Archive for the ‘Martial Arts In General’ Category

Audio by Jonathan Fader

This style of Krav Maga may actually be the most common nowadays. With numerous LARGE organizations, like IKMF and KMG, running massive programs all over the world, with schools in 200+ countries. What a civilian program looks like will vary WILDY from organization to organization and country to country. It is a topic of much contention as many, many Krav Maga schools, for the sake of money, have become more akin to “belt factories” or “McDojos,” which in some cases have given Krav Maga a black eye and in others have increased it’s popularity.

Civilian Krav Maga

A major difference between civilian and other styles of Krav Maga is that often you are often starting with people with no experience; people of all ages and physical capabilities. Some students are attracted to the system because they heard Krav is the best, or they want to prepare themselves for police or military careers, others start on account of an unfortunate encounter, like bullying or assault, and they want the power to better defend themselves in the future.

Another difference is the use of ranking is commonplace, as compared to styles or organizations that focus more on police and military. I think ranking is a MUST in a civilian program, this is because humans need goals, and a sense of progress. Especially in a world full of distractions. While many military and police Krav Maga experts turn their noses up at belts, I think it is a mistake. In particular as an organization grows, people need structure and ranking. It’s just a reality, just like aggression is needed for Krav Maga to be Krav Maga; it is just a reality. The reality of people is what it is, so if you like reality then ranking is a must in a civilian program. There must be measurable progress and you must be able to build people from nothing to something, or, as I like to say, from everyday citizens to everyday warriors.

The Why

If Krav Maga is so anyone can learn to defend themselves and learn to walk in peace, any program must be developed with the widest possible audience in mind. You will get people who are less physically skilled, people of all ages and sizes, so the program must be designed to build people up. This does not mean you cant do balls-to-the-walls periodically, as without this experience it is not Krav Maga. Unfortunately, the reality is that in many countries people can’t or won’t train like the military will. Thus you must build people up physically, mentally, and technically, so they can better handle the more traditional Krav Maga training as they progress.

As mentioned ranking is a must, because people need a sense of achievement. If you, as an instructor, want to develop a larger group of people you will need to give this sense of place and progress to your students. The problem arises if you water it down and make it too easy. I have ranking, but my tests are so hard most people quit after earning their first belt. While this is bad for business, I take pride in knowing I am probably doing something right.

Once you have built people up in the various aspects you can then work on pushing them mentally and physically. Often in modern times people do not face as much adversity as they think they do, particularly in the Western world. Driving people to feel what it means to be pushed to their limits is super important to better prepare people, but they must be convinced to do so. Unlike military or police where it is assumed they will do it, the average civilian needs to be gently massaged through smaller periods of intensity until you can safely put them through an hour long class that is non-stop.

In my opinion this is an area many instructors struggle with, they do not know how to balance their class based on it’s composition. How you teach a full class of all new people is very different from how you teach a mixed class of skills or a class full of more experienced individuals.

One big advantage of civilians is the amount of time on average you have to work with them to develop all of their skills, including technical accuracy. While, yes, most people won’t stay more than 3 months, the core of people you will probably have for years even if they only train one day a week. This means that a general skill development becomes more viable and more important, as for most people the use of lethal force, while sometimes needed, is generally not on the table (though cannot be neglected.) This is why those who train in civilian schools (assuming it’s a proper school) often are better overall practitioners than those who were in military units. Though the military individual will often have the advantage in the physical and mental, a civilian may be able to quickly pick apart the technical holes of the military-only practitioner.

For civilians it really needs to be a lifestyle, just like a military one, albeit a different one; the goals are different initially, but in the long run someone trained as a civilian will eventually learn all aspects of police/security and military application. That is, of course, dependent on the organization and the instructors available to them.

The How

This is simple. While in a military setting I can simply run an aggressive combat focused boot camp, and police I can set up scenario and job-specific training, a good civilian program needs a simple, well-structured, easy to follow, ON PAPER, curriculum that develops people from nothing to Something.

How this is done and what techniques are included can vary wildly. In the UTKM curriculum, white belt (beginner) is the intro and basic techniques. Yellow and Orange (novice) continues development of more combative skills, such as wrestling, and further improves the basic skill. Finally, Green-Black belt (advanced) focuses on police and military application.

Many organizations will hold basic techniques, like a roundhouse kick, at a much higher level, but the reality is if the kick cannot be quickly learned, early on, as a foundational skill, then it’s probably not a very practical technique for most people.

Another consideration in any civilian program is that it MUST be principle-based, as originally intended, and not technique-based. Too many organizations focus too heavily on techniques at the expense of the other important things like aggression and strategy. Others simply teach as they were taught and don’t actually understand beyond “this is how you do the technique.” A deep understanding of the how and why is super important for any instructor in the civilian world, and this includes the other aspects or styles of Krav Maga.

For the civilian program an emphasis on consistency is important. While in the military it is not a choice, you receive the training your receive, and with police some training is mandatory, but for civilians there are many distractions and a student may wane from the path that they had originally set out on. An emphasis on development takes time, it becomes a constant message, in particular for the average person who isn’t naturally talented.

Lastly, a civilian program must be balanced and go hard or soft, fast or slow, depending on who’s in the class and what the average stage of development is. Because people may train for years you cannot always go balls-to-the-walls, military style aggression, or you will destroy yourself. But you also cannot always go “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” drill work, which is common in traditional martial arts styles. There must be a balance, bringing up all aspects of development from mental, physical, technical, and, of course, building aggression. Many programs fail to do this and only focus on one area over the others, based on the skillset and knowledge of the instructor.

Conclusion

Most of you reading this probably fall into the civilian category. Even if you do not, you may have limited experience with Krav Maga, whether it was taught to you in the military or elsewhere. A good program MUST develop aggression and be hard sometimes, MUST develop technical proficiency, and MUST, at some point, teach all aspects of Krav Maga application, from military to police/security, as well as day-to-day general self-defence.

As a civilian looking to train Krav Maga, I advise that you don’t just go to the first school you Googled. Look into the instructor, their background and training, and the philosophy driving their curriculum. Is it wide and diverse or is it only from one source? Do they know other styles of martial arts? How long have they been around? Did they have other experiences, such as police and military backgrounds (though not required)? Do they have a structured program and how is it laid out?

Something to watch out for is a structred program that is actually based off of another style. If they don’t have a patch system or a belt ranking system, it is likely they are integrating other styles into their teachings, which may violate the principles of Krav Maga.

Another thing to be wary of is if they are selling it as “military Krav Maga.” They may have an awesome pedigree, but there is a good chance they will fail to develop you technically and will only ever run a boot camp style class; which for long term growth really isn’t appropriate. Unless you are training for professional application (and even then) you don’t always need to go hard, though if it’s not in the program at all then you have a different problem.

There are a lot, and I mean a lot of garbage schools out there, and even more garbage instructors. Remember, just because someone can do doesn’t mean they can teach. And just because someone isn’t the best themselves doesn’t mean they cannot help develop you.

The goal of Krav Maga is to learn to walk in peace, so make sure you research and find what you are looking for. Krav Maga for the civilian however, cannot be casual. Though it is easy to learn to be good enough to defend yourself most of the time, true proficiency will require constant training over years. Though it can be argued that slow, consistent training will produce better results overall than hard condensed training, since if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Balancing Ego: Sometimes you must build it up, sometimes you must push aside. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

As this series has been on martial arts and ego perhaps its time to define “ego” as per the dictionary:

e·go – /ˈēɡō/ noun

  1. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. “A boost to my ego”

Similar definitions:

  • PSYCHOANALYSIS: Ego – the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
  • PHILOSOPHY: Ego – (in metaphysics) a conscious thinking subject.

