Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Krav Maga

I have always wanted to learn the Israeli self-defense system Krav Maga and finally got around to taking my first training lesson today. If you are not familiar with this technique, you are not alone--although it is becoming more common in the United States. "Krav Maga" is the Hebrew name for "contact fight." It was originally developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and various branches of the security services by its creator, Grandmaster Imi Sde-Or, and was later adapted for civilians.

According to the book I bought after my lesson entitled Krav Maga: How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault, all Krav Maga techniques have been thoroughly tested in real-life situations. This sounded good to me. I listened to my instructor as he took me through a number of drills on various jabs, punches, and holds. I took Taekwondo years ago when living in New York and many of the movements came fairly naturally to me--but some did not and I realized that I would need a lot more practice.

What are the guiding principals of Krav Maga? From the book I mentioned above, they are:

Avoid injury! Carefully calculate the risks involved in a specific action, and avoid danger whenever possible; the Krav Maga techniques were developed as an extension of the body's natural reflexes; defend and counterattack in the shortest and most direct way possible, from any starting position, taking into consideration the safety and convenience of your action. Respond correctly, strike accordingly at any vulnerable point, use any tool or object available nearby for your defense and counterattack, there are no rules, technical limitations or sportsmanship restrictions, and finally, the underlying principal in training: advancing from closed skill to open skill (incorporating "mental training"), and from a single , specifically defined technique to improvised action in accordance with the dynamics of the situation.


Uh, okay, I guess once I have all of the above mastered, I will be on my way. It might take a while but I look forward to my next lesson!

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63 Comments:

Blogger Donna said...

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5:22 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Donna said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:24 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Donna said...

I'm very interested to hear how the rest of this goes. I have been considering taking up Krav Maga for a while but my time is limited (working on the PhD and dh is deployed). Please keep us all informed on how the classes are, the training, etc.

5:26 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Donna,

Yes, I will try to update more on my lessons--I am doing them privately due to my own time constraints and the fact that with my heart problems, I cannot do the cardiovascular moves that a class would entail. I really did find it useful--maybe I could make a video at some point. I just did a total of six or so moves and they were simple and easy to learn. So far, I would definitely recommend it if you would like to learn or improve your self defense skills.

6:06 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger papabear said...

Krav Maga techniques have been thoroughly tested in real-life situations.

Dr. Helen--the book may claim this, but from what I've read in reality-based fighting forums, the quality of individual instructors (and the reliability of the techniques they impart) really does vary--some teach that high kicks to the head are an effective self-defense move (and you can even see this in you-tube videos), but this is a big no-no. Similarly, kicking a knife out of someone's hand.

6:17 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Papabear,

Thanks for the tips.

6:26 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger WhidbeyIslander said...

Good fortune in your training! ("Good luck" sounds sarcastic.)

I studied Tae Kwon Do years ago while I was in the US Army in Korea. Now that I am an older guy, I am studying Aikido and Kenjutsu. (Less hitting, more throwing and immobilizing.) My wife got me started and now loves the fact that she outranks me.

I think just having worked seriously and persistently in many martial arts puts you ahead of 90% of the population--it makes you less a target for predators who seek out the weak. And I think that working against an armed opponent is invaluable in desensitizing yourself to the panic that grabs you when you see a blade on a gun.

7:38 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Scottish said...

In all candor, I'm uncomfortable with this entire line of discussion. As a Christian, if attacked, I will depend on Jesus as my primary line of defense. Violent self-defense is not something I could master. If I'm wrong, fine. I will pay the price for my belief. But to just assume I'm at the mercy of an existentialist universe is something I can't bear.

7:44 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Sparks said...

What prompted your interest in this? Where you impressed with the techniques of The Zohan?

By the way, you're hair looks so silky smooth!! :-)

8:03 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger WhidbeyIslander said...

scottish;

I think that many Christians would disagree with you on the morality of eschewing self-defense. I also am a Christian. I have found Aikido consistent with my beliefs and ethics as a softer martial art. (A close friend is a Pastor, former Marine, and a Kempo master.)

Allowing yourself to be a victim does nothing to protect those helpless ones who will be victimized after you.

Real violence is never a comfortable topic. Training to confront and restrain violence is never an easy or comfortable path.

