Can You Defend Yourself? 

October 24, 2022 Kiel, Germany


Training in Israel, keeping it real


Saturday Nights' alright for Fighting, Elton John

Many people train in martial arts. The styles range from the very stylish and acrobatic to the very brutal and brutish. The goals are very different, some seek peace of mind, some seek peace, some seek to be able to walk in peace. Some look for a fitness program and some just want a practical system to be able to defend themselves. Krav Maga fits into this latter category. 

In Krav Maga our goal is simply to survive. We have no rituals, we have only one goal, Staying Alive, and to this we devote ourselves wholeheartedly. We seek techniques that are easy to learn, easy to apply in diverse situations and easy to remember. 

And then one is sometimes asked, but C'mon, you know you will not be able to do anything in an actual attack! You certainly can't expect to defend yourself against a gun, or a knife

And as a Krav Maga instructor I feel like saying, Sure, of course you are correct. We spend all these years training but of course we do not actually expect to survive an attack, let alone defend ourselves and inflict damage upon the attacker, of course not. This is all just show and games.

Seriously. It is as insulting as asking a doctor if he really thinks he can save a patient's life with his silly little pills and magic tricks, C'mon, be realistic Doc

But the truth yes, we can vastly improve our chances of surviving a violent, sudden street attack, and most of the points having nothing to do with actual martial arts training. However, one does not some basic self-defense training to have the tools of self-defense. Awareness training and some basic techniques are the key to survival.

Points to Consider

Attacks are often perpetrated by people with little or no skill - When viewing actual footage of street attacks, we see that most attackers are not well trained or trained at all. Some do possess some street tactics, little tricks that are very effective. However, they are not trained fighters. These common street thugs lack the discipline for training, or else they might have a regular job. The idea that you are facing an insurmountable opponent, is false. These street thugs can and have been defeated. Thus, if you begin with the attitude of, these are the Best of the Best and cannot be beaten, you are giving them a huge advantage. Psychologically you have already put yourself at a big disadvantage. You have empowered the enemy and belittled yourself. 

Naturally there are vast differences in skill levels; on one hand you have brawlers, guys who come out or a weekend looking for a fight. Usually they have poor fighting skills. On the hand other hand there are gang members who are adept with a knife and are ready to use it. You have to be aware. You have to be prepared. 

While you must respect your opponent, and you must realize that he or she may have some street experience, you should not admit defeat before the fight begins. Yes, respect your opponent, no, do not underestimate him or her, but neither should you give up the fight. Do not admit defeat before the fight begins. 

Street Attacks are often disorganized - They have a very weak tactical plan and their attack lacks coordination or efficiency - This refers of course to cases where multiple attackers are involved, and that is usually the case. 

Not Planned Attacks - Related to point above, these are well-planned out military operations, or SWAT team operations, these are often drunken stupid kids who see an opportunity. Thus, we can categorize these as Crimes of Opportunity. There was no planning meeting, there were no dressed rehearsals. 

By crimes of opportunity, we mean that the attackers were hanging out and noticed some easy targets; girls walking alone, guys distracted, people who are clearly unaware of their surroundings, easy prey etc. 

But why do these attacks take place? and are they predictable?

Motives for these Attacks

Reasons for attack: robbery, thrill assault, feeling of power. One reason for an attack can be robbery. This is the oldest one in the book, someone wants your money. You look like you have money, you are dressed well, perhaps you got out of a fancy car. Someone feels they deserve a share of that money.

What can you do? - Well, no one expects you to dress down and look poor but I think it is advisable to fit in. i.e. if you are driving through a low-income area, getting out to buy a drink while wearing a fancy suit might not be a good idea. This is a crime of opportunity. Someone spots you and feels they see a walking cash machine. It is best to avoid these situations. 

University students are often guilty of this sin of commission; they are dressed in expensive designer clothing while walking late at night through low-income areas, this is an invitation for an attack. As Mr. Miyagi said, "Best defense not be there".

Other reasons for an attack

Some young people just want to show off. They want to impress their friends with their fighting ability. 

Gangs often require such attacks as part of their acceptance initiation program. 

Some people just want to have fun, and for them this is fun. For some this is simply a stress release activity. As strange as it may sound to normative people this is a common "activity" for certain types of people, thus the classic song by Elton John, "Saturday Nights alright for Fighting". Songwriter Bernie Taupin says that "It was inspired by his raucous teenage days and in particular, the fistfights in his local pub".  "Want to get a belly for of beer". Or as Prof Cohen's T shirt read, "Instant asshole, just add alcohol".

Alcohol has this effect on people. And for those of us who do not get drunk it is often difficult to understand these unprovoked attacks, but they happen. i.e. a drunkard does not need a motive for a fight.

What you can do

Again, Mr. Miyagi's advice is valid, the best defense is to avoid trouble spots, however, that is not always possible. You might be attending a great concert downtown and there are pubs nearby. These pubs are breeding grounds for low life drunkards. But still, if you know the lay of the land and you know which areas are bad, you can and should make every effort to avoid those spots.

But there is a further step you can take - Watch people, become a people watcher. No matter where you are, learn to look at people and look for signs of potential trouble. 

Some suggestions, things to look for: Intoxication, loud unruly conversations, aggressive gestures, suddenly changing the path they are walking on and turning towards you. Look for groups of teenagers or young adults moving together, they might be looking to impress each other with their "Combat Prowess". 

What can you do?

Once you see violence coming, you are already one step ahead of the game, you are no longer as vulnerable and in fact just the idea that you are aware, might scare them off. i.e. once they sense that you are on to them, they might choose to just keep walking and avoid you. 

Here is a principle I like to teach; There is no technique that is as important as Awareness, and there is no technique that is so good that it can overcome that lack of Awareness. 

If you are caught unaware, punched hard in the side of the head while sitting around, you may not be able to recover, even if you are a trained fighter. The assailant will continue inflicting blows and you will probably never even get an opportunity to fight back. In fact the blows might be followed by a knife. It will be over before you can even begin to fight. 

If you are ready, you can block. You cannot block what you cannot see, and you cannot see what you are not looking for. 

You must train yourself to be aware. You must position yourself to see as much of what is happening as possible. You must make it a habit to scan your surroundings. 

You must be positioned to be able to defend yourself, you must be prepared for movement. You should choose a body position that gives you a good defensive posture and a good starting point for a potential counterattack. There are times you can get away, and there are times you cannot.  You must know the best escape route but also know that you may need a counterattack. 

Avoid being surrounded - If you see a group approaching and you sense danger, do not allow yourself to be surrounded by them, as this would be a terrible starting point for defense. Move yourself into a position where they cannot surround you.

The basic principle is AAPC

Avoidance - Avoid dangerous places, avoid the fight if you can.

Ability - the response you choose must depend on your abilities. Can you fight 3 guys, or should you run away? are you a 6 ft tall muscular man, a black belt in Krav Maga with military experience, or are you a 5 ft tall petite female with 3 weeks of training? What is your level of ability?

Purpose - Is there any purpose in your fighting this fight? Are you protecting anyone? Should I stay or should I go?

Circumstances - Your circumstances must always be taken into account. Are you alone, or with children. Are you in a crowded house of prayer with elderly people and young children, women pushing baby carriages? or are you alone in a parking light? Must you stay and defend others or can you leave?

Conclusion: I believe that with proper awareness, with basic Krav Maga training, with learning to observe your environment, yes, one has a very good chance of defending themselves and surviving a violent street encounter. 

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