In layman’s terms it basically means “how we see ourselves, how we think of ourselves, and how we value our self-worth relative in the world.” Ego can help or hinder you. A healthy ego can give you confidence which will allow you to accomplish the tasks that you wish to do without the inner dialogue, that is often negative, to hold you back. If people perceive you as confident than they may be more willing to help you or follow you. On the other hand, an unhealthy ego may also help you achieve your goals, but will also hinder you socially as those around you may simply consider you arrogant and unworthy of listening to or following.

One thing that seems to be consistent with regards to ego, healthy or unhealthy, is that you must build a healthy view of yourself that is positive while trying your best not to push your ego onto others. There is a reason people like modesty or other comparable personality traits; because if your ego is too much, for one reason or another, especially if someone has a negative view of themselves, they will perceive this as an attack on their ego.

In short, people are hard. Yet, we are innately social creatures that need to be around others. Yes, it’s very complicated.

So with that definition (somewhat loosely) established in an super-overly simplistic context let’s talk about how this relates to martial arts.

The Instructor

Being a martial arts instructor is a challenging job. Depending on how you approach the activity it can be very rewarding, a long struggle, a hobby, or an enjoyable lifestyle. I would say that if 4 out of 5 businesses fail, 4.99 out of 5 martial arts or fitness business fail. It is naturally a hard business to get into. When you start you think, “I want to take my hobby into a lifestyle that can make a living.” It should be no surprise however that most martial artist who do it more seriously actually don’t make very much money. For those who do make money it is usually due to a difficult journey, both physically and mentally, that simply through consistency and hard work eventually paid off.

It’s this fact, that until you reach business stability it is quite common for the grind to affect the ego of the instructor, as their self worth is tied into their hobby and now livelihood. (After all, marrying a martial artist is often frowned upon as they are no doctor, lawyer, or something traditionally more prestigious.) During this period of stabilization it is often quite common for the instructors ego to feel unappreciated as students (at least in modern times) make all sorts of demands on the instructor, some reasonable and some not. Often the demand is to progress them faster or make things easier or “do things differently.” For a martial arts instructor this can be quite tough on the ego. A question is often asked; “Do I do what they want to keep business alive, or maintain my integrity and stick to my guns with the proper way to do things?” The latter can be quite difficult, as it often means less business and ultimately a view of yourself and your position in life that may include a lessoning self worth.  

It is assumed that all martial artists, through discipline and “spiritually grounded mind, body, and soul,” have a good, strong ego that is not too much or too little; so they, of course, are expected to have a positive self worth at all the times. This is simply false, because, like all persons, the martial arts instructor is human, with an ego.

For those who do well, their self worth and ego are boosted and they see themselves as a valuable member of society, contributing to the physical and mental growth of others; which includes the shaping of healthy egos in their students. Either from making students realize they aren’t as good as they thought, bringing their egos down to a more reality-based plane. Or by helping them build their ego through confidence, by achieving goals and making progress as they rise through the ranks.

A martial arts instructor with an over-inflated ego and self worth, with a little charisma, can very quickly become a cult leader, teaching nothing more than bushido for the sake of boosting their ego. Beware the McDojo!

A martial arts instructor with an under-inflated ego (a.k.a. a low self worth), no matter how good their skills are, may have a difficult time inspiring others to develop themselves and stick too the difficult path that is the martial artist.

The instructor must remember to manage their ego while also managing the skills and development of others, and remind themselves it isn’t always about them but about developing others.  The method in which this will be achieved varies, as there are many paths, but some paths will attract fewer students and others will attract more.

The important thing for the instructor though is to always keep in mind; why they are doing it and what about it makes them happy?

Some instructors may be totally happy with a modest living, so long as they can practice and teach their arts. Others may only be happy with thousands of students and will achieve this at all costs.

The balance is a tricky one.

What is too much ego, or the right balance of ego, confidence, and self worth really depends on the person.

But the martial arts instructor who fails to understand that ego is part of not only being human but is ingrained in the martial arts for practical, philosophical, and historical reasons, may find themselves in the worst of all worlds.

For how is any student to learn properly if the instructor loses the most important battle of all, the eternal one that isn’t with the opponent but the ego and the internal dialogue?

The Student

The student wants to learn martial arts for ego, self worth, and more. Just like the instructor, they too have an eye on being something more, something better. Though for them the journey with the ego is different.

Some come in thinking they are tougher than they are, others not as tough as they are. In both cases there is often an underestimation of the time it will take to achieve their goals. When this is realized it is often the first ego beating that a student has. Fear, doubt, or just life gets in the way and although they may tell themselves they will train they do not follow through with their original plan of becoming “the ultimate warrior.” These students lose the battle with the ego with questions like; “What if I can’t do this?” “What if I am not good enough?” “What if I can’t train enough?” Before they even really start to try, their ego and confidence says “it’s easier to quit now then to keep going,” because it will, of course, be easier than the path to the goal they originally had.

Another battle with ego students sometimes experience is with the school itself, the instructor(s), and their training partners. Though martial arts is ultimately a solo activity, rather than a team activity, it can often make students forget that there are other people to consider; the instructor, the school, and other students. The student makes it about themselves and only about themselves. They care nothing for the struggles of the instructor or the school, or how they may help benefit their fellow students. It is a battle between the ego’s demand for the primacy of the self and the social demand for others. It can be far too easy for the ego to take over and make the journey only about the self. This will ultimately lead to less desirable results, as the instructor may simply gloss over the difficult student, or other students may not want to train with them. The ego must not win this battle if the student expects to have the best journey, to the best version of themselves, to achieve their martial arts goal. The ego will say this is an “individual journey,” but without the instructor, the schools, or the fellow students, your progress will simply be hindered and it is a battle that must constantly be fought, remembered, and managed.

Of course, there is the student that is a physical specimen and let their ego run wild, for they are the destroyer of worlds. This is, of course, what the ego says. No one challenges you and you are the best. While it may be true in your world, your gym, you may simply be a big fish in a small pond. This student also fails to realize, through the blindness of ego, that being the best physically is not the main goal in martial arts, just part of it. In Krav, at least, it’s to walk in peace.

Running around with an over-inflated ego will only ever cause conflict, both internally and externally. If this student let’s his ego win, eventually he won’t just fail, but the internal story that the ego has weaved will come crumbling down and the once high view of self importance will collapse into the pit of the question, “who am I without my physical prowess?” Some rebuild and some do not. It is an ego trap easily avoided by developing the other areas that one can gain by training martial arts.

The opposite student to this is the one with no developed ego at all and almost no self worth. Perhaps there are no physical skills present. Often these students rely far too much on the opinions of their instructor or others, and not enough confidence comes from within. Accepting their starting point, and the difficult journey ahead, is often far too difficult a challenge to face and will only be another metaphorical blow to their already poor self worth. A student like this must realize the importance of developing their ego and realizing that much of the martial arts journey is actually solo. If you quit to early, you will never grow; but that is, of course, easier. If they put their ego aside and simply do, rather than resist they will find positive growth not only in the ego and self worth, but in the other physical-oriented aspects that is martial arts.

Final Thoughts on Ego

There are, of course, many other ego traps or challenges that students or instructors may face. The only way to find out which ego battles you might struggle with is to start your martial arts journey and never stop, even if it only means casual training. A battle never stopped is a battle never won or lost, but rather a journey. Which is how you probably should view the hardest battle of all, a journey with ups and downs and loop-de-loops but one that only ever should have progress and nothing more. This battle is not with your instructor, your students, or the world around you, but rather the battle within, the one with your ego, the one with yourself, the one that matters the most.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

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Old rivals, and their egos, come face-to-face once again in “Cobra Kai”(source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

If you like martial arts then there are a few people and concepts you probably familiar with, no matter what decade you were born in. Bruce Lee is, of course, one of the most famous. But how about Mr. Miyagi, the legendary, Okinawan karate master played by Pat Morita in the 1984 movie The Karate Kid, and in three sequels? (Not to be confused with the 2010 re-make of The Karate Kid, starring Jacki Chan as the martial arts mentor Mr. Han, in which they aren’t even learning Karate but rather Kung Fu, the traditional systems of Chinese martial arts. NOT THE SAME.)

