What does "Krav Maga" mean? How long has it been around?
Krav Maga is usually translated as “contact combat.” The Hebrew word “Krav” means struggle and was first used in the Old Testament when Isaac wrestled or struggled with the arch-angel Gabriel. “Maga” is translated as close or proximate. Krav Maga’s building blocks have existed for thousands of years; but it’s in constant evolution and arguably is the most current self-defense vertical to real world situations. The system, as the formal self-defense system of the Israel Defense Force, has existed for approximately 60 years. Krav Maga is based on our most primitive and natural instincts.. The self-defense system was developed, modernized, and fine-tuned during World War II and Israel’s War of Independence by Emerich “Imi” Lichtenfeld (Sde-Or).
What makes Krav Maga so different from other marital arts and self-defense?
Anyone can learn and do Krav Maga. Krav Maga focuses only on real world situations, has an immediate learning curve, emphasizes defending against multiple opponents, and has evolved around modern weapon threats. In short, Krav Maga is complete fighting system. The only rule is that there are no rules. In its military capacity and highest levels of learning, Krav Maga teaches not just defenses against armed and unarmed attack, but how to initiate an attack. A kravist is as comfortable in a ground confrontation as standing confrontation. (Note: a practionner does not necessarily want to be situated on the ground during a confrontation for several reasons including the threat of multiple attackers. Nevertheless, the reality is that many fights to end up on the ground.) Imi designed Krav Maga to be learned in a short time, and, equally important, to be retained. Krav Maga does not emphasize traditional katas or choreographed routines. Instead, Krav Maga relies on retzev or “continuous combat motion” to complete the defense. Krav Maga’s spiritual side is embodied in civility and good citizenship.
What do you say to people that say “there’s no better defense than a gun?”
Indeed, there may be no better defense than a gun – provided you have one, can effectively deploy, aim and discharge it under extreme pressure. You also need to safeguard the weapon: to prevent someone from taking it away from you. Each of these elements is integral to Krav Maga training.
What kind of body type do I need to start training in Krav Maga?
Imi designed Krav Maga for people of all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities regardless of age or sex. He wanted to insure Krav Maga was appropriate and accessible for all responsible, law-abiding people. His goal was “so one can walk in the path of peace.” As he developed the method, Imi worked tirelessly to ensure Krav Maga success was not dependent on a practitioner’s strength, gender, athleticism or expertise in any one type of combative training including punching, kicking, grappling or throwing. He took all aspects of a fight, both armed and unarmed, into account.
The same Krav Maga techniques, with minor modifications, are taught to both men and women. However, the emphasis placed on certain techniques is can be different. Size and strength are factors a defender – male or female – must take into consideration. This is especially true where reach is a determining factor. Often women are confronted with a predatory attack, which brings the attacker in close. As a result, “infighting” or elbows, knees, eye-gouges, and, if necessary, bites are encouraged. In addition, some women are reluctant to use their knuckles for striking and instead may feel more comfortable, for example, using a palm-heal. Several Krav Maga ground-survival techniques also address sexual predation or other dangers women may face and are specially adapted.
Don’t people get hurt when they study Krav Maga?
Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld instilled two paradoxical rules into Krav Maga training: (1) there are no rules in a fight and (2) you cannot injure your training partner. Imi also added the quip “You cannot send a wounded soldier into battle.” So, while Krav Maga emphasizes there are no rules in fight for your life, the self-defense style must be practiced under strictly controlled conditions particularly when simulating a counter-attack against an opponent’s vulnerable anatomy. Unfortunately, injuries do occur, but with no more frequency than any other martial art, contact sport, or any sport for that matter.
Do I have to have years of training for Krav Maga to help me in a real world situation?
One does not need to train in Krav Maga for a long time to become proficient -- which is the genius behind Krav Maga. Krav Maga training focuses on the most typical types of violent assaults while relying a few core, instinctive defensive tactics. Therefore, by emphasizing just to do a few things well, Krav Maga creates a force multiplier while also allowing for a quick learning curve and lasting retention capability.
What's a realistic approach to learning about physical safety, training, end goal, and staying with Krav Maga as a lifestyle?
Krav Maga is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn the basics, you don’t forget. Paramount, responsible people pursue Krav Maga training to shield themselves from violence; not to orchestrate violence. The kravist trains and prepares him-/herself 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 counter-violence will respond differently from people who do not condition themselves.
