Back in 2008, the TV series Fight Quest (2007-2008) featured an episode on Krav Maga. I have been meaning to write a commentary on both this and the Krav Maga episode in Human Weapon (2007) for quite some time. These shows were great for publicity and getting people aware of and interested in Krav Maga.
However, some things can be misleading or confusing without more background information. Only so much can be fit into 40 minutes. Thus, I want to give some perspective and feedback based on my experience with the people and training in Israel. I hope you take the time to watch it the episode in addition to reading this article – I’ve linked to YouTube below, and hopefully it doesn’t get taken down.
As usual, this episode shows co-hosts Doug and Jimmy split up and sent to train with different instructors. Jimmy goes to train with Ran Nakash, an Israeli cruiserweight boxer and, at the time of filming, head of the IDF Krav Maga training program at Wingate institute, as well as one of the founding members of KMI. Doug goes to train with Avavit Cohen, one of the top female instructors in the world who trains under Haim Zut of KMF (Haim along with Imi was one of the original Krav Maga/KAPAP masters) as well as KMI. I am not entirely sure if the KMF seen in the show is the same as the KMF with Rhon Mizrachi, but I think they are separate. See how things can get confusing in the Krav Maga world?
01:32 “All combos start with groin kicks.” This is not necessarily the case. While the groin kick is the number one kick in Krav Maga, it is an advised starting option when possible, but is not always possible. Just because it is preferred does not mean all combos start with it. There are many situations in which kicks are not possible, such as if we are in the wrong range from the start.
02:10 At the time of filming, Ran Nakash was the head of IDF training at Wingate, but this can be a misleading note. There are many “heads” of IDF Krav Maga training and the true head often rotates around. In addition, the IDF base in Wingate is not the only place people in the IDF train. Most Special Forces learn far more comprehensive and advanced Krav Maga from the counterterrorism school at “Camp Adom.” (This is also where I spent 2 months of my IDF training in sniper school.) Although both are part of the IDF, there is a clear rift between the two schools due to differing mentalities and approaches. Instructors at Wingate only have to do a 6-week course and often had previous martial arts experience. Instructors at Camp Adom often have an extensive martial arts background and were first-hand -counterterrorism soldiers. They are far superior to the more advanced forms of training. Nir Maman of CT707 ran this program for a time and he is a better source contact for more specific info.
02:40 Jimmy dons the IDF work uniform or Uniform B. This is the standard army uniform when on base in training. Nothing fancy for the IDF, just olive drab. The thick material makes them durable, but from time to time they tear or rip. Have fun trying to get new ones when in training.
03:08 Ran is speaking English. Normally, such courses would be taught in Hebrew as commanders and instructors are only suppose to speak Hebrew. However, Israeli people learn English for most of their education, so it can be easily understood by many but not all in the IDF. I often spoke English to my commanders and they spoke Hebrew to me since it was far easier under stress to communicate in such a manner.
04:00 “Krav Maga is also a mentality, and the key word is aggression.” This is especially true for military-style Krav Maga.
04:20 It is common to spar wearing full body armour and boxing gloves in military Krav Maga. A big reason for this is so they can fight full force and push aggression. But notice how they usually avoid head shots. First off, training soldiers is expensive and in the counterterrorism school, an injury during training can mean the end of the line for soldier in the Special Forces. It would be too easy for concussions to happen if head shots were allowed in sparring with all-out aggression, thus it’s only reserved for specific training. Personally, I dislike boxing gloves in KM training because it builds a false style for the street. Unless, of course, you walk around with boxing gloves on your hands. I also suspect boxing gloves are used over MMA gloves because they are cheaper and, well, the IDF is cheap.
04:45 One against everyone is a type of training used to help individuals overcome panic under overwhelming situations. Military training is designed to push people to their mental and physical breaking points, while still continuing to fight. However, training like this all the time is done at the expense of technique, so it should be done sparingly.
05:48 Avivit Cohen is 100% badass and most definitely one of the top females in the world. However, it is hard to say if she is the highest rank female considering every organization does its own thing and disagrees with each other regarding who is best. Every organization says they are the best with the highest ranking person. I’d say there is rather a pool of top 3-5 people/organizations to even this out. Avivit Cohen is certainly one of the top 3 females globally.
