Proper body mechanics, movement, and retzev (“continuous combat motion”) coupled with the IKMA’s innovations separate us. As noted, there are now many interpretations of krav maga. Some are rooted in founder Imi Lichtenfeld’s original teachings while others bear no resemblance. The bottom line is if you prevent physical harm to yourself or others, your krav maga worked. However, there is a fine professional line when confronting a skilled attacker or when ensnared in a deadly force encounter. Your defensive capability must be both instinctive and optimized. A firearm or edged weapon defense improperly executed may get you maimed or killed. Therefore, our training is serious – as must be – in confronting life-threatening situations.
We always work against resistance and constantly try to defeat and test the efficacy our own tactics. We keep a keen eye out for new tactics that seek to overcome our defenses. We focus on building the strongest foundation possible in every instructor and student who comes through our door and, now, our MKM portal. Most self-defense/martial arts instructors have solid backgrounds and absorb our training quickly. Beginners present a superb blank canvas to absorb and master the instinctive tactics. For beginners and advanced practitioners alike, accordingly, we introduce the techniques harnessing their natural movements and then optimizing these movements through retzev (“continuous combat motion”). The simplest and most direct method to compare/judge competing krav maga claims and versions is to examine a different krav maga organization’s legitimacy/abilities by comparing their respective leaders on Youtube. We suggest that your compare the main frontline organizations, notably, at the blackbelt levels.
The Israeli Krav Maga Advantage
Imi is famously said one of the goals of Krav Maga is that “one may walk in peace.” There are myriad interpretations of Imi’s quotation. We like to think of its meaning as exuding humble, yet determined confidence. That confidence based on your Krav Maga training that you will if conflict avoidance, de-escalation/de-confliction, or escape are not possible, you can handle almost every type of self-defense situation. In short, responsible people pursue Israeli Krav Maga training to shield themselves from violence; not to orchestrate violence.The kravist trains and prepares himself to face down the unfortunate, ugly specter of violence.
Krav maga training, by both necessity and resultant design, focuses on the realistic and brutal nature of a physical assault. This self-defense and fighting system is designed to thwart and neutralize any type of threat or attack. The key survival ingredient is your mind-set. Those who train physically and mentally to preempt and, if necessary, thwart violence with overwhelming counterviolence will respond differently from people who do not condition themselves.
You, the kravist, when threatened or attacked must unleash a torrent of overwhelming counterviolence. (This assumes there is no peaceful option and the circumstances are legally justified.) Krav Maga’s goal is to neutralize an attacker quickly and decisively. If you must defend yourself, krav maga enables you to effectively stun, incapacitate, and, if necessary, control your attacker. Your honed, instinctive reaction will turn the table on your attacker(s) immediately. Krav Maga tactics are designed as defensive capability multipliers. A few mastered Krav maga techniques are highly effective in most situations. When properly learned and practiced, these tactics will become first nature.
One of the most effective tactics Krav Maga teaches you is not to be taken by surprise in the first place. The Israeli Krav Maga curriculum places heavy emphasis on the ability to recognize, avoid, and/or preempt physical conflicts. Developing recognition of previolence indicators along with impending attacks is instrumental to Krav Maga. The obvious and best solution is to remove yourself from the situation before an impending attack can take place. Situational awareness of whom to keenly observe is all-important and common sense should prevail. In other words, recognize who or what might constitute a danger or threat.
Generally, human behavior is overwhelmingly predictable. Therefore, you must identify what are normal human behavior patterns and what are anomalous behavior displays. Someone, for example, constantly looking over his shoulder should merit enhanced scrutiny. Or, as another example, an unknown person trying to subtly get close to you warrants immediate attention. Further, you need to distinguish what is crucial information versus what is noncrucial.
