Archive for the ‘Self-defence in General’ Category

Communication and awareness will solve a lot of problems before they happen. (source)
Tales From The Job: My Armoured Guard Experience Audio by Jonathan Fader

A number of years ago I landed a job with an armoured car company as a guard and driver. The job itself was a combination of logistics (transportation) and security, which seemed to be perfectly suited to the type of work experience I had at the time. I maintained a class one commercial drivers license for years, and had driven all sizes and varieties of trucks. I also had a security services license for quite a while and worked part time doing things like “access control” at special events, bar security, retail security, etc… There was even a period in which I worked nights/evenings as a doorman at an office building on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In any case, you might say I was a “shoe in” for the job.

Now, as this is a Krav Maga blog, I thought I’d impart a little personal insight and experience with respect to the actual security aspects of my job. I believe this not only relevant to other parts of the security industry and law enforcement, but also to one’s day-to-day life as it pertains to personal safety, situational awareness, and the resolution/avoidance of conflict situations. The latter part of that last point being of paramount importance when one is carrying around a loaded firearm.

The Job

For those unfamiliar with the world of armed transport/security, bear in mind that armed personnel being hired to move high value items around is, in fact, an ages old profession. One that predates the existence of firearms themselves. Where there is something worth stealing, there has, and always will be, someone who will try to take it, sometimes by force. This is where people in my role come in.

With all that in mind of course, I was initially pretty nervous about getting into this line of work. This was in spite of the fact that the vast majority of security work I had done up to that point was, well…. pretty “hands on.” I had also trained in a number of different martial arts over the years, and grew up in a fairly gritty part of East Vancouver, back in a day and age where physical violence was a much more common, almost acceptable, part of our whole “social vernacular.” My concern however, was that I only had limited experience with handguns themselves, and had certainly never carried one around with me. Questions arose in my mind like, “What happens if I’m on the receiving end of an organized robbery?” “What if someone gets their hands on my gun and tries to take it from me?” and “How would I react to the pressures of being in an actual gun fight?”

What I learned in my training and from subsequent time on the job answered these questions and many more. For example, I learned that organized robberies are rare these days, at least in the part of the world where we live. If/when they do happen, it’s likely to go down fairly quickly, and as such you may not even see it coming, and may not even have time to react or draw your weapon. It will also likely be carried out by a group of professional thieves who, though they may rough you up a little in the process, aren’t going to want to deal with a murder charge and the associated problems that arise from that. You might get pistol whipped, but chances are you’ll make it out alive. That being said, you still need to train and prepare for the possibility that the thieves may try to kill you, and always be prepared to fight for your life or that of your partner if you have to.

The Complexity of Carrying a Sidearm

We did a lot of rigorous, live fire, shooting drills in the lead up to my employment, often while the instructor was yelling at us. Of course, a big part of the training I did for the job involved hands-on “weapon retention” drills and scenarios. I still run those drills as often as I can on my own accord or with a partner. Which brings me to my next point… the likelihood that you will have to fight for your life on the job increases significantly in a scenario where someone has closed the distance on you and is trying to pull your sidearm from its holster. This is a particularly dangerous situation where you must assume that the person doing this intends to use your gun on you, in a future robbery or murder, or even on a bunch of innocent bystanders.

It’s absolutely paramount that you don’t let them get control of your weapon!

This is one of the biggest pitfalls of carrying a loaded gun while working in what are usually crowded, public areas. This is why you will often see armed guards walking around with their shooting hand resting on their speed loader/magazine pouches at the front of their duty belt with their forearm and elbow resting on top of the grip of their gun. This is a relatively effective way of preventing easy access to the weapon without having to walk around with your hand on the grip itself; people tend to get nervous when they see you doing that.

Observe & Communicate

With that in mind, I still believe the best way to avoid being in either of the aforementioned scenarios in the first place really is through the use of effective observation and communication skills.

Critical observation of peoples’ behaviour, in conjunction with effective communication, are the most useful aspects of any security professional’s toolkit. In observing others around you, a little “healthy” paranoia is actually an asset in my line of work. Anything unusual taking place around you has to be at least considered as a potential threat, or a ruse with which to distract you from a possible setup. A big part of addressing that involves directly communicating with anyone who approaches you before they have the chance to get in your personal space. To me that means, hopefully, not less than 3 metres away, though at least 6 metres is preferable. The farther the better in any case. Though that, in many ways, is largely dependent on the environment.

This also means always having a keen sense of what’s going on in the environment around you at all times. If you got robbed, knocked out, or were relieved of your gun because you were on your phone, or just weren’t paying attention, you have critically failed the most basic level of your job. This could result in the untimely end of your life, or someone else’s.

The Verbal Disarm

So how do you communicate with people in a way that will hopefully prevent them from gaining and exploiting a tactical advantage over you? This often involves giving “polite” tactical commands to people who get in your personal space while you’re working.

For example, if someone approaches me while I’m loading an ABM, I will often put my left (not shooting) hand out and say “That’s close enough! Is there something I can help you with?” or… “Sir / Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to take a few steps back and give us some room here…” To a stranger who tries to start up a conversation with me I will often say “I can’t talk to you right now, I’m on the job” or “There isn’t a single thing we need to discuss here. I’m going to have to ask you to move along and let us work.” The thing to remember is that the conversation they’re starting with you could very well be a distraction tactic. The key in shutting that down is to make sure that none of what you’re saying to people presents any options for them otherwise, and though it may be a little rude, is also direct and not profane in any way. You must to speak to them in a clear, concise fashion, and often with a loud voice and definitive resolve. In some ways it’s the art of being an asshole, without actually being an asshole.

Now, in having members of the public occasionally try to talk to me while on the job, there are certain pre-indicators of violence that I am on the lookout for and do have to address directly. Having, as I said before, grown up when and where I did, I have experienced more than my share of violence at a personal level and at work. One common thread I found in the lead up to many violent events that took place, was that when someone intended to do harm to you, I found they would often make up a story involving you, and subsequently try to ram that story down your throat beforehand. It could be something as simple as “Hey, I saw you checking out my girl” or “Quit staring at me!” or “My friend said you called him a ______.” Sometimes it was more complicated or it could be quite subtle, but it was almost always categorically incorrect and simply made up for the purpose of justifying whatever they were about to inflict upon you. Unfortunately, the logical reaction of ignoring or denying the story that’s being told will simply speed up the process of you ending up in a fight. I found the best way to avert that is to change the story, or the subject of the story completely.

A good example of this in relation to my work is this: I have, on a number of occasions, had people approach me while at work with a “what would you do/are allowed to do if someone tried to rob you?” sort of question. To me this is a made up story that involves me potentially becoming the victim of a crime, and naturally raises a lot of red flags; this person could be testing the waters for a potential robbery as it were.

In these cases I will try to make them the subject of my response with something to the effect of “you may want to entertain the possibility that it would end very badly for you.” Which usually makes them really uncomfortable. Or I will simply point out something about their personal appearance that I think they need to address immediately, I might respond with “Hey, I think your fly is open.” I might even say something deflective like “Did you see that girl that just walked by?” Anything that changes the story and shifts their focus from me, to something else. The trick there is not to let them get to the end of their story, because the ending involves you getting beaten up, robbed, raped, murdered, exploited, etc. Even if it’s only hypothetical, it doesn’t end well for you, and, as I said, it my well be a pre-indicator of someone who is about to do something stupid.