06:10 “The fact that her gym is in a bomb shelter…” His reaction is more of a culture shock than a reflection of Avivit’s badassery. Bomb shelters and fortified buildings are everywhere in Israel and often used for a variety of things, usually a communal space in the event of an external missile threat. Training in a shelter means you can keep training even if air raid sirens go off.
06:54 Everyone who watches this episode always remembers the elbow. I think this kind of attitude is required for smaller instructors or female instructors as there are any places or cultures that only respect those who can gain respect through physical force or aggression and skill. For instance, this is totally required in places like Israel or Western Europe. However, doing such a thing with a new student from softer countries such as Canada may not be the best idea as you usually have to build people up to be able to handle this kind of thing.
07:37 Shark tank style training is excellent for testing. We often do this in our training and it’s a required portion of our Orange Belt and Yellow Belt tests.
09:00 A good example of why kicks above the waist are not desirable and not the most practical. They are prone to error and slow you down, especially in a situation like this. You also sacrifice balance and risk going to the ground.
09:21 “I was trying to get a foot lock, it’s hard with the gloves.” Again, I am not a fan of the boxing gloves as they are limiting and are not what you would have on the street… Usually…
09:45 I remember those shitty bunk beds. That is what I called “bed” for many, many nights. Except for when we were out training, in which case what I called “bed” was the ground. And on one occasion, I slept on some real shit. It was either camel shit or human shit, it was dark and I didn’t know until the morning…
10:00 IDF is very strict about gun safety. Chambering a round without permission, or even cocking the gun with no ammo indoors or outdoors can result in disciplinary action. Only when going on duty in “hot areas” or going on a specific task where resistance is expected would we have chamber rounds.
11:00 Jimmy calls the M-16 a machine gun, which I find very offensive as a pro-gun person. While the original M-16s were equipped with the fully automatic function, it should be noted that the IDF does not train for full auto. In fact, the new “Micro Tavors” only come with semi-auto from the factory. Only a designated machine gunner directly given the task of cover fire uses an actual machine gun, such as the Israeli “Negev” light machine gun or the Belgium “Mag” heavy machine gun both used by the IDF. If a firearm is not meant to be used as a machine gun, then it is not a machine gun.
11:33 Training with your eyes closed is a great way to develop proprioceptive reaction. Sight can be misleading or too slow under stress, while using your feel and instinct is often faster and more reliable.
12:20 Outdoor training is a must at some point in Krav Maga because most self-defence scenarios will occur in a place that isn’t flat and nicely padded. At UTKM, we regularly train outdoors when the weather is good and almost every day in the summer.
12:50 In this training scene, they are not attacking full force with full commitment against neither Avivit or Doug. In Avivit’s case, it is likely that her students are afraid or her. However, full force training is also not advisable in a “naturalistic” scenario without protective gear. You cannot train full force without proper protection in Krav Maga since it will definitely result in injury. Of course, this can sometimes create a false sense of reality because it’s hard to teach people what real aggressive force on force looks like without expensive and reliable protection.
14:00 An important advice from Avivit: never intentionally go to the ground. This is a basic principle of Krav Maga because going to the ground is just a terrible idea and a bad tactical decision. This is especially true in an environment that is sandy, dusty, or unstable such as their training ground.
15:50 “You always take the hard way here.” This is not a true statement. Actually, in Krav Maga, you always take the easiest way – strikes to the most vulnerable points of the body like groin, eyes, throat, knees. The “hard way” he is facing in training is simply a method to properly prepare people for potential real situations in which you could be overwhelmed physically and mentally. Training the “easy way” in the gym or dojo doesn’t prepare you for the intensity of a real conflict and that is why so many people struggle on the street.
16:31 This scene demonstrates how high kicks can be problematic by limiting mobility and slowing counter attacks. Against multiple opponents, you need your balance and footwork more than ever. High kicks are simply low speed and high risk.
17:20 Again, real training that wants to teach you reality takes you into the real world at some point. Some people think that Krav Maga is hardcore. Life is hardcore.
