Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Fader’

Episode 71 – Ted is a UTKM Yellow Belt, Father, and in general just a guy
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Ted received his UTKM Yellow Belt a short time ago, yet COVID has not stopped his love of learning and growing particularly in the Martial Arts including Krav Maga and now BJJ. He has involved his children in this passion as well as he hopes they gain the skills they need for a happier healthier life. Ted has done a variety of jobs over the years from driving to directing, has several degrees, and loves to ski something he discussed in his recent post “So one may walk in peace.” In this podcast, we go deep and personal while sharing aspects of our personal lives and the things we have learned, and how we have grown. We talk about parenting, being objective, growth, and what we have learned as we have stumbled through life with all its trials and tribulations. Ted may consider himself “Just a guy”, be we consider him a super dad because he is meaningfully and actively involved in his children’s lives. This one is for all the parents out there!

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Audio by Jonathan Fader

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

Civilian Krav Maga

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

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

The Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

The How

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Episode 66 – Marcus Torgerson is an IKMF GIT member and E3 and has been doing martial arts most of his life with host Jonathan Fader
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Marcus Torgerson is an IKMF E3, and Global Instructor Team member who has been doing Martial Arts since the age of 10. He completed the IKMF instructors course with Master Avi Moyal in 2005. Marcus combines his real life experience of working 20+ years in night club security with Krav Maga. Because of this experience primarily in Vancouver Canada he was a reference in the book A Doorman’s Memoir – Tales of Friendships by Brent Lymer. He was also featured in the Book 100 Deadly Skills – Combat Edition by Clint Emerson . Marcus also happens to be on of the host’s Jonathan Faders earlier Krav Maga Instructors when he was still in Vancouver. Marcus’ tagline is “Walk with peace in your heart, love in your soul, and violence in your head.” In this episode we discuss Krav Maga, Martial arts Business practices, life philosophies and more.

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Control and technique under duress is especially important for law enforcement. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Police oriented Krav Maga may be one of the most underdeveloped areas of Krav Maga in general. While it overlaps heavily with security and VIP approaches, as there are many similarities, there are also many differences. While some organizations will excel at teaching Police oriented Krav Maga, like IKF and CT707, others may not, as there is not always a high demand. While military protocols and acceptable use of force are fairly standard globally for military, this is not the case for police and security. What is acceptable in one country may not be acceptable in another, thus making it difficult to have a general program as well as win specialized contracts. Many organizations do offer VIP security training, which is similar though things like “3rd party protection” will be more of a focus for security than police. So, depending where you are you may have to learn a military approach and combine it with a security approach, then mix it with other things to put together a good base for policing applications.

Police and Security Krav Maga

The main difference for police, and more so for security, when compared to military application is the fact that it is considerably less appropriate to use lethal force. Police certainly have the legal ability to use lethal force in extreme circumstances, but in general it is frowned upon by the public. This creates serious issues when it comes to making decisions. For security application it really depends; if you are doing security for the Cartels, then you are basically applying military Krav, but if you are doing security at a mall, unarmed, then it is safe to say that your best tool is your pen and paper, and maybe a camera, as your authority to use force is often limited (and lethal is definitely off the table.)

So what is a big difference between this and other styles of Krav Maga? Other than acceptable levels of use of force it is also assumed that punching and kicking people is generally off the table for police and security, which means that this kind of training needs to focus significantly more on grappling skills and arrest and detainment protocols. Arrest and detain are a large portion of your job, you show up to de-escalate or arrest and control. This is largely why police specific Krav Maga is lacking, as up until recently grappling was a weak skill in the Krav world, and even if you were in the military your arrest experience may be limited. Thus it is often assumed other aspects of Krav can be applied to this aspect just as well.

The problem is that when it comes to grappling you cannot just be aggressive, you actually need skill, which takes time to develop. It also means that if a police force has the choice between teaching wrestling/Judo/BJJ over Krav, they will often choose the former set of styles, as the image of Krav tends to be more aggressive. This means it creates hesitation over the adoption of a program that includes this mentality. The issue with this is finding an instructor that can adapt grappling for police and security situations, which may include a struggle over weapons, which often leads to problematic technique choices and strategies. Experience in the field of application is something to seriously consider when hiring a martial arts instructor for police and security.