The Use of Potentially Lethal Force

Which brings me to my final point: What happens in the case of an actual violent engagement and what are the rules by which different levels of force are justified?

In the absolute worst case scenario on the job, which is the use of deadly force on the part of an armed security person, there are three elements that need to be in play to justify that.

The subject(s) in that case must have/shown:

  1. A weapon.
  2. Intent to use said weapon
  3. A delivery system for that weapon.

In other words you have to be under attack and legitimately in fear of your life. But what does this mean exactly? Well, if say for example, someone grabs my carryall bag, full of cash, from my hand, in a crowded mall, and runs away with it. Can I draw my gun and threaten to shoot them if they don’t stop?

The answer is no.

If I draw on them I’m being incredibly irresponsible and risk losing my job and my ATC (Authorization to Carry.) If I actually shoot them in that case, I am committing a crime and will likely be charged according to the outcome (murder, attempted murder, etc.). If I even run after them I am putting lives at stake by, once again, risking losing control of my gun in any ensuing melee. At the point that they have fled the scene they are a problem for the local police to deal with. As armed guards we are strongly encouraged to disengage whenever possible. This is a luxury that the police themselves don’t have, for the most part.

However, if I end up in a situation where a subject has approached me, ignored any tactical commands I’ve hopefully had the chance to give them at that point, and pulls a large knife from their pocket and proceeds to rush at me with it, that’s the point when drawing and even using my gun might be justified. There will be a lot of factors to consider in that moment, including the presence of innocent bystanders, the terrain/environment, or the possibility of having to engage multiple subjects. The best case in that scenario is me having my service weapon out of my holster in the “ready” position, and shouting tactical commands for the subject drop the weapon and get on the ground, at which point the subject complies, stands down, and is likely held at gunpoint until the police arrive. The worst outcome, of course, is having to shoot the subject and deal with whatever ensues from that point.

In light of what I’ve said here, it is my sincere hope that throughout my career I never even have to draw my gun, much less use it (I haven’t yet).

In the case of what I do, a boring career is usually a long career. In the aftermath of even the most justified shooting, I would be taken off the job for an extended period of time, if not permanently. I might face some type of criminal or civil legal issues regardless, and, of course, would have yet another traumatic memory to add to the growing list in my head. Needless to say, there’s a great deal of important and very critical decision-making that can take place at my job. Lives may actually hang in the balance.

Conclusion

Beyond the possibility of a lethal encounter or more emotional scars, however, it’s one of the better gigs I’ve had over the years. The pay is decent, the actual work itself is fairly easy going, and it is kind of a hub for military/law enforcement types with whom I often see eye-to-eye, which makes the work environment very positive. Honestly, there are few groups of people I have trusted more than my current set of co-workers, but then what we do is predicated on that in many ways.

The actual day-to-day reality of the gig is that people do stay out of our way for the most part, and the job can be uneventful to the point that many of us do become fairly complacent in our work. I try to avoid that by training as often as I can, and definitely encourage my co-workers to do the same.

I hope this gives you all some insight into what I do. I would definitely recommend this kind of work to anyone in the security industry, those of us who are aspiring to careers in law enforcement or the military, or to anyone who just wants to challenge themselves to do something that requires a higher level of personal engagement in their work.

Written by: a UTKM Student

If you would like to submit a story about your experience in Security, Law enforcement or the military in relation to self defense, violence, de-escalation, what you learned and or how you handled it please make submissions to info@urbantacticscanada.com . Min 500 word. Published Submissions will be rewarded with 3 months free access to UTKMU.

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

TransLink offers a number to call or text if there are problems/emergencies. (source)
Transit Tales: Thoughts on My Evolving Transit Experiences Audio by Jonathan Fader

As a young adult without a vehicle, I take transit a lot. To school, to work, to Krav Maga, at all hours of the day and night (I cannot begin to tell you how many podcasts I’ve listened to.) I’m actually writing this on the bus, perhaps fittingly, but that’s more because I have a tendency to procrastinate. I started relying of the bus when I reached my late teens and my parents didn’t want to drive from Langley to Richmond anymore. So instead of a one hour drive to UTKM, it was two hours spread across one bus and two SkyTrains to be able to keep up my training. And as a young teenager with no social life, I went “cool” and proceeded to download a ton of music. 

Suddenly having a lot of time to waste, I had to find ways to entertain myself. I personally don’t like studying or doing work on transit unless I absolutely have to (procrastinating strikes again). So in the beginning I used to bring books to read, but I would get too distracted and be more likely to miss stops. So situational awareness, that thing that Jon likes to beat into our heads in class? Nah. So headphones and podcasts! I started listening to the UTKM podcasts, and countless more from there. I really only listen to podcasts on transit, as they require some amount of focus but I can still be paying attention to my surroundings. I’ve talked to some people who prefer being able to hear what’s happening around them, which is fair. I just need something to do before my thoughts spiral into madness. As a tactical compromise I listen at a low enough volume that I can hear what I’m listening to, but am still aware able to hear if something is happening around me. 

Thanks to years of Krav, I now factor in threats when I chose where to sit. Thaaaaaanks. On the SkyTrain, I’ll take the single seats and sit however I need to so that my back is to a wall or barrier. I don’t like standing in the middle of the SkyTrain if I can stand against the door. On the bus, I do the same thing, but I’ll hide in the back of the bus. Yes, I’m further from the driver and the exits, but I can see everything and usually people will fill up the front first anyway. I also have the problem of needing to transit to Vancouver for work now, which is another two hours… one-way. Having given up on getting a good night’s sleep on weekdays means I have dozed off on transit more then I would care to admit. This hasn’t resulted in any problems yet, but I still wouldn’t recommend it. That’s when choosing a safer place to sit can be helpful, because I do not want to sleep when someone is sitting beside me. I tend to not actually fall asleep, rather I just doze, opening my eyes every so often to make sure I haven’t missed my stop. If you are going to sleep though, make sure there is a decent amount of people around and that you have a way to wake up before you need to get off. Taking out headphones so you can hear more clearly could also help, and is generally a safer choice. Just remember that choosing to sleep is putting yourself in White, in a public area. 

Then there’s the delightful people you get to meet. Ugh. There’s a few different types of people, some more tolerable than others:

  • There are people who come up and ask for money or food. I don’t tend to carry cash and I say so, this usually isn’t a big deal and they move on.
  • Then you have people “selling” something. Whether it be their religion or a cause, they stand outside of stations and try to give out fliers. Don’t look, don’t engage, just keep moving, throw out the flier later, whatever works. This type are unlikely to hassle you or escalate the situation.
  • Then you have transit police. I honestly don’t see them a lot unless they are dealing with an issue or the SkyTrain is closing. 

Story time!

