Are You Experienced?

August 27, 2023, Newton, Massachusetts, USA

Are you experienced? is of course the title of the debut album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience released in 1967, an album that is regarded as one of the greatest and most innovative guitar music albums ever. In Krav Maga we too try and push the boundaries and bring our students to a new level of awareness and consciousness.

The question often comes up in martial arts, self-defense, are you experienced? The point is have you experienced violence? Have you been in street fights, have you been attack by a terrorist, have you been stabbed, have you been shot at, Are You Experienced? and the implied criticism is; if you have not been experienced, you are not qualified to talk about self defense. 

Let us analyze this, and its motives.

When someone is making this statement, he is clearly trying to disqualify a certain practitioner or instructor. You have not been in a bar fight; therefore, your techniques are meaningless. This is far from true. 

Being in a bar fight does not an expert make, and not being in a fight does not mean you are incapable of understanding a fight. 

My friend, teacher and mentor, the late Professor Arthur Cohen would tell me, you can become an expert at anything if you study hard enough. He was often invited to lecture to law enforcement, and he contributed many educated articles to their journals. 

Many people get attacked. Very few of them actually learn anything from the experience. In fact I have met many people who were in numerous bar fights and yet have to clue how to fight and are easily beaten by trained fighters. 

Yes, it is true, that one can learn a great deal from real life experience. The key here is the word, can, some people learn from the experiences, and some do not. I have known people who have failed in business half a dozen or more times, this does not add up to "Business experience". On the other hand, one can learn from the experiences of others. One can analyze fights, view surveillance cameras and learn from that experience. Of course, one must also understand the fear, panic, and confusion that sets in during a real attack. 

Therefore, yes, real life experience can contribute to a better understanding of self-defense, but it is not a guarantee. Ideally, a combination of both, real life experience, and extensive training, can offer the best possibility for understanding how to deal with real life violence. 

But let's take it a step further. Say you do have some real life experience, you were in a couple of pub fights, does this qualify as an expert on all forms of violence? Do you need to experience every form of violence in order to be a qualified self defense instructor? Do you need to have been stabbed, shot at, been held up in a car, in a parking lot, been a victim of a hostage situation, an airplane takeover, a liquor store robbery etc?
Clearly no one has all this experience, therefore we must learn from the experiences of others, and clearly one need not experience every form of violence in order to be a qualified self-defense or Krav Maga instructor.

But let us go even a step further. Say you have experienced these many forms of violence, what about dealing with another country, or another culture? No one can personally experience everything. No one can experience Arab terrorism, being attacked by a South American cartel, being assaulted by a Zulu in South Africa, or a Māori in New Zealand, etc etc. no one can experience all of this, so what do we do? We learn. 

We learn by studying real life cases, we learn from watching the surveillance cameras, we learn by interviewing those who did experience this form of violence, and as Prof. Cohen said, we can indeed become experts in these fields. 

Singers sing about heartbreak they did not personally experience. 

A marriage therapist need not have gone through a marriage crisis himself. A psychologist need have experienced every form of emotional trauma that his patients experience. Can you imagine if you could not offer grief therapy unless you went through a personal loss? so until your parents die you cannot work?

Must a doctor experience every form of pain before he can treat a patient? Must an Oncologist first have cancer?

We can train to become experts in any field, if we apply ourselves properly.


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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