Subtle cues, “tells,” or “precipitators” observed in a potential assailant’s behavior, especially when such indicators are assessed collectively, provide an early warning indicator. In other words, recognizing someone’s preparation to perpetrate an assault such as the attacker’s (un)conscious body language (including autonomic nervous system reactions); proximity and overall behavior pattern collectively produce clues you can discern. Body markings, such as tattoos, can also suggest someone’s background, affiliation, values, attitude, and behavioral proclivities. Understanding these clues allows you to become proactive or what the U.S. Marines describe as having a “bias for action” leading to, if necessary, Krav Maga“violence of action.”
Being proactive overcomes victimization. If you perceive a potential threat, take preemptive action and extricate yourself. Clearly, the best defense against any attack is avoiding or removing yourself from the precarious situation. Once again, common sense should succeed. If an environment suggests an overall negative feeling or “vibe,” heed your internal warning and take appropriate safety measures. Only environmental and situational awareness, along with recognition training, can help you do that.
In an unfamiliar environment, scan for threats, paying particular attention to potential adversaries’ proximity and hand movements. Make use of your peripheral vision and constantly assess your surroundings. For example, if you are in a men’s bathroom using a urinal, use the chrome flushing mechanism as a modified mirror to scan behind you or keep your head tilted to look over your shoulder.
As previously noted, situational awareness is a compromise between being carefree and paranoid. Most people have this innate capability. As a general example, take a pedestrian crosswalk across a road: as you prepare to cross the street, the car approaching slows down, but you still watch for it to come to a complete stop. You assume the car will do so, but do not bind your fate entirely to your presumption.
Humans usually can only perform one task or function at a time. With your innate danger detection capability in mind, if someone is going through the motions of some act and, yet, displays an odd interest in you, obviously, your defenses correctly go on high alert. Be sure to trust this well-placed intuition. Simply put, if someone acts nervous, secretive, or unnatural and the person is within attack range of you, beware; take the appropriate defensive precautions.
Self-defense may be thought of as recovering from being caught unaware (the “-5”) and using (superior) counterviolence in the same way a criminal or sociopath intends to use it in the attacker’s assault on you. Many people are wholly unprepared to face down violence even when they see it coming. These victims of violence do not understand indicators or they do not recognize the foreshadowing “tells.”
Awareness or recognition of an impending attack/threat obviously affords the greatest reaction time for the following seriatim solutions: (a) avoidance, (b) de-escalation, (c) escape, and (d) counterviolence. Always trust your instincts and intuition including things you saw, heard, felt or smelled—all your senses—the things your subconscious brain intakes and processes faster than your conscious mind can keep up. Importantly, only a minimal amount of threatening behavioral information is enough for you to put your defenses on high alert.
For self-defense, the aphorism “forewarned is forearmed” is particularly salient.In an unknown environment, keep your head subtly swiveling by shifting your eye movements, using your peripheral vision, and panning for potential threats. Constantly survey your surroundings. Keep in mind that when you are mentally focused or consumed with something such as a thought or having a conversation, you are apt to lose focus on your surroundings. When you are observing, remember also not to use single-point focus. Rather, make maximum use of your peripheral vision combining it with a slight head swivel to see your 270 to 360-degree blind spots. Do not stare at people who may concern you; be subtle with your observations.
Human eyes tend to focus on the obvious for good reason, but a seasoned observer will begin to look in, around, and between obvious concerns to survey an entire scene. Once you develop an awareness of your environment—any environment—you’ll notice at all times who and what surrounds you. Fortunately, with minimal focused threat recognition training, there is a good chance you’ll spot trouble/danger and steer clear of it.
A large part of “awareness” is to understand your capacity and limits. What verbal or physical abuse you might accept or collectively what actions will cross your proverbial “redline” is obviously your decision. You must have a cache of predetermined decisions leading to decisive action based on the collective indicators and environment you observe. Note: An untrained fighter will size you up to decide if he can prevail. A seasoned fighter will decide how he intends to physical dominate you.