I had one person who was bothering me about buying him food. Not to judge, but he looked pretty rough. He went to go sleep once I agreed, ’cause it’s ten bucks and I had a bit of time before my bus, so whatever. He was standing over me, dozing, while I was sitting down. I was leaning away ’cause, yeah, that was an uncomfortable situation. It must have looked bad to the other man in the SkyTrain car with us, ’cause he came over to ask if I was okay. We get to my stop, and as the guy was still sleeping I just got up to leave as fast as I could. And there, waiting outside the door, are an officer and a medic. I just leave as they go into the train because I don’t want to be anymore involved then I am already (1st stage of self-defence: Avoidance). I figure the second man could let transit police know enough about that guy. Thanks, random stranger! I would not have done it so I appreciate you doing so.

Lastly, as a young female, I’ve had guys come up and start talking to me. If you, as a male do this, you can fuck right off.

I’m not joking.

I can guarantee you are making someone feel uncomfortable and they are talking to you because they don’t want to be rude.

When I was younger, this used to scare me. As I’ve learned more Krav, I’m more confident in my ability to stop something bad from happening, but it’s still awkward for me. As someone who was raised to be polite (and due to the way women in our society are socialized), shutting down strangers I don’t want to talk to is difficult, but it is something I’m working on. Don’t let people get harassed on transit if you see it happening; be like the man in my story. Translink now has a posted number you can text if you are worried about something that’s happening if you take transit in the Lower Mainland

That’s all I got. Be safe. Try not to become too paranoid, like myself, as staying in Orange too much can also be bad. Go read the post on the colour code if you don’t understand what I’m saying. Don’t bother other people. Also when you complain about how far away Krav is from your place, remember that I used to take the bus for four hours for a one hour class.

Written by: Karis M. – UTKM Green Belt

If you would like to submit a story about your transit experience in relation to self defense or violence please make submissions to info@urbantacticscanada.com . Min 500 word. Published Submissions will be rewarded with 3 months free access to UTKMU.

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

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

Apply a bit of crazy to crank up your aggression and stop a threat before it stops you. (source)

I regularly encounter the belief that “if I learn Krav Maga it will make me really aggressive, because it’s just about going crazy and fighting.” Not exactly. 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 without 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.

So let’s expand.

Yes, being aggressive is a fundamental of Krav Maga. However, we aren’t talking about aggression in personality or attitude in everyday life, what we mean is, when forced to, you must attack with everything you have in order to overwhelm the threat, and you don’t stop until the threat is stopped. Though it probably isn’t the original expression Kravists used, we like to sum it up as “crazy beats big.” Or rather, the person willing to do greater violence with greater ferocity (while applying wise tactics) is most likely to win any given fight. We also have to remember that Krav Maga came out of a need for survival in a literal life or death situation. Of course, if you are in a life or death situation with another human then, by all means, have at it; be as aggressive and as violent as you need until the threat is stopped, even if that, unfortunately, means lethal force.

The thing is, unless you are in such a situation (ideally avoided via the first two stages of self-defence), then being so aggressive that they die is going to result in dire consequences legally, emotionally, socially, etc.. The days of going full on in all situations are basically over in most places (at least in the Western World) and the reason is simple: Accountability.

How so? As one of my many teachers Amit Himelstein of IKF said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Guys, it’s the 21st century, Krav Maga can’t be about being insanely aggressive anymore; everyone has cameras or there are cameras everywhere.”

This means that if you are overzealous in your violence somebody probably saw it or it was filmed. Best case scenario it’s on YouTube, worst case scenario you are in jail for the rest of your life (or worse depending on where you are).

The reality is our modern societies have modern laws and modern social standards.

Let’s take Canada for example, our self-defence laws are as such that you may employ “equal force” in the moment to stop a threat. Now, in theory this is simple, but, in practice, when looking at the results in a range of court cases, you might as well flip a coin. Cases I thought were clearly self-defence ended in a guilty verdict, and cases I deemed aggravated assault were came out not guilty.

The truth is the jury process really isn’t about peers, it’s simply about citizens, who, on average, are not experts on use of force and have little understanding of how violence works. That is, sometimes you need to be more violent than onlookers may think; because they aren’t the target of the threat itself and therefore cannot feel the actions or resistance of the aggressor, or grasp what’s going on for you internally.

It means that, in reality, you actually need to be very careful how much force and aggression you use, which can be quite difficult without significant training.

If your default is always be super aggressive and destroy the attacker, (especially for men, even more so larger men) you may find yourself regularly on the wrong side of the law. Even if you, and others, feel you were in the right, based on actual knowledge of use of force and self-defence.

I am going to tell a story about an “alleged” student I once had: They came in and were quite aggressive, to the point that all the instructors and students complained. I asked this student about it and they told me “but Krav Maga is all about aggression and that if they weren’t being aggressive in class then it wasn’t Krav Maga.” This individual is the only person I can recall to whom I’ve had to give a written warning and probation (most people who don’t fit the style of the school just leave on their own.) I told them they had to train safely or they would be out. They kind of disappeared until the probation period was over and came back thinking it was lifted. I guess they didn’t understand how it worked. From what I’ve heard they ended up bouncing around a few Krav Maga schools that I know. One day I got a visit from one of the more serious police squads. It seems this individual may have not have gotten the hint, or may have just been a psycho, and may have stabbed someone a few years later. They claimed they learned it all in Krav Maga and that I taught them to be super aggressive. This claim, of course, was false; they were just unstable and were looking for somewhere to be violent. Which is not Krav Maga, and is certainly not “learning to walk in peace.”

While some people (psychos aside) thrive on aggressive, hard training, and only want to do Krav Maga if it is this, I must constantly remind people that this, in itself, is not Krav Maga, but rather an aspect of it.

If you only want to train because it’s hard, aggressive, and you get to go crazy, then you may in fact be missing the point.

Krav Maga is truly about learning to walk in peace, knowing you are capable of violence, if you must, but that you would rather not, in true warrior fashion. Warriors of old knew this because, once upon a time, it was always life or death, and the wrong encounter would mean your death not theirs. Or worse, a crippling injury with no medical system, which meant your family starved and you died anyway. This, perhaps, is a lesson we have lost, since it’s not all about life or death anymore, but it is one we must never forget.

So, whether it’s because our laws keep us in check, or because the wrong fight means death, just know that aggression is only one part of Krav Maga. It is meant as a tool to counter someone else’s extreme violence, not a state of being or a default.

Use your aggression along with your strategy, your technique, and your control, all while trying to avoid conflict altogether. But know that when fire meets fire, you may have to go full flame on. BUT ONLY IF YOU MUST.

Ask yourself, are you learning to be aggressive and go ham in Krav Maga, or are you actually really learning to walk in peace as Krav Maga was originally intended for?

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

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

If you didn’t Avoid, couldn’t De-escalate, and chose not to Strike First, you are Reacting!
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Finally, we are here. The last, and least desirable, stage of self-defence. If you have reached this stage you have failed to follow the previous steps and advice, or your attacker simply had better tactics and skills than you. In which case, why did they want to attack you and why did you allow such a situation to happen in the first place?

Too often people think that they should wait for the other person to start the fight for legal reasons, but this isn’t always true (and definitely isn’t safe!). If it is justifiable, and you can explain that, you should strike first.