8:52 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger TJIC said...

Scottish said...

In all candor, I'm uncomfortable with this entire line of discussion. As a Christian, if attacked, I will depend on Jesus as my primary line of defense. Violent self-defense is not something I could master. If I'm wrong, fine. I will pay the price for my belief. But to just assume I'm at the mercy of an existentialist universe is something I can't bear.


It's your right to turn the other cheek.

However...what if there are women or children who need to be protected? In that case, as a good Samaritan and a good steward, it's your duty (I suggest) to act to defend them.

Also, recall Jesus' words in Luke 22:36 where he commanded his apostles: "sell your cloaks and buy swords".

If Jesus has commanded his followers to arm themselves so that they may defend themselves from violence, how do you justify your stance?

10:06 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger br549 said...

whidbeyislander, out of curiosity, I assume you are aware of NBBB. As one who deals with them often, having a couple friends there because of it, I wonder if you may spend say, about 5 or 6 days a week there yourself?

10:24 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger br549 said...

I wouldn't mind being in good shape, Dr. Helen, if it wasn't so much work.

I have found cheap cologne to be a great self defense tactic.

10:36 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger WhidbeyIslander said...

br594;

I haven't the least idea what you mean by NBBB. National Bureau of Better Business? New Birth Brass Band?

Sorry to disappoint you.

2:29 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger br549 said...

Nichols Bros. Boat Builders.

6:18 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Now you have something in common with Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Lopez!

I see that Krav Maga has an official website.

I would just add that the hero of today's today's terror attack used a different form of self-defense - a pistol.

10:49 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Sloan said...

Jesus's directive to "turn the other cheek" has been commonly understood to apply to issues on the level of personal insult or minor injury, NOT to situations where the life and well-being of you or those around you is threatened.

We do not just stand by and let evil happen. We have not only a right, but a responsibility to defend our own lives and if possible to defend the lives of others, using force if necessary. THAT is the true, historical Christian position.

I don't know why so many Christians find this so difficult to understand.

10:58 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Sloan said...

Dr. Helen, I think you could be well-served by Krav Maga. In the martial arts "community" it's generally regarded as a good, practical, common-sense system.

Care must be taken to find a good, qualified, reputable instructor, as the martial arts world is notoriously rife with charlatans and con artists. After eight years of karate training and three years of Katori Shinto Ryu bujutsu (traditional Japanese weapons), I've come to believe that, generally speaking, finding a good instructor is more important than the type of system you choose to study.

11:05 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Charlie on the PA Turnpike said...

Doctor,

Since others have similarly chimed in, I will as well: I have been studying Taekwondo for about 5 years now, and expect to test for my black belt early next year.

I have been curious of Krav Maga, perhaps as the next thing for me.


Until then, I hope you won't mind if I live vicariously through your training.

11:07 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Kevin M said...

I have heard of Krav Maga but have never seen it practiced. I have no doubt that the Israelis take it very seriously, and with good reason. I have also heard of a Russian martial art that specializes in close-quarter conflict (like you’re fighting someone in a phone booth or elevator). I took Taekwondo lessons for 5 years and never liked it. It is a very effective martial art, but its entire structure is based on putting somebody in the emergency room in 10 seconds or less. I much preferred aikido, where at least you are not compelled to sink to the level of your attacker in order to defend yourself. I am currently shopping around for Brazilian jujitsu lessons.

When a person decides to study a martial art, there are many factors that will determine his or her success, and the first I would recommend is taking stock of your personal values and see if they are in harmony with the martial art you are looking at.

I witnessed a street fight once between a 2nd degree black belt in gojun-ryu karate and a street thug. When it was done, many of the witnesses were unsure who should be hauled off to jail. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for all martial arts. But after witnessing a demonstration by the head instructor of a New Hampshire aikido school, who offered free lessons (a $1,400/year value at the time) to any THREE men who could just trip her or tip her over (five-foot-five and maybe 130 pounds), and then watched three very large men panting in exhaustion on the mat after spending some time flying through the air, my mind was made up.

I have a very dear woman friend who is quite petite who just got her black belt in taekwondo, and she positively loves it. It’s a personal choice, you have to like your instructor and you have to truly enjoy the endless hours practicing your skills.