Anyway, Mr Miyagi taught Daniel-san traditional Okinawan Karate (the system originated in Okinawa, not the main islands of Japan) to help learn to defend himself against the bullies from the Karate dojo Cobra Kai, taught by military veteran (and mild psycho) John Kreese. In the original movie the rivalry culminates with young Daniel LaRusso defeating his main bully, blonde bad boy Johnny Lawrence. This propelled Daniel to a good and successful life, and led Johnny to a life of alcoholism, bad parenting, and poor life decisions. This is, of course, as we now know seeing the characters 30 years later in the “Cobra Kai” series on Netflix. With the SAME, albeit now adult actors, which is a great thing for a series to do.

This is where I give you the spoiler alert. If you didn’t already know that Daniel won the tournament in the original movie, well too bad; it was made before I was even born so you should know by now. But, if you aren’t caught up with the latest season of Cobra Kai yet then be warned, there may be some mild spoilers ahead.

If are into martial arts and the original movies, then you will love this series! It is pure entertainment combined with continuing the original storyline, with the added bonus of considerably more character development; which makes this series a must watch in my opinion. The show includes, at various points, almost all the same actors from the film series (where possible, R.I.P. Pat Morita), and adds some new faces, which is something I would love to see in other, older series.

Johnny decides he wants to start teaching Karate again and opens up his own dojo. Needless to say Daniel finds out and all manner of ego-driven shenanigans ensue. Daniel also tries to get his daughter to start training Karate again. Long story short, Cobra Kai competes in the famous “All Valley Karate Tournament,” despite Daniel’s effort to keep Cobra Kai banned, and Johnny’s champion prevails. Daniel looks like the bully and it looks like Johnny is doing good again. Season 2 sees the return of Johnny’s sensei, Kreese, who is just as nuts, if not more so, than before. A school rivalry builds between Johnny and Daniel’s schools, which results in a fight with serious consequences. More ego-driven violence and shenanigan’s occur as everyone, Johnny, Daniel, their students, and their own kids, is trying to prove themselves, their Karate prowess, and their ego.

All around it’s great fun to watch. However, intentionally or unintentionally, it is showing the negative side of martial arts and human EGO. It also perpetuities the bullshit idea that training in martial arts makes you a violent person. Which makes me concerned that any “Karen” who walks in on their child watching it will then go on a Karen-rampage to try to stop all martial arts from occurring. You actually kind of see this in Season 3, where school trustees, who are clearly vanilla people who know nothing of combat, simply panic and try to ban all Karate.

Karens aside, it really highlights the EGO of “who is the best?” Ego is a powerful thing, it can help you or hinder you. It can give you strength and courage, or make you crumble. As mentioned in the previous post of this series “My Martial Art is Better Than Your Martial Art” (and as implied or stated by me numerous times), there are many factors to “who is the best” and this means not everyone can be the best.

This is why it’s important to understand, for your own ego, are you capable of being the best, and if you are, are you putting in the work to be the best and stay the best? Or if you are not capable of being the best, are you happy just being the best version of yourself that you can be? In the latter situation, people often quit training in martial arts altogether because of their ego. They cannot accept they are not the best because of some factor or other, so they stop rather than continuing to strengthen themselves. No, not everyone can be the best, but not everyone needs to be. You just need to be better.

Now, if you are the best, as proven by competition, can you stay the best? For many it is short lived and for others it’s a long journey, but eventually you will fall, and the question is can your ego handle it? A good example where the answer was “No” was the dominant female UFC champion, Ronda Rousey. When Rousey finally fell, she fell hard and fast, and never really recovered mentally. I am still waiting for the in-depth documentary on her life, as it will most likely show how an unchecked ego will only lead to a massive crash and a pit of emotional despair.

Personally, I dislike the need that so many people have to boost their ego through martial arts, as can be seen in the Cobra Kai story; those once bullied become the bullies when they finally have the power to do so. This is an aspect of the show I do not like, as it depicts how without proper guidance many people can take power and go sideways. After all, “With great power comes great responsibility”- Uncle Ben, Spider-man.

Cobra Kai, at least as of the end of Season 3, has yet to show how losing can actually check your ego back in place, teaching you that maybe you aren’t as good as you thought. Which means you can either work hard to get better or you can simply be content with working to be in a better place mentality and physically, and know that, outside of competition, you know your abilities and can walk in peace. This aspect is something I would love to see more in the martial arts world. As we always follow the champions and the best. We strive to be them and are motivated by them. It is the winners we look up to. Except the truth is for most of us, either because we are a casual practitioner or just lack that certain something required to be the best, as martial arts practitioners are doing it just to be a better version of ourselves.

This obsession over ego and winning can be problematic and give a bad image to all the Karens out there who look down on the learning of violence. For most people learning to fight makes them less likely to fight, because they realize it’s actually quite hard and carries a high risk. Some never learn, but that’s because they have other personal issues that were there before the training and should be dealt with separately.

Cobrai Kai does a very good job at showing the kind of damage ego-driven conflict can do when it starts going out of the ring or out of the dojo and into the streets. It starts to look like the petty gang conflicts you see globally, where even the slightest look can result in someone hospitalized or dead.

While ego is inevitable, it is part of the human psyche, it must constantly be checked in all aspects of martial arts, including in its portrayal. The days of using martial arts for life and death are gone in many countries. And while some may long for those days, the reality is our lives are better when this kind of wanton violence against each other is generally unacceptable.

If the only portrayal of martial arts comes off as negative and simply for the purpose of violence, it could be possible that things go sideways and people once again loose the ability to defend themselves.

This is very problematic. When a group of people do not know how to defend themselves there can be catastrophic results. The film “Demolition Man,” with Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone, plays on this idea: A society that had lost not just the ability, but the understanding of violence, is at a loss when a mad man of old comes out of prison and wreaks havoc.

We must understand the importance for everyone to learn and understand violence; hoping we never have to use it, but knowing we can if we must. If you are an ego-driven person then temper your need to win, or your rage, and express it in the appropriate arenas, and work on yourself in other ways so that it never gets out of control harming others in the world around you.

Cobra Kai shows many of the negatives of violence, and what can go wrong when it is undirected or misused, though it attempts to demonstrate the positive aspects through the peaceful lessons from Mr. Miyagi, as re-taught by Daniel-san. Yet even he, now without his mentor, seems driven by his ego to always be right and win at all costs.

Whether portrayed in Cobra Kai, or the movies, or seen in real life, one of the most important journeys for any martial artist is learning to manage and control their ego, lest it blind them from achieving the ability to walk in peace in all aspects of life.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Dissatisfied with the styles he trained, Bruce Lee developed his own, Jeet Kun Do (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is a question as old as time; who is the best, the fastest, the smartest the most creative? Long ago it was simply a question of who was the best at survival and who was the the most successful in passing on the genes of the species. Eventually humans began to organize and grow, and we needed to develop more methodical ways to navigate and understand our world. This of course, included determining the best way to fight.

In the past, the best style was the one that kept you in power. It usually involved lethal force, applied on a regular basis, to ensure that everyone knew you were the best. Fighting styles were developed and employed for all manner of reasons, and often involved weapons, to protect your land, fight a war, or just win the latest bar fight. For most of human history specific, usually more precise, complicated, and methodical, fighting styles were limited to those in a “Warrior class” or the nobility. This, of course, would look different from society to society, but as groups clashed either because of strategy, fighting style, or technology, one would always come out on top as the victor, implying that theirs was the best way.

