April 21, 2019, Herzliya, Israel
As we age our physical strength diminishes. Yes, we have seen pictures of 100 year old women in the gym lifting weights, but is that the norm? And yes we have seen some of our muscular movie star superheroes still looking muscular in the late 50's and 60's but that is an illusion. Beware the illusions! First, they look nothing like they did in their younger years, and second...cosmetic surgery, steroids and all sorts of pills and creams can do wonders for your appearance, but that is all it is, an appearance.
Drawing universal lessons from exceptional isolated instances, is a mistake. When it comes to training and self defense, that mistake can be a deadly one.
As we age our physical strength diminishes but our mental ability, our wisdom, our understanding, our spiritual awareness, has no limits. Moshe and his brother Aharon were chosen to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt, through the desert, the war with Amaleq, and up to the Land of Israel itself. They were both in their 80's.
Our understanding of Krav Maga continues to evolve: wisdom over brute force, understanding over stubborn repetition, profound insights over empty minded imitation.
Today I sat with an Israeli soldier, one who has experienced both deadly combat and terrorism, one who has faced death more than once. He echoed what I have saying for years, this was a page right out of my usual seminar talk. His practical experience only confirmed what I have been teaching/preaching/speaking for years. And as he admitted, this is not the standard Krav Maga approach.
Here some points. To get the full effect of how to implement this, you will have to attend our training. Here I present the basic ideas, but reading them is not enough. We train in them, and we live them.
1. You are at a Disadvantage
No matter how well prepared you are, you will always be at a disadvantage. Why is this so? As the soldier said to me today, "We are on guard duty all day, in the hot sun, or in the cold. As much as we try to be aware, we get tired, nothing happens most of the time. But the terrorist, he has been waiting for this his entire life. He has his entire life wrapped up and condensed into this one moment. For him this is IT. This is his moment, he is geared up, he is drugged up on all sorts of Uppers. He has been planning this and dreaming of this for so long. You, on the other hand, are just standing there on guard duty, trying to stay focused. He is looking around at all the soldiers, he is trying to find one who has but a split moment of distraction or tiredness. He is all geared up.
The guy came at me like a train, there was no stopping him."
The Krav Maga Myth: What are all the great Krav Maga "masters" teaching? What do we see on you tube and on Facebook daily? We see guys (and girls) running towards the attacker with the knife, wrapping their arms around the knife-arm and beating up the bad guy with knee kicks and all that cool stuff. This is as realistic as a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
Our defense is entirely different in attitude and in execution. We take the reality into account. When students from other systems see us, they are unimpressed at first, they are disappointed and skeptical, their teachers are more "aggressive" they say, their masters are "tougher". We are the "gentle" Krav Maga. But they are mistaken. Their techniques are driven by ego, movie star wannabees, while we are taking our lessons from real life violent cases. We accept reality, as unpleasant as it may be. We reject fantasy out of hand.
I presented these ideas to IDF soldiers who experienced the reality of an overhead knife attack, when I presented the "other" approach, the cool, "tough", "aggressive" approach, they simply laughed and shook their heads. No, that could never happen, it is too fast, the guy came at me like a locomotive.
A Holocaust survivor talked about the idea of "Closure" and said, "The only people who speak this way are people that never experienced what I experienced."
I will say the same about these cool aggressive defenses: the only people who can speak this way are people who never really experienced a full force knife attack. Those approaches are not realistic. We will never teach that popular stuff.
2. The Best Approach is Mental Training - As the soldier told me, Looking back the only real training that would have improved my chances of not getting stabbed would be training in my mind with imagining every possible attack from every possible angle. Repeating this again and again I think is the only way to be better prepared for these attacks.
Bingo! Experience is a brutal teacher. But some young "tough guy" instructors say that this way of thinking is only an excuse to avoid full hard contact training. It is not. Ours is the correct approach. Mental training, along with the physical drills of course, is the best approach to real self defense. Naturally all our technique are tested repeatedly in full contact situations, by our top students and instructors all over the world.
3. Only Gross motor simple instinctive moves
Often we see complex techniques, either standing Jujitsu moves that involve precision and speed, or ground sport jujitsu that involve a calm frame of mind and several complex steps. Studies of reality show that none of this will be remotely possible, although in extremely rare cases such things have happened. Yes, we have seen cases where highly trained athletes were able to defeat street thugs but more often it goes the other way around. When the attack happens, the level of stress, surprise, violence etc make it nearly impossible to remember and perform those complex techniques. The few cases we have witnessed where Jujitsu athletes have beaten criminals, have been taken out of context. Usually it involves some inexperienced opportunistic thief who happened to walk into the home of a jujitsu expert and then got pummeled. However in most cases that is not what happens. When a person is caught off guard, attacked violently with a knife or a club by an experienced criminal, nothing but the most instinctive moves has any chance of success. This has been proven and document in countless cases. Parading around a case where a professional fighter beat a hapless teenage criminal, does not change the reality.
In reality the attack comes "Like a locomotive train"; trying to reach for your arsenal of self defense techniques learned in some martial arts class, well, good luck with that. I stress; Study situational awareness, mental training and simple, very simple, gross motor and instinctive moves.
4. We Do Not know and cannot plan what will come next - I recall a seminar in Ukraine. A young woman, 20 years old, kept asking me, "What do we do next?". She imagined that in a real life confrontation she would have the frame of mine to think what to do next. This shows how far removed some trainers are from reality. Her instructor clearly was way off base.
We cannot plan this way. What we can do is use drills that develop a natural flow of attacks, and, as Bruce Lee so wisely said many years ago, your tools will strike at the correct moment. i.e. You will not strike, your tools will strike. It will happen naturally.
5. Conclusion - Train Smart - When we are young we want to train Hard. That is great, that builds a certain kind of experience. Each injury is greeted with joy. We welcome the pain. I have seen old men with so many self inflicted injuries that they cannot enjoy their older years. What we do when we are young we pay for when we are old. I just returned from a prayer service where I enjoyed praying with several retired men from South Africa and the United Kingdom. Some are still fit and are enjoying their golden years, others, not so much. Our actions have consequences.
We must learn to train smart, for practical self defense and to preserve our own bodies. Smart Krav Maga training gets better results. Our system is based on a thorough study of real cases. We live in the real world, not in the movies.
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About the author
the writer of this article holds numerous international awards and ranks, including a 7th dan black belt in Krav Maga. He has a vast range of experience, inside and outside the dojo, all over the world.
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