Krav Maga Teaching Approach
By Hal Herndon
Chief Instructor
Georgia Mountain Krav Maga

July 22, 2019, Georgia, USA

Introduction by Moshe Katz

Teaching can be a very rewarding profession, but it can also be a very frustrating one. I recall many years ago working in a bank in Jerusalem. The young woman I worked felt she simply did not have what it takes to succeed in the banking business. One afternoon I took the time to explain certain concepts to her, after all I spent eight years studying economics and had been graduated with honors with an MBA in Finance. 

After a few lessons I saw this look on her face, "I've got it! I understand this concept.

I shared this experience with my mother and she said, if this is what excites you than there is no escaping it, you are born to be a teacher. Every true teacher knows this look, and this feeling, and there is nothing like it.

When our IKI instructor Hal Herndon submitted the blog I am about to share with you, that is exactly how it felt, that someone "got it". 


GMKM – HOW WE TRAIN AND WHY…..(or…Drinking from a FireHose)

I get questions from time to time about our (GMKM’s) teaching method. Most martial arts styles and traditional teachers of most all types teach in a very regimented, structured manner wherein you essentially learn one technique and “perfect it” before learning another and supposedly the next technique builds on the previous one, etc., etc. The vast majority of these approaches are predicated on memorizing techniques, movements including footwork, stances, angle of the arm, foot, leg or fist, etc.

Nothing at all wrong with this approach but it simply is not what we do. Of course “why?” becomes the next question…..The answer is almost too simple to understand until you have been exposed to our approach for a short while….

Our system (Israeli Krav International) is based solely on principle or concept and not on memorization. Granted, there are some portions of many of our techniques that require what many call “muscle memory” which comes solely from repetition, not from memorization.

Again “why?” or “how can this actually work?” comes to the forefront…..And again, the answer is almost too simple:

Virtually all of our techniques incorporate common principles that make them effective. This allows you to be able to adapt to almost anything that arises (we have tested a large number of very strange “what ifs” posed by students and others) and instinctively solve the problem using the concepts we incorporate.

It takes a few months of regular exposure to “get it” since a lot of what we do and teach is essentially counter-intuitive (to us and to our aggressor). Once we get to the point where the principles are no longer counter intuitive to us, they remain counter intuitive to the aggressor, thus making them even more effective.

In a very generic sense I like to visualize our system as a sphere which contains principles to be used in staying safe or alive when under pressure. The specifics and applications which comprise the technical content of the sphere tend to change and evolve (i.e., improve) from time to time but the principles remain the same. One of the principles is “Less is More” which speaks to simplicity, ease of learning, economy of motion and much more. Over time all of the principles residing within this sphere tend to blend into a whole entity and merge toward the center (what I affectionately call a really cool “black hole” in this spherical universe). Once that starts to happen for a given student everything becomes much, much easier and more fun since from that point they can begin to naturally adapt to bad situations they had never experienced or even thought about before

How long does this take? Depends totally on the individual. And frankly it doesn’t matter. It eventually “just happens” and as an instructor it becomes very obvious that the student is beginning to ‘arrive’ where they need to be. Then it’s just a matter of repetition and practice, experimentation (yes, we do an immense amount of experimenting in conjunction with our training).

One example that might ‘register’ is taking a look at knife threats. Ours are different from most in that we do not recommend or even practice knife disarms. Anyone who has seen or been involved in a knife attack or threat will tell you bluntly that if you try to do a disarm under the pressure of being attacked or threatened with a knife you will get badly cut, possibly killed. That said, there are probably an infinite number of different knife threat or ‘holdup’ possibilities. Just for fun, let’s assume that there are 75 different ways you can be threatened or held up (this doesn’t even take into account actual dynamic attacks)…..Let’s then say you train for years and years and learn 75 defenses, one for each situation. Then put yourself in the posture where you are actually being held up with a very sharp knife pressing against some part of your body, the person with the knife is mean, strong and agitated and even after you gave him “your stuff” as he wanted, you begin to realize he is going to kill you anyhow. Would it be likely that you could be able to filter through 75 specifically memorized techniques, pick out the right one and execute it well enough to survive? What if his actual position and the position of the knife were somewhat different from any of the 75 situations you had trained to handle?

As an example we teach principles and concepts, each of which can be easily adapted to virtually any kind of knife holdup or threat, simply by understanding what is happening and how things need to move in order to escape or neutralize the aggressor. A few components: Where is the blade?, Where is the hilt or handle relative to my body and the blade? Where exactly is the aggressor and where is his focus? There’s more but those are possibly the most important ones. Given knowledge of these elements a solution or at least the beginnings of an effective escape or counter attack are relatively easy. Add to that the fact that the aggressor or attacker honestly believes that you will do absolutely nothing other than what he tells you to do, thus the element of surprise can become a huge factor. The same approach is used in teaching how to defend against empty hand attacks, gun holdups, machete or stick attack, active shooter, random knife attacks and more.

(As a caveat, I will never say that a knife disarm cannot or will not work under stress. It’s just that the odds of it working in a sudden, dynamic and life threatening situation are so very small that we simply do not teach it. We prefer techniques that have been proven successful in the high 90% range.)

We do try to emphasize that it is very important to take the first second (or two, if possible) to determine what is really happening. Flailing away trying to defend against what you “thought” was happening vs what is really happening can be fatal.

If you would like to learn and absorb instincts which allow you to do this kind of analysis under pressure and execute an effective escape or counter attack, train with us and train our way. If you are smart enough to filter through a huge amount of memorized solutions to fixed and predetermined attacks or threats when threatened with death or severe injury, good luck because most of are not.

Indeed, our training methods are unorthodox, seemingly chaotic (for a short while) and you won’t spend an enormous amount of time on any one technique in any of our classes, at least until you have been training with us for a good while. Some call it “organized chaos”. Professionals call it “Variable Random Practice” and they emphasize that “this will result in the greatest long term motor learning, although in early practice it will seem confusing.” Whatever you choose to call it we have fun, train hard, learn much and we find that what we learn actually, absolutely works.

A number of our students are active law enforcement (including drug and gang task force types), security and bodyguard types, military and former military types. The law enforcement and security related students regularly have to test our techniques, concepts and principles in extremely violent situations. We have never yet had a complaint.

Nope, what we do isn’t pretty and won’t get you a part in a martial arts movie…..However it will very likely give you a way to stay safe and stay alive under very adverse conditions.