The Why

So why does it need to be different other than the lethality? If it wasn’t clear already, it is because of legal restrictions and what public considers acceptable. If a police officer or security person simply punches a person to gain control as may be required according the how our nervous systems work, it may be perceived as excessive force. This means that punching and kicking are often not options as the public, politicians, and lawyers often remove it.

Enter the grappling. A police or security officer’s best bet is grappling, which ultimately will give control, with minimal damage to the opponent, and is already on the path to an arrest. The key is keeping it simple, using basic techniques that have a high percentage success rate for most people, and will function with weapons or multiple assailants. Another reason why the grappling aspect is more acceptable for this application (which goes against our general “do not go to the ground” rule) is because there is often more than one officer/agent/guard and it is, in many cases, not assumed to be a life or death situation. This means you have more freedom to go to the ground while one or more of your partners stands guard and can do crowd control. Having available support is something that is not always possible in the civilian world or practical in the military world (though sometimes needed). So the why is fairly straightforward, thought the training needs to be tough physically and mentally, as it is a tough job, it needs to focus less on the aggression and more on the control; which ultimately leads to a higher level of skill requirement than the military might.

The How

So how would I run police training? One thing I always ask for, but rarely get, is to start unencumbered and work up to officers training with their duty gear on (unloaded pistol, of course), as it is very different training with gear on than without. Usually a fear of injury or damage to mats is often why this does not happen but should.

I would also work on training that mixes up the heart rate, from high to low to high to low, etc., in order to simulate how a real life policing situation impacts the nervous system. The intensity of this would depend on the physical capabilities of the officers or security being trained. Often this is much lower than it should be, but if someone drops dead during training it’s not very good for business.

Given the time I would show every variation of police specific takedown that I teach, whether they be drawn from Krav, wrestling, or BJJ. While judo is great in many places, it too may be considered excessive force and it’s high skill requirements make it difficult to teach in a short time. I would also focus on drilling actual arrest techniques against resistance, as this is an area many officers struggle with, particularly right out of the academy.

I would limit myself to only teach specific striking techniques, ones that are considered less aggressive and modified general application strikes. While regular techniques should be taught given the time, as to develop overall skill, if time is limited there is no sense in teaching someone a technique that would only get them into trouble. It has actually taken me quite some time to create police/security friendly techniques from what was traditionally taught in Krav Maga, which shows the difficulty in crafting police/security specific training, as so many of the normal Krav options (eye strikes, groin kicks, etc.) are no longer on the table.

Conclusion

If it wasn’t clear in this post, it certainly should be clear in my series on policing (1,2,3,4,5) that police and security, where they are allowed, actually need the highest level of hand-to-hand combat and unarmed training. Unfortunately, as we know they often receive surprisingly inferior training. Unlike the military, lethal use of force is not on the table as much, which means using other tools, like a taser, when possible; but in practical reality it’s almost always going to get physical. A quick search on YouTube can find video after video of interactions gone wrong for the police or security, because they were easily overwhelmed by the assailant. Police need more training, at more frequent and regular intervals, to develop and maintain the level of skill required to be proficient for their own safety and the safety of those they are trying to detain or protect. While it would be great to work on the physical and mental toughness, again due to time constraints and operational practicality, more time needs to focus on the technical aspects, in particular controlling another person safely and effectively and learning to arrest those who do not want to be arrested, without hurting then.

Perhaps when more Krav Maga instructors become more proficient at grappling, and integrate it into their programs in a way that doesn’t just look like MMA, then we may see Krav Maga be adopted as a style more and more by police forces outside of countries that allow police to employ extreme force.

Of course, a proper program will integrate this into the training because at some point even a civilian may need to safely detain someone. Even if it just means detaining an out of control person at a party until the police show up (something I have had to do before).

So, should police train Krav Maga? Absolutely, however, make sure you know your force’s policy, the laws of your country, and what you can and cannot do. In the case that you need to adapt the system, know what your restrictions are and how to modify the techniques and training to your needs. However, keep n mind that even police and security may face life and death situations, so don’t forget to train the mental and physical aspects, as well as the aggression, as much as you can.