There is no ultimate martial art, only a set of techniques and an attitude you must be comfortable in taking into your heart.

12:53 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Kevin M said...

Dear Dr. H:

One tiny footnote re the aspect of "mental training."

It is long out-of-print, and difficult to find, but there was a book written by Gregori Raipport called "Red Gold." Raipport was the sports psychologist for the Russian and E. German Olympic teams during the 80s when the Russians were taking all the Gold medals. I lucked out and got a mint copy (autographed!) for $2.00, but you will find most copies go for well over $100. Any person involved in a physical sport or martial art will find this book full of mental focus training techniques that are nothing short of astounding. If you can find it, you will find it fascinating and very helpful.

My old taekwondo class read it and did the "Useless Routine" exercise over one month. The results were completely unpredictable, and yet uniform throughout the class. This Raipport guy was some kind of a visionary in his field.

Just a suggestion.

1:56 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Kevin M said...

spelling error

s/b Grigori Raiport, M.D., Ph.D.

just found two copies on abebooks.com. Both around $125.

2:20 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

Helen and al y'all:
To see a good demo of Krav Maga- taught by real Israeli instructors, google the Krav Maga episode of a Discovery Channel show called the "Human Weapon" . I think the History Channel also had a show where 2 American martial arts students went to various countries and studied with famous , legitimate instructors in various countries. They too had a Krav Maga episode. I dont remember the exact name of the show right now, but I will find it and post links to both Krav Maga episodes here this evening when I return home.

2:58 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger WhidbeyIslander said...

br549;

Alas, I must commute off-island to earn my keep. I do know a couple of people who have worked there (before and after the ownership change) and a woman who is trying her best to shut them down with environmental challenges.

Any further comments are really off-topic and should be directed to berylg(at)gmail.com.

3:19 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Kevin M,

Thanks for the book recommendation--sounds like a good one.

4:51 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger P. Rich said...

There is one itty bitty problem with any form of hand-to-hand self-defense. If you are using it, it means that the bad guy is close enough to hurt you. And he won't be playing by any rules either.

There's a kind of romantic attraction to the martial arts which causes many people to become involved essentially as a hobby. That's dangerous if they expect it to protect them in a life-threatening situation. There are positives for becoming involved, but for most people it isn't "self-defense".

The most important lesson, but one which doesn't maintain the schools and feed the instructors is, "Always think defensively and be willing to go to extremes to avoid dangerous situations. Paranoia is your friend." The second is, "If a dangerous situation is brewing, run away, immediately and by any means available." The third and final rule is, "If it's too late to avoid an imminent threat to you or your loved ones, get out the gun and be willing and able to use it." There are no other rules.

6:08 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger P. Rich said...

A very old joke goes something like this:

A yuppie is someplace he shouldn'y be and is confronted by a large, dirty, threatening person. The yuppie assumes a classic stance and yells, "Karate!"

The thug, unimpressed, responds, "Tire tool." and proceeds to beat the crap out of the yuppie.

Understand the contradiction:

If you ever allow yourself to get into the yuppie's situation, your martial arts training has already failed and you are in a desperate and potentially fatal scenario. And this is potentially the best case scenario. What if there are three or four of them? Gonna beat em up? Not likely.

OK. I think I've been critical enough for one day. Cheers, y'all.

6:20 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Kevin M said...

p rich:

You're darker than German chocolate.

7:40 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

Yup, study Krav maga or Kyokushin Karate or Ju-Jutsu, but make sure you also practice your gun-handling skills.

8:18 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger George Weiss said...

krav maga means "close contact not "contact fight"

9:04 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger P. Rich said...

I am rather fond of dark German chocolate.

Reasons to take such a course, and applicability to Helen:

- Learn self-defense N/A
- Exercise N/A
- Develop mental discipline N/A
- General interest yes
- Cultural factors yes
- Social occasion yes
- Learn specific situation evaluation and avoidance techniques yes, if taught

Posit a confrontation:

Person A: 6 foot 20-something male, wiry, quick, merciless, 10 years of street fighting experience and gang activities, carrying a large knife

Person B: middle-aged female, poor physical condition, slow reflexes, no real fighting experience, carrying a purse or shopping packages, in instant literal shock at being threatened

Want to lay odds on the outcome, whether or not Person B has nad "self-defense" training? Like I said, too late; and no classes are going to change that assessment. A much more useful course of instruction (if the intent is to survive on the street) would focus on awareness, recognition, escape and avoidence techniques combined with firearms instruction and range practice.