A surprise attack will force you to react from an unprepared state. You need to recognize a trap or an inchoate ambush. If a stranger springs out of nowhere, the attacker may have an accomplice flanking or lurking behind you. Train yourself with the mind-set of an attacker. Think how you would “get or ambush yourself” at any given moment and use that training to recognize potential dangers as you go about your daily life. When on the move and accosted by someone who arouses your suspicion, once again discard politeness, and keep moving.
Be aware that there are threats who may mask their intent with charm. An attacker may feign social acquiescence and warmth with his palms open, friendly gestures, and a smile simply to psychologically disarm you and close the distance to better ambush you. An extended hand for a handshake can also draw you closer to control you. An attacker may also engage you in discussion to get you to look away or distract you and then pounce. So, for example, if you do stop to answer any questions, you should still remain vigilant watching the threat’s entire body and keeping your distance. If you are blocked, spear your way through the person or people and hustle to safety.
A predatory interview will begin by the aggressor closing in on you either to gauge how you will defend your personal space or to attack. Do not be polite. Your face should be resolute, but not scowling or sneering. Be prepared to act by positioning yourself and readying your “go” button. Scan the attacker’s hands immediately and take a proper stance noting quickly the environment around you. If you face down the threat and are prepared to act: (a) the attacker may be deterred and/or (b) you are prepared to now defend.
Common sense and a few street smarts are your optimum weapons to avoid violence. Truly understanding the nature and consequences of injurious violence should eliminate it as a dispute resolution option. Mental conditioning and rehearsal allows you to de-escalate or walk away (always the best solution if possible) from a potentially violent situation. In short, avoidance is often about keeping your cool, but so is every other aspect of self-defense including de-escalation, escape and evasion, and, lastly, fighting for your life.
Impending Violence Usually Has Overt or Covert Signals
Many people who suddenly become embroiled in a violent encounter have no idea why it happened. Often, there is a buildup they did not recognize or were party to without their knowledge. A few common-sense suggestions:
The key to avoiding social violence is not to provide provocations. An example might be not returning a challenging or antagonistic stare. Conversely, though, you can present vulnerability when avoiding eye contact by looking down and away as you may project possible submission. The solution when confronted with a hard stare may be to look to the side to signal a level of nonconfrontational equanimity. If you do not believe a problem can be resolved by diplomacy or conciliation, use common sense—remain silent and disengage.
In short, avoid eye contact or conversation with a potential aggressor; nip the situation in the bud. Another tactic is to project confidence, but this can also escalate matters. So, you must, of course, be capable of physically backing it up. Confidence projection can reflect being disinterested or simply nonplussed by the situation. Contrariwise, projecting nervousness suggests you consider yourself to be subordinate, which may provide the would-be aggressor additional underlying confidence to escalate.
Humans have a keen sense of power and powerlessness. Maintain your calm and try to respond rationally. There is a crucial difference in trying to appease someone who you have bumped into versus using social skills to dissuade someone intent on punching you in the face. Many people straddling the fence between simply posturing or committing a violent act generally need a rationalization to justify the violent act. Do your best to talk it out of the aggressor or, at the very least, do not give the aggressor a provocative response. Someone who is clearly in the wrong, but who will not admit his error, is likely to perceive any nonacquiescence as a personal insult or attack.
Blunt honesty may be one of the surest ways to defuse or de-escalate a situation—provided your would-be attacker is rational. If you made a mistake or are in the wrong, provide a credible apology, and leave. Keep in mind that appeasement or flattery with a predator also may not work. Such a strategy may inflame the aggressor further raising the level of the aggressor’s violent onslaught. Another proven tactic to de-escalate a situation may be changing the context by, perhaps, injecting a non sequitur to make the aggressor think in a different direction. Think of a change-the-subject strategy you may have used to calm a small child (provided the troubling subject you know to be inconsequential).