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

The principles of Krav Maga make it an effective close-quarters combat (CQC) system (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

What is Krav Maga? How should you train it? What is “real” and what is not? This is a debate for the ages. It is a subject discussed quite a lot and is an area in which I feel so many people let their own world view, experience and, of course, ego get in the way (see my series on Ego). Certainly, at least from the Imi lineage, it should be principle-based, evolve over time as needed, and in general be employed so that one “may walk in peace.” Beyond that Krav Maga is open to much interpretation. Often it is associated with the military, but the Imi lineage actually started as a means for civilians to defend themselves against the Nazis, it wasn’t developed for military applications until later.

I decided to write this series after watching another video of a former IDF Special forces solider discussing what his Krav Maga experience was. The context of the conversation was a discussion of his experience, as well as that of the other participants, with what was referred to as “original” Krav Maga, that being Krav Maga prior to the watered down BS, “McDojo” style, American Krav Maga. (Which most serious people do not consider real Krav Maga, though I see even some legit schools or organizations becoming more “martial arts” than practical self-defence.)

I thought, “why not write an in depth series to clarify a few things about the differences in what military, police, and civilian Krav Maga should and should not look like?” Of course, if you ask me, a proper program should not separate everything, but rather use the pacing of the curriculum to build up from civilian to law enforcement, then later to military, as the application and situations become more severe. But, hey, since most people seem to want to make a distinction, for the purpose of this series I will discuss the three applications as such.

As this is something I have discussed loosely before, I shall skip an intro post and jump right into the Military application, approach, thoughts, etc…

Military Krav Maga

I am going to start with my own Krav Maga experience during my time in the military. Prior to joining up I started learning Krav Maga as a civilian and developed my skills to get a leg up on basic training. Unfortunately, upon arriving in the IDF I was sadly disappointed in my Krav Maga training. Granted, I was in the infantry and not Special Forces, but still it was hardly what I thought it would be; I had only about ten lessons total in the IDF and several of them were not even when I was in combat. Even further, and quite ironically, the lessons I had outside of the infantry were while studying in the IDF Hebrew school (a place that had more serious discipline and structure than my actual time in active duty.)

To be fair, it really depends who’s in charge at any given time. Some commanders are in favour of more Krav Maga and some less, some for more intense training, some less. But out of all the lessons I had in the IDF I only learned one new thing, and it was fairly minor. (At least during my time the standard Krav lesson was 90 minutes with 45 mins being more like physical fitness and the rest drill basic techniques.)

So why do we always think “hardcore military training” when we think of Krav Maga? That’s because many of the earlier ambassadors for Krav were all former Special Forces soldiers. Additionally, when KMG and other such organizations started going global in the ’90s, their focus was on the global military units; 1) because it’s the kind of people many of them were used to training and 2) because militaries have lots and lots of money…

So what does Special Forces Krav Maga training look like? Well it’s hard, and focuses on mental and physical toughness over actual technique. Depending on the unit, time, budget, and, of course, willingness to train regularly, units may do sessions from 1.5-4.5 hours or even all day sessions, sometimes for months-on-end or in condensed coursed lasting a few weeks. While this builds physical and mental toughness and a focus on aggression, it severely lacks technical development, which can actually hinder a soldiers overall ability in unarmed combat. An example of this was a person I know who was not just Special Forces, but Black Ops, who once visited UTKM. This was in the earlier days when our students were not as developed, but when it came to sparring he struggled, because though his physically and mental prowess are among the best I have ever seen, his technical development in fighting and unarmed combat was limited. Despite all his hard training.

The Why

Okay, so why is military style Krav Maga so focused on the physical, mental, and aggression? Well the answer is at it’s base a simple one: If a soldier, particularly an SF soldier, is in a position where they are forced to use unarmed combat it means things have gone absolutely, insanely wrong. They lost their primary (rifle), they lost their secondary (pistol), and lethal force with a knife may not be an option (at least in that moment.) This means that a soldier must rely on their will and ability to never stop to fight out of that bad situation. Because, for a soldier in such a situation, it is probably a life and death struggle, so they will need to fight with everything they have. It’s this severity of life and death that requires a serious focus on the mental strength, physical ability, and aggression. As much of their training is on other tools, like firearms, to defend themselves using hand-to-hand combat is seen as a far more blunt option.