For aging first-timers, that other stuff is just for entertainment. It can be enjoyed as long as it is not allowed to create a false sense of security.

The point is not to rain on the parade. It's to make clear that parades are for fun and enjoyment, not life and death situations.

More chocolate, please.

9:53 PM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger WT said...

...awareness, recognition, escape and avoidence techniques combined with firearms instruction and range practice.

Don’t forget a fighting mindset, which is probably the most difficult thing of all to cultivate.

For a woman, the disparity of force in a physical confrontation with a male is so great that she will often have to rely on some sort of weapon. Even so, unarmed techniques are still valuable because one may not always have access to a weapon or there may be a struggle over a weapon.

Unarmed martial arts training should be understood in the context of fighting as a whole, the continuum of force. Many “martial arts” practitioners (and instructors) have little if any understanding of the moral and legal aspects of the use of force, unrealistic expectations from their training and unrealistic assessments of their capabilities. And actually, much the same can be said for people who rely solely on firearms.

Any so-called martial art that does not have a full-contact sparring component to the training is not useful for self defense applications. If you are afraid to get hit, slammed, choked or jointlocked at full power in a training situation, then you are probably going to fare very poorly when the situation is real. No pain, no gain. If you are unable or unwilling to train with that kind of intensity, then all you are doing is burning calories, you are not really learning how to fight.

That being said, some kind of training is probably better than nothing at all. As with many skills, you can endeavor to be good, or just be good enough.

I am very unimpressed with Krav Maga and some of the videos I have seen were downright ludicrous, but to each their own. It does seem to be popular at the moment.

12:27 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger P. Rich said...

Many good points, wt.

1:11 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

George Weiss,

"krav maga means "close contact not "contact fight""

According to the manual I have written by the man who founded it, it is "known in Israel and worldwide by its Hebrew name: "Krav Maga" (contact fight). Found on page XIII in the book I referenced in the post.

6:10 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

P. rich you make several good points as well. I wonder how much time martial arts instructors spend in possible life-threatening situations. Probably not much.

If one wishes to avoid trouble, they should spend time learning what trouble looks like and then doing everything in their power to get out of harm's way. Once an offensive stance is taken by a potential victim all bets are off. The attacker has several options: Bring out a weapon, engage the help of his buddies, keep kicking until the victim is dead. Nobody wins in a street fight.

There is also the problems that arise if you survive. Your attacker and his mother will change the story, and it becomes he said she said. Then YOU get to hire a lawyer and play defense.

If you aren't ready to handle the hood, your best bet is not to go there. If you venture in, then take a few minutes to learn its etiquette beforehand. It's amazing how many people don't do this.

8:30 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Charlie on the PA Turnpike said...

Speaking for myself and in regards to my Taekwondo training, we also study Hapkido, which is a grappling martial art. Part of the Black Belt test the instructor holds involves a student standing on one end of the floor. Without (specific) warning, the instructor comes from behind and puts the student into a head-lock and begins to drag him/her backwards. If he succeeds in dragging the student more than half-way, the test ends and the student does not pass.

To p.rich and others who have raised concern about a person - whether Dr. Helen or anyone else - going against a hardened criminal with years of street fighting: while any Martial Art training would not guarantee a success in the defense of such an attack, the odds shift in favor of any such student when compared to those who have never trained. If sufficiently threatened, a well-delivered kick could enable the victim enough time to run away.

Alternatively, it could be argued that a poor kick would merely enrage the attacker, but if you have reached the threatened-threshold, it may well be worth the risk.

8:44 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Ira said...