Walking away from a confrontation is a test of mental discipline and moral fiber. For example, if a situation involves someone taunting you, attempting to embarrass you, or assert social hierarchy, take the sensible action and walk away. Should you (correctly) walk away, be sure to disengage with a heightened sense of potential confrontation awareness. Until you are safe, continue to maintain both a mental and physical preparedness to spring into action. Extricating yourself from a potentially violent situation is both wise and pragmatic for myriad reasons including avoiding potential injury to you, your family, and to avoiding criminal and civil liability proceedings.
Use common sense, basic precautions, and a confident demeanor to minimize your chances of being targeted and assaulted. Notwithstanding these preventive measures, accept the possibility of violence targeting you. There are several types of violence including social, criminal, sociopathic, and professional. Statistically, you are mtost likely to face the first or second categories, social or criminal, respectively. Terrorism usually falls into a blend of the latter two categories. While you need not live in fear, denial is the most common obstacle to taking appropriate action. This is why you must be prepared if you must face down a violent situation. Sharpen your mental and physical skills so you can implement them without thinking.
When in danger, your brain and body respond reflexively. Therefore, your self-defense reaction must be both instantaneously reflexive and instinctive. If you are in a fight and an attacker makes an unanticipated or unrecognized action, the brain cannot find a practiced response resulting in decision paralysis. By training to respond, you will call upon your instincts and reflexes when attacked. With proper training, you will learn to conquer your fear and to control the energy and power from your body’s fight-or-flight response. Realistic training is designed to eliminate the third human reaction, a freeze response. You will learn not to freeze under pressure. While it is unusual to be in a situation where you must fight for your life, it does happen. You must be prepared.
Krav Maga harnesses your natural abilities for you to (re)act optimally with little cognitive interference. With practice, you will be able to explode into action. Your attacker will literally not know what hit him—repeatedly. Only serious, hard, and appropriate training can trigger this fighting response. If push comes to shove, literally and figuratively, Krav Maga is designed to handle any type or number of assaults. For a kravist, there are no set solutions for ending a fight. This is why training becomes a lifestyle, challenging oneself every class along with developing finally tuned nuances that optimize your reactions.
What inspires students at your schools to stay motivated?
The more you put into Krav Maga training, the more you get out of it. We emphasize realistic, proven self-defense situations that test a students mettle and instinctive capabilities. One can never be to good at honing one’s defensive skills. We humbly emphasize there is always someone who is bigger, badder, stronger and, perhaps, comparably trained who might put you in the cross-hairs of unavoidable violence. Lastly, the workouts can be as intense as you wish to make them, especially, when you have a partner with a similar mindset. In short, every class makes the body a more honed, conditioned self-defense machine.
What do you say to those who dispel the ability to learn self-defense from a book, DVD or online tool?
If you have the correct motivation and dedication, anything can be learned remotely if presented properly. The one indispensable element for realistic self-defense training is having a like-minded, dedicated training partner who will not shy away from challenging you at every level as you both improve.
What’s the best way to train self-defense using a book, DVD or online tool?
Get a partner and start the journey together. The key is finding at least one compatible training partner who will gradually orchestrate attacks at full force and resistance to the counter-tactics. Women need to train with men and men need to train with men. Obviously, no one should get injured in any type of training. Yet, training cannot be done in a vacuum devoid of the brutal nature of an attack, especially, if it is an ambush. The balancing act (literally and figuratively) is safety.
A method to prepare mentally -- other than harvesting real-life experience -- is to do an internet search for "real street attacks." Viewing real-life violent encounters partially allows the viewer to witness the ferocity, no-holds barred nature of an attack. This supports and undergirds Krav Maga's core tenet that there are no rules in a fight for an attacker or defender.
As noted, the best way to learn remotely is to find a good tough workout partner. Go through each technique on the DVDs with each person repeating it. For the combatives, be critical of one another's movements to make sure the hands are up, the hips are pivoting correctly, the movements are long and crisp along with not telegraphing them. I would recommend going through each technique in the book/dvd and practicing it a minimum of 12-15 repetitions per partner.
For any technique, always try to simultaneously (or near simultaneously) defend and attack together. Also, try to always make the movements long even though even while being careful not to strike your partner. For retzev, I would suggest practicing in front of a full-length mirror to observe the fluidity of your movements, your pivoting/weight transfer, and balance.
