Posts Tagged ‘Krav Maga Principles’

During the Covid-19 lockdowns many people have found a lot of time to do a variety of things they might not normally had the time to focus on. For me, as many of the things I would like to do are not available or are sold out, I decided to reacquaint myself with one of my childhood passions.


Don’t lie, if you are under the age of, let’s say 40, there is a good chance that you too, at one time, wanted to be a “pokémon trainer” when you grew up.

Unfortunately, like many childhood dreams, this is one of those aspirations that is impossible in real life. Sigh, I can still dream.

Aside from the many cute pokémon, like Pikachu and Togepi, and the addictive nature of trying to achieve that lofty goal of “catching them all,” coupled with a brilliant cross platform global strategy, there are numerous reasons that Pokémon was, and is still, great.

While I did not think much of this as a kid, as I re-watch the original seasons, as well as the many, many, many seasons I missed (and they are still making new ones!), one of the great lessons the show teaches is that it is, in fact, OK to loose.

Even as a child I often thought the lead protagonist, Ash Ketchum, was a terrible pokémon trainer. This is mainly due to the fact that, in the original few seasons, he didn’t actually earn many of the gym badges by winning battles, but rather by foiling the plans of the “evil” Team Rocket. This means he probably didn’t actually deserve much of his respect as a trainer. So what did make him such a good trainer?

I think it’s the fact that win, loose, or draw, he would always keep going; he stayed consistent and kept a reasonably good attitude. Compare this to so many other cookie cutter kids shows or superhero series, where the protagonists always win in the end. I think Pokemon was a refreshing change, as it was far more based in reality than most other shows in regard to “winning.”

In most cases, these kids’ shows always result with the protagonist winning, which shelters young kids from one of the most important life skills; learning to fail. Pokémon, in contrast, showed you could win, loose, or draw, and still come out stronger.

For it is only in your losses that you can learn to improve. Only through adversity do you realize you need to change. If you only ever win, and only ever achieve the best, then you may not know how to truly assess and improve yourself.

A good, real life example of someone who clearly can’t handle loss would be Jon Jones. An amazing fighter who is one of the very best, yet is chronically having issues with the drugs and the law. Perhaps, had he faced a loss, or true adversity, he might have learned to be a better person as well as a better fighter. Maybe, had he been a pokémon trainer, this is a lesson he might have been forced to learn.

Whether you love Pokémon or hate Pokémon, the fact remains that it was and still is a worldwide phenomenon, one that experiences a resurgence in mass popularity every few years with some new version of the game. If you pay attention, you may realize that it’s a much better TV show for your child to watch than so many of the other cookie cutter junk out there; as it portrays the challenges of life (though in a fictional setting) in a much more realistic way.

So, whether it’s for your child, or yourself revisiting your childhood love, perhaps it’s time to look at Pokémon for some of it’s deeper lessons. Then learn to internalize the truth that it’s okay to lose, so long as you learn from it, and use that lesson to move forward and grow.

No matter what your endeavors are, keep going, stay consistent, and perhaps you too will metaphorically “catch them all,” as you will have built yourself up to the very best that you could be, a little bit at a time.

By: Jonathan Fader


Situational Awareness

Whether it is for Krav Maga, real self-defence situations, or just life, we always need to be “situationally aware” and assess, re-assess, and assess some more. This ensures that, at any given moment, we are making the correct decision based on the information we currently have. Short of being clairvoyant, it is unlikely that you will ever have all the information to make the perfect decision in a situation. Yet, we still must to make a decision! When it comes to self-defence that decision needs to be fast. All the while processing every factor in our environment, the use of force decision tree, managing our fight, flight, freeze mechanisms, and attempting to act before our assailants.

To our current knowledge humans have not developed superpowers. Therefore, the best way we can make the best decision is, as mentioned, to constantly assess for new information. In a self-defence scenario we have to rely on our senses and experience to collect as much information as we are able.

  • Sight – Can you see another assailant? Can you see a weapon? Can you see a clear exit path to safety? etc…
  • Sound – Can you hear another assailant? Can you hear police coming? can you hear gun fire? etc..
  • Touch – Can you feel the assailant resisting more or less? Do you feel have control of their body or are losing it? Can you feel an injury?
  • Smell – Can you smell fire? Can you smell the release of toxic chemicals? etc…
  • Balance – Do you still have good balance? Is your balance compromised due to trauma or alcohol and substances use? etc…

There are degrees of subtlety to your senses, and you should not limit yourself to just the above examples when assessing; though they are most likely the ones you will rely on during a self-defence scenario. At any point a scenario can go from fine (safe) to not fine (dangerous).

