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A Shaolin monk was once asked by an aspiring martial arts student, "Please tell me the secret to your renowned martial arts prowess." He answered, "We train all day every day."
The point was, and is, there are no secrets. The idea of secrets is a myth to attract students.
On occasion, at a seminar, there is a request for "military Krav Maga". Students feel disappointed, let down, when I inform them that there really is no such thing as " Military Krav Maga ".
The only way that military Krav training differs is that it is reduced to the simplest, most basic techniques and is performed under stress and fatigue, with great aggressiveness.
I saw my student Yair, home on a brief visit from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) where he is serving in a combat unit. "How's it going", I ask him. "Tell me about the Krav Maga training in your unit."
Yair answered, "You know what they say in the army, 'What did you learn today in Krav Maga? – Push-ups, what did you learn yesterday? – running.'"
Many of my Israeli students were chosen for top military units; Paratroopers, Search and Rescue, "Duvdevan", "Golani Patrol" and so forth. They all feel that their years of Krav Maga training with me fully prepared them for the tasks they were facing in the military.
Krav Maga - Immobilizing the arm
I spoke with Yonatan who was serving with an elite reconnaissance unit. His unit's responsibilities included going deep inside enemy territory before the infantry came in. I asked him to tell me if and how his Krav Maga training was useful or prepared him for this dangerous assignment.
His answer made me proud, "It was never a question of specific techniques but rather of a conceptual approach and the correct mental attitude. I felt that whatever came my way – I could handle it."
I could not have asked for a better answer. Yonatan perfectly summed up our approach when he said to me, "You can never anticipate every possible situation but I feel I had the tools to deal with every situation I faced."
Training US Special Forces
Krav Maga training in the military does not differ from "civilian Krav Maga" in any intrinsic way. If today you are in uniform and you learn how to handle a gun threat to your head, and tomorrow you are out of your uniform, a civilian once again, the same defense applies. You remain the same person. You retain the same physical attributes and abilities. There is no difference in technique.
In both cases we train you to protect your own life and the lives of those around you. In both cases we use the "lowest common denominator"; the most basic, simple techniques that fit your natural body movements.
"Moshe, please don't waste our time with simple techniques, show us the complex movements, we are highly skilled instructors."
This brings me to side point, a slight tangent. Sometimes, I am told,: we are all advanced black belts, c'mon, you can show us the real stuff, the complex techniques."
What can I say? This is not the circus. I am not trying to add every day more and more daring, death defying, complex and exciting techniques to dazzle my audience.
IKI Krav Maga is not, as Ringling Brothers used to say, "The Greatest Show on Earth". It is not. And I am not a performer. I am not trying to impress anyone; I just want you, my student, to get home safely.
I have been asked to do Krav Maga shows, birthday parties, and singles events – I turn down these requests. Who knows, perhaps someday I will be asked to do a cruise.
IKI trainers with US Infantry
From the 1970's until the gates of the USSR opened, I was very active, along with my entire family, in the struggle for Soviet Jewry movement. Along with countless others we strove to pressure the Soviet government to permit Jews to freely emigrate from the Soviet Union. This is a dream that eventually came true.
When Jews were routinely denied exit visas on the grounds that they possessed state secrets- the following joke was told. A Jewish scientist applies to emigrate to the West but his application of course is rejected on the grounds that he possesses state secrets and the government is afraid he could reveal this to the Western governments.
The man protests this decision, "What state secrets can I possibly reveal!? The USSR is at least ten years behind the West in scientific development."
"Precisely so" answers the Soviet official. "Our secret is that we have no scientific secrets to reveal. The secret we are trying to keep is our lagging behind the Capitalist states."
It is the same with "Military Krav Maga". Sometimes I am asked by well-meaning but naive foreigners "Are you IDF certified?" "No", I answer, "I am not. I did not take the 3 week Krav Maga certification course in the IDF but I do have a quarter of a century in the field."
My students come to the IDF very well prepared. They find the Krav Maga course no real challenge at all. "Even" the girls easily disarmed the instructors when challenged to do so.
"Aha" says the instructor, "I see you have previous training!"