In addition, you can practice the combatives in front of a mirror. If you are going to practice the combatives in the air against your partner take a step back so you can execute almost the entire movement without locking your elbows or knees. In other words, try to avoid short movements. To develop long movements along with power you might want to invest in a 120 lb heavy bag or some good muy thai pads and a solid kicking shield.
For all defenses (including weapons), you may wish to practice the techniques from a neutral or hands down (-5) position to simulate an ambush. These defenses are obviously more difficult because you are unprepared (even though obviously you know something is coming because you are training.) Have your partner withdraw the attacking limb as an aggressor will continue the attack or try to protect/withdraw his weapon to use it.
Legally speaking, what’s the best practice when using marital arts in a real world situation?
If avoidance, de-escalation and escape fail, the goal is never to waver about resorting to counter-violence in the face of violence. True self-defense focuses not simply on survival, but rather on how to neutralize the aggressor. There is no pity or humanity in a, perhaps, desperate visceral self-defense situation provided the counterforce is legally justifiable. Legally, you must be able to articulate what you did and why you did it. Your actions must be objectively reasonable to allow for an affirmative defense, should you face legal inquiry.
Counterattacks, especially using retzev continuous combat motion, must be considered and understood within a legal use of force context. When there is no choice but to use counter-force against a potential deadly force threat (whom cannot be reasoned with or otherwise deterred), you, the kravist train to temporarily incapacitate or, if necessary, maim an attacker. For civilian self-defense, we do not advocate in any way killing an attacker unless it is absolutely necessary and within the scope of deadly force encounter. To avoid legal ramifications, you must articulate why you injured an attacker.
It behooves us to once again remember how and why Krav Maga was developed. Of course, the answer is self-defense. However, it was a specific “battle zone” type of self-defense. Imi developed Krav Maga to contend with threats from hostile fellow civilians in pre-war Slovakia, terrorists, and enemy combatants all of who gave no quarter. Krav Maga’s founding philosophy and tactics recognized that legal liability and jeopardy were usually inapplicable, if not entirely irrelevant in those particular settings. Visceral counter-violence was generally both warranted and required to survive this type of violence. In such situations, there was just one overwhelming rule: survive.
Today, when civilians employ self-defense, rules govern the proportionality of permissible counter-force. Self-defense may be defined as reasonably necessary counter-force to protect yourself from suffering potential injury or death. If you use and claim self-defense, you will be scrutinized by the police and, quite possibly, the local prosecutor. They will examine closely if your self-defense actions justified and objectively reasonable.
Historically, threatening an individual verbally was an assault while unwanted touching or striking a person was battery. Assault and battery generally occurred together. In other words, physical contact to the body progresses the crime of assault into one of assault and battery. The three elements of battery (otherwise also known or synonymous with assault) are some iteration of:
In the United States, a physical attack (or even the threat of an attack) is usually classified as an assault, a battery, or both. The modern trend is to classify and physical attack as a type of assault. Some states alternatively define assault as an intentional act precipitating fear of imminent bodily harm inflicted by another person. As noted, increasingly, modern statutes do not distinguish between the crime of battery and assault. In other words, statutes often refer to physical violence crimes as assaults.
Depending on the gravity of the attack (including a weapon), an assault can be elevated to a level of aggravated assault. To convict a person of assault (or battery in some states), a prosecutor must prove all three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
an unlawful application of force
against the person of another
resulting in either bodily injury or an offensive touching.
Aggravated battery/assault is usually classified as a serious felony grade offense. This type of charge is likely to be sought when a battery/assault causes serious bodily injury or permanent disfigurement. Note in some states, shod feet used to kick someone, especially when the person is on the ground, may constitute an aggravated battery/assault. Alternatively, other statues recognize different levels of injury by classifying them as ascending order of seriousness: first (most serious), second, or third degree (less serious) assaults.
So, what are “reasonable force” parameters?
You must use only force that appears to reasonably be necessary to prevent the harm. You must not use force that is likely to cause death or seriously bodily injury unless you reasonably believe that you will be maimed or killed. Should you use more force than is necessary you will lose the privilege of self-defense.
Once again, for nondeadly force, the law generally recognizes that a person may use such force as reasonably necessary to thwart the imminent use of force against that person, short of deadly force. Understand that you may also step into the shoes of a third party to intervene using and meeting a specific state’s standard. The standard of reasonable force you are held will be that of a reasonably prudent person (found in the geographic area of the incident). What this means is the average juror may not – more likely will not – understand or fully appreciate the physical counter-measures you took. Therefore, you must articulate why you used anatomical targeting to stop the threat to absolve you of excessive force allegations.
