Self-Defense or Empowerment
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

May 8, 2019, Israel

Many potential students who walk into a martial arts training center do so because they want to deal with their fears. Now this is by no means the only reason why people join martial arts programs. Many are fascinated by the art. Some want to connect with ancient Asian wisdom. Some are seeking tranquility while others just want to try a new activity that will help them stay fit. 

Some seek training because they have heard that martial arts training increases confidence. Perhaps after a few months of training they will feel the confidence to ask for that promotion or raise, or ask out that girl in the office. 

But others enter for self defense. They know the reality of crime in our world. They have seen the attacks, and the results, and they have decided to make the wise move of learning to defend themselves. This is where things get murky and confusing. For a novice to know that is best for them is similar to a patient walking into a hospital and deciding what kind of surgery or treatment they should be receiving. 

In both cases the individual is at great risk. (and we now know about all the medical experiments done on such innocent patients in years past). Trust is a tricky business. 

If your purpose in training martial arts is self-defense, you must be clear about your objectives. Despite the claim to the contrary most martial arts programs are not geared towards self-defense, and in fact are not qualified to teach self-defense. I have seen the flyers for years, "Learn to defend yourself!" and then there is a photo of some guy doing some judo or karate move that is, in fact, very far, from self defense. 

Allow me to quote a man with a great deal of experience, I was recently given his book as a gift by a friend/student, "In the Name of Self Defense", 

"Most of what you think you know about self defense is marketing. ...In fact, I'll say most training is more about handling fear than danger management. It won't actually help you with the dangers involved in crime and violence, but you'll feel more confident and less fearful (as long as you don't have to use it.) (In the Name of Self Defense, Mark Macyoung, page 56)

Now I have been teaching, preaching, screeching this for years, but I feel that this quote is not only well articulated but comes from a man who has spent years fighting on the street, and dealing with crime. He has the credentials and he is backing up what I have been teaching for so many years, which goes against the current of martial arts teaching, including most Krav Maga schools as well.

What most schools sell is false empowerment. You walk out feeling great and as long as you are never attacked you will never question this great feeling. It is a check with no financial backing, an expired credit card. 

The danger today is even greater as so many students, and even instructors confuse the acting they see on YouTube with real self defense. Again I include here most schools of Krav Maga. What you see is choreographed acting.

For the novice there is really no way to know the difference, that is unfortunate, but hopefully instructors can be honest enough to see through the fake cameras and makeup and see the truth. 

Some Tips

I will give you here just a few tips to spot systems that are not really teaching self defense.

  •  The instructor/actor takes the knife away from the bad guy and stabs him with it. This is not self defense, this is aggravated assault and you will end up in prison. Hopefully your instructor will be arrested as well and can keep you company.
  • The instructor escapes the choke hold, strategically maneuvers himself to a position where he can now choke out the attacker. This is assault and you are guilty. Once you escaped the choke-hold it is no longer self defense. Now you are the bad guy. Enjoy the prison showers.
  •  A terrorist stabs you from the back but you adroitly move out of the way just in time, catch their wrist, deliver a perfectly executed side kick to their chest, and then flip them over with a wrist lock. (Yes, I have seen this video, an Israeli Krav Maga instructor, Lord help us!)

"too many so-called self-defense instructors - in order to stay in business - tailor what they teach to the expectations of the customers. They aren't teaching what is actually involved in self-defense, they are teaching what the customers think is self-defense."(Marc MacYoung, page 57).

True self defense will empower you, but it will be like the credit card backed up by a solid bank account. You can actually use it when you need it.

Moshe teaching in Italy, gun disarms, simple and effective.

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