Krav Maga for today’s Police

Police Krav Maga emphasizes defending against any manner of unarmed and armed attacks, safeguarding personal weapons, use-of-force (UOF) compliant arrest and control standard operating procedure (SOP), and performing other law enforcement and security-related measures. The system provides for an all-important DT multiplier effect by establishing a few core tactics that can handle myriad threats.

Police Krav Maga has received international acclaim from law enforcement and security professionals for its highly effective and practical defensive tactics training. The krav maga system relies on instinctive body movements, which are easily learned, retained and performed under stress. The tactics are based on building blocks that, that when combined, allow the officer to prevail in life-threatening situations. Variations of Police Krav Maga are now taught to LE agencies in more than two-dozen countries. 

Perhaps, no other official defensive tactics system is more street-tested and proven. Police Krav Maga prepares law enforcement personnel with the mindset and physical skills to survive any onslaught. Officers will learn how to react with speed, economy of motion, and the appropriate measure of force. 

As a non-lethal defensive tactics systems, Police Krav Maga teaches officers never to respond with more force than necessary. In a potential deadly force situation, however, such as an attack against an officer with an edged or blunt weapon or an attempt to take the officer’s firearm, the officer will learn to counterstrike instinctively and effectively using continuous defensive tactics motion in conjunction with highly effective control tactics to take command of the situation.

The philosophy behind krav maga differs greatly from other types of martial arts and self-defense systems. Understanding the following philosophical pillars helps the =Officers to better absorb the training program – and reinforce why certain aspects of the training are needed to transfer the training methods to fellow officers.

Krav maga training for police, military personnel and civilians shares the same principle: to deliver oneself from harm’s way. Importantly, the “ending” or end goal is different. The exception is when any category of defender faces a situation involving deadly force. The following table summarizes the engagement strategies with the key end-goal differentiations for civilians, law enforcement, and military:

Police Krav Maga:

  • disrupt
  • incapacitate
  • subjugate and control or, if necessary, terminate

Military Krav Maga:

  • disrupt
  • incapacitate or maim
  • terminate

Civilian Krav Maga:

  • disrupt
  • incapacitate as necessary
  • disengage; call police

As noted, the core tenets and building blocks of Israeli krav maga are taught to civilians, law enforcement, and military personnel alike. The crucial difference, again, is the “finish.” Regardless of one’s professional standing or state-granted immunity, if you are faced with a life-threatening attack, you are generally justified in using lethal counterforce. Good tactical minds often think alike. Whatever your martial arts or defensive tactics background, or if you have none at all, hopefully, the following material can add some additional defensive combatives and combinations to your repertoire. In Police Krav Maga (and civilian krav maga), three elements must be present to warrant the use of counterforce: an assailant must have the (1) intent, (2) means, and (3) capability to cause bodily harm.

In a legal use-of-force analysis, civilians may use counterforce commensurate with the amount of force used on them. (Hence, the term counterforce.) For law enforcement, however, most jurisdictions allow an officer or agent to escalate the use of counterforce one level higher. When an arrest must be made, law enforcement’s goal is to use “objectively reasonable” force in taking a suspect into custody (Graham v. Connor 490 U.S. 386). When force is required, the goal remains the same while safeguarding both the officer and the suspect. A deadly force encounter is just that: officers are facing down a perpetrator intent on severely injuring them or a third party.

There is a distinct difference between law enforcement and military krav maga training.  

Not everyone understands or honors this important separation. For example, when training military police, we successfully tackle both spheres by combining elements where applicable and separating the law enforcement versus the military’s respective end goals. It is vitally important one understands his end goal and the force the state empowers one to use. An unfortunate common mistake is to substitute law enforcement techniques for military techniques. To be sure, there can be overlap, but military training, when taught properly, focuses on terminating an enemy combatant.

The Israeli krav maga self-defense system is world renowned for its forceful efficiency. The system’s continuing evolution is grounded in street- and battle-proven tactics. If a tactic should fail, the system either removes it or modifies it. This effectiveness is built on a few core tenets and simple building blocks. Krav maga’s street and battlefield survival defenses were developed for a modern army, the Israel Defense Force (IDF), as its official self-defense and close-quarters combat system. Modern law enforcement agencies, and security forces need a defensive tactics system based on simplicity, adaptability, practicality, and most important, defensive, instinctive movements. These professionals need a system that can be readily honed. Krav maga fits the bill.

What a flexible, unencumbered mixed martial arts fighter wearing shorts may be able to accomplish in a ring is often a far cry from what a fully equipped operator or, equally important, average person may be able to accomplish in a combat zone or on the street, respectively. Krav maga’s defensive philosophy is never to do more than necessary, but to react instinctively with violence of action involving speed, economy of motion, and the appropriate measure of force. The basic principle is to do whatever is practical to deliver a defender from harm’s way. Instinctive trained reaction is paramount. One is taught to strike instinctively at the human anatomy’s vulnerabilities. The practitioner relies on being proactive, rather than reactive, as soon as possible.

Police krav maga training attempts to place you in the most realistic pressure scenarios. The bottom line is to present trained instinctive solutions to defeat any threat in the most effective way possible. This includes the decisive use of lethal force when warranted. Krav maga uses the same building blocks from the simplest defenses to the most advanced techniques, including empty-handed defenses and disarms against bladed weapons, firearms, and even a microexplosive—as you will soon learn.

The system stresses several adaptable core tactics, and its application is flexible in line with its modern defensive tactics evolution. Real-life encounters account for modification, revision, and the addition of new techniques. While krav maga weapons defenses are specific, their application must be adaptable to accommodate the unpredictability of a violent confrontation. Stated another way, we apply general principles, but customize them to suit the needs of a given violent situation. Most important, krav maga emphasizes that there are no rules in a deadly encounter. Do whatever is necessary to overcome the threat in a life-or-death situation and survive.