I don't know the worth of krav maga in civilian life, but have two sons in an urban warfare special forces unit of the Israeli army (one active, one finished). Krav maga is the most hated aspect of their training as it requires you to hit and be hit - mercilessly. The basic motivation is to be able to get free of an Arab mob when you are without your gun. The soldiers are reminded that many Palestinian youths have, by the time they are 16, castrated a donkey and slaughtered many sheep. Holding back and being too calculating will just get you killed. It is a very successful military technique that has saved many of soldier's life. Civilian use? Could be.
Good luck with it and I hope you don't ever need to use it as my sons have.

8:46 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger br549 said...

I can't help but wonder if we will all need to know and martial arts at one time or another - or sooner or later.

I was mugged by five people once in broad daylight, in a hotel parking lot in Memphis. I don't know about martial arts. I do know if I had a pistol I would have used it. At least five shots, anyway. With three babies at home (at the time) they're all that kept running through my mind.

2:58 PM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger George Weiss said...

helen

whatever.

krav is the hebrew word for "close"
maga means contact.

you can translate literally or figuratively-and i doubt this marital arts expert is a language expert in any case.

11:26 PM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Jason said...

You know, every time I go take a violin lesson, or a martial arts lesson or anything else, I always think about Bernadette Peters telling Steve Martin, "You know how you always tell me 'take unneccessary lessons?' Well I. Just. Took. A. Lesson!"

:-)

12:25 PM, July 04, 2008  
Blogger Alcibiades said...

krav is the hebrew word for "close"

There are two roots that are homonyms.

Krav also means battle or combat and is an old word.

I did krav mega for over a year, Helen and I loved every minute of it. Keep meaning to get back to it. Good luck.

10:38 PM, July 05, 2008  
Blogger Jack said...

I have a number of friends who have been taking Krav Maga for years.

When we were in college a man tried to mug one of them. Thanks to his training they were unsuccessful.

Did I mention that when the police arrived they tried to arrest my friend. When they saw the mugger they assumed that he was the victim.

12:11 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger 1charlie2 said...

Impressive. Also painful.
Good luck with your training. Hope your instructor is good.

Remember the #1 rule: "Krav maga is not an art "

6:47 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Sparks said...

1charie2... I thought the first rule of Krav maga is "you don't talk about krav maga".

:-)

What's with people throwing up these straw man arguments about "6 foot thug with a tire iron vs sickly old lady that took a Tai Chi class... who do you think is going to win." The point of martial arts training isn't do turn anybody into a guaranteed destructive force against any opponent.

P. Rich, at 41, I started taking some Judo, and I'm sure that today that if I end up in some close contact with somebody that wants to hurt me that I'm probably better off than I was before I took Judo.

I learned a few things. I'm more comfortable with close contact, I'm much better off knowing what to do if somebody grabs me, quicker reflexes and I'm probably a bit quicker at dodging somebody if they come after me and deflecting them away, and if I do get the better of them, I know better how to keep them down on the ground until help arrives. In fact, I bet I know better how to seriously incapacitate them should I get the better of them.

Part of learning martial arts is that your body is learning things and with constant practice, they become ingrained reflexes. Somebody grabs your arm, and your body reacts in a defensive way.

You know there are 70+ year old ladies that get mugged and somehow manage to get the better of the muggers. I've read a few stories about how the pocketbook became a weapon. Not every streetwise mugger is a trained killer. Some of them can be shaken up quite a bit by an uncooperative victim. They sometimes rely on the victim to be totally scared and helpless. When they come across somebody who doesn't show fear and can make their lives difficult, they might decide to run off and find an easier target before they get hurt themselves.

8:14 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Sparks,

Thanks for your intelligent and sensible comments. People think that one has to be perfect to foil a mugger or street thug but it's just not true. Many are scared, high, and/or not thinking and are easily startled or intimidated if their target does not play out the script they have in their head (victim is only passive, helpless and shaken). Each situation is different and it is good to know a variety of skills that can help us cope should we become the victim of a crime.

6:24 AM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger WT said...

“You know there are 70+ year old ladies that get mugged and somehow manage to get the better of the muggers.”

Those examples make the news precisely because of how rare they are. There are far more 70+ year old ladies that have been thoroughly brutalized.

”Not every streetwise mugger is a trained killer.”

But quite a few of them are. They are certainly more common than septuagenarian ninja grandmothers. You are better off if you treat all attackers as if they were dangerous. Why would you want to assume your attacker is incompetent and timid?

