Frequently I am asked about the role of hitting, or striking, during a gun or knife disarm. I have addressed this issue often, see the following blogs
My belief, the principle I go by, is that hitting a person is not enough to stop him; that blows to the body or face are not a guarantee that the assailant will stop. Remember, these are not your friends from the dojo, these are criminals, high on drugs or liquor or just the thrill of the attack.
Countless videos of real life situations prove that even repeated strikes with brooms, sticks and chairs are not enough to stop a determined attacker. In cases where the assailant was holding a gun or knife – he never dropped or relinquished the weapon as a result of the physical blows incurred. (These are the cases that I know of. I invite comments by readers who might know of other such cases).
And yet, most styles of Krav Maga teach a grab and multiple strikes to the opponent. My students know that I demonstrate the concept that I want to devote both my hands, all my energies and all my strength to controlling the weapon hand. Using only one arm (the weaker one) to control the arm with the weapon, while using my strong arm to hitting the person – allows the attacker to withdraw the weapon arm. The true "price" for my hitting the person is losing control of the weapon arm. My "gain" is the pain I may cause him however experience shows that this pain is usually not enough to stop the attacker.
(In our grab and stab series there are a couple of exceptions to this rule due to the nature of the grab, but the same principles are always maintained)
Recently our man in San Destin, Florida, USA, IKI Instructor John Liptak, sent me an article about how a man of 63 defended himself against a gun threat. The man is not a Krav Maga practitioner but much can be learned from his story.
A robber messed with the wrong man in Florida on Thursday night. 63-year-old, 5-foot-7 Fred Kemp used a foot sweep and a rear naked choke to disarm a robber who pointed a gun at Kemp and his wife. (IKI does not recommend this technique even thought it worked for this man)
"He started to hit me, so I reacted from there," a bruised but smiling Kemp said Friday. "I got him out into the street and held his arm. I foot-sweeped him down and I was trying to get a hold of the gun. He banged me up a little bit but my main concern was the gun."
From this we can learn the following lesson – When teaching knife and gun disarms, beginning students often wonder about the danger of being hit while performing the disarm. I teach them ways to avoid being hit but I also stress that even if they are hit – being hit is not as bad as being stabbed or shot!.
In our case above with 63 year old Mr. Kemp, he admits that he was hit, but being hit did not stop him from controlling the weapon. Being hit is a price I am willing to pay in exchange for holding on to the deadly weapon. Bruises are better than gun shots. Even if I get "banged up a bit" I will not relinquish the hand with the gun or knife.
Instinct and Training
In my lessons I stress the concept of using our instinct and, constant repetition of simple moves. I teach that our mind gives way to habit, that we will go back to the way we trained, that cognitive thinking does not work well during stress.
Fighters who started as wrestlers often go back to rely on their wrestling skills when they get in trouble in a fight. Clearly, that instinct sticks with them, because Kemp was smart enough to rely on his sport when danger found him. Joe DeMeo, a friend of Kemp's through wrestling, was not surprised to hear that Kemp took out the criminal. "Fred Kemp's the last guy I would rob," DeMeo said. "He'll go down fighting. … He does have a lot of physical ability. He's a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done kind of guy." Remember that the next time you approach a diminutive 63-year-old. It's probably not a good idea to mess with him.
Age as no factor
In our style of Krav Maga we stress simplicity and using moves that do not rely on great physical strength, flexibility or endurance. I have been disappointed to see advertisements from Krav Maga schools showing young muscular men with their shirts off. What is the message they are sending us? That "our instructors are famous body builders"? that in order to defend yourself you have to be the poster boy for "Muscle and Fitness" Magazine? Or that only attractive young women with perfect abs can defend themselves?
Our message is that Krav Maga if for everyone. An older person should also be able to protect himself. A person who had knee surgery should also be able to defend himself. A woman without washboard abs should also be able to defend herself.
I am happy that Mr. Kemp defended himself. He showed aggression, determination, and the benefits of training, He demonstrated a positive mind set and a refusal to be a victim. He showed that smaller, older people can also defend themselves. May his tribe increase.
All of these lessons are included in our training program. Krav Maga is for everyone.