Enter the modern times, where power is more centralized and (at least in theory) the people determine what is what in many places. In general, simply using violence to take what you want is less and less acceptable, and the once normal lethal nature of combat has become far less palatable.

Without death, how do we establish what style is the best and why? That’s a good question. In more recent times, due to the UFC and other organizations, we have learned that yes, IN FACT some styles ARE better than others.

A basic analysis of UFC champions in recent years shows dominance by certain styles when it comes to one on one fighting. Of UFC champs past and present, 28 started in Wrestling, 17 in BJJ, 12 in boxing, 6 in Kickboxing, 4 in Muay Thai, 2 in Taekwondo, and 1 in Karate. This indicates a correlation in which grappling is dominant in one on one combat, followed by basic striking. (To be honest, it’s probably missing a few more Karate and Judo people, but it paints a general picture)

Of course, the reality is most UFC competitors MUST learn a variety of disciplines, from striking to grappling, if they expect to do well. Georges “Rush” St-Pierre (aka GSP), for example, was a Karateka originally, but ended up being one of the best wrestlers in the cage during his career, go figure. So really, the best style actually is a mix of the most effective styles out there, and, of course, whatever works best for you.

However, outside of the best-of-the-best fighting each other in the cage, any one person, of any one style (or non-style), can beat any other person; because, while there may be styles that are measurably better than others, the reality is there are many other factors that can come into play in a fight.

Skill

This is the obvious one for anyone who trains. The more you train, the better you will be and the bigger gap in skill between you and your opponent. For example, while wrestling is one of the better overall styles, as it allows you to dictate the position of the fight, a person who just started wrestling may not do very well against someone who has been boxing for 10 years and has developed amazing foot work. When skill levels are relatively similar, and the wrestler can take a punch, then the boxer may be in serious trouble. But imagine if the boxer’s foot work is so good that they are constantly moving and striking, making it difficult for the wrestler to close the distance.

So this means that if you overestimate or underestimate your skill in any one style, and you run up against someone of a different style, then you may be in big trouble. If you want to increase your skill you will have to practice with some level of consistency. If you do not, or you are unable to overcome the mental strain of periodical skill plateaus, then your lack of training will hinder your skill development.

Size

As I have mentioned numerous times, and will continue to do so, SIZE MATTERS! You may have heard, with regards to BJJ in particular, that it allows you to beat much bigger opponents. This is true when your skill level is high enough and theirs low enough; the skill gap will allow you to compensate for the size gap most of the time. There is of course a point of diminishing  return where their size is simply to big to overcome. I am sorry to say that no matter how hard you try, if they are to big they may simply need to grab hold and squeeze. How you get around this in the street is by “cheating” physics with biology, by going bat-shit-crazy and targeting points that normally are illegal in sports. Of course, sometimes it still doesn’t matter, but when the size difference is too big it’s often the person willing to use the more extreme violence that wins.

To emphasize separation between skill and size, let’s talk about two UFC champions. Daniel Cormier who earned the championship title in both the light heavyweight (204lbs) and heavyweight (205-265lbs) weight classes, and is a world class wrestler with good striking skills, versus Khabib Nurmagomedov, also a wrestler, who is the most dominant UFC Lightweight (155lbs) champion ever. Cormier, when discussing Khabib’s skill, said he “actually has to try.” What he means is that Khabib’s wrestling skills are so highly developed that the larger opponent, who is used to just playing with smaller fighters in training, has to actually “hit the gas pedal.” But, as Cormier himself is also a wrestler at a high skill level, his size comes into play. It is clear that where these two to fight, while Khabib would certainly give Cormier a hard time, it is likely most of the time Cormier would come out on top due to the relatively similar skills but massive size and strength difference on Cormier’s part. So if you want to beat bigger opponents, you need higher skill and crazier mentality.

Athleticism

Unfortunately, this is probably one of the most annoying aspects of combat and comparing styles, and is when our egos often get in the way of reality and truly underestimating ourselves. I have no shame in admitting that I am no athlete and unless I train like a professional 4-6 hours a day, 4-7 days a week (which I usually don’t have the time or will for), I will struggle against a naturally gifted athlete. In BJJ for example, I have trained for at least 8 years and I still run into white belts who either wrestled or engaged in other sports all their lives, and if I am having an off day or they turn on the Athlete dial, I will struggle. It’s just a reality.

A 1000 years ago I probably would not have lived this long had I been me, as I wore glasses and was not very fit. (Granted I didn’t have the healthiest childhood, but that wouldn’t have fixed the glasses thing). In the past if you were not athletic and healthy, you could never have been a Spartan. Many could have been a for-hire-peasant frontline soldier, who was really just there to die in order to tire out the enemy force. Again, this is just a reality. If you are not physically gifted, it is going to be much, much, much harder. If you expect to get good at fighting, you will need to train, train, and train some more, while living healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people want to hide or lie about that fact there are natural physical differences between people. Our individual genetics and upbringing are so wildly varied that some people will have an advantage over others when it comes to athleticism and physicality. So get over your ego, and work harder if that’s what you want. Otherwise, I am sorry, but it’s time to accept reality.

Training Style

Okay, this is another super important factor as to why some styles are “better” than others: the training style. The reason grappling is currently dominant is because grapplers can put in the training time and technique repetitions, in a fairly realistic fashion, without risking sever head trauma. You can also go close to 100% most of the time fairly early on (at least with people who aren’t spastic), on a fairly regular basis. Getting the reps in, under duress, and in realistic scenarios, allows you to develop your skills rapidly for real world combat. This is similar to Krav Maga, where we are not just training the technique but the nervous system’s ability to act and react in real life at a faster rate. This is how you develop high skill, and practical application.

Compare this to boxing or kickboxing. In training “sparring” you cannot go 100% all the time or most people would get so messed up they cannot continue to train, let alone fight in the ring. This is because those styles focus on head strikes and, while in life or death combat head strikes are usually needed, it is not conducive to training that simulates a real fight. In boxing, this is why the focus on hand speed, power, accuracy, footwork, and CARDIO. They drill these so much that the ability to fire rapidly, for a long time, can compensate for the lack of practical sparring. If your training means you will always be injured, you are not in fact training very effectively. Take the other side of training, the methods of the traditional martial arts where they employ katas instead of regular resistance training. While this trains the movement, it does not train the nervous system to fight properly. It is why, while largely unless, someone from these styles may possess amazing physical ability, attitude, etc, (like GSP or Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson). Though most people practicing these styles may struggle in a real fight, especially when the aforementioned size factor kicks in.

Conclusion

Sorry to your ego, but some styles ARE better than others. It could be because of how they train or the fact that they simply give you more options against a variety of opponents, or perhaps they are just more effective as a matter of fact. But know that any one person, in any one style, can beat another if things are either equal or you have a certain advantage over the other person. For example, a 15 year old who has been doing martial arts for 10 years and holds a “black belt” (or two), is unlikely to beat a 250lb NFL linebacker who has a significant size, strength, and athletic advantage. It is just reality.

If you are training professionally and you lose, you have to put your ego aside and ask, is this really for you? If it is, then you need to train harder, train smarter, and diversify your skill set.

If you are training casually or for self-defence, then understanding different styles is the best way to maximize your ability to defend yourself. But mastering one or more effective styles may be more time efficient. Of course you could just learn Krav Maga, where we learn a little bit of everything (Not Biased at all…). But, no matter your style, you must remember on the street there are many unseen factors. Size, skill, athleticism, training methodology, the environment, the element of surprise, a willingness to do violence, your mental state, etc.. Meaning more things can go wrong even if you think you have the advantage.