Foreigners tend to associate Israel's great military victories and arresting of violent terrorists with Krav Maga. This of course is good for business. Krav Maga is an effective art but no wars have yet been won with hand to hand combat.
The IDF fully deserves its' reputation as a fierce military force but we must remember that wars are won with weapons, aircraft, and tanks as well as human fighting spirit. Krav Maga however is not effective against a rocket launcher or a machine gun.
Back in my days training for my Krav Maga certification at the Jerusalem Center, I encountered and trained with many active members of Israel's elite police units. One day I had the privilege of training with some guys from the YSM unit – undercover police. I was excited and a little bit nervous.
I was very familiar with their reputation, deservedly earned, and knew I would have to make a special effort during sparring. I faced off with one guy and we began a kickboxing fight. After some hesitation I realized I had nothing to fear and I relaxed and began to flow. My police friend was unable to keep up. We stopped the fight. Clearly this was not his forte.
Next we do free style (today called MMA); again the same results. Clearly freestyle was not his strong point. So I asked him point blank – how do they do it? How do they apprehend such dangerous terrorists?
He said, "We storm into their homes in the middle of the night. We catch them in bed in their pajamas while we are all wearing fierce looking uniforms, pointing M-16's at them and barking orders. We never fail. They give in without a fight."
It was not some hidden form of "police Krav Maga", but just good SWAT team work.
I have had the privilege of training police and military around the world. From each I have learned something of value. As it says in the Talmud, "I have learned a great deal from my teachers, but from my students more than all."
I have trained Combatives instructors in the U.S. Army and have discovered that their training came from sports related martial arts and were woefully inadequate for the situations they would face.
I trained an instructor who served as a personal body guard to a top American commander in Iraq. As a knife wielding attacker approached the commander the bodyguard (combatives instructor) tackled the attacker using a wrestling take-down.
He did succeed in eventually neutralizing the attacker but not before suffering severe knife cuts that would leave lifelong reminders of this inappropriate response. Fortunately his large muscular frame and athletic ability prevented a worse outcome.
Members of United States Special Forces, SWAT Teams, maximum security prison guards and other elite security personal who have faced life and death situations, have appreciated the simplicity of our approach.
On the beach with US Infantry, Long Beach, California
We use the following principles –
Only gross motor moves
Only natural body motions
No wrist grabs (simply does not work)
For knife attacks – never attempt a knife disarm unless there is no alternative.
Never attack an individual with a knife
Never engage an attacker for one second more than is necessary. Disengage as soon as possible.
I do not know how many military forces around the world employ these principles. I do not know each military's "rules of engagement" or political policies. But I do know that the above listed concepts come from the bitter reality of dealing with terrorists in Israel.
Here is one "secret" - but you can also find it in Gichin Funakoshi's book, "Karate, My Way of Life"; Always imagine your attacker in front of you and you will have a better understanding of the real danger you are facing. Over the course of the Intifada - the Arab "Uprising", I have lost more than thirty friends and relatives to Arab terrorist attacks. I mourn their loss. What I teach today is what I would have taught them, had I had the opportunity. I don't mess around with commercially popular Krav Maga styles. After all, what price do you place on a man's life?
Our approach and training is based on lessons from interviewing countless people who have survived attacks, and from stories of those who have not. Often the survivors were not Krav Maga experts but "ordinary" people; high school boys and girls, a woman on her way to her job in a cosmetics store, a bus driver and an insurance salesman. (You can read some of these real life stories in my book, "Israel, A Nation of Warriors").
Over the years our training has grown simpler, and more effective. As Bruce Lee said; it is not about daily additions but daily eliminations of unnecessary movements.
I recall a discussion with a top Israeli counter terrorist expert, one who has faced life and death situations. I asked him, if you see a man running around with a knife, attacking people, what can you do?"
His simple and honest answer is still with me, and an integral part of our approach to self-defense, "Keep your distance, if you have a gun – shoot him. If you are unarmed, throw something at him; a chair, a rock, but do not move directly towards him."
