reducing the gap 

May 11, 2021, Israel 

Gavin De Becker uses the terms Moment of Commitment and Moment of Recognition. These are very useful terms to understand the real nature and danger of attacks and why self-defense is far more than learning how to fight. 

Over my many years of training, teaching and research I have been frustrated by what is taught as self-defense. What is passed off as self-defense whether it is called martial arts, or even Krav Maga, is nowhere near adequate to deal with the reality, the trauma, the shock, of real violence. For a stabbing, a terrorist attack, is so sudden and so violent, that most trained martial artists will be dead before they can even begin to fight. Self defense is not a fight, but that is only one of the fallacies being passed off as self-defense. 

I recall the moment my teacher told me that 99% of martial arts is useless as self-defense. I was upset, hurt, I felt betrayed. But as an open-minded person I took it to heart. He was correct, but that was only scratching the surface. Not only is it true that most martial arts techniques will not work in a real violent confrontation, but the physical aspects of self-defense may not even come into play. The sad truth is that most of us will never even be able to draw our gun, to use a figurative expression. i.e. in a real violent confrontation it is unlikely that we will even have much of an opportunity to use our skills that we spent so many years perfecting. The sad truth is those wonderful physical skills will not be a factor, unless, you learn to use your mind correctly.

And yet the mind is the most neglected aspect of self-defense training. For me Arthur Cohen of blessed memory was a key trigger, he taught me to think outside the box, to learn more, to expand my thought process. Self Defense was not only doing push ups and kicking a pad. Self defense was not only learning to block a knife attack, no, not even close. That is the kindergarten of self defense, barely the beginning...

Enter the world of Violence. It is a Dark world, a world that most decent people cannot comprehend. Can you imagine thrusting a knife into another person's heart? Can you imagine destroying a family, forever? Do you think that when it happens you will react immediately and go into your well rehearsed self-defense drill?

There are many who believe that indeed, that is what they will do. I recall a seminar in Ukraine where a young woman kept badgering me, but what next? what punch or kick should I do next? She wanted a routine laid it neatly before her, actually believing that that is how self-defense works. Self defense is total chaos. I always quote Bruce Lee; train your tools correctly and they will strike at the correct moment. 

The only way you will actually be able to know what you did, is if someone made a video of it.  "It" will just happen, your tools will strike, if you prepared correctly. For most of us the game will be over before we even get our "at bat". 

I will explain. 

De Becker uses the term Moment of Commitment, that is the assailant makes his move. He chooses his move, although as we shall soon see, you, the Defender, do play a role in this. Once his attack begins that is the Moment of Commitment. Now the race is on. How much time will pass until the Moment of Recognition. That is the moment when the Victim/Defender understands that an attack has begun. For some the Moment of Recognition will never come, it will all be over in a matter of seconds. For others this gap, the time period between the Moment of Commitment and the Moment of Recognition will determine one's chances for survival. 

One's fighting ability may not prove to be a factor unless the Moment of Recognition comes fast enough. 

Let us take two cases that took place in Israel about two weeks apart. And please know that I make no judgements, I do not claim that I could have done any better. I only attempt to learn from the experiences of others. Both cases were nationalistically motivated stabbings against Israeli military. Both victims were armed. In the first case the Moment of Recognition took place when the knife entered his body. In the second case the Moment of Recognition took place a split second before the knife reached him. The second individual survived, the first sadly did not despite the individual being a trained fighter. 

Our goal in our training, is to move up the Moment of Recognition, bring it closer to the Moment of Commitment. We need to reduce the gap between those moments. To quote De Becker, "If the Moment of Recognition is moved forward by even a fraction of a second, allowing a protector to respond during that gained time, the odds of survival increase profoundly." (Just 2 Seconds by Gavin De Becker, Tom Taylor, and Jeff Marquart)

In our second case, that fraction of a second saved a life, the life of my nephew.

We must train ourselves and our students to be in the moment and visualize potential attacks. If we can reduce the gap between the Moment of Commitment and the Moment of Recognition by even a fraction of a second, we profoundly increase our chances of survival. 

There is another area that we need to work on; taking away the assailants control over the Moment of Commitment. In cases we have studied, an assailant shows up looking for a victim. When he sees an individual who makes himself a "poor choice" of a victim, the assailant moves on, or delays the attack, or aborts the attack. 

What messes up the assailants opportunities to choose his Moment of Commitment?

1. An individual who looks alert and aware of his surroundings. 

2. An individual who positions himself in a safer area, i.e. he is not alone, he has obstacles that protect him, he has room to maneuver and escape, he does not remain stationary for long.

When we reduced the opportunities for the Moment of Commitment, we improve our chances of not being a victim. When we visualize potential danger, then in the event of an attack we have reduced the gap between the Moment of Commitment and our Moment of Recognition. 

Our physical abilities, our techniques, will only come into play after our Moment of Recognition. Once we have achieved our Moment of Recognition next we plan our action, our self-defense. This might be immediate as with a knife stab, or take a moment, as when hearing a gun shot or a car crash or a scream. 

Moment of Commitment - Moment of Recognition - Physical Response. This takes training. This is more than learning how to kick and punch, but it is this that will be the key factor in saving lives. 

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