This change-of-subject tactic does not suggest that you infantilize a verbal de-escalation attempt for obvious reasons. Be sure your tone is not condescending. You may be able to derail his verbal aggression by deflecting an insult or challenge by an innocuous or conciliatory change-of-subject response. Remember, your attacker is experiencing an adrenaline dump and may not hear your attempts to defuse the situation. When an aggressor is adrenalizing, your ability to reason with the aggressor diminishes as the aggressor’s nervous system goes into internal overload. Accordingly, the aggressor does not process your words; if he partially processes your words, obviously, your attempt to reason with him may be heard selectively.
You may also wish to switch tactics and paraphrase your initial attempt to reason with the potential aggressor. Yet, do not think too much; you may have to react instantaneously to an attack. Another de-escalatory tactic might be to walk up to a would-be aggressor and amiably introduce yourself to change the dynamic (again, be prepared to defend yourself if necessary). Always bear in mind that in a truly violent situation, your de-escalation skills and social values are useless. Worse, these social conventions and rational behavior may prevent you from defending yourself at the inception of an attack providing an attacker with an all-important vulnerable opening to hurt, injure, or kill you.
Personal Space Violations
Dominant-minded people often use their bodies to take ownership of more physical space. Examples include someone spreading out across a subway bench, airline seat/row; or while walking taking up most of the sidewalk; or purposefully taking up two parking spaces to separate his car. Naturally, most people expect others to maintain a proper or respectful distance. (Note: Different cultures have different expectations.) When someone invades your personal or intimate space, your limbic warning system is immediately triggered as it recognizes the interloper is now within attack range of you. (Note: A firearm or other type of projectile weapon poses a longer range threat.)
Once again, if your gut sends an alarm signal, eschew social politeness, retreat if necessary, and tell the would-be aggressor to move away while blading yourself. Watch a potential adversary’s hands as you issue a warning to him. If the potential adversary objects to your demand to “back off,” beware that this might just be the excuse he wanted to escalate matters. Be sure to understand the difference between an assertive versus a belligerent response. The former will let someone know in a matter-of-fact way to give you space. The latter may be considered an overreaction on your part that might worsen matters.
Deflecting Staring Challenges
Generally, in a social setting, the accepted average gaze length is just a few seconds; any longer and emotional intent is implied. Usually, the “subordinate” person looks away first. Nevertheless, when surveying a scene, do not hold eye contact. Break eye contact by looking sideways and not down as looking down may depict you as underconfident.
Deflecting Verbal Challenges
If forced into a potentially adversarial conversation, one strategy is to respond with laconic politeness. Avoid showing any unease that might mark you as either a challenge or target. Be aware that saying something that you believe to be innocuous may, paradoxically, be considered highly inflammatory by someone else putting you in the crosshairs of violence. If an apology is demanded, do it sincerely and then immediately leave to defuse the situation. Attacking one’s masculinity or femininity is a time-proven provocation. So, think about how you would respond to such a situation ahead of time as part of your mental training. If someone is hell-bent on a fight and accuses or challenges you, there may be no way to defuse the situation. A last-ditch approach may be to engage the individual acknowledging his concern stating something like, “Sorry, I had a tough day and certainly did not mean any offense.”
As a personal example, I successfully de-escalated a potentially volatile situation on a Newark, New Jersey, train platform by cooing over a baby in a stroller. For whatever reason, a hard-bitten–looking individual with several tears tattooed on his face took exception with me as we collectively waited for a train to arrive. The would-be tough guy used the classic bait of “What are you looking at?” followed immediately by “You got a problem with me?”
My response was, “Is that your beautiful little girl?” He defensively said, “Yes.” I sincerely reinforced my complimentary observation, “She is absolutely beautiful. How old is she?” With my unexpected verbal tactic, the father’s demeanor transformed immediately as he beamed and told me the little girl was thirteen months. The baby’s mother also smiled and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. I ended up holding the train doors open for the couple and helping them board with the stroller. So, rather than face an ugly situation, I made some cursory friends. Author Rory Miller covers this topic well in his books Facing Violence, Meditations on Violence, and ConCom: Conflict Communications.