Moving towards a man with a knife is like walking into the moving propellers of an aircraft – you will get sliced, it would be suicide. This is real life, not the movies. This advice comes from a counter-terrorist expert.
As part of our training we viewed footage of real life cases. I recall one case where five or six police officers, all armed, surrounded a man with a machete. They did not try to shoot him. At first they were at a safe distance, they had him surrounded and they wanted to take him alive. This took place outside of Israel and did not involve Israeli police or Krav Maga training. The men moved in on the attacker and tried to disarm him. I do not recall how many were killed but all were cut badly. Eventually a backup force came in and did what should have been done initially – they shot the man dead. These police officers had the mistaken notion that disarming a man with a blade is a real possibility. I wish they had trained with me; this would not have happened.
There is no such thing as military Krav Maga, hospital Krav Maga, Women Krav Maga, etc – it is all the same. There is only one kind of Krav Maga – human Krav Maga (actually I do know of Israelis who teach Krav Maga for dogs).
Stay safe, be wise, and remember – Krav Maga begins with humility, it is a matter of life and death. Choose life.
Great post Moshe. I agree with you on many points. I stopped doing "circus" demos years ago as well. ...And if I hear another person go on about wanting to learn the "advanced" techniques or BS that looks good on the cover of Black Belt Magazine or in a movie, but would get you killed in a real situation, I think I will scream. Clearly they have never experienced a real threat out in the world or think they would "look better" than all of these surveillance camera footage of real attacks. Sadly many instructors have this same view and put others in danger with unrealistic and a dangerous tactical approach.> > I pride myself and IKI for not "selling out" on these important issues. I teach people to be protectors of life, not circus performers entertaining their own egos and the fantasies of others.
(Craig Gray, Krav Maga instructor, Michigan, USA)
Great blog! I will be reading this to all of my students in class tomorrow night. As you know, we also train in Kenpo Karate and Ju-Jitsu and I am very certain to educate my students on the difference between art and reality. And while I feel my students are well trained and informed regarding the difference, it is always nice to have someone of your distinction to "back it up"!
During my first black belt test in Kenpo, I was placed in a ring against a man who was rested, double my weight, size and experience in the arts. This was hour 7 of my second day of testing. As he lunged forward to hit me, I kicked him the groin with barely a quarter of my potential. He dropped to knees and asked me "What was that about?" I answered, Krav Maga.
Amy (Amy Jo Giles, Krav Maga Instructor, Illinois, USA)
It was a good blog, we do allot of actual knife fighting, blade vs unarmed, blade against blade, unarmed against blade.I think if you know how lethal the knife is, it makes you really appreciate how deadly the blade is to defend, so I teach knife fighting, I am actually very good and have trained with many professional knife fighters, I try to pass this on to my students to use in defense, but also in understanding a knife a appreciating how dangerous it is, we have always taken the same approach, run if you can, distance, staying outside of the blade, throwing objects, use anything as a weapon, etc even if armed with a gun to use distance as a weapon, same approach
as far as military Krav Maga, much confusion on this, I do teach the next level to my high belts, especially on the end of a disarm how to discharge the weapon before the strip, using the attacker as a shield, and as a barricade if nothing else is available and caught in the open, same techniques but with a discharge killing the attacking, chambering the weapon if necessary and as a combat shooter how to engage additional threats and in what order, this is not for everyone and there is liability involved, but if attacked by multiple attackers in a life and death situation I want my students to understand how to neutralize all threats, this terrorist war will come to us one days and I think this skill is necessary. Thanks for the reading, (John Liptak, Krav Maga Instructor, Military veteran, knife instructor, Florida, USA)
Great article! I think the longer I'm involved in the martial arts the more I understand what you are saying. Keep things simple and stay alive and safe. Flashy, compliant techniques may look good in a demonstration but combat is dirty and chaotic. In those situations the principals you teach involving, simple, gross motor movements seem most effective. Becoming ok with chaos, responding through these simple movements and understanding the idea of not needing to look good but to "live to fight another day" seem key. I think we do our students a disservice by teaching them things that would never work in the real world and only under a controlled environment. I came to IKI Krav Maga to find, learn about, and accept reality and that's what I'm getting better at through IKI - one training session, one experience at a time. Becoming a real martial artist who can survive in a real, and sometimes violent world and to help others do the same... Like you do.