So whether on the street or in the ring, just know some styles are better, but there are many factors to consider beyond that for your own needs. So long as you keep your ego in check and make smart decisions, barring running into a Jon Jones or Khabib in a fight, you will usually come out on top, even if that means you had to run away. Just be honest about your own skill, style, size, and athletic ability, for overestimating yourself and underestimating your opponents will only ever lead to a less desirable outcome.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Well rounded fighters incorporate aspects of multiple styles. (DC Comics: source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

People often talk about styles and say, “Krav Maga is just Krav Maga and has its limits.” This is not strictly true, as, originally, it was based on boxing, wrestling, and being generally fit. Right there, in it’s foundation, the potential for multiple styles is evident. Not to mention that, if your school is being honest, it will ensure that it has instructors whom are capable of teaching multiple styles. You should be learning aspects of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, submissions grappling, and judo, as well as police, military, and security applications. A good Krav Maga school is actually making you a jack-of-all-trades, ranging from okay to good in any and all of these styles so that you are better prepared to deal with any and all attacks. Of course, all these styles also need to be taught in a way that maintains a common conceptual thread and incorporates basic Krav Maga principles. Which means how solid your Krav Maga is really depends on the design of your curriculum and the character of your instructors.

So let’s discuss.

Krav Maga is primarily known as a “stand up” style, targeting anything that is effective with minimal effort, which includes strikes that are normally considered illegal when there is a given rule set (eg. in sport). It’s this disdain for rules, which limit the chance of success, combined with strategy and aggression, that has made Krav Maga so effective.

Still, a lot of people do not know about Krav Maga or only see it as a pure self-defence system. Which it is, but contained within it are many secrets. You will actually be learning boxing, kickboxing, judo, wrestling, and anything in between that adds to the style or fills gaps. This is because you must be prepared for any given situation, and that requires skills and abilities found across various styles.

A good thing to remember is that, while a Kravist will usually have a specialty (eg. I am a much better grappler than striker), you must be a generalist, overall, to be able to deal with the most situations most of the time.

Something to be aware of is that which style you will learn more of, and when, will largely depend on your instructor and the curriculum you are learning from. Traditionally, or in the last 30-40 years anyway, most Kravists are boxing or kickboxing specialists, but when it comes to the ground they are often fish-out-of-water. That is because the philosophy of “stay off the ground!” has been drilled into us, and consequently many choose not to develop those skills. But with the global rise of grappling sports, from a self-defence perspective, ground fighting skills are now essential. You just need to remember to apply the Krav Maga mindset and strategies when teaching groundwork. If you are an instructor with no grappling or wrestling skills then you should hire someone else to teach it.

The same geos if you have a traditional grappling background and are not that great at striking; though Krav Maga punches and kicks are fairly straightforward and can be learned fairly quickly compared to many other styles with fancier ways or more specialized ways of doing things. However, remember the Krav Maga principles; if it takes too long to learn or master then it really should not be taught in Krav Maga at all.

Perspective students often ask, “should I do Krav Maga or boxing or grappling?” To which I respond, “what is your goal?”

This is an important question to think about. If they just want to get a sweat on, Krav Maga may not be for them. If they want to be competitive in a sport setting, then it also may not be for them. But, if their primary concern is general self-defence, and they want to learn a little bit of everything, then Krav Maga is definitely for them.

If you have limited time and can only train one system, then a good Krav Maga program will teach you that little bit of everything. You will even learn to understand and wield weapons (modern ones, no sword and three-section staff), though this should be reserved for the higher levels. If you only want to learn boxing, then weapons will never factor in. Or if you don’t like striking styles, leaning toward grappling instead, then know that while one-on-one grappling can dominate a fight, but in the grander scheme it is not always an option.

At UTKM, while you will start with striking and stand up, you quickly work your way to learning Judo, Wrestling, and some BJJ components, along with proper, controlled takedowns that are more applicable for security or law enforcement scenarios; due to the intensity and psychological differences that occur in the real world, the world outside of the ring. Continue long enough and you will learn pistol, shotgun, and rifle skills, as well as the basics for working in teams to take down any assailant.

This is because in a self-defence system you should learn the basics of everything to deal with any possible self-defence scenario, no matter how unlikely. While you probably won’t be the level of a Special Forces operator or John Wick, you will be far better trained physically, mentally, and technically then the average citizen, and in most cases far more capable than the would-be assailant who just bit off more than they could chew.

So, just because the system is called by one name, Krav Maga, it doesn’t make it one specific style. The system is about being prepared for anything, and this means learning a little bit of everything; to be well rounded, to be ready, so that you too may walk in peace, knowing that you are prepared for what the future may hold for you.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

https://memezila.com/saveimage/My-cat-after-peeing-in-all-the-4-corners-of-house-to-mark-its-territory-I-protecc-the-hooman-meme-6838

The notion that “It’s only for the military or police and not for me,” simply isn’t true. Originally, Imi taught Krav Maga to civilians, primarily Jews, for the purpose of enabling them to protect themselves from the Nazis pre-WW2. When Israel was formed in 1948, it was taught to the military, during which time it was considered a closely guarded secret. Given that it was intended “so one may walk in peace,” when tensions eventually eased in the ’80s teaching of the system was opened for all civilians. While, yes, at a good school you can go from being a civilian to a civilian trained in a manner similar to military or police, it is not meant to turn you into these things; but rather to give you an understanding that self-defence is NOT limited to unarmed combat (even if the laws in your country say otherwise). Anyone can learn Krav Maga, and should learn it (or at the very least a legit style with self-defence components), so that everyone may walk in peace.

So let’s talk about it.

This myth really comes out of the fact that the tactics for Krav Maga were fairly closely guarded within the military for the early days of Israel and the IDF. It wasn’t until the ’70s-’80s that it began to open up to the public, in one way or another. Furthermore, when it started to go global in the ’90s and early 2000s, Krav Maga was primarily targeted to military and police organizations. This is one factor that contributed to the use of the “patch” ranking system by the IKMF when it was formed in 1996, and later KMG in 2010. Patches being a common means of identification for groups and ranks within the police and military units; something that makes little sense for civilians, therefore furthering the myth that it is only for “the professionals.”

With regard to curriculum, one thing to know is that there are many different Krav Maga organizations, each with a different curriculum and strategy, but they are considered Krav Maga so long as they are following the fundamental principles and are employing appropriate training methodologies. Some organizations completely separate their police, military, and civilian programs, while others incorporate the techniques and strategies of all applications into one curriculum, placing the more complex material at higher learning ranks.

Those schools that do separate their curriculums by application will do so by having separate programs instructors; one set for police, one set for military, another for civilians. Which, in some countries, may be done for legal reasons, whereas in others it is simply more practical for training (and marketing).

Some people do believe that civilians should not learn Military and Police tactics for a variety of reasons, but this is something we at UTKM do not agree with. So long as you are a law-abiding, reasonable, human being, there is no reason you shouldn’t learn such things. While extreme violence scenarios are unlikely in day-to-day, civilian life, in our current world, the reality is that Krav Maga should prepare you for any and all possible self-defence situations. The more extreme ones would, in fact, require military and police tactics because, well, they are for the more extreme situations after all.

While we cannot speak for other organizations we have tackled this issue in a simple way: Breaking the knowledge into layers within our ranking system. White belt to Orange belt is “basic civilian self-defence,” but it is also where you learn the fundamentals. Which means if you only want to learn enough to defend yourself in most situations, then all you would need to do is keep training in the Beginner and Novice levels. Eventually you may even be able to hold off a decent MMA fighter long enough to find your exit. But should you wish to continue then you too can learn the tactics required for more complicated situations involving firearms (guns), arresting or detaining, or storming a live shooter with a partner.