Verbal Self-Defense (Resolute Warning)
Civility can be the greatest undermining factor when successfully facing down potential violence. A hostile action can be preempted by issuing a resolute warning that you will respond with overwhelming counterviolence. But this approach poses the obvious risk of provoking the other party and/or escalating the situation. Resolutely tell any threat to get back while maintaining strong eye contact. A short declarative statement sends the message while clueing in other witnesses/bystanders. There is no need to explain yourself further than repeating the message with increasing emphasis. Be quasi-polite, but determinedly firm. Blade your body with your hands at the ready position with your palms facing the threat.
Escape methods are a vital and significant part of the krav maga curriculum. Escape is your second choice when avoidance and de-escalation fail. Escape is different from avoidance as the aggressor has already begun his actions and you are actively fleeing. (To review, avoidance allows you to calmly remove yourself before a hostile situation begins.)
To escape, your goal is to evade physical contact and preserve your ability to successfully flee. Your ultimate goal is to find safety through breaking contact and losing any pursuers by quickly hiding or finding safety among other people. Physically escaping requires you to recognize egresses and to successfully negotiate terrain and obstacles. For example, in a potential road rage incident, consider your driving escape options. (You should always leave enough room in front of your vehicle to maneuver.)
Terrain can aid or hamper you. High ground such as a stairwell gives you the advantage of gravity and using your strongest personal weapons: kicks. Conversely, when fleeing up a stairway, ascending it will slow you down as you take the first steps and pursuers can close the distance. Your footing, and hence, your traction and balance, can be affected by liquids (including blood), gravel, wet grass, mud, snow, and ice. Therefore, you must both consciously and instinctively pay attention to your movements shifting your balance onto the balls of your feet and altering your stance/paces. If you disable an attacker through counterassault, the attacker may have accomplices. The accomplices may be shocked by your counterviolent actions providing you with a head start.
When running away, seek the safety of other people using concealment as available. (Note that professional escape and evasion requires preplanned evacuation routes, safe houses, and dedicated support along with a number of other facets.) When running, focus on the physical route ahead of you. If you are part of a group, you must all act in concert: flee or fight together, acting as a cohesive unit. If you decide to flee, when favorable, you can also turn around to ambush your pursuer(s). In a road rage scenario, if you find yourself outside of your own vehicle (a tactical choice), you could momentarily escape an aggressor by running around the perimeter your own car. In a run-around-a-stationary-car scenario, you can also use preemptive self-defense (a counterambush) against the aggressor by swiftly changing directions and catching the would-be assailant by surprise. However, if there are multiple pursuers, fighting a group is obviously not the best option.
Violence, Self-Defense, Effects, and Consequences
Street violence is volatile, unpredictable, and often unannounced (though there may be previolence indicators a victim did not recognize). There are no certainties regarding the outcome of a potential life-and-death struggle. An attacker will likely seek every advantage. First and foremost, he will try to use the element of surprise. You may find yourself in a “-5” position or initially unprepared to fight for your life.
Concerted, determined violence seldom lasts more than a few seconds.Adopting a simple survival mind-set is inadequate. You must believe you will physically winwithout sustaining any permanent physical damage. Regardless of an attacker’s size, strength, training, or physical ability, you will prevail by delivering debilitating, overwhelming counterviolence.Essential to survival is your mental and psychological tenacity. Mental training not just envisions defending oneself (after all other precautions and de-escalation measures have failed), but, when necessary, also damaging another human or, in rare cases, an animal.
Obviously, social violence is more prevalent when people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when young men congregate. Importantly, young males often feel they have much to prove and do not fully understand violence’s ramifications: physical, psychological, and legal. Introducing a weapon changes the stakes and indicates a willingness to maim or kill. When verbal reasoning ceases, if krav maga is your solution there must be no other available choice.