The worst case scenario for this stage is that you have already been punched, kicked, or grabbed, and you are now forced to react; fighting fire with fire. However, you must understand that you should only use as much force as is required to stop the threat (in most cases). When they stop, you stop. If they don’t stop, or they escalate the violence, then you must keep going using retzef and other principles, or you must either escalate the violence yourself or find your exit.

Remember, at this point there is the possibility that you have already been, or are about to be, overwhelmed. This means your reaction needs to be fighting with everything you have; digging deep inside for aggression and sheer willpower, not stopping until you are safe.

Something to consider with this stage: If you have lots and lots of personal stories involving you having to react to violence, then you have repeatedly been making bad decisions and have not improved your verbal or awareness skills. So, unfortunately, the stories here are limited because, you know, while bad decision making brought me to these stages, smart decision making limited the violence.

  1. It was high-school (again) and, to be honest, I don’t recall what had been said (probably a “he said, she said” situation), but here I was in a local community centre, minding my own business, when a group of people, whom I knew and was friendly with, surrounded me. I wasn’t at all expecting an attack because, after all, I thought we were friends. However, they were from a different ethnic group, and though some of them had told me that they respected me, if it ever came between me and someone of their own background, even someone they didn’t know, they would always support the latter. This is a lesson I learned early; while it is not popular to discuss, different groups of people can operate by different social and cultural rules. Even if you live in the same country. So you really should be culturally and socially aware, in order to understand that what you thought was “no big deal” might be interpreted completely differently by other people. Anyway, back to me being surrounded. I was legitimately confused; as far as I knew (at the time) I hadn’t said or done anything out of order. It seemed like another person, or persons, whom didn’t like me was trying to get me jumped. The largest of my aggressors, maybe 300lbs, was the defacto “ring leader” (though I knew he wasn’t really the one I should be afraid off). He made some comments and then promptly punched me hard in the solar plexus. I smiled, then asked if that was all he had. Plus one for building up my abs the previous few years, I guess it paid off. It also goes to show the difference combative training can make, though he was big, he didn’t actually know how to use his weight affectively in a punch. (Otherwise I would have been on the ground getting my head kicked in.) Here is where you probably think I immediately started swinging back and fought my way out because this is reactive self-defence. WRONG! Remember, I was literally surrounded by a circle of people who were looking for a reason to do some damage. It probably would have been a terrible idea to return the aggression at that moment. If you know anything about use of force models, you know that you must always try to go back down the scale whenever possible. So I jumped back to stage 2 and tried to de-escalate. Obviously, the fact that his “hard” punch did little, and my reaction being that of amusement, threw them off completely, as this is probably not how this scenario had played out for them in past. I used it to my advantage, saying [whatever it is I said in the moment], managing to convince them it must have been some kind of miscommunication by someone else, and it was over. Though for a hot minute I was definitely freaking out (on the inside). They left, possibly pondering the overall situation, and I went on my way to safer and hopefully greener pastures… well, not really, I probably just went back to hanging around at school or home… So remember, react last, but if you are clearly in a bad spot try to scale it back down the stages of self-defence to give yourself better odds. – Jon
  2. Another reactive situation occurred not in high-school, but rather in an allegedly more adult and serious environment, ie. the army (the IDF to be precise). For much of my time in the army, I was not really in a good place mentally. Not because of the army, per se, but due to the manner in which the difficult environment exacerbated my depression (which had not yet been diagnosed and therefore I had no tools to deal with) That difficult environment came in the form of little to no sleep, crappy Hebrew fluency, and even worse people skills. This meant I didn’t get along with most people or didn’t like most people enough to bother getting along with them. I generally kept to the small group of close friends I had made; usually those who spoke English and were, I thought, a little more intelligent than the average soldier. Others, whom I felt lacked discipline or intelligence, and was shocked they were allowed into the army at all, were the ones I often had arguments, or worse, with. Most of the time people just thought I was the “slightly older and kind of crazy Canadian,” but I was respected on account of being a volunteer, while they were drafted without a choice (service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18). However, some people I just couldn’t stand and made it clear they were neither my friend nor someone I could care about at all. Some people got it, some did not. One individual whom I did not like and whom often didn’t get the hint, failed to fuck off on one too many occasions. Sleep deprivation and a foreign language, combined, resulted in poor decision making and even poorer understandings of how things may translate differently. For example, in English if you say “son of a bitch,” most people (at least where I am from) don’t take it too seriously. Whereas saying “son of a bitch” in Hebrew, in particular to a Mizrachi or Sephardic Jew, usually didn’t go over so well. One time, during a heated argument with the aforementioned individual, who was annoying the shit out of me, again, I called him a “son of a bitch.” He dared me to say it one more time. So I did. He threw a hard, wide, hook punch. Luckily, I was well-versed in 360 defence and blocked it, bursting in and stopping just short of his face with my fist. I knew he wasn’t really a threat, in addition, the moment I moved in I could feel that he was pulling his punch (realizing his mistake). I told him he was a moron and walked off. But imagine if I had not had my hands ready, what would have happened? He probably could have knocked me out. Though the escalation was likely my fault, and I was tired, and pissed off, he threw the first punch. Something I should have seen coming by his body language, but I didn’t. Nevertheless I was ready and I defended it without injuring him (other than a bruised ego). Once again, I was also lucky that he wasn’t much of a fighter and didn’t immediately follow it up with something else. At this time my skills were limited, though I often convinced people they were more than they were, which, combined with my still unstable reactions to things, usually kept me out of serious trouble. Had it escalate further it is possible we would have had to stay on base when everyone else was off, or worse, army jail. These were the only reasons I stopped at the time, but looking back, it was the wise decision anyway. – Jon
  3. I was out drinking with a buddy one night, in my misspent youth, and he had overindulged by quite a bit, so we headed back to his apartment to drink some more (logically). Unbeknownst to me, at some point in the night he had got it into his head that one of the women I was talking to at our regular bar should have been talking to him instead. An unseen anger had, apparently, been welling up in him all night (because that is certainly a healthy way to deal with emotions and friendships). At his place we cracked a few beers and were chatting about the events of the evening when he suddenly hit me with a right hook. No warning, no outburst, nothing! It wasn’t a hard hit (seemingly a common theme in those who open with sucker-punches), more surprising than impactful. I looked at him, confused. He threw a second one, I blocked it with an inside tan sao and pushed him onto his couch. I had no idea what was going on, but for whatever reason my immediate instinct was to shake up the beer bottle I was holding and spray him head-to-toe with it (perhaps to discourage further action?). I turned, walked out, and never heard from him again. – Corey

It is interesting that most of us do not have many stories involving stage 4 self-defence. Those we could think of were over quickly, as, when your are “playing catch-up” in the encounter you must react swiftly, with intent. This, of course, is a good thing, as it indicates we either live wisely or we are all efficient in stages 1 and 2 (occasionally 3). Consider that, if you find yourself always on the tail-end of someone else’s first strike, you are failing, in a fairly significant way, to follow good self-defence principles, and are making seriously bad decisions on a constant basis.

