Krav Maga Image vs Reality

July 27, 2023, Israel


Knives, sharp objects, meat cleavers, not games to be played, not an opportunity to impress your friends with how cool and Bad Ass you are, You may end up Dead Ass

Today is the Ninth dan of the month of Av, the year 5783, according to the Hebrew calendar. This is the day that the Jewish nation marks the destruction of our holy temple in Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C.E as well as the destruction of the second tempe of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. We are still planning on building the third temple. This date also marks several other tragedies in the national life of the Jewish people. It is a day we take seriously. 

We spend most of the day in the synagogue and we read some particularly depressing Hebrew texts including the scroll of Eicha (Lamentations in its English translation) and the book of Eeyov (Job in English).

I took a short break after many hours of prayer and fasting. I sat outside for a little while with a dear friend and fellow congregant. He is a top counter-terror expert in the Israeli armed forces. We continued an ongoing discussion...soon we were joined in by another man, older and retired from the military. You might call this congregation a "working class" group. We have no doctors, lawyers or accountants, but all served in the military, and many were combat soldiers.

The Jews in this particular synagogue come from Yemen where they experienced Jew-hatred for 2,300 years. They came home and we have been fighting for our survival ever since. They take self-defense seriously. 

We talked about the IKI approach to self-defense and the use of what we can the Universal Block. I always seek the input of those who actually fight for their lives, and these guys have been in many such instances. I pointed out that my approach is unpopular in some circles, that one guy in England said, "I will never teach my students to WAIT for the knife attack to come. We must be AGRRESSIVE. We must take charge and run into an attack."

I told them how another Krav Maga instructor, not with us anymore, said, "We will not teach our students to run away. We are not a cowardly bunch of guys". These statements either mean that these guys have never really experienced violence (despite their grandiose claims), or that they truly enjoy a fight. (Saturday night alright for fighting - Bernie Taupin) 

No one in the Israeli special units teaches these approaches.

My Israeli friends were surprised and disappointed upon hearing such attitudes. What is worse, is that some Israeli Krav Maga instructors enable this attitude. No one in the Israeli special units teaches these approaches. What they teach matches my approach. I will explain. 

My approach, the IKI approach, is that we do not charge in until the aggressor is in full motion. i.e., the point of no return, i.e., the point at which he cannot change his attack, i.e., the point where he cannot change the direction of the knife attack. If we do make our move too soon, the attacker, the stabber, can easily change the direction, the angle, the height of his attack and we will not be able to block it, we will not be able to defend against it since we are already in full motion. It is like swinging at a curveball with all our might but then the curve ball, well, it takes a curve. This is the same thing, the attacker can still curve or change the angle, direction, position, height of the knife and you are screwed, or stabbed. In Baseball this means you strike out; on the street it means you are dead. 

Now the truth is that in reality this will not happen often. The knife attack is so fast that all we can do is react. The idea taught by many Krav Maga instructors that you charge in, is not only unrealistic, but it is almost impossible since the attack will likely come as a complete surprise. i.e., there will be no time for you to think about it, process what is going on, and then charge in. Thus, the training offered by these instructors, is only good in the dojo training hall. The possibility of implementing this idea in a real knife attack, is slim. and yet, it is taught, why? We shall answer that soon.

Thus, I conclude that the idea of charging forward aggressively is neither realistic nor practical. If someone were to approach you with a knife it is best to raise your hands, watch them closely and prepare for the attack. My friends in the counter-terror units of the Israel Defense Forces agreed and nodded as if there was no other possible way of thinking. They also pointed out, that according to Israeli law, if you did preempt and attack a person, you would face legal charges. If you were a soldier or police officer, you would be dismissed from your job, and likely charged. 

So why do people like to teach these defenses? Because they sell! Pure and simple, they feel good. Give the people what they want. Look at the image of the Krav Maga instructor, tough, macho, (even the females), body builder, tattoos, foul language during class. I have even been told by instructors, "Hey, I know your stuff works, but when I get a group of military guys, they want something that looks tough, the want to feel aggression. They want to charge in, take the guy down, pull out a gun and go Bang Bang." These guys are here for a quick course, they will never really learn anything useful, they will not be there long enough to really develop any skills, might as well keep the customers happy; Meet their expectations with the right image. Image sells, real skills, well, that is only for those really willing to commit to a long-term program. And, after all, this is a business. 

The active counter-terror expert pointed out something that I had not been aware of, so I learned something new today. It is about the concept of "Running Amok".

The word derives from the Malay word amuk, traditionally meaning "an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects, usually by a single individual, following a period of brooding, which has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malaysian culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior". The term amok originated from the Malay word meng-├ómuk, which when roughly defined means "to make a furious and desperate charge". Now, how does this relate to our IKI approach of Knife Defense, and the Israeli counter terror approach, (pretty much the same)?

My friend, lets' call him A.D. said, terrorists like to pretend they are crazy, as if they are possessed, i.e., Amok, but, they are not. How does he know this? Because they hold the knife in a controlled way. They hold the knife with a plan to stab quickly and... get away! They do not want to die. A truly amok person would be out of control, most attackers are very much in control. They are very conscious of what they are doing. So how does this impact our defense? Since they are indeed totally in control of their faculties, when they see you charging forward, as if You are amok, they can easily adjust and change the direction of the knife attack. With you running forward, in an aggressive but "Macho" way (as your cool Bad Ass teacher taught you) you have made the first move, and they are now in control. You blinked first and now it is their turn. You are going to be dead in your tracks. 

This is a lesson from counter-terror experts. You will not see them on Youtube, EVER, they do not need your approval, they do not care if you give it a like or a dislike, and they will not teach you. They do not seek fame, just the opposite. 

Do you want to have a great image, or do you really want to learn self-defense? The choice is yours. I have made mine. 


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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