Our motto after all is “turning lambs into lions” or another way you could say it is “turning everyday citizens into everyday warriors.” Because even if you are not the elite physical specimen of a “hooman being,” you can, over time, develop the same skills for the same situations.

On a side note, there is a belief by many that ONLY a person who was in the military or police should teach these tactics. This, by the way, is both true and untrue. It is true that an EXPERIENCED police or military vet, with loads of training, field experience, and good communication skills will likely be the most appropriate instructor for these tactics. However, the truth is that NOT all military and police have this kind of experience. Many people who served, on various roles, saw far less “action” than you think. Which means that, unless you have the former of the two types, a civilian who has spent a lifetime training in military and police tactics for self-defence would be no different in capability than a police or military person who was trained but spent their entire career behind a desk. So, really it’s about the person, their experience, and their ability to teach.

So, is Krav Maga only for police and military? Quite obviously, no. As the basics are all about civilians. Any organization worth its weight in toilet paper will usually teach the military and police stuff to more competent or experienced students, but know that, while this is still part of Krav Maga, this isn’t the only part.

So start learning and maybe, one day, you will not only be able to defend yourself on the street, but also will be prepared for a full tactical assault on that zombie hoard should our dream apocalypse ever happen.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Unfortunately, defending yourself from an attacker requires more than one punch. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

If you believed the previous myth then you may also believe this one, as they are fairly connected. It too is simply bullshit. Yes, Krav maga is brutal, but the reality is if you understand HOW to train your nervous system, and you understand Krav Maga concepts and strategies from a “principles first” point of view, then all you really need to know is that you CAN flip that switch and apply it in a lethal form if needed.

Obviously, if it was so harsh that you could train consistently or for a long time, then the training isn’t very good at all. The “hardcore” mentality is an “old School” mentality and is misguided if you expect longevity in your training path. Additionally, not everyone is capable of going hard all the time, not to mention that we want to avoid injuries in order to stay training and live a good life. If we actually trained at 100% all the time, the bodies would hit the floor and we would be violating a (rather sensible) Krav Maga principle; avoid injuries.

It’s not about training hard for lethality, it’s about training smart to get the results we need. If you came to class to “kill” there’s a good chance you won’t last; either someone will put you in your place or you will be kicked out.

So, let’s discuss.

Whenever I hear about this myth one of my favorite Israeli sayings comes to mind:

אַתָה חָי בְּסֶרֶט

Which says, “Ata Chai be Ceret” or “Are you living in a movie?” (in the masculine) While this phrase actually translates quite well into English it still doesn’t have the same impact as it does in Hebrew. In English you could say “You are crazy,” “You are delusional,” “You are living in a fantasy,” etc…

The logical fallacy of this myth is easy to point out: If everyone who ever trained Krav Maga did so in a lethal fashion, everyone would be dead and no one would actually be training it!

Or, if the process of training it was too lethal then the Israeli Army, the IDF, would not have been around to defend anyone. A great general (or even a good one) would be wiser than to kill off his best warriors in training.

This logic is fairly simple, yet some people still live in a fantasy land or spend too much time perusing the depths of the Internet (like random Reddit sub forums, a place I never really understood).

Yes, Krav Maga is a style deeply rooted in life-or-death situations and it trains for potential deadly encounters. This however, is true for any martial art that started with self-defence or practical combat in mind. (At least, it should be, otherwise what is the point?) Thus it is a relatively safe assumption that all styles started as violence-vs-danger. Krav Maga, being more modern, has yet to fall prey to the current trend to water down a system for sporting and marketing purposes.

The need to defend oneself physically has been around since we, as humans, realized there were threats all around us. Once we became self-aware we needed more than simple nervous system responses to protect us, in particular from other humans. This is why self-defence systems, martial arts styles, and combat tactics were developed globally. They were all rooted in the need to better defend oneself in order to survive. Which means all styles started with some degree of lethality in mind, then peaceful times and sport aspirations asserted their influence.

There are many styles that are comparable to Krav Maga, where it’s simply of matter of taking out the flashy elements and ensuring that the fundamentals are (reasonably) easy to learn and apply on a consistent basis, for most people, most of the time, in most situations, with more variables allowed for than the average style.

Additionally, Krav Maga’s “lethality” comes from the training methodology, developed under duress, to allow people to train safely and be able to function under duress. We don’t train to “fight,” we train to defend ourselves, but we still need to be able to spar, and survive sparring, in order to understand how fights move, flow, and how to stay calm and react. Perhaps the notion of “lethality” here could be replaced by “efficacy.”

A system or style that, for most people, only works in the dojo or competition isn’t very practical on the street or in combat. Krav Maga remained effective for practical applications as “practical applications” came up a lot for Jews before, during, and after WWII.

However, don’t think for a second that any martial art style cannot be lethal, as it is not the system that is lethal but the person and their intentions. In the ring an MMA fighter is most likely going to beat the average Kravist, as the two train for different purposes. Plus MMA fighters certainly have the skills to be lethal on the street if they need to. Humans, after all, are just bags of water, flesh, and bone, and lots of things can kill us.

The only real difference is Krav Maga’s simplicity and ability to deal with a wide variety of situations quickly, including modern weapons and tactics. Which is bolstered by the training style, focusing on training the nervous system for the inevitable stress of a mugger, assault situation, or other life-or-death altercation. Just ask anyone who has fought in combat and fought in the ring: There is a difference.

That being said, if you find yourself training Krav Maga at a school where it feels like actual life-or-death training, and you are fearful of getting your head kicked in regularly, then your instructor is either an idiot or an asshole and knows nothing about proper Krav Maga.

So, is Krav Maga too deadly to train properly? Ata Chai be Ceret!

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Mr. Miyagi employed novel methods to teach karate to an impatient a teenager in the ’80s. (“The Karate Kid”, Columbia Pictures, 1984)
Krav Maga Myths and Misconceptions – “It Should Be Taught As It Was By Its Creators” Audio by Jonathan Fader

Many organizations and individuals still take a “traditional martial arts” approach to Krav Maga. They say, “this is how I was taught by the Master so-and-so, thus I should I teach it to my students this way as well.” This is patently wrong and actually goes against some basic principles of Krav Maga. That is, if it doesn’t work, don’t use it! Inherently, by the fact that the times change (and so do people), attacks will change, tools will change, and knowledge will change, so too must the techniques and strategies change.

I have met individuals from various organizations and countries whom are training Krav Maga as it was taught 30 years ago, and they told me “only this is Krav Maga.” I suspect many of these instructors have lost their connection to those at the forefront of Krav Maga. Or they have simply been tricked by their own ego.

Just like with the principle of “Situational Awareness,” instructors must look at their system and their methods, then assess, assess, and assess. Further to that point, as a student you must know that, periodically, techniques may (and should) change. This might come in the form of additions or subtractions in the curriculum, modification to the way techniques are executed, or new approaches to how techniques and principles are taught.

Let’s expand on this.

One thing to remember is that, at its core, Krav Maga is, and should be, principle-based rather than technique-based.

Some of the original principles of Krav Maga were:

Do you see a specific technique listed here? The answer is, No. These principles are mostly about strategy or the application of techniques, not specific ways of doing. These principles were developed based on logic, biomechanics, and the philosophies of Imi and other Krav Maga pioneers. Since their original inception, however, if a technique or principle doesn’t work in most scenarios, the norms of what is acceptable in society have changed, or we discover a more effective idea, we rethink, re-assess, and make changes. The principles are core to the system, but they too are not set in stone.

