he never lost. His amazing ability to win any dogfight in 40 seconds or less earned him his nickname “40 Second” Boyd.

What Lt. Col. Boyd discovered was that if he could keep the opponent in the loop, and he got through OODA, that he had a great advantage. For example, if the enemy was observing Boyd roll right, was orienting to this move but before he could decide or act Body rolled left it made that enemy have to start the OODA loop all over again.

As Boyd taught the principal and taught airmen to get through the loop (and keep others in it) he discovered that after five go rounds at actual air combat that pilot became virtually unbeatable. After five they would not get caught in the loop but would rapidly get through it and act first. He put science behind what pilots had somehow knew in WWI and WWII as they called a pilot who shot down five enemies an Ace.

As an aside my good friend (and USKMA co-lead instructor) Brannon Hicks, while reading the FBI’s LEOKA report (Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted), discovered a bone chilling fact for Law Enforcement Officers. This report is based on interviews with all those who have been arrested for assaulting police officers. Remember how the pilots were virtually unbeatable after five times facing combat? According to this report the average person who attacks a law enforcement officer in a deadly force engagement has had an average of five uses of deadly force in their past. This is why RBT (reality based training) is so important. Our brain’s do not know the difference between real events and events in training. Using scenarios and sim-nitions we can get officers through dozens of deadly force engagements…and learn from them!

In self defense we want to get through the loop and keep the attacker in the loop. This is why, for example, in Krav Maga our weapon disarms always have a punch, knee or kick in them. If we just use leverage and attempt to take away the weapon the attacker can observe, orient, decide and act to pull the weapon back, fight for it, etc. If, while the attacker is observing and orienting to our defense we kick them in the groin their brain will automatically go back to observing and orienting. When they get to the orienting about the kick we then elbow thier throat and start the loop all over again for them. Keeping the attacker in the loop while we are to the action phase of the loop is a big step towards winning the battle. BE SAFE!

Krav Maga & Martial Arts


First and foremost we in the USKMA never bash any other system. Blogging about this topic by one system is almost always self serving and a put down to others. A few statements; 1) I was/am a 4th degree black belt in a traditional system. 2) I will say right off that any system can be used effectively if proficiency is achieved. We differ in that we don’t believe it is prudent that achieving proficiency takes years.

When we in Krav Maga think self defense we believe it has to be easy to learn, easy to remember, come out of us instinctually and be effective no matter what the size and strength difference may be between our attacker and ourselves. We also believe in training everything we do must be put under stress and exhaustion to ready our practitioners for the adrenaline dump and the effects of stress that a violent attack will produce.

There are many talented martial artists. I know of Tai Chi masters who could whip 99.9% of us. I especially admire BJJ. Those guys are the most in shape, best conditioned people I know. I have my son was in BJJ. But….BJJ’s philosophy is to patiently control an opponent until they can be submitted. Add a second attacker, a knife, etc. and that philosophy isn’t self defense. I have often said if masters from other systems came into my gym and challenged me in front of my students most would probably kick my butt and make me look stupid. However (and this is self defense) if that 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 the back of his head and then take one of the broken shards and see how far into his throat I could ram it. I would not lose. Krav Maga is doing what it takes to be safe, and refusing to quit.

Martial arts are great for kids. It teaches them manners, respect and a host of other good behaviors. For adults martial arts are great exercise, great stress relief, great for socializing and meeting other good, hard working people. However, I personally cringe when a traditional martial art calls itself the ultimate in self defense. All martial arts were designed to overcome the problems that the founder was facing. Some martial arts were designed for the battlefield, some for unarmed peasants to overcome soldiers wearing armor, some for using anything found in nature to make a weapon of, etc. I spent countless hours in my traditional martial art in a front stance only to discover that the front stance was designed for balance when fighting on board of ships. I spent even more hours in a horse stance to discover that that stance was for peasants who were too poor to own a horse to practice for the calvary! Krav Maga was designed by the Israeli Defense Forces to keep people alive in modern times against enemies with handguns, rifles, knives, sticks, throwing fists, throwing knees, choking them, grabbing their hair, etc., etc. Krav Maga is only concerned with getting people as safe as possible as quickly as possible. Are we the best at knife defenses? Maybe not but instead of spending hundreds of hours getting awesome at a knife defense only to have a handgun shoved in our face we want to learn enough of a knife defense to keep us safe and alive and then move on quickly to learning the defenses to the other hundreds of ways a person can be attacked. I think most martial artists will admit that if someone takes their art for three months and quits that they aren’t very good and won’t be able to defend themselves very well. Three months in Krav Maga gets a person almost ready to be tested into level 2…and you are pretty darn good when you get that far.

I know of several systems that are now being designed by one man for modern attacks. These that rely on one “founder” worry me. Techniques are designed in a gym with students as the attackers. A lot of systems work for the head honcho. I can think of several systems where the head instructor is awesome and totally unbeatable (he’d kick my butt!) but the question is can that same system work as well for a 100 pound un-athletic female as it does the six foot two, two hundred thirty pound instructor? In Krav Maga any technique that we use or add has that exact filter to get through. Will it work for our smallest, weakest, least athletic practitioner? I have seen a system that taught a straight stab knife defense as a crescent kick to the knife and a back kick to the attacker (you better have a quick crescent and a devastating back kick!!). I have also seen a system that taught it’s students a handgun disarm that consisted of doing a forward roll towards the gunman and then coming up from under the gun and twisting it away (with his students mesmerized at his awesome technique…scarey!!). A handgun defense that looks like it should work, and works with simunition guns, is being taught as gospel. Has the founder ever had someone try to shoot them, stab them, bash their head in with a brick? Krav Maga was designed by an entire military system. The bullshit didn’t make it through because there is no Grand Poobah who has an ego, there is no tradition to honor….there is only keeping people alive, period. When I hear someone say they have a way better handgun defense than what Krav Maga has I laugh. If their defense was easy to learn, easy to remember and effective it would be Krav Maga, we would have stolen it already. We don’t have a system that has to guard its traditions. We’ll switch to another technique in an instance if it works better. Keeping people alive and safe is all we’re about.