With that being said, there is a common element between all the stories that were told through out this series: In almost all, if not all, we were under the age of 25…

This should say something. Science has suggested that we reach adulthood, or rather brain development stops, around the age of 25 and not 18 (as we often legally define adulthood). It is also a known fact that young males under the age of 25 are also more prone to making bad, rash, or more extreme decisions. Usually they are of the social and physical nature told in these stories. Sometimes they result in severe injury or jail, and worse they lead to a death(s). It is as though, at least according to nature, this impulsiveness is expected under the age of 25; we frown upon it but seem unsurprised by it. Beginning in the 25-30 range there is far less forgiveness for such acts because you are now adjusting to your more stable brain chemistry. After 30, however, it’s not cute anymore. If you haven’t figured your shit out and, outside of job requirements, still find yourself in stage 3 or 4 self-defence regularly, you are doing it wrong, plain and simple.

I hope that this series has provided you better insight as to how to apply each stage of self-defence. Though the stories told are limited, the reality such that, if we spent the time to compile stories from more people, it is likely we would have tonnes of examples to choose from. The theories, concepts, and principles of Krav Maga and self-defence are sound ones, which apply most of the time. But they, like most theories or ideas, mean nothing if you, as an individual, do not know how to contextualize and apply them in real life.

I hope that, at the very least, this series has helped you to better understand the reason behind the definition of the stages, and their unique challenges, and how you may better use them to stay safe and walk in peace.

Written by Jonathan Fader

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

As some of you know, or are just finding out, there is a process when dealing with conflict. On the Macro (Political Science, Sociology, etc..), it can be quite complicated and nuanced, on the Micro, well, it still is. However, the process is simple enough that anyone can easily learn the basics.

Pre-Emptive is the 3rd stage of self-defence; when you have failed to Avoid or De-escalate (Diffuse), it’s Time to Act! This series incorporates personal stories from UTKM instructors and students to provide context and examples for what these concepts look like in the real world, the various ways they can be applied, and how different approaches may play out.

Pre-emptive is a tricky one, because, sometimes, it may look like you were the one who initiated the conflict. This often leads to people being hesitant to “throw the first punch” even if they sense they are in imminent danger. Particularly if you grew up in Canada where (at least when I was in school) there were emphatic about never hitting, EVER! Unfortunately, this stance is somewhat delusional, and quite silly, given that in many cases teachers, or the school, will not step in if there is conflict between students. Or if they do, they have little power to sort out complicated situations. This means they are, at least in my opinion, affectively removing empowerment and the ability for individuals to learn to solve their own problems. They tell kids, “you can never strike someone,” and if the other options don’t work they are fucked. Its wrong, plain and simple. As you will see from this collection of personal stories, from several authors, and as Krav Maga has learned, sometimes you MUST strike first.

Part of this comes from the fact that, despite what many believe, Humans are still animals, and though we are omnivores we are predatory in nature. This means that those who are powerful, or worse, feel powerful, will rarely pick fights with those they perceive as stronger than them. Just like lions on the savanna, predators will target the old, the very young, and the weak in the herd. Because the strong ones will either fight back or stick together for strength, but in the wild predators CANNOT afford to take significant damage, as it means the beginning of the end.

Unlike predators in the wild, however, human predators will rarely (at least in modern times) face life or death for picking the wrong target, which can embolden them. Striking first will, at the very least, let them know, “Hey, asshole, you picked the wrong fight today!”

Of course, if you do strike first and then immediately realize you should have run, then it’s time to run. So make sure you train hard, assess, and be smart; you will know when to strike first and when to run. It can be hard for most people to know when to make the right decision, but one thing is for sure, if you hesitate you may look weak and then you will end up in the last stage of self-defence, reactive, or worse. So, to help you learn and contextualize the idea of striking first, here are some personal stories, from several individuals, to illustrate the decision making process:

  1. I must have been out of high-school already, as parties were not really my thing back then. But, like many, once you hit adulthood and decisions are solely on you, it is time to explore. Several of my friends at the time were already living on their own, or with roommates, and several of them liked to party. Which meant, so did I. One friend had a place fairly close to where I was living at the time, which was great because it meant I could walk to her house, and therefore let loose. Like many parties at the time, they were held at peoples houses that were considered “the party houses,” so, while there were those who were invited, it usually meant random people showed up; sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. In this particular case it was a mixed bag of nuts, so anything and everything could have happened; from salty tears to the hard crunch of teeth breaking. This story is, of course, alcohol and ego fueled, and driven largely by my big mouth. (Meaning it was completely avoidable but it happened nevertheless.) Typically, striking first is a result of the actions of someone particularly predatory, but, sometimes it comes from you getting into a situation of your own creation. In this case, I fully acknowledge it was the latter. A few (or many) drinks in, I started a conversation with an individual whom I was not familiar with. He had a tattoo on his arm in a language I wasn’t sure of, so I asked about it. He said something along the lines of, “It’s Latin, because I’m Latino and it means…” Of course I found this both hilarious and stupid: While Spanish, English, French, and other Romance languages have their routes in Latin (and others), being Latino in the modern sense is not exactly the same as being someone who knows and speaks Latin. Unsurprisingly, he was not fluent in Latin; as few people, outside of classical scholars and academics, are even remotely verbally competent in ancient languages. Me being me, couldn’t resist mocking this man. Not to his face of course, because that’s just rude! But, rather, to a friend of mine on the other side of the party. Somehow, at what point I am not sure, he heard; and he didn’t take to kindly to it. Later on he got in my face, not just by himself but with two tall and broad individuals, one on each side. He called me out for mocking him and then started to front by saying “do you know who I am?” blah. blah. blah. His claim was that he was in a gang etc… I counter that with, “No, but do you know who I am? NO, so it doesn’t matter does it?” I was trying to bluff, using aggression and intimidation. No, posturing is usually not the appropriate way to de-escalate, but it can work, especially if you make it believable. It can work simply because the other person, the predator, may think you are a bigger predator and you might be far more trouble than your worth. Just know: It doesn’t work for those who cannot at least look like they are a killer. Even back then, if not more so, I had the crazy eyes and a bit of a reputation for being an un-predictable nut, so for me this strategy often worked (don’t try this at home, follow the strategies as laid out in the de-escalation post). Despite my posturing the thoughts in my head were that of panic. Aside from the leader, who was my size, the other two could probably pick me up like I was nothing. They were all standing with their backs against a pool table. I had some space behind me and then a set of stairs with one of those half-walls to prevent people from falling down. I knew I had to do something, as these types can only be bluffed for so long. Action was needed. So I threw a HARD elbow into the leader’s chest, which caused him to stumble back and fall partially onto the pool table. After you act, you must be ready to act further. I was preparing to grab one of the big guys by the nuts and (attempt to) toss him over the wall, down the stairs. Luckily neither of them made a move, my bluff worked! I mean, what kind of crazy person strikes first when he is out numbered and out gunned? Me apparently! It’s important to note, at this time I really didn’t know how to fight, yet I instinctually knew to strike first even (though I generally avoid it at all cost on account of not being a very large person). In their shock they decided to throw more insults rather than responding physically. That’s when my friend, the host of the party, herself a short loud mouthed (and even more aggressive) individual, came like a bat at of hell screaming. “WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE PICKING FIGHTS WITH MY FRIENDS AT MY PARTY!?” talking to the three individuals (she was crazier than me in many ways). In some weird twist the three guys ended up apologizing to me, shaking my hand and it was over. I am not really sure, what would have happened if I had not have struck first, but I know that it worked. Afterward I learned how badly it could have gone; at least one of them was carrying a pistol tucked in their pants. I didn’t have the experience or training to know to how to look for this type of thing first. Imagine had they pulled it out? It would have been a bad day. This is why it’s always best to stick to the first two strategies; Avoid and De-escalate. But had I not acted, it is possible they simple would have collectively jumped me, so at the time, and given the results, it would have seemed my instincts were correct. – Jon
  2. There are many more stories I could tell that are far more exciting, but this is pertinent to the many individuals who are bullied in one way or another in school: Back in my day (I can’t believe I’ve started saying that), physical bullying was all you had to worry about. But, today it’s both physical and digital, so keep that in mind. I can’t recall exactly what I was doing, but I was standing in the hallway in high-school not paying attention, when I felt a hot, burning, sensation under my chin. One of the kids who ran with the “popular” guys had put a lighter under my chin and ignited it. This pissed me right off (justifiably so)! I had a few choice words (the specifics I’ll leave out), which caused their friend, a kid who was dumb as a brick and quite scrawny, but a known brawler and quite popular, to get up in my face. He was attempting to protect his lackey, who was smaller than me and held the lighter. One thing led to another and, once again in sheer panic, I kicked him as hard as a could in the groin. He dropped like the brick I thought he was. They were not expecting it, and is probably one of the many events that gave me the reputation of being unpredictable. No, I could not fight. No I did not have reliable “backup” who could, and would, fight, and, although many people knew who I was, I was certainly not a popular kid. This ended the conflict right there and then. Furthermore, it had some lasting effects. Cleary, though popular, these individuals were bullies. AND the kid I kicked was in fact one of those who would engage in organized scraps at least once or twice a year (you know, those high-school fights where you say “meet me at the park at this time” and everyone encircled to watch?) which made it even more interesting. In any future conflict between me and him, I would take a step forward or similar and he would often step back. One time, if I recall correctly, he even told someone else to get me instead of doing it himself. Fascinating isn’t it? This is a story that emphasizes how, when it comes to bullies, they may not stop until you let them know you are not an easy target. EVEN if they could easily beat you in a fight, you have made it clear that an altercation with you will not be without consequences. So you see, humans are animals, predators, and will usually only target those who we can feel we can engage or overpower without risk of repercussions. Thus the attitude of “never strike first,” is simply wrong. It may in fact be the best and right option. It works, simply because though the human condition is complex, we are still animals. – Jon
  3. My experience with having to, or at least making the choice to, strike first was when I was in my mid-to-late 20s, at which time I had been training Krav Maga for about 2 years. I had just finished work, closing at a restaurant in the city of Perth (Australia), so would have been somewhere after midnight. I had about a 5min walk from the restaurant to the paid lot where I always parked my car; this walk involved crossing through a large park by the river. The park was only semi-lit before you reach the open air car park, which was lit and, if you believe the signage, security patrolled (though I never saw any security the whole time I parked there). So here I am walking across the grass, on my phone but with enough of my peripheral vision working that I saw two people approaching from a comfortable distance off. They were coming from the direction of my car, and thus in-between me and my car; though being we were in a large, grassy area there were escape routes in all directions. As they got closer to me I put my phone back in my pocket as if it was a natural thing I was about to do anyway. They both looked a little younger than me, say late teens to early 20s, and they looked like, let’s be generous and just say, “juvenile delinquents.” I looked toward my car, kept an eye on them without making eye contact, and adjusted my path a little so that I would go around them to get to where I was going if neither of us changed course. When they got to be a few meters away (maybe 12-16ft for all you North Americans), they started to engage with the usual approach of “Hey, have you got the time?” or “Can I bum a smoke?” or something to that effect. I replied politely with a “Nah, sorry” or “About 12:30 (or whatever the time was),” but the changed direction, coming toward me. Now, my thinking at this time was basically; just be polite and don’t do anything sudden or to draw attention or look frightened. The particular local type I pegged these two as had a reputation of being somewhat cowards and not picking on people that stood up to them (know your local and regional context!). I simply kept walking and they kept closing the distance ’til one was in front of me and the other was just off to my right. At this point it turned into hands out towards me and “Hey, have you got any change?” Running wasn’t really an option now, given their close proximity (though it might have been a minute ago), and it seemed like they had decided I was worth there time. I replied, again simply, with a “Nah, sorry mate just my card.” Then, before they could start asking for, or demanding, more, I explosively shoved the one in front of me with both hands in the chest. He fell backward and at the same time (in my mind at least) I side-kicked the one to my right, somewhere in the mid-thigh to groin area. He also fell backward, then I ran to my car, got in, and drove off. I didn’t stop to look back and see if they were following me, I’m pretty quick so they may have tried for a second before realizing they wouldn’t catch me. Tactically, I guess you could say I made some mistakes getting into the situation in the first place, but it was resolved with little effort on my part and quickly. Could I have simply ran to my car as soon as I saw them? Sure, but that may have been unnecessary, or worse, it may have made them chase me, thinking I had something worth stealing. Could I have run at any other point as they closed in on me, or when they initiated contact? Again, sure, but same reason as above but they’d start their pursuit closer. Could I have simply chosen a different career or job that didn’t require me to walk home alone at night? Sure, but why live in fear or let others dictate my life choices? What I definitely did right was training in martial arts and self-defence, so that I had an understanding of the situations I might end up in and how to deal with them. I kept my cool and didn’t end up in mental state Black. I identified that a physical confrontation was unavoidable after after attempting to avoid, and, well, not making great attempts to defuse, but not engaging them overlong. Once that threat was identified I pre-empted it; I struck first and quickly, but with only the amount of force needed for me to escape the situation. I didn’t stick around to fight it out (or to “finish it”), and I didn’t open with something so big I might end up facing assault charges if, say, I had gotten it wrong and the threat was only imagined. And lastly, I made a quick escape without turning around. – Evan

As you have read from the above examples, sometimes, whether due to circumstance or ego, the time for stage one or two either passed, or was not appropriate. And the next stage, pre-emptive action (good old striking first), was the next logical step. Be aware, however, that it often requires a good read of the situation, the ability to strike first with maximum affect, and the understanding that it may fail so you must be ready. When it fails, you must be prepared to either run or continue to fight, applying all of the techniques and strategies you know. This is why, despite its effectiveness, you must always try to avoid the fight and de-escalate whenever possible. But when the time comes, know that it is always better to strike first than to be struck first.

Written by Jonathan Fader

You may only have a few precious seconds in which to prevent a violent explosion(source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

So… you were unable to avoid that threat you identified. At least you were able to see it coming and have not been taken by surprise. Congratulations, but there is now some fast work to do. Welcome to Stage 2, De-escalation!