”When they come across somebody who doesn't show fear and can make their lives difficult, they might decide to run off and find an easier target before they get hurt themselves.”

”Many are scared, high, and/or not thinking and are easily startled or intimidated if their target does not play out the script they have in their head...”

Maybe. Hopefully. If every attacker was as incompetent and timid as these examples, one would hardly need to train at all.

If you are at the point of having to use physical force to defend yourself, your bluff has already been called. They picked you because they are reasonably sure they can handle you i.e. they are some combination of bigger, stronger, more numerous or have weapons. They often have the advantage of surprise. They prefer to stack the odds in their favor.

In most cases, relying on unarmed fighting to defend against violent criminal attack really should be a desperate measure of last resort, not a primary plan of self-defense.

Again, some training is probably better than none at all, but being honest with yourself and truly understanding your capabilities and limitations is paramount.

Take care.

WT

6:16 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Jack said...

They picked you because they are reasonably sure they can handle you

Maybe they did and maybe they didn't. You know the point of martial arts is not solely about learning to defend yourself.

There are health benefits that come alongside the training. And the truth of the matter is that the odds of being attacked are small, but all of us WILL face some sort of health issue.

So why not take advantage of something the serves dual purposes and offers so many benefits.

2:49 AM, July 08, 2008  
Blogger WT said...

Many apologies in advance for being long winded, but I have a keen interest in this subject.

”You know the point of martial arts is not solely about learning to defend yourself.”

Perhaps, but it should be primarily about defense. All the other benefits are tangential. If you cannot defend yourself using what you have learned, then it is dishonest to call it “self defense” or “martial” arts. It is more like an exotic type of aerobics combined with fantasy role playing. Unfortunately, the primary goal of many martial arts schools is making money, not making fighters.

”There are health benefits that come alongside the training.”

Of course. And there are health benefits in riding your bicycle to the park but that doesn’t mean you are ready for the Tour de France.

”So why not take advantage of something the serves dual purposes and offers so many benefits.

I agree. This was never in dispute. I never tried to dissuade the good doctor from training. My biggest complaint about much martial arts training is that so much of it is ineffective for self defense purposes and really is primarily about health and self esteem (which is fine and good, but should not be confused with proficiency in fighting). There are plenty of healthy women (and men) with tons of self esteem that still can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

The health benefits are a positive byproduct of the training but it is not the whole point of the training, at least not for me. For many others, it is their primary goal. More power to them. I just can’t take those people seriously when the subject of actual fighting comes up. Regardless, Krav Maga’s claim to fame is that it is specifically self defense oriented.

I know little about Krav Maga other than what I have seen on videos. I was interested in it because it seems as though they do indeed have defense foremost in mind and attempt to address the subject of modern weapons and improvised weapons, which is a good approach. However, some of the techniques I saw demonstrated were far fetched, specifically: certain firearms disarms.

Most martial arts do a very poor job of teaching knife or firearms disarms because the people teaching these techniques often have little or no experience with real weapons, firearms in particular. Combine that with their penchant for static training drills with compliant opponents, and you have a recipe for disaster. There are no health advantages to learning something that is going to get you shot or stabbed full of holes.

As far as I can tell, Krav Maga appears to be a blanket term for multiple styles of hybrid combatives originating in Israel. It’s difficult to critique because there appears to be more than one version of the program. I tend to be skeptical of the latest fad, and the martial arts world is full of fads and charlatans. There is a lot of reinventing the wheel. People have been shooting, stabbing and/or beating the snot out of each other for thousands of years and suddenly, someone has come up with a new way? I tend to doubt it, but I am willing to take a look.

Krav Maga claims real world applicability, so health benefits aside, I have tried to evaluate those claims. So far, I am unimpressed with what I have seen. This is not to say that it is worthless, nor is it a slam on anyone personally. Dr. Helen’s interest in self defense is a positive thing. Many women don’t bother to take responsibility for their own safety in this context and I think that is a mistake, not just for themselves but society as a whole. Perhaps what I have seen is not truly representative of the Krav Maga system, but I can’t look at extravagant claims without a substantial amount of skepticism. I would hope that anyone investing time and money in training would be the same way.