A lot of martial arts are technique based while Krav Maga is philosophy based. For example, when a knife is coming towards our mid section we want to block it, hit the attacker hard at the same time and then either get the heck out of there or control the weapon and beat the idiot senseless. The traditional martial art I took had of 30 different techniques for a straight knife stab. Hick’s law states that when we have more than one choice it takes time to decide between them. How much time do you have when a knife is being thrust into your gut? Another problem is a lot of techniques have many steps. If in practice I always must do A through F I get lost in a real attack when it derails at step C. One other big problem I see too often is students not being allowed to questions techniques or to think for themselves. SGT Rory Miller in his great book Meditations on Violence talks about the time he visited a martial arts school and was sparring with one of the black belts. He got punched in the nose and threw a technique back at the black belt. The black belt stopped and bawled him out saying that they train realistically and that if he broke Rory’s nose in a real fight the fight would be over. Rory told the black belt that he has had his nose broken from a punch three times in his life and it never ended the fight, that he did indeed go after the attacker even harder! If that black belt is ever in a real fight he’ll deliver a nose punch that he was taught would devastate the other guy, stop fighting, and get creamed!

One last thought about martial arts and why some of them do not make sense for us today is “assumptions”. Too many martial arts make assumptions. For example, an art that teaches to take an attacker to the ground is assuming that you will only ever be attacked by one person. An art that relies only on joint locks and joint manipulations assumes that you will always have two hands. What happens to those techniques when you break an arm in the fight? We have our students at higher level tests put one hand in a belt that is tied around their waste and figure out how to defend themselves with one arm. Easy if you have a philosophy of “get rid of the danger and beat the attacker senseless”, not so easy if you are technique based. Another art may rely on high, jumping and spinning kicks. What do they do if they break an ankle first thing in their fight? Lastly, way too many knife and stick defenses that I’ve seen totally rely on the attacker coming from a distance and the practitioner seeing the attack coming. It is wrong to assume that you will always see the attack coming from a distance! We throw out any knife or stick defense that doesn’t work late (when you don’t see the attack until it is inches from striking you).

Again, we are not bashing any other system. We just believe that when it comes to self defense people need to think about what real violence is. Flashy techniques, training incorrectly, training for situations that no longer exist and complicated moves get people hurt. Remember, if it is complicated it isn’t self defense. Our number one rule in Krav Maga is BE SAFE.


I preach constantly that Krav Maga’s techniques are not magic and will not save anyone. The philosophy of go fist, go crazy, go hard and go mean is what will save us if real violence ever finds us. As I have asked several times in these blogs; Who do you think a cop would rather face on the street, 1) a very proficient martial artist or 2) a crazy who won’t quit and wants to claw their face off and see them bleed? Nearly one hundred percent will you they’d rather face the martial artist with the great techniques. Now, if we can train people to be awesome with Krav’s techniques AND be a crazy we have developed safe people!

I do not understand those who teach martial arts and self defense systems who concentrate on the techniques as if they are the end all. To not run classes where everything taught is put under stress and exhaustion, to not run drills that confuse and surprise and to not make students “uncomfortable” is teaching self defense techniques, not self defense. There is a big difference!

This was reiterated to me once again in the Krav Maga black belt training courses that I was teaching awhile ago. I had ten level five students who have been training Krav Maga for years, who have been teaching Krav Maga for years and who know the techniques like the back of their hand. At the end of training some handgun techniques we ran what we call the “jostle drill”. One student is “it”, one has a handgun & a knife and the other eight take kick shields and push, whack and bump the student who is “it”. When the student with the handgun yells “gun” those with the kick shields get out of the way. The person with the handgun either sticks a handgun in the “it” person’s face or attempts to stab them with a knife. Each person has five tries being “it” and then the next person takes their turn. This really isn’t much exhaustion or stress. The person who is “it” knows to perform one of two techniques. They will either do the cupping technique for a handgun takeaway or do the overhead knife defense. Again, these are people who teach these techniques and are very, very proficient with them. Well, with just this little bit of confusion and stress the techniques go to heck! Out of the fifty reps (ten people doing five reps a piece) I saw three really good defenses and another twelve that were the technique done kinda like they were supposed to be done. That means that thirty five weren’t the technique at all. With just that little bit of stress and confusion the techniques degraded a bunch.

Now, the good news is that nobody did anything “wrong”. The handguns were taken offline and the attacker beaten (even if not with the exact right technique) and the knife attacks were blocked and the attacker was beaten (again, looked nothing like what we teach). This is why we teach the philosophy over the technique! They all stayed safe getting the weapon offline or blocked and then going forward, going hard and beating the crap out of the attacker. This was Krav Maga!

If those who teach techniques as the end all would apply drills like the one above I believe that they would have an epiphany. If techniques degrade in a drill where the student knew one of two attacks were coming, that they are in no real danger and that the weapons weren’t real how much more will the techniques degrade in a real attack when they didn’t know it was coming at all, didn’t know what attack or weapon would be used and realize that they are about to die? The technique will not be there. If, however, we trained to make our “flinch” reaction “go forward, go hard, go crazy and fight with rage” that will be there. The philosophy will survive when the techniques degrade. BE SAFE!