Respond with Force
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

May 29, 2017, Israel

Sometimes the softest response can knock someone out. Sometimes use of brute force is the lowest and least intelligent form of self defense.

Two friends are sitting with me and having a talk. One is telling a story about a fight he was in, New York City subway. He begins,...the man was looking at my wife. Without many more details we get to.."so I punched him in the face, and then an uppercut" etc.

The other friend is confused, he feels he has missed something. He can't figure out how the fight got started. So he asks to hear the story again. This repeats itself several times until I decide to "translate".

You see the problem is these two friends come from different worlds and do not speak the same language. The listener could not understand the story. The storyteller could not understand why the listener was having difficulty understanding.

So I translated. "In this fellow's world someone looking at his wife is the beginning of the fight, it is a declaration of war. Thus he attacked with physical violence. You do not understand this because you come from a world where words are used to resolve conflict but my friend here grew up with violence, prison etc".

The two were both good people but could not begin to understand each other. And this brings me to my point. Our approach may differ based on background and culture.

I was recently sent some videos by a well known and respected self defense instructor (not Krav Maga). I was a little surprised by his approach. He teaches that when someone approaches you on the street and verbally challenges you (the "Interview" to see if you are weak or strong) the only solution is violence. His teaching is based on how to distract and then hit the person. I will not deal with his techniques but with the approach.

No other solution is offered; Only hitting.

Now, let me remind my readers, I am not naive. Allow me to remind my readers I am a Jew and I am very old. I have experienced the cruelty of the world much more than any local street violence or living in a bad neighbored. I have studied violence my entire life. I have relatives who were at Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, not as tourists. I have had relatives who were hijacked by terrorists. And sadly we have suffered losses in war as well. So lets' put the accusations of being "soft" or naive aside right now. I have also been in hundreds of full contact fights.

I have avoided many fights with humor and intelligence and once even with dance. No one got hurt and everyone went home happier. There was no need for a police report or ambulance.

Violence is always the last resort. I learned this from my martial arts instructors. When someone approaches you and is talking trash it is still not physical violence. A rabbi I knew said, "I choose my friends and I choose my enemies, I do not choose you as either", there is power in these words, there is strength. With the right words and the right attitude you can look the bastard in the eyes and let him know that he is better off not trying anything on you. Confidence is the name of the game.

You can use humor, you can use cleverness, you can use strength of attitude. You do not always have to go directly to physical violence. He is interviewing you to see if you are an easy target, there is more than one way to show you are not an easy target. For decades the USA used Deterrence as a way of avoiding war with the USSR, I think we are all better off that the wise leaders avoided a "pissing match" that would have resulted in a nuclear war.

So why not try the same approach on the street?

Now think of the law. The one who threw the first punch started the fight, legally speaking. Why? because there is a difference between words and action. Only, and I repeat, Only, when you are convinced that this man has violent intentions and there is no way of avoiding a fight do you then take action. As Mr. Miyagi said, if must fight - Win!

Now I understand that if a man grew up in a bad and violent neighborhood that this may the only language he understands, violence. He cannot understand any other approach just as my two dear friends could not understand each other and needed my translation. One could only see one response, violence, while the other could not understand how a fight began when it was totally unnecessary. 

We need a way that offers options and the wisdom to avoid any and all fights unless they become absolutely necessary and unavoidable. The fight with Hitler was unavoidable, the fight with the USSR was avoidable.

Become a master of martial arts but also a master of life.


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