What are some of the legal questions you could face if you had to defend yourself?
Legally, self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means you admit to (counter-) attacking the aggressor. You have the burden of proving you acted in self-defense and, crucially, that you were not the aggressor. To explain your actions, you need only to have a reasonable belief regarding the violent nature and danger of the other person’s actions. Importantly, apparent necessity, not actual necessity will suffice for a sustainable self-defense explanation.
You will have to articulate why you had no choice but to use counter-violence. You’ll have to explain the following four reasonable beliefs for a self-defense claim:
Intent (stated or evident goal of harming you)
Capability (has the prowess or tools to harm you)
No preclusion (retreat was not available to you)
Your legal justification for your self-defense actions may center on (1) how well can you articulate the reasons for your actions and (2) was your counterviolence warranted (using the reasonableness standard).
To justify your actions you’ll likely have to explain:
You recognize the difference between normal movements versus attack movements in a police statement and, possibly, a witness stand.
Your pre-existing learned knowledge of threats. In other words, you’ll likely need to explain your observations when another threatening person
presents counter-measures against initial safety measures you take in response;
develops proximity and ability to attack;
duplicates well-known threatening attack movement patterns.
Given the totality of the circumstances, why you reasonably believed you faced imminent and immediate physical danger.
In a preemptive self-defense situation where you use counter-violence, why an attack was not just possible, but, it was probable (i.e. when a person acts in a manner consistent with attack movements).
No reasonable preclusion (retreat) was available.
That you acted with objectively reasonable counter-force accounting for the fear and adrenaline (which can explain any inconsistencies between your perceptions/statements and video of actual incident) that affected your actions when confronting the danger.
Your goal and intent was to stop the threat, not to cause wanton injury.
In stopping the threat, you recognized the probable outcome of not stopping the threat (suffering a fractured eye orbit or broken nose, having your head smashed on the ground, being stomped, etc.)
Using a retzev counter-attack will invite acute legal scrutiny. For the average kravist, a retzev counter-attack of short-lived yet continuous explosive counter-violence is usually completed in as few as two to three seconds. In a violent crisis situation, there is no time to analyze what specific counter-attack might be optimum. You’ll need to defend yourself by counter-attacking whatever part of the attacker’s vulnerable anatomy is opportune to stop him.
It may be advisable that you provide preemptive answers to the representative police/prosecutor questions listed above without being asked should you decide to make a statement. It also may be advisable to exercise your rights as delineated in a Miranda warning not to make any statements until you consult with your attorney or are in the presence of an attorney. Note, that you should reflect on your analysis of the situation and subsequent actions as best as you can before answering questions or making a statement. If possible, wait until your adrenaline has subsided. Note, in a violent confrontation’s legal after-results, the person who first goes on the record with a more compelling story is likely to receive the benefit of the doubt.
If someone has a legacy of training in a particular martial arts style is Krav Maga even useful?
Yes, Krav Maga is a great “plug and play” for anyone with a self-defense or martial arts background. You can take the techniques you like or are easily integrated into your existing skill set. Conversely, you can discard or ignore those tactics one does not prefer. Stated alternatively, Krav Maga is a definite force multiplier. We have NFL players, MMA stars, and many other students who train in other styles. It is usually highly beneficial to add Krav Maga to any style. It will definitely bring utilitarian practicality and address modern concerns such as active shooter and other facets to one’s current self-defense and fighting discipline.
What are the fitness and health benefits to Krav Maga?
Increased self-confidence results from muscular development, weight loss, mental tenacity and endurance. In addition to developing confidence, Krav Maga is a great help in overcoming anxiety, providing stress relief. We’ve also seen people using Krav Maga for working to combat PTSD; and related mental and physical trauma.
If my child is getting bullied or doesn't feel safe at school, can Krav Maga be taught to children?
Yes, Krav Maga is recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education as the leading method of self-defense. Basic Krav Maga self-defense movements are highly effective at countering physical bullying tactics combined with enhanced physical fitness, balance, stretching, endurance, mental toughness all of which improve children’s other sporting abilities as well. The training heavily incorporates civic virtues.
How do you see the future of Krav Maga taking shape in the United States?