What this means is that there is quite a lot of interpretation regarding what is the best technique or approach… and this is where the trouble starts. In many ways it’s about credibility and ego. That is, an instructor or organization doesn’t want their students to know that their current curriculum may not be as up-to-date or as effective as the instructors claim it is.

Fact: Common attacks will vary from place to place and time to time, therefore requiring adaptation of techniques and approaches.

Fiction: What worked 20 years ago will work now (at least as a 100% hard statement)

This means that, over time, things will change and refine to maximize efficiency for the most people. For the MOST people! Krav Maga tries to leverage natural reactions and movements wherever possible, but some people, unfortunately, will always need to put in more training and practice to gain efficiency, no matter the technique (bodies, abilities, temperaments are different).

Occasionally I will have students who come from a school or organization that was teaching Krav Maga as it was 30 years ago. Their techniques often fall apart under stress testing, which says a lot. Their “instructors” may have been, unwittingly or not, conning them.

Now, with that being said, there actually shouldn’t be TOO much variation in the solutions for specific attacks, for a simple reason: We have a head, a groin, two arms and legs, that really hasn’t changed much over time. Thus techniques and approaches from place to place should actually look reasonably similar, so long as they follow the core principles. If they don’t look even close to other Krav Maga schools it’s probably not Krav Maga; be that due to the teachings being outdated or infused with too much “other stuff.”

In the Krav Maga community, much like in other styles, there is… politics. So, if you only ever train with one organization and it never exchanges ideas with outsiders, change is unlikely. Which means it is unfortunately likely that you are not being taught the best options in the wider Krav Maga knowledge base.

I personally started my Krav Maga journey with one of the major organizations. While they have updated their curriculum a little over time, I found myself thinking their arsenal of techniques was somewhat bloated and not exactly up-to-date. As I explored various other organizations I realized that some schools had developed better solutions for one problem and others for another problem. As a result the UTKM curriculum has changed over the years, as I get more information and training myself, and as we stress test techniques with a variety of students.

Occasionally I will see students struggling with one technique consistently. Sometimes I can solve the problem myself, but on some occasions I need some input from outside sources; maybe that is from another organization, maybe it’s from another style of self-defence or another martial arts system.

As long as the techniques fit in smoothly with the other techniques and follow the core principles then it will work. However, what I will never do is add a random technique for its own sake.

All these changes can be annoying, I know. Very annoying. Trust me, I know! Sometimes I even have students complaining that they have to learn something new. But, guess what, that’s Krav Maga!

So, regardless of the technique (though there are garbage ones out there), the reality is that the obsession with lineage and “this is how it was then,” really isn’t the Krav Maga way. The goal is efficiency, to stop the threat, and that means changing and adapting. With that in mind, if you are still doing it the way it was “in the old days,” then don’t be surprised if your techniques quickly fall apart under duress (Especially if the training was “easy” the whole time).

Ego has no place in developing Krav Maga, yet, as it involves humans, it will unfortunately always find its way in. As an educated student or instructor it is up to you to constantly remind yourself that well-thought-out and well-planned change is, in fact, the way.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

If you are training Krav Maga properly, some classes are going to suck!
Audio by Jonathan Fader

One of the concepts thought to be a core tenant of Krav Maga is that it is “easy” – easy to learn and easy to apply – therefore people of all ages, shapes, and sizes can learn it. This is often a message promoted by what have become the “big box,” franchised, Krav Maga organizations; a message often openly stated in their marketing material.

This is both true and untrue.

While the techniques and approach of Krav Maga should be easy to learn they, like anything, take time and effort to see results. If your Krav Maga training is always easy, and you enjoy every class, all the time, and you never once thought you HATE your instructor, then, I am sorry, it’s probably not Krav Maga.

While Krav Maga is easy compared to other styles, from a technical standpoint, its training and process should not, and cannot, be easy or comfortable at all times. This means that, though Krav Maga is one of the best self-defence styles in the world, if not the best, it may not be for every one. Sorry, not everything is.

Let’s expand on this.

We’ll start with the rough origin of Krav Maga. It started in Israel, before it was officially declared Israel by way of the modern U.N. Resolution 181 in 1948. At the time it was the “British Mandate of Palestine,” a name given to the region after the conquering of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Prior to 1948, Jews and Arabs alike were referred to as Palestinian (learn your history!) Without going into too much detail, the important thing to understand is that it was a rough time; Jews had paramilitary groups like the Palmach, and were getting ready for the aforementioned, and much anticipated, UN Resolution 181. As a result, they were, out of necessity, a rough and tough people. Back then part of combat training was to have someone jump on barbed wired to allow their companions to run across them. Is this something you could see yourself doing? I don’t.

In 1948 there was a massive war in the region, it was Israel vs, well, everyone else around them! Watch this video if you want more info on that conflict:

Needless to say, with Israel being a newly formed nation, containing many survivors of The Holocaust, now facing a so-called unwinnable war, it continued to be a rough time. The mental fortitude of the Israelis endured through the next… well…WAY TOO MANY WARS…and, for the most part, victory after victory.

Tough people meant tough training. If you go back and watch archival footage from the ’70s/’80s, when Krav Maga started being less of a secret, it was brutal. Like many styles at that time the reality-based training looked like Rock’em Sock’em Robots, with students trying to (metaphorically we hope) kill each other.

This tough training, along with a practical thinking pattern, meant an easy to learn, but not so easy to train, style.

A consequence of its necessity-for-survival origins was that Krav maga’s training style had a side-effect forging mental toughness in students and teaching that “If it is life or death, the more aggressive (or CrAzY) you are the more likely you are to survive!” This style and mentality lead to Krav Maga having the reputation it does.

Without these harsh experiences forcing the people of Israel to adapt and develop mental toughness, there would be no Krav Maga and maybe no Jews, because, when it comes to survival, this is the way.

However, as time progressed humans realized that, hey, maybe it’s actually not so great to metaphorically kill each other… cuz you know, head trauma. As it turns out, as long as you train the nervous system, you can actually get similar if not identical results without destroying our bodies and minds in the process. (Which, in fact, goes against one of the main principles of Krav Maga; avoid injury.) Research in the fields of psychology, sport physiology, bio-chemistry, biology, etc., has shown that loading the nervous system, via exhaustion and stimuli, will allow you to train yourself to react as if you are in real danger, without actually experiencing it.

Unfortunately, instructors simply “toning down” their classes, along with garbage instructor programs popping up everywhere, led to the degradation of the system as a whole. This meant that “easy to learn,” in the sense of “the techniques should be simple, but the training still hard,” turned into “it’s for everyone, because it’s easy to learn!”

It is for everyone if everyone is willing, on a semi-regular basis, to push themselves to their limits and hate the training. Rather than “hey, I got a good sweat on! Now I know Krav Maga! That WAS easy!” The latter is not only delusional, it fails to accurately train the nervous system to react in the appropriate manner when you are actually in survival mode… that can get your students killed.

So what SHOULD “easy to learn” mean?

Let’s compare it to another style, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). For most people learning BJJ the first 6 months will make them feel like a fish out of water, because it’s complicated, technical, and requires a good knowledge of your own body. While after 6 months of Krav Maga you should have an good, to great, grasp on the fundamentals, feel confident that you could deal with some situations, and be ready to learn more advanced concepts.

The idea is that “easy to learn” is intended to mean that the techniques and concepts are simple and should take only a class or two for you to get the basics. From there it’s just a matter of drilling. Though this is not to say that you will never find it difficult as you learn more complex techniques, or that everyone who walks in can do it that quickly (or at all if they cannot dig deep for aggression.)

To be honest, some, if not most, people who quit Krav Maga, will quit because the training is too hard (even if it is safe… unlike the old days), and that, frankly, is the way it should be.

