Disaster Lack of Preparation

June 16, 2023, Israel


Lifeboat taking survivors from sinking ship.

As the years go on my training and teaching, has changed. From the days of standing in a row punching and kicking and shouting, to knife and gun defense, to reenacting actual street violence (and home violence etc.) to understanding the mindset and psychology of survival. 

These days I view technique as secondary to what goes on in our minds, and sadly, that is the part totally neglected by most martial arts, and Krav Maga, schools. Training under so called stressful situations, does not cut it. Training when tired, or after doing 100 pushups and sit-ups, does not mimic a real-life violent situation. For the most part when violent strikes we are totally unprepared, even if we are trained martial artists, black belts and instructors. We are simply not ready. 

This is a point that is usually overlooked. No one comes to a karate dojo wanting to listen to a lesson on psychology, it is not cool, it is not fun. But who ever said survival training would be fun. Remember that most schools and most programs are commercial, they will sell what you want to buy. If you want a warrior weekend bootcamp so you can put on military fatigues and play soldier (without any real danger) the schools will provide that. You want to run around with a paintball rifle and shoot the "enemy", a Krav Maga or Counter-Terrorist program will provide that. Give the people what they want. But if you want someone to tell you the truth, if you want someone to teach you what is truly important, you will have to be wiling to open your mind and listen.

We are not prepared.

When "it" happens, we will not respond. I often use two analogies in my classes. The first, You hire the best electrician, he arrives but does not seem to be working. The problem? He has remembered to bring his toolbox, and it is fully stocked with the best tools, and he knows how to use them, but...he has left the key at home. 

The toolbox is locked. 

Now I ask, of what use are those tools? Of what use is this professionally trained man? And I answer, of no use whatsoever. He cannot do the job, he cannot solve your problem. The tools are locked away. 

It is the same with self-defense. We are well-trained. We have many tools in our "toolbox", but when the attack comes, we panic, we are overwhelmed, we are discombobulated, we cannot access those tools. We cannot do anything, despite our skills and our tools. They are locked away and we cannot access them in the moment of truth. That is martial arts training. 

Computer analogy. Sometimes I will send out videos to new members of our Krav Maga online program. They will write back, "Can't view the videos, they do not open."

Now why don't those videos open? Is it me? No, all our other members can view these with no difficulty. It usually comes out that the new member is not so computer savvy and simply did not realize that he does not have the correct format to view the videos. They simply need to download the correct program.

That is how self-defense works. When the attack comes, we are not prepared, our "computer" is unfamiliar with this new concept, being physically attacked, and, we don't have the right program to respond. A combat soldier has been fired on before, when the attack comes, his "computer" responds with, "I undersand what is happening". But for most people when the violent attack comes, our internal computer does not process what is going on. It has not yet downloaded that program (How to deal with insane violence). As such, whatever tools or skills we have will not be accessible. We have the skills, we have the tools but we are not able to process what is going on until it is too late. This is where our training is lacking. This is what I focus on these days; learn skills, develop abilities, and "download the program" of how to cope with sudden unexpected senseless violence. 

I was reading an article about the sinking of the Titanic, 15 April 1912, certainly one of the most tragic events in naval history. It remains the deadliest peacetime sinking of an ocean liner or cruise ship. Over 1,500 passengers drowned in icy cold water. We cannot begin to imagine the horror they endured before they died.

The Titanic was considered "Unsinkable". 

Much has been written about this tragic event: What went wrong, what could have, should have, been done differently. But I will just use one quote from a recent article.

"It took an entire hour between the catastrophic collision and the first lifeboat being launched and the delay was partially caused by passengers assuming the alarm was a drill and choosing to remain in the warmth of the ship’s interior. Worse still, as there had never been a drill on the voyage, there was little understanding of what to do once people did acknowledge the evacuation was real." (Born Survivor: The Remarkable and Inspiring Story of, The "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, By Greg Michaels, January 16, 2023)

What can we learn from this?

1. The response time by the professional seaman was too slow. One hour is forever under those circumstances. They should have been better prepared; they should have trained for this. But they were too confident. The Titanic was the latest and greatest, it would certainly not be at risk of sinking. They felt complacent. One should never, ever, feel complacent. That is indeed why most people take no interest in self-defense, very simply, they believe it will never happen "to them".

2. Passengers assuming the alarm was a drill - Again we have the concept that people tend to assume the best, it is probably nothing, no need to worry

3. choosing to remain in the warmth of the ship’s interior - Yes, of course. It is more comfortable to stay at home. Go to a smelly gym? a dojo? Why? Stay at home where it is more comfortable, there will always be more people at the coffee shop that at the dojo. 

4. as there had never been a drill on the voyage, there was little understanding of what to do once people did acknowledge the evacuation was real -Again, there was no drill, there was no training. And once people finally understood that this was for real, it was too late, they had "little understanding" of what to do.  

We can learn a great deal from this tragic event. Sadly, most people do not, as the case demonstrates, it is simply so much easier to stay in the comfort of your home. Train? get some bruises? be a little bit uncomfortable? Leave your comfort zone? That is too much to ask of most people. 

Are you most people?


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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