I am neither a psychologist nor a hostage negotiator, but, over my 42 years, I have figured out a few tricks for talking to people and getting oneself out of ugly situations. The two tactics I have employed most often throughout my life are “Tactical Empathy” and “Reframing” (though I didn’t know the names for what I was doing at the time):

Tactical Empathy – In his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, ex-hostage negotiator Chris Voss describes tactical empathy as “understanding the feelings and mindset of another in
the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase
your influence in all the moments that follow.” Figure out what is motivating the other person, then leverage that information to shape the encounter by expressing common understanding.

Reframing – A “frame” is someone’s point of view and expectations of what is normal in a given interaction, based on their beliefs and emotional state. If you walk up to someone shouting angrily, you expect them to react with either fear or their own anger. Reframing involves changing the narrative and redefining what normal is for the interaction. If the person you are shouting at reacts with a smile or a friendly laugh, your brain’s plan for a heated exchange has been derailed; your frame has been “broken” and now you have to stop and reconsider the rules of engagement in that encounter.

Of course, both of these methods require an understanding of people, a willingness to engage people verbally, a bit of creativity, and a whole lot of confidence, but, as with any skill, they can be improved through practice.

Developing these skills can be handy in all sorts of non-threatening situations as well. I’ve leveraged tactical empathy and reframing to get into bars for free, skip lines, dodge fees, etc., though in mundane contexts it is less about “tactics” and more about finding common ground and being friendly.

I’ll illustrate these tactics using two examples from my past in which I talked my way out of potentially disastrous situations:

The International (Football) Incident

In 2014 myself and a friend traveled to São Paulo, Brazil to attend the 20th FIFA World Cup tournament. We had done our research ahead of time; we were advised to avoid wearing flashy clothes and jewelry (so you don’t look affluent), carry a “drop wallet” (a secondary one, with some fake cards or small bills, that you can toss down to distract muggers in order to flee), and stay out of the favelas. Also, we learned that Brazil has two major religions, Catholicism and Football, so you have to be careful what neighbourhoods you go into when wearing a specific team’s kit (they were a bit forgiving during the World Cup)

The sixth game we attended was a Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland. The emotions were already tense in the crowd as we slowly mobbed into the packed stadium; this is the knockout round, whoever loses this game goes home. This is further fueled by a longstanding rivalry between the national teams of Argentina and Brazil (Argentina would love a chance to defeat the host country)

We arrived in our section, and suddenly realized we’d made huge mistake. Not wanting to sport a Brazil jersey in a rival crowd, and not having a vested interest in either team’s success, we chose to wear our Canadian (Women’s) National Team jerseys to the game… not for a moment considering the fact that they are red and white… the same colour as the Switzerland kit.

Our seats happened to be right in the middle of a sea of rowdy, drunken, Argentina supporters (borderline hooligans); there are white and blue striped shirts EVERYWHERE, and only two “security guards” in sight. The beer-fueled shouts of “hijo de puta” started flying at us! As we walked up the steps all I could think was, “great, we are going to be responsible for the 2014 World Cup riot.” We reached our seats and the guys all around us started sarcastically chanting “Up, SWISS!”

I had to defuse the rising tension, fast, or this was going to be a less-than-enjoyable experience. If Argentina loses (or even gets scored on), it could turn deadly. I face the guy doing the most taunting in English, and say, in a friendly manner, “It looks like you boys are pretty excited about this match.” He chuckled at my comment. I had him!

I extend my hand “I’m Corey, this is Homan, we’re in from Canada.” He shook it and introduced himself and a few of his friends. But there were still a few on either side, behind him, and behind us, who looked unimpressed. Looking at them specifically, I ask “Are you all from Argentina?” One guy offered up that he was from a town on the border with Paraguay and it took 20hrs to drive here. I replied, “Buddy, that’s hardcore, we had to save for four years to make this trip!” I then stated something to the effect of “this is do or die time, eh?” Which was met with a chorus of passionate tales of Argentina’s highs and lows in the recent past. We then talked about our jerseys and I went on to make a few jokes about how what little Spanish I knew was mostly swearing and talking about women.

By the end of the match they were buying us beers, we were sharing pictures of our kids, and, fortunately, were celebrating Argentina’s victory with them. (Argentina narrowly made it to the final but was defeated by a stellar German squad.)

How did we go from targets of hatred and derision to friends?

As we entered that section of the stadium, I was in mental colour code Orange, as the rowdy Argentina fans’ presence was a potential threat (we’d done our research!) In this scenario the threat could not be avoided; we had ticketed seats, there was no standing area, and I was not about to walk away from a World Cup match that I traveled to another country to see. Their behaviour essentially put me into mental colour code Red, as, even without our participation, we were in a verbal conflict. I had to de-escalate, and I had to do so immediately, before mob mentality kicked in and one of our harassers is inspired to move from verbal to physical.

The source of the conflict came from the assumption on the Argentinian’s part that we were going to return the same aggression they had shown us. My goals became; 1) Reduce or eliminate their aggression, 2) Remove their desire to harm us, and 3) Bond with them to solidify the “peace.” As a bonus 3.5) Make them see us as worthy of protection from other aggressors.

My path toward those goals was as follows:

  1. I started by immediately “breaking their frame.” They expected we would either return their vitriolic team pride with our own, or cower and be a source of amusement all game. By engaging them with humour, rather than anger or meekness, I disrupted their angry passion narrative. (similar to physically disrupting and off-balancing an aggressor with your own action). If you can get someone to laugh, it tends to shift their opinion of you toward the positive.
  2. In that moment of disruption I replaced their “hooligan” frame with the groundwork of my “comradery” frame: I named us and offered a handshake (thus humanizing us instead of remaining generic “rival fans.”)
  3. I then spotted the doubtful ones and kept them engaged with a trivially simple question that invited them to exert their pride, while at the same time (hopefully) opening up about themselves: “Are you all from Argentina?” This led to a more personal connection, as they have confirmed a part of their identity to me. It also created an opportunity for establishing common ground.
  4. “…we had to save for four years to make this trip!” Not specifically true, but it establishes three points in common: A shared passion for football, we aren’t locals, and we are regular, working class lads (what I call “economic camouflage.”)
  5. The above statement also satisfies their egos a bit by indicating that A) I’m impressed by their commitment, and B) we aren’t wealthy North American jet-setters.
  6. Bringing up their team’s “do or die” potential, again affords them an opportunity to exert their pride, passion, and identity, in a positive way. It also incorporates Dale Carnegie’s advice, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.”

By the time I’m asking them to regale me with the history of Lionel Messi and La Albiceleste, I’ve accomplished goals 1 and 2, and I am deeply into goal 3! While there were still hostiles in the area, whom we kept an eye on, the way the boys in our immediate vicinity were interacting with us deterred aggression. As the bonus 3.5 goal was not assured, we beat a hasty retreat to the exit the second the match ended!

Ego-Driven vs Predatory

In the above example, the threat was a bunch of drunken football fans looking for a hit of dopamine by way of national pride, they sought it through intimidation and I gave it to them, instead, through jovial comradery. (Dare I say that I might have chiseled away at their preconceived notions a bit?)