While building people’s confidence and capabilities is important, we also cannot sell a lie, as this would be detrimental to the safety of those we teach. People MUST know their limits, skills, and capabilities. If you cannot put in the work to prepare to defend yourself (or someone else), then your best strategy must be avoidance at all times.

Occasionally people come into our class, and it’s hard, and they quit. Sometimes people come into our class, and it’s hard, and they stay.

Which of these two people are better prepared to defend themselves in a bad situation?

The answer should be simple.

So, is Krav Maga for everyone? No. It is not. Period.

Just like any martial art it takes commitment, a willingness to push yourself and endure some hardship, otherwise everyone would be doing it. But for those who want an “easy to learn” style, one that will get them were they need to be faster than many other styles, and they are willing to do the work, then Krav Maga is for you.

Easy to learn? Yes. Easy to train? Not likely. Easy to master? Well… only time will tell.

Written by Jonathan Fader

Krav Maga has the paradoxical reputation of being “easy to train” and also “so deadly you can’t train realistically”… which is it?
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Like all things in life that involve humans, Krav Maga is surrounded with myths, rumours, legends, and misconceptions. While we Kravists (those who train Krav maga) like to tell ourselves that ours is a globally recognized style, this simply is not true (YET). Most people still haven’t heard of Krav Maga and it has yet to pernitrate the collective psyche in the way Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, and more recently, BJJ have.

Of course, in certain circles like Law Enforcement and the military, it is more well known, as these are the groups it was originally for, though it has since opened up for all to learn. Despite this expansion and the length of time it has been around (at least 80+ years) there are still so many myths about the style out there. This is partially due to the fact Krav Maga isn’t as wide spread as we would like (YET) and partially due to an abundance of underqualified individuals teaching it (No, a piece of paper does not mean you know how to run a school properly or teach KM in a consistent, structured manner while maintaining the essence of the system.)

So, as we do every once and a while, we thought we would break down a few of these myths in a series. Here are some of the myths or commonly held ideas we wish to break down, in detail, over the coming weeks. If you find you are annoyed by one of these sections, just hold on for the full post, in which we will deconstruct that myth more thoroughly. (Then you can get mad.)

“It’s always easy”

One of the concepts thought to be a core tenant of Krav Maga is that it is “easy,” and therefore people of all ages, shapes, and sizes can learn it. This is often a message promoted by the, now “big box,” franchised, Krav Maga organizations; often openly stated in their marketing material.

This is both true and untrue.

While the techniques and approach of Krav Maga should be easy to learn they, like anything, take time and effort to see results. If your Krav Maga school is always easy, and you enjoy every class, all the time, and you never once thought you Hate your instructor, then, I am sorry, it’s probably not Krav Maga.

While Krav Maga is easy compared to other styles, from a technical standpoint, its training and process should not, and cannot, be easy or comfortable at all times. This means that, though Krav Maga is one of the best self-defence styles in the world, if not the best, it may not be for every one. Sorry, not everything is.

“It should be taught as it was by its creators”

Many organizations and individuals still take a “traditional martial arts” approach to Krav Maga. They say, “this is how I was taught by the Master so-and-so, thus I should I teach it to my students this way as well.” This is patently wrong and actually goes against some basic principles of Krav Maga. That is, if it doesn’t work, don’t use it! Inherently, by the fact that the times change (and so do people), attacks will change, tools will change, and knowledge will change, so too must the techniques and strategies change.

I have met individuals from various organizations and countries whom are training Krav Maga as it was taught 30 years ago, and they told me “only this is Krav Maga.” I suspect many of these instructors have lost their connection to those at the forefront of Krav Maga. Or they have simply been tricked by their own ego.

Just like with the principle of “Situational Awareness,” instructors must look at their system and their methods, then assess, assess, and assess. Further to that point, as a student you must know that, periodically, techniques may (and should) change. This might come in the form of additions or subtractions in the curriculum, modification to the way techniques are executed, or new approaches to how techniques and principles are taught.

“It’s always about Aggression and Fighting”

I regularly encounter the belief that “If I learn Krav Maga I will be really aggressive, because it’s just about going crazy and fighting.” While aggression and an understanding of how fights work are components of learning Krav Maga, these in themselves are NOT Krav Maga. Remember, Imi Licthendfeld, the founder of “modern” Krav Maga, when asked what its purpose was, said “so one may walk in peace.” Does this sound like the words of someone who wanted people running around being aggressive and messing people up? I think not.

While you certainly cannot learn Krav Maga with out learning to attack with purpose and aggresion, if you think you are always going to walk into a Krav Maga class and go 100% trying to kill each other, you are completely wrong and probably need to spend less time on the internet (or get better sources).

More accurately, Krav Maga teaches you to understand, and respect, the reality of violence, with the additional understanding that times change and so do people. Especially in a modern world in which laws matter and cameras matter, making self-defence more complicated, you need to have a more holistic approach to your Krav Maga.

“It’s too lethal to train properly or spar”

If you believed the previous myth then you may also believe this one, as they are fairly connected. It is simply bullshit. The reality is, if you understand HOW to train your nervous system, and you understand Krav Maga ideas and strategies from a “principles first” point of view, then all you really need to know is that you CAN flip that switch and apply it in a lethal form.

Obviously, if it is so harsh that you cannot train consistently and for a long time, then the training isn’t very good at all. The hardcore mentality is an “Old School” mentality and is misguided if you expect longevity in your training path. Additionally, not everyone is capable of going hard all the time, not to mention we want to avoid injuries in order to stay training. So if we actually trained at 100% all the time, the bodies would hit the floor and we would be violating another Krav Maga basic; avoid injuries. It’s not about training hard or for lethality, it’s about training smart to get the results we need. If you came to class to “kill” there’s a good chance you won’t last, because either someone will put you in your place or you will be kicked out.

“It’s all about Combat Tactics and only for the Military and Police”

The notion that “It’s only for the military or police and not for me,” simply isn’t true. Originally, Imi taught it to civilians, primarily Jews to protect themselves from the Nazis pre-WW2. When Israel was formed in 1948, it was taught to the military, and during that time it was considered a closely guarded secret. Given that it was intended “so one may walk in peace,” when tensions eventually eased in the ’80s teaching of the system was opened for civilians. While, yes, at a good school you can go from being a civilian to a civilian trained in a manner similar to military or police, it is not meant to turn you into these things; but rather to give you an understanding that self-defence is NOT limited to unarmed combat (even if the laws in your country say otherwise). Anyone can learn Krav Maga, and should learn it (or at the very least a legit style with self-defence components) so that everyone may walk in peace.

“It’s only one style”

People often talk about styles and say, “Krav Maga is just Krav Maga and has its limits.” This is not strictly true, as, originally, it was based on boxing, wrestling, and being generally fit. Right there, in it’s foundation, the potential for multiple styles is evident. Not to mention that, if your school is being honest, it will ensure that it has instructors whom are capable of teaching multiple styles. You should be learning aspects of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, submissions grappling, and judo, as well as police, military, and security application. A good Krav Maga school is actually making you a jack-of-all-trades, ranging from okay to good in any and all of these styles so that you are better prepared to deal with any and all attacks. Of course, all these styles also need to be taught in a way that maintains a common conceptual thread and incorporates basic Krav Maga principles. Which means how solid your Krav Maga is really depends on the design of your curriculum and the character of your instructors.

Conclusion

These myths and misconceptions will be broken down to be explored in greater detail, from a variety of angles, over the coming weeks. It is our hope that these myths will be dispelled and that we get the misconceptions out of your head, replacing them with the understanding that, even if Krav Maga is “simple and easy to learn,” it’s mastery is a more ambitious goal.

So, empty your cup and be prepared to fill it again.

Written by Jonathan Fader