Police Krav Maga’s stellar reputation is built on the following four pillars:

  1. It emphasizes defending against any manner of attack (unarmed or armed).
  2. It relies on instinctive body movements, which are honed, easily learned, retained, and performed under stress.
  3. The techniques are based on building blocks that, when combined, allow the defender to prevail in life-threatening situations.
  4. Defenders react with speed, economy of motion, and the appropriate measure of force.

Krav maga training focuses on the realistic and brutal nature of defensive tactics requirements. Targeting an opponent’s vital and structural anatomy is essential to one’s counterattack tactics and strategy. Breaking an opponent’s anatomic functionality is central to hand-to-hand combat or defensive tactics in a deadly force encounter.

As is the goal with any reality-based training, one learns to avoid freezing under the stress and pressure of a violent encounter. One will learn how to harness an instinctive and instantaneous trained reaction without thinking. One can defend yourself from a visceral level—however you can. The goal is to react instantaneously, without thinking. 

Training prepares you for any eventuality, so when one finds oneself in a dangerous position, one will know you’ve been there and done that. What follows is an autonomic response. The techniques become not second nature, but first nature. The goal is that one never wavers or contemplates the life-threatening situation. Let one’s training hijack the circumstances. The optimal outcome is to neutralize the threat at its very inception.

To prepare a professional to face a potential deadly force street encounter or the realities of a modern day battlefield, krav maga’s training tactics include defending against full-force multiple attacks with facsimile impact and edged weapons. At the same time, we practice defending against firearm threats using Simunitions® to simulate firearm discharges. Note: always wear protective equipment in full-on training, including eye protection when working with facsimile weapons. Under strictly controlled conditions, we also allow trainees to secure a live firearm to discharge it down range to prove the defense will work.

There are six different levels of awareness in Israeli krav maga:

-5 Unaware

-4 Semi-aware

-3 Aware       

-2 Cautious       

-1 Alert   

0 Prepared

Violent conflict produces severe stress on the human mind, slowing down the cognitive process. Instincts will always dominate over cognitive response under stress. The limbic or primitive part of your brain (“unconscious mind”) narrows the gap between reaction and action on the action-reaction power curve and cannot be cognitively controlled.  The action-reaction power curve represents that an action will generally beat a reaction as the defender must “catch up” to counter the attack. Reducing the reaction time from recognition to action is vital in a defensive violent encounter.

The neocortex (“conscious mind”) section of the brain is chiefly responsible for higher cognition and analysis. Paradoxically, the limbic and neocortical systems can be in competition or at odds regarding self-defense. The limbic system relies on the body’s natural self-preservation actions while the neocortex may try to make logical sense of an action or event. This is what causes us to freeze. When under physical duress, a person may have difficulty thinking clearly because his cognitive abilities are being suppressed by the limbic brain, which has asserted control over all cerebral functions.

Hormone levels (including cortisol), when affected by high stress, impair memory. Hence we see the importance of an instinctive or conditioned self-defense response. Instinctive (re)action harnesses adrenaline. As a result, the mind reverts to three processes: freeze, flight, or fight. If freezing is not the optimum response, the limbic brain orders flight or escape. If flight is impossible, the limbic brain’s final mandate is to fight by converting fear into fury to physically confront a threat. 

Therefore, the self-defense and close-quarters battle (CQB) process may be understood using the following four-part process:

  1. Threat recognition
  2. Situation analysis
  3. Choice of action
  4. Action or inaction

Police know well to accept the possibility of violence under any circumstances. Maintaining an overall strategy to take away your opponent’s ability to harm you is paramount. If your actions require a forceful and debilitating physical response, krav maga will provide it. Remember, though, the intensity of your response will escalate to meet the threat.

It is well known that stress, when triggered in a potentially violent situation, protects the body. Mental and physical stress can produce shock. When confronting a life-threatening situation, shock can be more problematic then fear. Uncontrolled shock causes the body’s homeostasis to cease, and it can no longer compensate for injuries. The body begins a shutdown procedure, which beyond a certain point becomes irreversible.

Through training, Police Krav Maga’s goal is to embed in your subconscious with preparation and conditioning of the highest order. The key is to transition immediately from surprise to an assault mind-set. One must be aware of the following: 

  • Tunnel vision: under extreme stress, to increase blood and oxygen delivery to the eyes, one’s attention may be focused primarily on the greatest threat, resulting in a temporary loss of peripheral vision.
  • Auditory exclusion: one’s vision takes over as the primary sense, diminishing one’s hearing.
  • Compression of time and space: time and space will become muddled with added difficulty in judging the interrelationship of speed and distance. Movements may appear in slow motion.

Before any violent encounter, regardless of the specific circumstances, you must adopt a winner-take-all mind-set under any and all circumstances—a no-lose, locked-on attitude. While you cannot underestimate the assailant’s abilities, the assailant’s abilities, paradoxically, are irrelevant—provided your intent and determination surpass the assailant’s. That must be your mind-set. With superior determination combined with a honed krav maga skill set, you will have the decisive advantage. You will win. You will survive.

To help make krav maga first nature, one must also train mentally to defeat anythreat, to know one’s training and determination will prevail regardless of who or what may confront the defender. Mental assurance, combined with physical preparedness, provides a decisive advantage to triumph in a violent encounter. Of course, there is a fine distinction between confidence and overconfidence. Do not mistake the latter for the former. In short, believe your training will unleash your own violence of action that will carry the day regardless of an adversary’s capabilities.