Maybe you had the situation handled with one person, as you effectively deployed stage 2 self-defence (Diffusion) and talked the person down, but then their friend showed up and their confidence increased, which made them (and their friend) more aggressive. Now the situation is quickly moving from bad to worse. If you fail to assess correctly, and avoid (run) or preemptively strike, you may find yourself at the end of a sucker punch (or stab!).

Often, new students become so fixated on the application of techniques in training that they forget the need to adapt in the moment based on new information.

For example, a common mistake for beginners is forgetting to disengage and create space, even after they have clearly lost control of the situation. Instead, they continue to struggle for control even though the tactile information (sense of touch) has told them they can no longer safely control their opponent. This is because they know they are supposed to gain control by moving through the situationally appropriate ranges, but they forget that new information has changed the strategy from attack, to avoid.

Whether you are a new student or experienced fighter, failure to accept new information, from constantly re-assessing the situation as it unfolds, can mean going from a “successful”* violent encounter to an un-successful one.

So remember, Assess, Assess, Assess, but don’t take too long to make a decision, as, after all, hesitation could mean death.

*In truth, a “successful violent encounter” is to avoid it in the first place! In the absence of this possibility, a successful one could be considered any one in which you escape alive, with minimal damage to yourself or loved ones.

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

On top of Straight Line vs Circular attack types, we now expand into attack patterns. It is essential to understand attack patterns to assess how your opponent is implementing the attack, at what speed, and what tempo. As a general rule, we have three attack  patterns; Threats, Committed, and Non-Committed. For bladed weapon attacks, we add a fourth called “blender mode“.

  • Threats – A threat is a static action rather than dynamic. If someone is holding a knife to you, not swinging it, this is a knife threat. If someone has grabbed you, but is only holding you, this is a threat. In both cases the assailant has yet to put any kinetic energy into their attempt, apart from the initial motion to move in close. But don’t get it wrong, if you attempt to do something and mess up, at any point their threat can become an attack.
  • Committed Attacks – A committed attack is linear. It follows a direct path from the attacker to the intended target point on a person. Committed attacks are usually due to an emotional reaction or because an attacker has decided or committed to a specific attack. The 360 defence, for example, is designed for committed attacks like the “ice pick” or “prison shank” style attack. These attacks go from outside in and downward or upward. Attacks like bear hugs are also committed, as the attacker is going from a static, to a forward grab and slam, and there is a specific attack pattern.
  • Non-Committed Attacks – Non-committed attacks are any that do not follow a linear pattern, and tend not to have the attacker’s full weight behind them. A basic Non-committed attack includes a retraction after the initial strike, rather than a telegraphed Committed attack which may lunge through or past the target. They may start in one direction, such as straight, then retract for another attack or quickly change to something else. They can come from up, down, left, or right. The intent is the same as a Committed attack, that is, to harm the intended target, but there is no set path. Hacking or slashing knife attacks are an example of Non-committed attacks. When dealing with a Non-committed attack it can be a battle of Action vs Reaction until someone wins. As such, you must reset their mental processing and do damage to them as fast as you possibly can prior to progressing to control.Because of Action vs Reaction concepts, the more your brain has to process the harder it is going to be to formulate the correct action to stop the attack or threat. Thus the more complex and non-linear an attack the harder it will be to deal with. Because of this, Committed attacks are preferable over Non-committed attacks when it comes to a defence perspective. However, from an attacking perspective, a Non-committed attack is preferable, as it has a greater chance of succeeding. If you encounter a Non-committed attack, the best idea is to simply create distance and run. If you can’t run, you must find a way, through strategy, technique, and aggression, to overwhelm your opponent.
  • Blender Mode – Blender mode is reserved for a Non-committed knife attack which employs both stabbing and slashing in quick, repeating succession. This essentially creates a wall of “blender blades” which is not safe to approach. The attacker either started like this, and is likely skilled with a knife, or you screwed up your initial defence and they went from a simple Committed lunge, to a Non-committed straight line attack, to blender mode. These are the times when it is best to use a weapon of opportunity.

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

Recognizing the attack type your opponent is using, and understanding how to react appropriately, will greatly increase your ability to defend yourself. Generally, we don’t have much time in a split-second attack to identify if there is a weapon or if it’s an unarmed attack, but we can quickly identify what kind of attack is it.

To keep it simple and practical, we have two general attack types; Straight Line attacks and Circular (or peripheral) attacks.