Statistics don’t lie. Unfortunately, you may be your first and last line of defense in an increasingly violent world. We must protect our own. Criminals, unfortunately, do not adhere to the social contract most of us honor. Yet, social violence is on the rise as well as people become less courteous and dominant minded.
Yet, unfortunately, we are concerned for the future of Krav Maga. Imi Lichtenfeld created too formidable a fighting method for it to be relegated to the pile of self-defense and exercise fads. Grandmaster Haim Gidon has spent fifty years enhancing Imi’s teachings and producing several generations of instructors who have both become and helped train some of Israel’s most capable and finest warriors.
With Krav Maga’s rapid commercialization and the spread of McDojos offering Krav Maga the U.S. military and law enforcement communities now, understandably, view Krav Maga somewhat skeptically. Krav Maga is also increasingly disparaged in varying degrees by professional mixed martial arts fighters. Fortunately, we are able to work with many of military units and law enforcement agencies along with serious fighters. We help them improve their skill sets and disabuse their pre-conceived ideas about Krav Maga’s inefficacy. However, we are fighting an uphill battle.
History of Krav Maga efficacy and its (im)proper dissemination will be the arbiter of what is and is not legitimate Krav Maga. The tragedy is that some lives will likely be lost along with people sustaining serious injuries because many current charlatan Krav Maga instructors do not understand what tactics work in real situations. In other words, while many of these dubious instructors may be well-intentioned, they don’t grasp that poorly conceived, untested tactics can get you severely injured or killed in short order.
Many people lay claim to being genuine—teaching and making statements that they say are true to the system. And, yet, much of the material is suspect and often undermines or contradicts Imi’s teaching and philosophies. In short, their teaching practices are questionable. More and more unqualified instructors are creating their own “Krav Maga” systems. Some of them sell Krav Maga belt rankings at all levels for anyone willing to pay including degrees and belts available for purchase on the Internet. No wonder Krav Maga is receiving negative reviews—and deservedly so. As Krav Maga becomes increasingly popular, we suspect that the Israeli fighting system’s reputation and efficacy will continue to decline internationally.
The Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) is the original governing body for Krav Maga, recognized by the Israeli government and headed by Grandmaster Haim Gidon. In June, 1996, Haim Gidon received his eighth dan (black belt), when Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld also declared that ninth and tenth dans (red belt) were to come. The only other instructor to formally receive an eighth dan from Imi was the late Eli Avigzar. Following in Imi’s legendary footsteps, after Imi’s passing in 1998, Haim became the highest-ranking Krav Maga instructor in the world.
Now, people seem to just make up whatever, often complicated, techniques they wish and call it Krav Maga. And the public, without professional insights, generally cannot distinguish the crucial difference. Some recent popular books and videos underscore a significant lack of understanding of what Krav Maga was originally intended to be. When instructors claim to have a “broader view” of Krav Maga and yet violate Krav Maga’s fundamental principles, we view this type of explanation and faulty-reasoning as an excuse for what they do not know.
Charles Caleb Colton is often quoted: “Imitation is sincerest of flattery.” People attempt to copy and replicate what Imi and a select few top instructors do. Some try to do it honorably, others less so. The Internet provides an unequaled platform to present claims and, one would hope, an equal opportunity to present indisputable facts to support these claims. We have always operated by the adage that the cream will rise to the top. Unfortunately, savvy marketing churns out sour cream—mistaken for superior cream—rather quickly.
We are acutely aware that popular opinion can, in fact, turn opinion into fact. We believe the Krav Maga community is entitled to informed opinions and hope to add to the process. Notwithstanding, the simple truism is correct: people do not know what they do not know. Sub-par Krav Maga may be viewed as competent Krav Maga because people do not know the difference. While there is more latitude in defending against an unarmed attack, sometimes the all-important subtleties that provide for a successful defense, rather than one that fails and possibly gets you killed, are not recognized. Which Krav Maga approach you follow is a life and death issue.
Good students ask why. Good instructors explain why. Bad instructors, conversely, brush off such vital questions or respond with “because that’s what I learned” as a result of a lack of fundamental knowledge.
THE “HOW” IS VITAL?
