Teaching something arbitrarily is not only one of my pet peeves in martial arts but can also be extremely problematic to the learning process of your students or their personal safety.

This came up recently when working on a program for kids. The topic of the ground techniques came up.

Now of course in Krav maga we never intentionally go to the ground but we do understand it can happen. And our rule for the ground is get up as fast as you can using as much aggression and technique to achieve this goal.

In addition, we always encourage our students to supplement  their KM training with wrestling or BJJ just in case.

In our regular KM program we don’t even really look at take downs and techniques until orange belt.

This is because:

  1. We do Not want our students building the habit of thinking its ok to go to the ground. (This has happened for students who are shown ground stuff prematurely.) Holding it off allows us to drill into their heads do NOT go to the ground.
  2. It allows them to focus on their standing techniques prior to adding in the complexities of the ground which will reduce how much they learn and how proficient they can be with their standing techniques

But I digress, so back to the kids program. The other instructors were discussing ground techniques and saying hey this works or that works let me show you.

My response was, while it may work for you or me if we are teaching to kids who have not even gone through puberty and weigh from 60-100lbs they will not work for them if their attacked is a large adult male.

It actually made me quite annoyed that they continued to insist the techniques would work for kids but in reality if a 200lbs plus man takes down a child who is 60 lbs with the intent of harming them there really is little they can do. It is harsh but it is the reality of the ground and quite frankly physics.

To me it does far more harm to show a move and say this will work all the time than telling them the truth.

If you go down you must kick, scream, bite scratch and do everything in your power to create distance and draw attention to the situation so the child can escape plain and simple.

That to me is the reality of the ground for a child.

Perhaps it is because I also practice BJJ and simply have a better idea of ground fighting or maybe its something else.

I have personally sparred with much larger men in BJJ and let me tell you, even if I have more skill, the moment they get on top there is little I can do but defend my neck and limbs.  (I cannot bite, scratch or strike in BJJ). Even if you say, oh but in Krav Maga you can hit and strike, well guess what in real life so can they. So if a bigger stronger person with a little skill gets on top of even me and starts hitting me as well, it will be a very problematic situation. The ground and pound strategy can be extremely devastating.

In addition, I have also rolled with BJJ black belts and world champions and if someone who knows what to do get you on the ground you may feel like a fish out of water.

Reality often only comes from experience in the real world. As such teaching a technique because you were told, this is the technique for this, without testing it under various circumstances, body types and people is ridiculous and results in teaching your students something that give a false sense of security.

If you are teaching something simply because you feel you need to teach it then please stop, especially if you are teaching KM or self defense.

Example: A student or group wants to learn ground fighting for self defense but cannot even punch, move, stay balance or anything required for realistic defense against a violent and aggressive opponent. (I have taught to these kinds of groups, and my initial advice is run. because for them it is the most realistic option.)

For them, if they insist, the correct answer should be, “I am sorry but, if I cannot develop you properly then I am not interested in teaching you.” This is not only the correct response but also the responsible one

Saying, “ok I will teach you ground techniques for self defense because you are paying me and it is expected I teach you something,” is in my opinion, the wrong attitude to have. Because really, you are not teaching them reality based self defense you are teaching them to have a false sense of security which could result in a deadly encounter. Really and truly, for people who are not ready to deal with violent attacks, the best self defense advice you can give is, do not be in the situation in the first place and remain observant and vigilant. This is not victim blaming, this is simply reality!

It is also, a well known fact that I am not a fan of one time self defense seminars, as to me this is teaching arbitrarily. There is no realistic way a person can learn to defend themselves in a one hour session.

I have only been teaching for a few years and I cannot even count the amount of times a 100lb girl showed me a technique they learned in a “self defense” seminar only resulting with me wanting to face palm myself and taking time  to show them why that technique is quite frankly bullshit, or why it may have a low success rate.

If you are teaching techniques in the name of self defense with no sense of reality then in my mind you may be a causing more harm then good.

Imagine, teaching a technique to someone and telling them this will work every time.

Next week you hear they were in the hospital because their attacker was too big, too strong and the technique did not work.

How would that make you feel?

If you feel nothing then you are perhaps a sociopath.

For me if I find a better technique for a situation with a higher success rate then I immediately switch. I do not stick with a technique because that’s what my instructor told me or that’s what I have been doing for years or that’s what my affiliate organization is telling me to do.

In addition to this I recognize that some techniques work differently for different people as we are of all different shapes, sizes and athletic ability.

Sometimes a technique, while may work for 9 out of 10 people just doesn’t work for one person.

And of course while I strive to find the perfect techniques that work for everyone I know that this isn’t a reality. For those students who the move doesn’t work for we work together to find them one that does.

So if you are teaching any system or any move for arbitrary reasons it is fine by me so long as you are telling your students your style is artistic. However if you are teaching arbitrary techniques and calling it self defense or Krav Maga, I definitely have a problem and so should your students.

Jonathan Fader

Fyi…in the end for that specific program we decided not to teach ground techniques to kids who are not in high school with regards to self defense.

We would however verbally inform them the dangers and tell them to bite, scratch and hit while attempting to escape and calling for help.
Also I still encourage all parents out there to enroll their kids into BJJ programs as early as you can as it is an excellent style which I love and only increases the chances of your child survival if attacked. It does however take lots of practice and body awareness and not one or two self defense seminars that teach ground techniques that may or may not work.