Another factor is limited time (at least the claim of “limited time,” as many know the concept of “hurry up and wait” means there’s probably lots of time) in the development of soldiers. In the IDF, infantry members go through 6-12 months of training, while SF soldiers may have upwards of 2 years of training prior to deployment. In this time there are numerous skills, from firearms and field maneuvers, to specialty training, etc., that must occur. Which means time dedicated to Krav Maga training from a technical aspect would take away time from other skills that may be more important. The IDF, at least from what I saw, spends a large percentage of time training firearms skills (probably why they are so good) and already cuts out a lot of junk, like how to march in formation (most of the time). Because of this time constraint it can be difficult to really develop people properly from a technical stand point. Hence the simpler task of focusing on physical and mental development through adversity, and, of course, aggression training.

Another issue is the potential for injuries. It can cost $100,000 to $1,000,000 USD or more to train a soldier. Naturally, continuous and constant martial arts training or Krav Maga training, particularly of an aggressive nature, will eventually result in injury. One even minor injury could derail a soldier’s chance to progress, thus wasting the money and time of the organization. In the old days (’70s, etc.) you can find videos of bare-knuckled brawling as part of the training, where they freely beat the crap out of each other. While we can read about it and talk about “the glorious old days,” it really is a stupid way to train; mainly due to the physical injures and potential for CTE. Now, though training is tough, they often are fully geared up with protective equipment; gear that is bulky and hard to move in. While it protects the wearer it also limits their ability to learn proper technical movements and instead requires people to basically wail on their opponent. This means that without the gear an average unit like the infantry isn’t really allowed to train properly (at least according to the rules) and SF soldiers “can” because they have the gear. Naturally the gear changes the quality of the training but increases the safety of the soldiers.

The How

It should be noted that the aggressive nature of military training from the ’40s onward is actually what lead to Krav Maga being so successful. Because, at the end of the day, in the real world techniques fail and it is the the pure aggression and willingness to be violent that will lead to survival. As such this of course MUST be a part of any given military style. Another thing to consider is that when you are training military personnel it is usually assumed they are already the top 10% or so of the physically capable in any given society. This means that you can push them harder, faster, and at a quicker pace without it being an issue. This is why people who throw military boot camps for Krav Maga usually push people to their limits. Which for a civilian may be a “cool experience” but really does not develop much of anything other than a good story. Such training should be reserved for military units or more advanced students who have developed their physical and technical abilities prior. However, whether it be general advanced training or specific training, any military style training that leaves a participant in any state other than exhausted and annoyed probably isn’t very good military style krav maga.

Another thing that MUST be considered when training military Krav Maga is the increased acceptance of lethality. Which means there MUST be training with firearm’s, both in dryfire and live fire capacities, as a full Krav program cannot be one without this kind of skill training. Aside from this, training MUST include how to use firearms as a blunt force trauma weapon. They are, after all, just tools and are prone to break, jam, or otherwise malfunction, meaning you may now need to employ your firearm as a simple piece of metal. This means that any military training in Krav Maga must show soldiers or participants how to use the weapons in this fashion. This also means that proper training will at times include training with full gear on. After all that, is how you will be dressed when shit hits the fan; tired, with a minimum of 20lbs of gear on! Realism, it is what Krav Maga is all about, and any training without this is not very good.

For me, these are the main components that must be included in military training. The physical difficulty and mental training, as well as firearms training, are a must. After all, this is what people often think of when they think “Krav Maga.” As well as a need to periodically train in full gear, out side, and true-to-life scenarios.

However, given the time, say several months, there really should be more focus on technical development of overall combat skills as, while aggression is great, trained aggression with technique is even better.

