Street Defense First few Seconds

June 18, 2024, Israel


When I trained at the Oyama dojo in Manhattan I would sometimes treat myself to a fresh cup of Orange Julius juice after a grueling workout. On the subway I would sometimes allow myself the luxury of purchasing Inside Karate, or Inside Kung Fu, Karate Illustrated, or Black Belt magazine. I cherished those magazines and read them cover to cover, including all the advertisements (for things I could not afford).

In Israel one could not find such magazines but my dear father, may he rest in peace, paid for my first annual subscription to Black Belt Magazine, it was $36.95 per year. There were certain regular features in the magazine and one of them was taking a technique from a certain style, and with a step-by-step explanation, fully accompanied by photographs, break it down from beginning to end, from Attack to Submission of the attacker. 

As a student I diligently followed the photos and explanations, part 1, part 2, part 17 B. Yes, sometimes there were as many as 17 or more parts. But I believed in it and learned all the techniques. Many of the techniques involved excellent timing, or strength, many involved precision. I did it all. It also involved memorization of all those steps, for each situation you have to remember these long sequences of techniques. But I persevered!

Looking back, those were valuable experiences, and there is not one aspect of any of my training that I consider to have been a waste of time, I learned something from everyone. I learned from many Masters of Martial Arts. But throughout all this training I also learned how to find shortcuts, how to save time in training, how to make training safer, and more productive. I do not cut corners, I improve methods, eliminate waste. My goal is to shorten the process for my students, as many people will not, or cannot, devote the time that I did to training. Every vacation was a martial arts training trip, every spare dollar was spent on a new video or book, to see another approach, another perspective. This was long before YouTube, I had to pay for everything, pay for shipping. I studied everyone and everything. 

And now to the point, of the blog and of the training. Most systems are just that, systems! They are institutions with rules and hierarchies, and dogma. But what will you do when, as my Dad would say, the shit hits the fan?

That is what we are all about. Now here is a sad and brutal truth. If you cannot respond effectively during the first few seconds of an attack, the rest is useless. You will simply die with a martial arts library. Thus, the appropriateness of that ugly expression, it will look, and feel, like the shit hitting the fan, ugly and brutal. Therefore, 90% of our efforts have to be devoted to those first few seconds, and that is where nearly all martial arts fail (other than on the Big Screen, when Legends live).

I am constantly amazed and baffled when I see "Reality Based Systems" teach techniques that I know that I personally cannot perfrom under pressure, and yet these are taught to gullible students as 'effective self-defense'.

Understanding those first few seconds is much more than learning techniques. It is psychology, fear, panic, shock, a jolt to one's world view. It is much more than learning and memorizing a few techniques. 

We must learn to react under shock, confusion. We must be prepared with simple gross motor moves techniques, Keep It Simple and Instinctive, plus mental psychological preparation. 

Let us not delude ourselves into thinking we can magically sense the angle of attack and block it. Be humble. We use our IKI Universal Block, it blocks, or slows down, nearly everything. It is quick and simple. Remember, Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough. 

I have seen countless attacks, those first few seconds are crucial, those are the moments that make the difference, survival or not. We must react immediately with simple easy to use moves, not grabbing an opponent's arm in mid-motion, not doing some fancy circular motion and grabbing his neck and spinning him around. Goodness, some instructors have been watching too many late-night Kung Fu movies. It is time to wake up and smell the bitter Turkish coffee. 

We have years of experience, garnered from all over the world, about what happens, and what rarely happens, and what does not happen, during those first few seconds. That is what we devote ourselves too. That rest, the follow up, is less important, there you can apply your previous training in White Eyebrow Kung fu, Jujitsu, or Choy Li Fut. Our concern is the first few seconds, when all hell breaks loose, when you cry out Mama help me, when the shit hits the fan. 

Thanks Dad. You are still my inspiration. 


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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