It’s not white, but it is still only the beginning of your journey from raw, natural reactions to a nervous system prepared for violent stress. (source)
The Digging Deeper Series Musings of a humble old yellow belt. PART 1 – Ethics and Urban Tactics Krav Maga (UTKM) Audio by Jonathan Fader

As a blog writer, I’m not very good at applying one of our UTKM cardinal rules: Do something! At times, it seems like my natural ability to procrastinate can easily dominate my conscious ability to get things done.  After completing the yellow belt test, it becomes the student’s responsibility to self-study the complexities and nuances of Krav Maga, self-defence, and other related topics.  Uggghh… I’m almost 10 years post completion of my Master’s degree and the very thought of writing a position piece is causing a little bit of stress. So instead of overthinking my next blog post, I simply grabbed my Yellow Belt Student Handbook and went fishing for a topic. My brain rummaged around some potential ideas and “The Digging Deeper Series: The musings of a humble old yellow belt” came to light.  Over the course of my yellow belt training I plan on writing on the following topics: 

  1. Ethics and UTKM; 
  2. Krav Maga and the Law (Use of Force); 
  3. Sparring and Krav Maga (Purpose and Lessons Learned); 
  4. Sports Fighting vs. Self-Defence; 
  5. Basic Group Fighting (Strategy and Mindset)

As a lifelong student with Masters’ level procrastination capabilities (it’s completely justified that I eat lunch, watch F1 qualifying on YouTube, go to BJJ training, and feed the cats & kids before sitting down to write), I will rein myself in to take a little dive into Ethics and UTKM.

When you tell people in Vancouver that you are training in self-defence, you get an automatic smile because they assume that you squeeze in your noble training between eating your Dalai Lama blessed sushi, working at your non-profit, and launching your ‘cool’ craft beer startup.  However, if you tell them you train in Krav Maga, you get a smile but the contorted one that people reserve for when they are trying to escape a conversation.  It’s amusing to see their faces communicate their interest in what you are saying but their eyes are saying ‘don’t kick me in the nuts.’ So, where exactly do the common, altruistic assumptions of ethics (ethics = good) and groin kicks intersect? (No groin, no Krav Maga) It can be a little bit of a head scratcher, but in this post we will take a look at a simplified definition of ethics, UTKM Krav Maga, and how it all fits together. 

With a simple internet search of the question ‘What is Ethics?’, I came across some interesting outlines from a few different sources:

  • Ethics is a system of moral principles in which they affect how people make decisions and deal with their lives (BBC).
  • Ethics provides us with the means to use our conscience to act against our nature.  This mechanism allows people  to move themselves from a position of simply describing what is likely to happen and to a position of what should happen. The twist: What is best and what should become reality? (The Ethics Centre).

So the BBC highlights ethics as a set of moral principles to assist people in making decisions and dealing with their lives.  Decision making is complex and more often than not I find that I’m continuously seeking more information on a subject, to either facilitate a decision or make the decision for me.  In a self-defence scenario, time is not a luxury you have (remember: Do Something!), so our self-defence training and decision making leans heavily on two key principles, critical thinking and situational awareness.  As novice students, we train these two principles because our everyday bodies and natural reaction times are not trained to a level of mastery and we need a simple means to guide our decision making.  We use situational awareness and critical thinking to keep us away from possibly dangerous situations by becoming more cognizant of our actions and the potential impact these actions will produce.  Growing up in East Toronto, I was given a lot of freedom as a young kid, but my dad advised me wisely that, when coming home alone in the dark, it was best to stick to walking under the streetlights and don’t take short cuts down alleys or through parks. His childhood involved a lot of fights, mine did not, and we grew up in relatively the same neighbourhood.    

The Ethic’s Centre outlines that ethics provides us with the means to use our conscience to act against our nature, while moving from a position of simply describing what is likely to happen to a position of what should happen. This outline on the effectiveness of using ethical principles, I believe, has a strong link to the UTKM’s use of the colour code system and our four stages of self-defence. Our colour code system provides us with a rough measure of our state of awareness and our ability to act at any given moment, while our four stages of self-defence (Avoid, De-escalate, Pre-Emptive Strike, Reactive Strike) provides us with a selection of actions as the situation evolves.  Our school’s founder just recently finished a six-part series on the colour code system but in case you haven’t gone through the series, here is a quick recap:

  • White – Unaware. You are completely relaxed in a safe environment like a cat snoozing on a sunny window ledge.
  • Yellow – Relaxed Alert. You are aware of your surroundings and are present in the moment.
  • Orange – A specific threat has been identified and you are preparing your nervous system for a response while simultaneously selecting an action plan: Avoid, De-Escalate, Pre-Emptive , Reactive strike.
  • Red – Engaged or the fight is ‘on’.
  • Black – Your mind and body are shutting down due to being overwhelmed or critically injured (or both).

The important thing about the combination of the colour code system and the four stages of self-defence is that with training, you are provided with a means to consciously act against your untrained nature.  Although I have many hours of adventuring through the mountains, looking back, in a self-defence scenario I would have more than likely been overwhelmed because my nervous system would not understand the context of an attack vs “a crisis in the backcountry.”  I have seen small avalanches but haven’t been attacked in over 20 years. I certainly don’t want to be overwhelmed (my nature) in a self-defence scenario, so having the ability to impose a conscious decision and harness my nervous system (my will) is very important to me.  

The Ethics Centre emphasizes that ambiguity is hard, life is messy, and whatever path you choose you must take responsibility for your actions instead of falling back on convenient rules and customs. A simple ethical test is to ask “Would I be happy with this decision headlining the news tomorrow?” If I froze during a personal attack and did nothing, do I really want my family to read about my fate like an obituary? Furthermore, I don’t want my kids to see my reactionary behaviour like a scathing newspaper headline.  At UTKM we believe that the ability to defend oneself should be considered a fundamental skill, however this requires training and taking responsibility for the measure of response to your attacker. I’m not saying you have to be nice, but in the age of cameras you must be critical of your own decisions. 

Overall, the application of UTKM’s set of self-defence principles guides and facilitates your ability to make a conscious decision, despite your nature, and hold yourself accountable.  The more I train in UTKM and BJJ, the more I realize that I am very much responsible for my capabilities and using my values and decision making process to keep myself out of trouble. Every training session brings my skill level up and my mind becomes more aware of the purpose of my training: To walk in peace.  I’m a father and a role model to my children, so I don’t want to make any excuses for myself to use my physical skills unnecessarily, as it will reflect badly on the school and, quite frankly, is not a part of my personal convictions.  Based on my beliefs, I feel that I can be an extremely caring person while establishing a mental and physical presence that keeps myself and my family safe.  This requires patience, the ability to fail quickly in training, and a healthy dedication to development.  I’ve never seen a martial arts master start a fight, but I have seen many drunken youths harming each other without regard for themselves or others. 

So there you have it, you can ethically kick someone in the nuts. I’m sure you want to ask… ’When can I do this?!?’… Well, as we always say in class, it depends on the situation. 

Come train, learn, and quietly kick ass when you have to defend yourself.


Written by: Ted E. – UTKM Yellow Belt

For training online visit If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at

Sources (May 2021)