Conclusion

Military style training is what Krav Maga is truly known for, however, it is only one aspect of Krav Maga. As so many individuals receive training in the IDF SF’s various Krav Maga programs, these people are often the ambassadors for the system as they are the ones people want to talk to and learn from. Remember, though Krav in military units has a very specific application, to build mental and physical fortitude and train the nervous system to be aggressive under duress, it is not however particularly good at developing overall skill and technique in various fighting methods. As such, many peoples’ experiences, while great, do not really translate well over into the civilian world where people may not be the most physically capable and require considerably more time to develop. While a soldier who is already physically gifted may be able to rely on their natural gifts and often authority to be lethal, civilians do not have this luxury. While a civilian certainly can attend military training (and should during their Krav path), if that is your only training it is possible that this will simply give you an over-inflated sense of confidence just because you completed a particularly difficult military Krav course. But the reality is you still lack the skills and development.

A person who was trained in SF Krav Maga or just standard military Krav Maga also does not always know how to build programs for the civilian and law enforcement world, as their application and needs are different and cannot always rely on pure physical skills and aggression.

Military Krav Maga training is a must for those who wish to train Krav Maga in the long run, but for most this style of training needs to be built up to over years of general development in order that they enter into it more well-rounded.

So always operate with skeptical hippo-eyes when someone says “I know Krav Maga, I was in the military, I can teach you!” Because they only know one part of good training and may simply enjoy the thrill of watching you suffer, but have done little to properly develop your ability to defend yourself.

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

Warriors Den Podcast – Episode 64 – Evan Jex is a Kravist, Father, Australian with host Jonathan Fader
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Evan Jex is a Kravist, Father and Australian. He originally started is Krav Maga Journey with KMG in Australia and is a UTKM Yellow Belt. Evan has also on occasion contributed to our blog http://www.utkmblog.com. In this podcast which may or may not be slightly fueled by Japanese Whiskey we discuss Krav Maga, Fatherhood, Martial Arts, Global Affairs, Australia and much much more. Its a long one so buckle up and enjoy the show.

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

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

e·go – /ˈēɡō/ noun

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

Similar definitions:

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

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

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

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

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

The Instructor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The balance is a tricky one.

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

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

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

The Student

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts on Ego

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

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skill

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

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

Size

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

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

Athleticism

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

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

Training Style

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

The benefits that vaccinations provide to humanity far outweigh the potential harms from the exceedingly rare side effects. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Okay, as this is a topic that will be discussed ad nauseum this year, I thought I would apply some basic critical thinking. This is, of course, part of a series, the first being The Initial Response and the Virus and second being Context, Masks and Stats.

I thought I would also clarify (if it wasn’t already clear) why I write about topics that often many people think have nothing to do with self-defence. I believe that Krav Maga is truly about learning to walk in peace (as originally intended). This approach, should be clear in my series Self Defense is not just physical. This means that when I hear students, friends, collogues or family making grossly incorrect comments, on either side of the political isle, or others simply expressing confusion about some basic reality that is affecting their mental health (among other things), I feel it is my duty to do or say something. Either to quell there fears, or to educate them with more correct information (most up to date).

To those who believe that everyone should “stay in their lane”, I respectfully disagree.

One thing is for sure, COVID has applied immense pressure to society, and the confusion and non-nonsense, FROM ALL SIDES, conspiracy theorists to experts to politicians, is a big part of the problem.

So, if my writings help you, then wonderful, if they just make you hate me then, by all means. And, like many, while I may be extremely annoyed at how many governments have handled the situation and decisions they are making, it does not mean that I am also anti-science or anti-Vax. In fact, the importance of vaccines cannot be stressed enough, but that does not mean there are no issues with them.

Vaccines in General

I am just going to go ahead and say it: If you are outright against vaccines or fall into the “anti-vaxer” category, then you are not applying critical thinking at all. This is not actually a political thing. In case you have forgotten, much of the anti-vax movement started relatively recently in California from very Left-wing people. It just happens that now many of the anti-vaxers reacting to this specific event tend to be on the Right. This means it is an apolitical issue, so please stop accusing “the other side” of being stupid.

No, vaccines are not going to give your kid autism (that whole rumour started with one fraudulent paper). Historically vaccines are responsible for ridding most of the world of many previously horrible ailments, for example small pox, measles, polio, etc.. In fact, they have been so effective at snuffing out of many of these diseases which plagued humanity, that in many Western countries they do not even give the vaccines at all anymore. I’m actually kind of upset that I never received vaccines for some of these illnesses, because, you know, what if shit hits the fan and I’m not vaccinated against these something that suddenly becomes a problem? GIVE ME MY VACCINES DAMMIT!