When considering your tactics, be aware that what at works for ego-driven threats won’t necessarily work for predatory threats.  The former can be manipulated by either feeding the ego or reframing it. By “feeding”, I mean that de-escalation could be a simple as saying “I don’t want to fight, you’d kick my ass!” or “yeah, I was looking at your hot wife, but she’d never take me over you, buddy.” For reframing, re-read the above! (In discussing “Fight or Flight,” the Hard2Hurt crew notes “submit” as a possible alternative.)

As always, be aware of variables such as culture, context, and the demeanour of the threat. Looking weak or submissive may actually escalate the situation in some regions or contexts, whereas in others meeting a challenge head on is an act of de-escalation (as counterintuitive as that may seem). Whatever option you choose, do it with confidence!

However, a predatory threat is more complicated, as the assailant may be dead set on harming you for reasons you may not be able to account for (eg. they are high, mentally/emotionally unstable, desperate, a habitual offender, etc.). It may be that your attempt at verbal de-escalation is really a distraction to buy you time or set you up to strike first.

Gun(Bar)fight at the Not-so-OK Corral

I have an eclectic taste in music, but I over the years I’ve tended toward the numerous varieties of Metal, Punk, and Industrial. Spending (or misspending) most of my youth in Alberta, these genres were sometimes hard to find, and one inevitably ended up at Country bars more often than not. But that’s okay, because I can three-step and line dance with the best of them (raised in Alberta!).

Let’s break this one down as we go along:

On one such evening I found myself with a group of friends in Southern Alberta, at a popular bar called the Corral (there were many with that name over the years). Everything was going well, the music was as good as it could be considering the genre and the drinks were flowing like water. Going well, that is, until one innocuous trip to the bathroom.

I turned from the urinal to find that I’d been followed in by five “cowboys” (I come from a farming/ranching heritage, and these boys didn’t look like the real thing). Regardless, we are alone, it is five on one.

At this point it bears mentioning that in my teens and twenties I had hair down to the middle of my back and generally dressed in band shirts with torn jeans or fatigue pants. In this case I knew I was going into a potentially unwelcoming place and had not adapted to the local customs (because I didn’t give a fuck.)

The defacto leader spoke first; “we don’t appreciate f*gs in here.” (It is Southern Alberta after all, the nexus of the farm belt and bible belt.) Under the surface, this threat is clearly ego-driven, they are insecure men, but their actions are predatory, ie. they stalked me and intend me harm for a specific reason. I need to stall long enough to either get to the door or be lucky enough that someone else comes in as a distraction.

I play dumb, “If I see any I’ll let you know” and start moving to the door. Unsurprisingly, they blocked me. “Why do you look like that?” he asked. It becomes clear that they don’t want to just kick my ass, they want to intimidate me first in order to “send a message” (or, perhaps more likely, they are cowards and no one wants to “start it.”)

My next gamble was to keep them talking while edging toward the door and keeping calm, making it clear I’m not weak or intimidated (I didn’t know the trick of “humanizing” back then.) I this situation, with these people and in the given context, being submissive would have encouraged them. I keep my hands up in a semi-passive position and I asked, “What about what about this looks gay?” One of the guys shouted “Your f*ggy hair!”

I saw an opportunity to defuse/reframe with humour. I replied, “I’ve heard that criticism before, I’ll consider it. Surely one of you boys can think of something more original?” It got a stifled laugh from one guy, but not enough to indicate that I had shifted the mindset of the group. Fortunately, another one shouted said “and it’s ugly!” I tried again with, “This guy cares what I look like? Now who’s gay?”

Bad move. There are effective ways to turn insults into reframing tools, but shaming or prodding the already emotionally unstable ego is NOT how to do it! But I was young and stupid.

They have an even more heated reaction; swearing and gesturing, one guy even started wrapping his belt around his knuckles. My final chance to reach the door involved a risky reframe; I said, “Woah, I’ve got piss on my hands, mind if I wash them first?”

THEY LET ME!!

At the sink I had a clear path to the door, but, tragically, it opened inward. I also noted that I had created a secondary (thought terrible) option by getting close enough to a stall that I could bail into it and at least bottleneck and align my attackers if escape proved impossible. Again, buying time!

I didn’t know how to fight at this point in my life, but my instincts regarding herd mentality were to square myself to the “leader” and try to drop him first in hopes of scattering a few of the others. (However, now I know that in group fight scenarios you go for whomever is CLOSEST). I kept edging toward the door but made sure they were still all in front of me.

At that point, the door opened. A bouncer was doing his rounds. He looked at them, looked at me, saw our positioning and body language… “All of you, get the fuck out!”

I head straight back to my friends and introduce the idea that it is time to go home.

Overt Predatory Threats

Fortunately (unfortunately for this post), I have never had to de-escalate a “overtly predatory threat.” That is, situations in which the attacker is deeply committed to the threat and is in your face so fast that you are starting at a disadvantage (eg. being mugged at knife point, getting jumped without warning, etc.). I’ve either managed to avoid them, albeit narrowly in a few cases, or talked them down before they made their intensions clear. Though, in my travels I have picked up a few pieces of advice that apply in most predatory scenarios, and in many ego-driven encounters as well:

  1. Don’t Argue – Do you really want to aggravate someone who is already in the middle of a poor decision? If someone demands your wallet, are you willing to get stabbed over a few bills and some replaceable cards? Again, submission MAY be the safest de-escalation, but you have to know your context. Otherwise, if you see a chance to reframe or employ tactical empathy, do it.
  2. Don’t Go to a Second Location – Allowing a predatory threat to take you somewhere else greatly increases the chances that things are going from bad to worse (sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, etc.). Yes, this conflicts with #1, but it is more important.
  3. Don’t Demand – When someone is angry, insisting that they “calm down” NEVER WORKS! If someone is trying to exert power over you, meeting force with force is unlikely to have positive results. Speak calmly and with confidence, “Please leave me alone” rather than “Fuck off!”
  4. Do Get Trained in Self-defence!
Further Considerations

Whether you managed it by roguish charm or clear and confident statements, just because you talked yourself out of a bad situation doesn’t mean that the threat has been stopped. The threatening party may change their mind if you look weak as you leave, or if you present them with an irresistible opportunity for a sucker-punch (you prevented the situation by being alert, don’t squander that now!).  When you remove yourself from the situation, assess once again; are you now on “good terms” with the potential threat, does their body language indicate that they are barely holding back, are their friends looking at them expectantly or chastising their inaction? 

Either way, now that you have the chance to get away, do so confidently (not arrogantly), and keep your eyes on the threat, directly or indirectly. Depending on the situation you may need to walk backward, cautiously, maintaining awareness of the threat and your surroundings, with your hands up in a semi-passive stance, until you are clear to escape. It may be that you simply need to keep an eye on the threat in the reflection from a store window, or take a quick look over your shoulder as you cross the road (which you should be doing to immediately create space!).

Understand that, until you are completely clear of the threatening person or situation, you MUST still be thinking and acting in mental colour code Orange. Situational awareness, as always, remains important; are they about to regroup and chase you, has frustration led them to pull out a weapon?

Be prepared, at any time, to move immediately to stage 3…

Written by Corey