Krav Maga and Critical Thinking: Audio by Jonathan Fader

What is Critical Thinking? Well, according to Wikipedia it is this:

Critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment.[1] The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rationalskepticalunbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence. Critical thinking is self-directedself-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposed assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command to their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism[2][3] and sociocentrism.


It could also be broken into more detailed terms, as shown in this graph:

To me, as it relates to our application, critical thinking is probably one of the most undertaught skills; not just in Krav Maga and self-defense but in the education system in general.  The truth about “reality principle based” self-defense systems, like Krav Maga, is that we recognize that we cannot actually give you all the answers. Because in that moment of violent confrontation we, your instructors and peers, cannot be there to whisper in your ear to “use technique 1a, then switch to 3c etc…” If you as a practitioner have not learned to critically think under pressure in that moment of need, to make the most correct possible decision to avoid injury or death, then there are not enough techniques in the world that can save you. While we can pretend that techniques alone are infallible, this would be a lie. There are simply too many factors to consider, such as opponent size, speed, and skill; not to mention confounding variables such as your own body and nervous system’s reaction to the stressful situation which may help or hinder your response time.

Some students come in and already know how to critically think, but most do not. Some will learn, grasping the idea as things go along, others need to be spoon-fed the information bit by bit. While there is nothing wrong with having a different learning style or pace, you must understand that if you cannot get your head away from persistent “what if” questions then you may not truly understand how to critically think.

The “What if this…” line of questioning happens for two reasons. Either,

  1. You are new and are eager to learn, but fail to understand that though krav maga is easy to learn there is still a learning curve; it could take weeks, or months, to internalize the concepts or principles.
  2. You simply have not, for whatever reason, developed critical thinking skills through training, even after many years.

At Urban Tactics, if you cannot critically think, then there is a good chance you may be stuck at white or yellow belt for quite some time.  This is not meant as an insult, it is a realistic caution; we need protect you from yourself. If you think you are more skilled than you are, and you attempt to use techniques or deal with situations you are not ready for, then you will most likely get hurt or worse. Again, it is nothing personal, but experience has shown that those who seek perfect answers by always ask “what if,” tend to be of a mindset that cannot wait to understand the whole process (or have difficulties with conceptual learning).  Such a mindset results in difficulty learning what Krav Maga really is in the first place; simple, practical, and adaptable.

Critical thinking, however, is not just specific to self-defense situations it can be applied to all things in life. The better you are at critical thinking the less likely you are to be scammed, or to accept a bad deal, or a myriad of other things. Critical thinking is not just the bases to self-defense, as the definition suggests it is the most complete method or strategy to quickly problem solve an issue even if it is something you have never encountered before.

Remember, while the first step of any good self defense program should be avoidance, you can only avoid situations, no matter what they are, by applying critical thinking based on the information you have and the conditions in the moment. Failure to critically think (or to pay attention) is often the reason you failed to avoid the situation in the first place

So, before you are too hard on your self as to why you just are not getting it, or your instructor is getting mad at you, know that it may have less to do with your technique and more to do with your lack of understanding of the application. But the only way you will know is by applying critical thinking in the first place; then you will begin to discover if it’s really your instructor, or if it’s your mindset that is blocking in your progress.

Critical thinking is the key to good Krav Maga, good self defense, and good problem-solving. So, like everything, you must start with your mind and work your way out.

Remember, you are not just learning a set of techniques, you are really learning to think for yourself and to develop high-level problem solving, in order to avoid and or deal with any violent or nonviolent situation that may come your way, so that you truly “may walk in peace” both mentally and physically.

**Topics under any principle category (Eg. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time.  So check-in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.