With that being said, to sit here and pretend that vaccines are not without drawbacks is also foolish. There have been, and will continue to be, lawsuits, periodically, not just for vaccines, as in the US alone they have paid out over $4 billion in compensation. In fact I recently listened to the podcast Kill Tony, a comedy podcast, in which one of the participants suffered nerve damage due to vaccination, so it does happen.

The general attitude is that the benefits outweigh the potential harm… by a long shot.

For the COVID-19 vaccine however, even if there are some risks (which may include death) many governments are not allowing financial recourse for any damages, which is morally wrong. So, before you call someone names or insult them because they have concerns about vaccines recognize that these concerns are not entirely baseless.

Additionally, pretending like pharmaceutical companies are not morally corrupt corporations, with a very questionable history, is also silly. It can easily be seen in the recent $8 Billion lawsuit against Purdue Pharma related to Oxycontin’s role in the opioid crisis in the US. (To be fair, the responsibility also lies on the shoulders of any corrupt doctor whom prescribes something when they know better.)

With regard to the current vaccine for COVID-19, it has been said if you suffer severe allergic reactions then perhaps it may not be advisable for you.

Vaccines and other medications are very expensive to produce and as a general rule companies won’t even bother unless they think they can recover their expenses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Which makes sense financially, but for the betterment of humanity’s health makes little sense. But it is what it is, and the concern from the producers is a legitimate concern, this doesn’t mean someone is a conspiracy theorist.

Again, as a general rule, MOST of the time vaccines have done more good than harm, BUT, don’t pretend there are not potential negatives for some people.

How Do Traditional Vaccines Work?

I thought I would do a short section on the science behind vaccines, as many people really do not understand how these things work. They hear or read something online that sound ominous, or they don’t understand, and that’s why they decide they don’t like vaccines. First things first; TRADITIONAL vaccines have been used for a long time now and have a long track record of success overall. However, in the early days I bet lots of things didn’t go as planned, because we just didn’t understand enough. So if you dig, you will always find some negative examples. But, again, we don’t have polio, measles, and other horrible viruses/diseases (for the rest of the article I am just going to say “viruses,” but some afflictions that vaccines have helped with may be from other sources) on mass, in general anymore because of them. So overall, fairly good.

Vaccines introduced the virus an Active form, Passive form and other types into your body in a controlled fashion. This is intended to train your immune system to fight off the actual virus should you encounter it in the future. Yes, that means they do inject a small bit of the offending organism, along with other “science stuff,” into your body. If it is Active, it’s a reduced viral/bacterial load (ie. not enough to take hold and give you the illness). If it’s Passive, they use an inactive (dead) form. Other methods employ a part of the virus, etc.. (click on the link for better description)

All to teach your immune system how to deal with it if you were to ever get it.

If you were to encounter something like Smallpox, you may have immunity after having it because your body has now learned how to fight it off. But that’s assuming you are still alive, and most likely you are now severely disfigured. This is why vaccines teach your body how to deal with it before it is encountered. Your body is like, “Hey, I know this! Go away!” and either you are mildly sick or don’t notice it at all. With some illnesses you can only catch it once before you are messed up with disfigurements or dead. Hence you can’t just “get it” in order to develop immunity. Thus many illnesses that require vaccines are those with which the consequences are simply too dire.

Yes, you can get slightly sick after getting a vaccine, exhibiting mild symptoms of the illness or experiencing some minor side effects. This is largely due to the fact that genetics, and humans, are complicated and there is no way of knowing who will react to what. Some people’s immune systems will react more severely than others. I can remember receiving one vaccine as a child that was so painful I could barley move my arm for several days. This does not mean, however, that you are dying or that they injected a microchip into you! It does mean however that our medicine and science is not at the point where we can be so precise that we can have custom doses for each person and we probably wont have for a long time.

Stop expecting perfection, it does not exist.

The COVID-19 Vaccine

Enter the Covid-19 vaccine, which is NOT a traditional vaccine but rather a mRNA-based vaccine.