Dr. Helen, I enjoy your blog and I wish you well with your training. I hope that my comments are taken in the spirit with which they were intended and not as a personal attack of any kind.

Regards,

WT

10:41 PM, July 08, 2008  
Blogger Jack said...

Perhaps, but it should be primarily about defense. All the other benefits are tangential. If you cannot defend yourself using what you have learned, then it is dishonest to call it “self defense” or “martial” arts.

You can defend yourself with Krav Maga. It is simple and effective, provided that you don't lose your head. And that is a key component of any self defense program. If you lose your cool, you're done.

Unfortunately, the primary goal of many martial arts schools is making money, not making fighters.

I don't have a problem or disagreement with that. But we don't live in Sparta, so most people don't have a need to be turned into fighters.

And there are health benefits in riding your bicycle to the park but that doesn’t mean you are ready for the Tour de France.

I don't think that anyone claimed otherwise.

My biggest complaint about much martial arts training is that so much of it is ineffective for self defense purposes and really is primarily about health and self esteem

I learned the hard way that until you get hit in a real fight you don't really know how you'll react.

Take a shot in the mouth, gut, whatever and then see what you do. (That is a generic comment, not directed at you.)

What was that line from Batman Begins "The training is nothing! The will is everything!"

I tend to be skeptical of the latest fad,

Quite reasonable. Krav Maga is not new. Been around for decades. If you look at the timeline you'll get a better sense of it.

Dr. Helen's lucky to get two long winded commenters, ;).

If you really want to dig into self defense...

I don't have a problem with gun ownership, but I think that too many people rely too heavily on having a gun.

The great eqaualizer can be the overstated.

12:57 AM, July 09, 2008  
Blogger Jason said...

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2:10 AM, July 09, 2008  
Blogger WT said...

“If you lose your cool, you're done.”

I wholeheartedly agree and this is going back to what I said about mindset.

“But we don't live in Sparta, so most people don't have a need to be turned into fighters.”

Is this in the Krav Maga brochure or something? You are the second person who has said this to me regarding KM training. In any case, training to take on multiple armed attackers seems pretty Spartan to me. Your definition of “fighter” or “martial” probably differs from mine as well. Why not take up running or swimming instead? Those are both life saving skills with health benefits, after all.

KM is based on a modern military combatives system, so presumably, people who are interested in it are not interested in new age hippy, quasi-religious, mystical oneness with the universe. They are not interested in trophies. They are not interested in fitness, per se. They want no-nonsense fighting. I tend to think that we as a nation could be better served with a more Spartan attitude, quite frankly.

I do understand your point, and I would refer you back to my comments on striving to be “good”, vs being satisfied with being “good enough” as well as understanding one’s capabilities and limitations.

‘...that doesn’t mean you are ready for the Tour de France.’

“I don't think that anyone claimed otherwise.”

Perhaps not explicitly here in this comment thread, but that is analogous to Krav Maga’s promotional claims that anyone, regardless of age, sex or physical condition, can successfully disarm multiple and/or weapon wielding adversaries. These are not trivial tasks. Unarmed defense versus edged weapons, clubs and firearms is quite difficult and often the consequence for failure is death or serious, crippling injury. This is a controversial claim, to say the least.

“I learned the hard way that until you get hit in a real fight you don't really know how you'll react.”

Agreed. Which is why I feel that full contact sparring is essential in this type of training. People who full contact spar have actually been hit at full power or pretty close. They know how they will react. In the KM video demonstrations I have seen, there has been little or no full contact. Krav Maga likes to pride itself on not having any rules, competitions or injuries, but what that tells me is that they are appealing to people who are really afraid to test themselves. This is the classic “My art is too deadly for the ring” excuse, used by many “martial artists” who have never really been hit, have compliant training partners and make all kids of excuses why they can’t prove their claims.

Take a shot in the mouth, gut, whatever and then see what you do.

I agree, but I have yet to see a Krav Maga demonstration where this actually takes place.

What was that line from Batman Begins "The training is nothing! The will is everything!"

An enjoyable film, but I don’t agree with the sentiment. Will is very important, but it is not sufficient by itself. Training is not “nothing”. If that were true, one could successfully confront violence with nothing more than fervent prayer. Will is useless without ability and vice versa.