Among the many claimants to having the best and most effective Krav Maga, there are some who assert that Krav Maga need only provide a skeleton for defensive actions, a set of choices, as it were, that determine what response to use. If a situation calls for a kick, exactly how the kick should be delivered is not so important, and each teacher or practitioner is free to do the kick as he wishes. Or if a punch seems to be the best response to a threat, the exact way to deliver that punch is up for grabs. In other words, beyond calling for the use of feet or fists or elbows or knees, Krav Maga is represented as eclectic regarding how the response is carried out. I strongly disagree. How you carry out a defense is as important as what defense you choose.
Indeed, there is a correct way to deliver a combative such as a knee, a punch, a palm heel, an elbow, an eye gouge, or a Cavalier #1 takedown, along with the best way to bite someone (canting one’s head slightly to make maximum use of one’s incisors.) But how should we define “correct”? The correct way is the one that is most likely to stop the threat and keep you safe. Shouldn’t this be the acid test of the validity of a Krav Maga response to a threat?
Claiming that the details of techniques are secondary to overarching general principles is really a cover up for an instructor’s lack of knowledge when s/he performs a defense incorrectly. Imi Lichtenfeld developed specific movements to optimize the human body’s performance. Haim Gidon further optimized these movements while also enhancing and expanding the Krav Maga to contend with modern violent threats. There is the correct way (including on occasion, a few options) to execute a Krav Maga Imi-based defense. And then there is every other way.
Finally, many instructors focus purely on the commercial aspects, namely, (forgive the pun) adding the tag Krav Maga to their schools to capitalize on an industry buzz word. These schools are more focused on the money coming in than the quality of the material going out. If they were serious about teaching legitimate Krav Maga, they would do their research. They would engage a reputable Krav Maga organization. As this takes more time and effort than most care to invest, the easy path is taken at the literal and figurative expense of their earnest Krav Maga students.
Paramount, fighting for your life is not a sport. There is no referee or the ability to repeat “first down.” Should you decide or be compelled to act when faced with deadly force situation your life is on the line with, perhaps, the lives of your family or companions also hanging in the balance.
The goal of our training is to move you toward using a range of tools in such a way as to create defenses that really get the job done—safely and effectively for a maximum effect. We come back to Einstein: “If you don’t’ have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
Are law enforcement and military students of Krav Maga taught differently?
Krav Maga is often translated as “contact combat.” The meaning here is significant. Combat is a life-and-death battle devoid of rules. This is the fundamental military underpinning of the Krav Maga system’s methods and philosophy. It also takes into account limitations that may be imposed on the defender’s movements and flexibility due to equipment and weight loads, such as a duty belt, bulletproof vest, flak jacket, Kevlar helmet, or backpack. 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.
As emphasized, responsible people pursue Krav Maga training as a shield against violence, not as a weapon to orchestrate violence. Krav Maga training for civilians, law enforcement, and military personnel all share 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:
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. For civilians or law enforcement, 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.
For military personnel, Krav Maga focuses on lethal-force applications. These include the optimum offensive use of weaponry. Firearm or “hot weapon” lethal tactics, impact and edged-weapon lethal tactics, and techniques using all of your personal weapons—your limbs, head, teeth (if necessary)—are essential to professional Krav Maga training. Krav Maga employs specific methods to strangle an enemy combatant or sever his spinal cord. We do not publish these tactics for public consumption.
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 that readers understand their end goal and the force the state empowers them 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.
What is the likelihood that I'd ever need self-defense at all?
Hopefully you never will need to defend yourself or anyone else. And training might just ensure that you don’t need to because through training you can recognize a potentially violent situation to (1) avoid it; (2) de-escalate it; (3) escape it. Only if violence is unavoidable, is Krav Maga’s instinctive counter-violence summoned to end any violent encounter on your terms.
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. . 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.
What are some of the most common events that lead to violence?
Conflict De-escalation: 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 non-confrontational 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.”
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 (see pages ___).
Escaping Violence: 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.
How do I know if I have found a good Krav Maga school and what questions should I ask?
Be sure to vet the lineage of the instructors. If they have trained extensively with one of the major Israeli based Krav Maga associations (IKMA, IKMF, KMG or KMF) they are probably legitimate. Find out if they combine any other self-defense styles formally into their curriculum or if they use a time-honored Krav Maga curriculum. The school should have a safe operating record. If you note many injuries and a lack of control by the instructor and students when you begin your training, the operating environment may not be professional. It simply may not be safe. If they are confident in their training, they will not require you to sign a long-term contract. Our concept is that you should want to come to the training rather than feeling obligated because you must pay for it for months on end.