Just so you know, DNA and RNA are different structures life on this planet is based on. Coronaviruses, like the common cold, are RNA-based, which essentially means they can evolve and change at a pace our medical science has yet to keep up with. This means that, so far, we have never completely eradicated a RNA-based virus and vaccines for them require regular updates (eg. an annual flu shot).

Unlike traditional vaccines they essentially use a “key,” a protein or RNA-type thingy (yes, very scientific word), that teaches your immune system to fight off the virus.

Something to remember about the mRNA vaccines is that they are a relatively NEW technology and there is no longitudinal data, on mass, from which to assess how this will affect us in the long run. Which is a legitimate concern, as, historically, there have occasionally been issues with new technologies when they have not been tested on a wide enough population over a long enough period.

With that being said, numerous studies (one such study) have been carried out globally, on exceptionally large test groups (in the tens of thousands), which is really good, considering traditional test groups are considerably smaller.

However, a legitimate concern from many is, what was the make up of these test groups? Was it a diverse group of people, with thousands of people from White, to Black, to Asian? Or was it, as many studies are, limited to a particular group of people? It’s a legitimate question, as the medical field often ignores the genetic differences in groups when developing things because that would make research more expensive, or the politics of race and culture complicate the matter. But nevertheless, it is a concern and something worth considering. I would hope, as this is a global endeavor and studies have been done all over the place, that this is something that was taken into consideration, but without reading the data from the studies, indicating the makeup of these groups, it will be hard to ascertain.

Another issue is some people actually have been advised not to take the vaccine, that is, individuals with severe allergies. This group essentially has immune issues, for a variety of reasons, which means no vaccine, no normalcy. This was specifically for the Pfizer vaccine, but who knows, it could apply to the other vaccines from the variety of companies producing it, but, as always, without further investigation we may not know until much, much later.

What concerns me most about the vaccine is how numerous governments (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3) have limited or blocked the ability to seek proper compensation should things go wrong, especially if it is made mandatory. If I was a citizen in such a country this would be very concerning to me, as it goes against historic precedence and is extremely immoral and unethical. For many the fact that the companies producing the vaccine are protected from liability is a concern, though a moral argument can be made, on both sides, as to why or why not this should be allowed.

So let’s assume that the vaccine, in its various forms, does what it says it is going to do, which is to provide a 94-95% barrier to stop you getting, or spreading COVID-19 after both shots (less so if you only get one dose). Then within reason lockdowns and mask mandates should disappear. If they do not I would be very, very concerned.

If it does work as they say, preventing the spread of COVID, then the idea that EVERYONE MUST get immunized against COVID to help promote some kind of herd immunity is actually quite silly. This is because, as has been made clear, MOST people under 60, who are reasonably healthy, will not have significant issues should they contract the disease. Which means those who are vulnerable or at risk probably should get vaccinated, and everyone else should if they want. However, to claim everyone MUST take it and that it’s MANDATORY, actually seems very un-scientific to me. Whether asymptomatic people can transmit the virus and how many people are asymptomatic seems to be up for debate, as numbers range between 20%-80% of those who test positive. One thing is for sure, the vast majority of people under 60 who encounter this virus are not at risk of severe complications or death. Thus the idea that if you don’t get vaccinated you will die or the world will end makes no sense to me.

If, for whatever reason, the vaccines are not as effective as they claim, then our options are really to learn to live with this and learn to be healthier in general. We will not know, however, until this thing is rolled out and the next year is upon us. So buckle up and hold on.

While the speculation around COVID herd immunity numbers are up in the air, it should be evident by now that this may be irrelevant at this point, with most people being relatively fine; especially if COVID becomes another annual virus (being RNA-based). Normal herd immunity, by the way, for something like measles requires something like 95% of people to be immune to prevent mass outbreaks. So really, protecting the vulnerable and accepting that most people who get COVID will be just fine is probably the way to go.

Either way, I really want the fear mongering to stop.

No matter the virus what we really need is to see a greater push toward healthier living and better dietary choices, as well as more preventative medicine options in the Western medicine world.

Something I have yet to see from most major world leaders…

Testing

I’ll keep this short, but testing throughout the entire pandemic has been a source of confusion. Most governments did not do widespread testing early enough, particularly where it mattered, at points of entry. Some countries did not even do widespread testing at all, favouring instead targeted testing, and had great success (like Japan). But how testing is used, and it’s results measured, can greatly affect the perception of how bad the pandemic actually is. So it’s worth noting.