“Krav Maga is not new. Been around for decades.”

“New” is a relative term. I had heard of it years ago but it seems that it has surged in popularity in the US recently. Besides, “decades” is new when compared to thousands of years of history, and I haven’t seen anything in Krav Maga that makes me think “Wow, that is a really novel and superior method of kicking someone in the balls”. In fact, every time I see one of their demonstrations, I think “Nobody is actually hitting or getting hit. It is all make believe”.

“Dr. Helen's lucky to get two long winded commenters, ;).”

Talent is recognizable not only by quality but also by the quantity it yields. ;)

“I don't have a problem with gun ownership, but I think that too many people rely too heavily on having a gun.”

I certainly agree. However, I also think that if one is truly serious about self defense, then firearms training is a must. Too many people swear by either their kung fu or their pistol but the truth is that neither one of those completely addresses the issue alone. One or the other is not always sufficient or appropriate. It is a good thing that KM makes an effort to integrate firearms and other common weapons into their other training, and it was that aspect that got me interested in it. But the quality of that training is not especially good from what I have seen on video. (Condition 3 carry? Huh?! And don’t get me started on these disarms).

The question remains: how serious do you want to be with all this? Said another way, how “Spartan” do you want to be? After all, there are only so many hours in the week and most people have other things they would like to do with their free time.

I can honestly say Krav Maga is not the worst martial art I have seen, not by a long shot. I have seen elements of KM that I really liked and I’ve been disappointed in many other aspects of it. I don’t think I have seen any systems that do not have shortcomings of one kind or another. My biggest specific criticism of KM is that pretending that weapons disarms or multiple opponents are relatively easy problems is irresponsible. I don’t think it can be said often enough: taking on armed opponents is serious business. Hand to hand fighting is an athletic endeavor. People who tell you that they can teach anyone to be effective in those situations regardless of age, sex or athleticism are being either naive or dishonest. This is not to say you shouldn’t address these situations, or that these are hopeless predicaments with no chance of survival, but they are dire situations that require extensive training in order to prevail, so claims like that are false advertising to me.

I want to thank you for this civil and rational debate on this topic. All too often, people get extremely defensive and start resorting to ad hominem when their pet style is called into question. By the way some of those so-called martial artists act, I can tell that they wouldn’t last one minute in a real confrontation if they can’t even handle some legitimate disagreement over the internet. I’m glad to see that isn’t the case here.

Take care.

WT

9:35 PM, July 09, 2008  
Blogger Jack said...

I want to thank you for this civil and rational debate on this topic.

No reason to get excited about a disagreement. I'd love for you to look at KM and agree with me. I don't think that the website does a good job of really showcasing what it offers.

But that is neither here nor there.

Life would be exceptionally boring if everyone shared the same thoughts and opinions.

Ultimately I think that agree on the bigger picture and just have some differences on some of the details.

Be well.

4:27 AM, July 10, 2008  
Blogger Davidx said...

Good luck in your training; I hope you find it rewarding. I have trained in Krav Maga in Knoxville for six years and learned a lot.

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10:51 PM, April 21, 2009  
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5:12 AM, June 08, 2009  
Blogger serket said...

There is also a Filipino martial arts called Eskrima. I am a skinny man and don't have much strength and sometimes I worry about what would happen if I were attacked. I have family members that have studied martial arts (although I'm not sure what type it was). Plus my dad and his brothers fought a lot when they were teenagers and one of my uncles has been in many fights as an adult. I think it is important to know some basic techniques. Most of the time you are going to run into a common thug. It is rare to run into an experienced street fighter and generally they probably don't go after random strangers. Plus martial arts can be a good exercise. My uncle's wife is roughly 5'8, 150 pounds, and I bet she could handle herself against most men. If the Israeli military and police require training for it, then I imagine it has been shown to have positive results. The name in Hebrew means "Hand-to-hand combat." Krav (קרב) meaning "combat" or "battle" and Maga (מגע) meaning "contact" or "touch".

P.S. Helen - Since you have moderation on, I'll add another comment: In the "Krav Maga" post there are several Chinese spams that you should delete.

10:23 PM, August 04, 2009  

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