Incorrect Conclusions

March 21, Johannesburg, South Africa

It is always interesting, and challenging, to meet instructors from other systems of self-defense. If people are open-minded this is an opportunity to compare and contrast techniques and approaches and hopefully learn something from one another. 

In order to come up with the best techniques, those that will work for us rather than against us in a real-life violent encounter, we must test the techniques. But there is a correct way to do this, and an incorrect way. There are many paths that lead to incorrect conclusions. 

Let us compare our research to academic research. When archeologists or historians are researching the past, they must be very careful not to be led astray by false evidence. There are methods to check and double-check evidence in order to determine its value. For example, a written document dating back two thousand years might contain a different version of an event, but does this prove its accuracy? Not necessarily, it could have been discarded as a mistake, perhaps the reason it was preserved is because it was dumped in the trash, and then covered up with sand. There are many factors to analyze. 

When it comes to self-defense it is important to analyze real life cases, but that is not enough. Just because a certain technique worked in a real-life violent encounter does not prove its effectiveness. It does not convince me that this is the best approach to use. It is possible that there are better techniques. I have seen cases where a defender simply got lucky with a sub-standard technique. Sometimes a defender just grabbed the gun from the attacker, clearly not a good idea, but sometimes it works. I can present many bad defenses that have actually worked, but that does not mean that they will work for you.

What do we look for?

We look for techniques that are technically sound, that are logical, that fit in with how the body works, that can be replicated again and again successfully. If two guys are attacking you, punching, and you duck in between them, and now they punch each other out, that is still not a technique that I would teach. Even if such an event actually took place it is not logical to expect that to work again. (This example actually comes from a Danny Kay movie).

A technique must be both logical and practical. Empirical evidence that it works is very important, but we also need to understand logically and technically that it is a good technique. The theoretical basis of the technique is equally important. 

A street-smart thug might catch a guy off-guard and grab the knife or gun out of an attacker's hand, this still does not make it the best choice of a technique. I prefer a technique that does not depend upon the Defender being quicker and tougher than the Attacker. Those are unreliable qualities. 

I have seen many bad techniques, but this does not mean they will not work, anything is possible. If an attack is coming, a knife or a punch, and you only defend one side, and you get lucky, the attack came from that side in the exact direction that you expected, great, but that does not validate the technique for me. In a real encounter the attacker could have changed directions, he could hide the knife behind his back and attack with the hand you did not expect. For us self-defense is not Russian roulette. I do not want to gamble with my life. Just because a technique worked for someone on some particular occasion, does not prove its validity or value. Judging a technique by one real life encounter would be reaching the incorrect conclusion on insufficient evidence. 

For a technique to meet our standards it must be proven not only with practical experience and empirical results but also by a logical analysis of the technique based on physiology and psychology. Every technique must be tested full force with resistance by many types of people in many different circumstances, but it also must be analyzed from a technical viewpoint. Just because some guy in Australia did a back spinining kick and knocked a gun out of an assailants hand does not prove the technique is one we should be practicing. 

Be careful not to teach the incorrect conclusion based on insufficient evidence. 


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

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