18:30 That hill, I hate that hill. While I never trained at Wingate for Krav Maga, there were several “sports days” or physical competitions that took place there. They inevitably mean climbing up that stupid sand hill after completing a long course. That hill is often used during pre-testing for IDF Special Forces.
19:12 “Not good enough, you’re right… Next time, I want you to be excellent.” It wouldn’t have mattered if Jimmy had done well or not, they would have told him he sucked anyway. That’s part of the military mentality. You will regularly be told you are not good enough because they want to mentally break you and attempt to make you quit. The military is not for quitters. Keep going and finish and, in many cases, you will pass. The same goes for our tests at UTKM – give up and you fail, finish and you will most likely pass… (but not always).
19:47 Personally, I have puked during training. I have had my legs give out during forced marches. I have seen people pass out mid-training just to get up and keep going. I have also seen people functioning even when their eyes have rolled back. Sometimes, you don’t know what you are capable of doing until you are pushed past your breaking points.
20:00 The Dead Sea is a great place to visit. It is also dying because everyone is extracting the salt and minerals for dead sea products and other uses. It is considered, in many ways, a wonder of the world. If you are for environmental protection, you should not be buying Dead Sea products even in support of Israel because at the rate salt extraction is going, in another few years there might not even be a Dead Sea.
23:00 Only one week of training, Jimmy? No sympathy…
23:05 This is why I am warier of knives or sharp objects than guns. Anyone can have sharp objects anywhere made of anything. They are harder to deal with in many ways (ex. this way and this way and this way). I suspect if the knife attack from behind against Jimmy had been real, he would have been fatally injured.
25:00 Jimmy commented on needing to get used to reacting with a gun in his hands. A firearm, when used as a blunt force trauma weapon, should be used as an extension of your body. If you treat it as something else, it will be difficult as Jimmy learned.
25:33 We do this kind of attack scenario in our Orange Belt and Green Belt tests. This drill teaches and tests ability to react under stress, mental will, and usage of techniques under pressure.
29:00 Jimmy takes three hits to the legs and can barely fight anymore. “Right away they attack my injured thigh again, these guys are out of control.” In real life, attackers don’t care if you have an injury or not. This is why IDF training is heavily focused on aggression and mental toughness. However, I have found that with some of the more intense Israeli instructors, injury rate is fairly high, which is not an indication of the best training. People should train hard and train realistically, but while minimising injury. You can’t train hardcore all the time. Eventually, people’s bodies give out. I remember a video from Special Forces Krav Maga in which a candidate had been in the middle for 2 hours and the attackers were still trying to break him. Apparently, the attackers who were this guy’s friends were told that if they don’t really attack, they’ll be in the middle instead. Again, this training is more for aggression and mental toughness.
35:11 Welcome to Krav Maga. Giving up is not an option on the street and thus it’s not an option in testing.
At this point, you should note again that the military fighters avoid head shots which, if this is all they ever do, is very problematic as it is not entirely realistic. Yet, much of Krav Maga in the IDF operates in such a matter.
36:00 Notice that Doug trained with civilian Krav Maga instructors. You can see Haim Zut in the background (they almost crash into him at 38:50). Also, notice that they are doing open handed strikes to the head and training with weapons. It’s my personal belief that the best instructors are the ones who have trained both in and out of the military. The military can rely heavily on their firearms, but for civilians, this is not always possible, and thus civilians must be far superior when it comes to overall technical skill.
IDF training doesn’t mean superior training
Please do not get scammed by someone who says they have trained in the IDF. Many people use the IDF name to promote their Krav Maga. It can sometimes be a meaningful designation, but it does not automatically mean they have experience in Krav Maga or maybe even in combat. Also, they may not be a certified IDF instructor. (If you were never in the IDF, you will probably not be familiar with it as an entity, even if you have heard of it. It is not similar to any other military in the world in many ways.)
For example, I learned more Krav Maga the year before I joined the IDF than during my time in the IDF. I probably had a total of 10 one-hour classes which, most of the time, involved doing conditioning and practicing rifle drills.
Thus, please do your research and make sure that not only is the organization credible and good, but the instructors are of high quality as well.