In Canada, we are using 3 types of testing: PCR, Point of Care, and Antibody tests. PCR is the most widespread, but also the most problematic and the source of many of the issues, whereas antibody tests are hardly being used at all.

The PCR test, to keep it simple, checks to see if you “have something,” as in are you sick, did you have the virus, is there any virus in there at all? Even the creator of the PCR test said it’s not a good test to get accurate numbers (he did not say it cannot test for the virus, it can). This means this test can produce false positives, meaning you may have the cold and you might test positive. Or you could have had COVID weeks ago, didn’t even know it, are fine now, not contagious, but you would still test positive. This means that it is likely, as most of the world is using PCR, that the positive rate is being presented as higher than they actually are. This is why as soon as you saw mass testing, the positive rates SPIKED dramatically in the second wave, yet the hospitalization rates, while they rose to, didn’t spike through the roof at the same rate.

Scientists and governments may prefer an artifactually high number, to make people take the situation more seriously, but, as I mentioned earlier, I prefer honesty over fear mongering. While COVID is a serious problem it should be obvious now that, either because of the widespread use of the PCR testing or politics of COVID, we will never know the real number of active COVID cases. Just like we will never know truly accurate numbers for the flu and common cold.

But, since it is a global issue, I really think they need more accurate numbers so that better policy decisions can be made. Just my two cents.

Conclusion

While I, like many people in the Krav Maga world, am very against the way governments are reacting and behaving I still support genuine science, that is to say actual reality, not what is being portrayed. NO, I do not believe COVID is as bad as it’s being presented to us; many of the problems are to do with failed policy, reactions, overreactions, etc. As I have made clear in this series, numerous governments got it right, unfortunately most did not.

But when it comes to vaccines, while there are obvious concerns even from a scientific perspective (it was produced rapidly and mistakes could have been made, it’s a new technology, it has no long term data, etc.) vaccines, on the whole, have been positive for humanity.

Personally I never get the yearly flu shot; because I am young and healthy and it’s not a big deal if I get the flu, when I am older, however, I would re-consider this stance. This is because flu and cold vaccines are very different than, say, those for measles, because of that tricky RNA thing.

So on this same logic, when it comes to the COVID vaccine, I am in no rush to get it. HOWEVER, if you are over 60 or an at risk individual, I would definitely consider getting it as soon as you can (from a little poking around I would prefer the Moderna one over the Pfizer) as you are the ones who need it. IF the vulnerable are protected the the death rate from COVID should be negligible, even if only half the population gets it. ESPECIALLY if it turns out that it is going to be an annual shot, then, logically, it will be just like the cold and flu shot; those who are at risk get it, and everyone else do what they feel is best for them. So, no, I am not for mandatory vaccination for this particular virus, it doesn’t make sense to me. If we were facing aerosolized Ebola however, I would be Kraving my way to the front of that line!…JK.

The point of this series was to give some perspective from the eyes of critical thinking. Experts, politicians and those on either side can sometimes get tunnel vision and stop thinking clearly in a broader perspective. On some issues I fall on one side of the isle, and on others the other side of the isle; this is how it should be if you are practicing proper critical thinking. To entrench yourself in the camp of LOCK DOWN, LOCKDOWN, or in the camp of HOAX, then you are not operating with any critical thinking at all.

COVID is not a hoax, it’s just really, really, really, poorly managed by our “dear leaders.” BUT given that many countries that have done well barley lockdown, like Sweden (though they admit they should have been a little more cautious), or countries like Japan didn’t do mass testing, means that perhaps the camp of LOCKDOWN also isn’t applying critical thinking.

So, I hope this series has been of help to you, either to open your eyes to one side or the other, teach you something you didn’t know, or clarify something you thought you knew, then I am glad.

Just remember, self-defence is not just physical, it is everything that comes together so that you can learn to walk in peace, be it physical, social, financial, mental, or spiritual. In these crazy times, sane voices and rational discussion with critical thinking must be our priority, lest we all go mad and fail to learn to walk in peace.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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