I know you are a fan of Bruce Lee. Here is another quote:
- It's not daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away the nonessentials.
Michael Weingartz, Michigan, USA
Moshe, I truly appreciate this blog. It is wonderfully written. I have been asked the same question and have never quite known how to respond. I think it was a great explanation and will now know what to tell others. We always have officers asking us to teach them Krav Maga that is specialized for Law Enforcement. I simply tell them that the only difference is that they have cuffs and a gun, the defenses remain the same.
(Robert Amos, Krav Maga Instructor, Indiana, USA)
This was an excellent blog. Many potential martial artists are being setup for failure by movies and overly choreographed classroom techniques (not ours) that have tricked people into believing that highly improbable movements and reactions are what they need to work towards and anything less is cowardly. I would rather impress someone with my long life than my fancy moves. (Laizer Roskind, Krav Maga instructor, Israel)
I have just got done reading all of your blogs. As a survivor of 3 knife attacks in my life one attack before I had no Martial Arts training. As a young boy I had a older boy put a knife across my throat while I was being pushed against a wall. I attempted to do nothing because I had no previous training and I feared for my life. The second time was probably another bad case scenario I was involved in a fight walking home from school while I and my friend were approached by a group of kids. We got into a fight with these kids who were harassing us. While in the middle of a fight that was on the ground one of the kids we were fighting against pulled out a meat clever and I was cut very badly on my right leg at my knee. I had very little Martial Arts Training at this time my uncle was a brown belt in Taekwondo and he used to train with me. The 3rd time was this past year when I was a member of IKI. You are absolutely correct that knives are very dangerous and the only way I would engage in this is if it was absolutely necessary. There are some things that disgust me, some of the other Krav Maga organizations they just aren't practical with there disarms or self defense techniques and these are our biggest competitors especially Commando Krav Maga. The other thing that I cannot believe is the lack of training our local Police and Security Guards have in our country I see on the news all the time these people in this field being killed matter of fact the death toll is up 30% from last year because of lack of training. While most of these people are excellent marks men they lack the skills of hand to hand combat because our government does not want to teach this do to liability issues so let's risk people lives instead with lack of training. We live in a world where people aren't scared they kill police officers, security guards etc... and they will kill you if need be. My only advice is always be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to where people "hands" are very closely, and NEVER let down your vigilance, and if need be if you do have some IKI Krav Maga Training stick to your techniques to the best of your ability and you will walk home safely.
Dennis Fritzinger IKI Krav Maga Instructor, Poconos Pa.
With the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the world saw a new Jew arise from the ashes of the Holocaust and from millennium of persecution in Arab lands. From the four corners of the earth, the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, returned home. The "Dry Bones" came to life creating a democratic state and a powerful military.
But this was not a new Jew at all. It was just the old Jew getting up from the ruins of his destroyed life in the exile, dusting himself off and returning home.
Much has been written about Jewish history but rarely has the Fighting History of the Jewish people been told. Known as the "People of the Book" few know the age-old fighting spirit of this nation.
From the first Hebrew warrior to the Israel Defense Forces of today, we trace the fighting heritage and history of the Hebrew warrior.
We examine the modern Israeli close quarter combat system; Krav Maga, analyze its components and attributes and why it is sought after by security forces worldwide.
"Israel, A Nation of Warriors" takes a look at the society that has produced a military, security system and everyday civilian/warrior heroes that have amazed the world.
Moshe Katz is a high ranking Krav Maga instructor and founder of Israeli Krav International (IKI). He is a graduate of UCLA, Bernard Baruch College and Wingate Institute. In addition he spent many years in yeshivoth (Rabbinical colleges). He brings his knowledge of Jewish history, martial arts training and life long experience of living in Israel to form this unique book.
Moshe lives in Maaleh Adumim, Israel and conducts Krav Maga seminars throughout the world.
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E book, over 200 pages, $10.00