Krav Maga Mental Switch
By Moshe Katz

Are some people natural heroes'? Are some people naturally brave?

I do not believe so. In Krav Maga we do not believe so. For if we did; we might cease to exist as an independent people.

Everyone can be trained to be a hero. Everyone can be trained to cope with pain, loss, suffering and anxiety.

It all involves a decision, a mental switch.

In precarious situations, we humans feel fear. That fear drives some people to incredible acts of heroism and bravery while others freeze or loose control.

The difference lies in our ability to control it. In Krav Maga we work on gaining that control. That is a learned skill just like any other. No one is born knowing how to ride a bicycle or drive a car; we learn it. Yet some people never learn how to drive a car.

In our training we learn to familiarize ourselves with dangerous, fear provoking, situations. Having someone come at you in the middle of the night with a real sharpened edged weapon is scary, to say the least. So we begin with a small rubber training knife. In the comfort of our training hall, under the guidance of a trusted teacher, a friend will approach you slowly with the training knife, simulating a real attack.

I have found that some adults are totally incapable of dealing even with rubber replica training knives or guns. Just the sight of it freaks them out. They say they want to learn self defense, they want to control fear, but yet even the sight of such 'toy weapons' makes them so uncomfortable that I must put them away.

And yet, in rural Arizona I have been in homes where real guns are lying around the living room and small children are not afraid; they are familiar with the weapons, they have learned to shoot them and they know how to handle them.

We can all learn to handle fear better. Parents, who bring their young children to me for training, understand this. A frightened little child, after a few months of training, becomes a confident young adult. They have to, for in a few years they will be soldiers.

Behavior is learned. We cannot erase the fear mechanism, we do not want to, it is a God given survival mechanism, but we can learn to channel it much more effectively. Neuroscientist Dr. Joseph LeDoux says with regard to fear, "Whether it proves to be one of your best survival tools or your downfall depends on your ability to control it." "An effective survivor is someone who can shut off the fear alarm clanging in his head and channel the resulting motivation into purposeful action that reduces the danger."

This reminded me of when Itay was telling me about his third dan test. He had absorbed so much pain that he was beyond pain. He said, "I made a switch in my head and turned off the pain." He was able to finish the test successfully. He just 'put his body someplace else.' I have been told by survivors of abuse and torture that they have done exactly that, they managed to 'put their bodies' someplace else and shut off the pain.

What is true for an individual is also true for a nation.

Do some nations have tough genes? Are some nations better at survival?

Again, this is a learned trait.

The a nation of Israel has survived 2,000 years of exile, filled with every sort of suffering known to man culminating with the Holocaust. People who lost their entire families came to Israel, started new lives, fought off endless Arab attacks, and built a new thriving state, one of the world leaders in hi tech industries. Clearly we know something about 'shutting off the fear alarm, shutting out the pain' and channeling our energy into purposeful action.

In Krav Maga we train our minds to be able to handle the shock of a terrorist attack, the sound of a gun going off, the sight of blood, and the feeling of having our body pounded with blows.

Being able to shut off the alarm in your head, the panic button, remain calm and focused, is essential whether you are leading elite troops into Lebanon or trying to survive any traumatic situation.