  • Eye Flick

    Example of a straight line attack; the Eye Flick

    Straight Line Attacks – Straight line attacks are exactly as they sound. This is any attack that follows a straight line from the attacker to you. If telegraphed, these are often lunging attacks, though they aren’t always telegraphed.  These attacks are often quite fast, as they have little distance to travel; the shortest distance between two points being a straight line.

    • Solution – With all straight line attacks you must re-direct, and get off the centre line if possible. With these attacks, we have 3 options: 1. Re-direct the attack with, for example, a vertical sweep. 2. Move your body at an angle, or side-step, to get off the centre line. 3. Burst at a 45-degree angle to the side of the attacker. Each one of these in the moment will avoid the attack, but it is best to do them all (as you just never know).
    • Examples: Straights punches and jabs, straight knife attacks or lunges, straight kicks  (such as push kicks or groin kicks).
  • Roundhouse Kick No Pad 4.jpg

    Example of a circular attack; the Roundhouse kick

    Circular Attacks – These attacks come from an outward angle towards the centre of the body. They are often, but not always, considered “power shots” with the intent of generating as much power as possible.

    • Solution – With all circular attacks you must block first, especially if there is a knife. While you could just move out of the way, blocking directly interrupts the initial attack pattern. After which, we usually must burst into the opponent, attempting to apply Retzef and off-balance, cause pain, and disrupt. How we block is also important, as we must leverage the bio-mechanical strength of our body, by creating angles with our bone structure, to deal with the amount of power that is generated by circular attacks.
    • Examples: Haymakers, hooks, roundhouse kicks, knees.

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

Training & Muscle Memory

Posted: March 27, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
Tags: , , ,

Muscle memory.jpgHow you train in the gym is how you will react in the street. The more you repeat a movement, the more accurately your body will know how to do it. The more you practice, the faster you will react. There is a saying; “a true master forgets all he knows.” This is due to muscle memory. (It should be noted that it is actually your neurons, and nervous system being trained how to fire and when, which in turn activates the muscles) The more time you take to think on how to move or react, the more likely a situation can go from bad to worse.

Bruce Lee famously said,

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. [yes, this quote again]

By continuing to practice the basics over and over your body reaches a point that you will act, or react, without fear, instantly dealing with a situation which you hope will never happen, but for which you have practiced over and over.

Of course, there are negative aspects to muscle memory. If you practice incorrectly for too long, these mistakes will become your automatic response. Because of this, it is better to practice slowly but correctly than fast and incorrectly. Furthermore, muscle memory may cause you to react in a way that can be inappropriate. The reason we always say to look first prior to attacking is so that you do not just react arbitrarily. You must always identify if something is a threat or not prior to acting. Failing to assess properly, and relying solely on muscle memory, could result in you injuring your friends or family as they attempt to simply hug you.

We also tell the famous story of the police officer who got himself killed due to muscle memory. He trained gun and knife disarms regularly. After every drill, however, students would return the gun or knife to their partner without even thinking about it. This action was repeated over many years of training. One day an individual pulled a gun on the officer, he disarmed the individual and then, without even thinking, passed the gun back. The officer was shot and killed. (This story, or versions of it have been repeated by different agencies all over the world. So it happens.)

Muscle memory is how we improve the speed and accuracy of our movements, but we must always remain conscious of all of our actions. Be alert, be observant, and always take that split second to decide if an action is appropriate.

For Kravists, a big part of training muscle memory isn’t just about drilling the techniques, but also training the mind to function under stress. While it is important to first learn the technique and how it works, you must also simulate the environment that you expect to apply it in. Most self-defence scenarios are stressful, you may be tired, you may be sore, you may be drunk, but you will most likely not be expecting it and will probably be stressed or have a rush of adrenaline. Dealing with these variables is something we must also train into our muscle memory.

If your Krav gym looks more like a Karate class, with katas all the time, no active sparring, and very little stress testing, you need to look elsewhere. Good Krav Maga is not just technique, but also strategy and mental training. As our motto says, we “turn lambs into lions.” So, know that, to properly train your muscle memory, we WILL push you to your limits and expect you to function. Because failing to function may mean the difference between life and death!

So train hard, train properly, and train yourself to the point where you can act without thinking and still make the right choice.

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



You have probably heard the expressionno groin, no Krav Maga”. Of all the vulnerable points on the body, the groin is one of the easiest to access and is one of the more sensitive areas, especially for men. One swift kick, knee, punch, or anything, to the groin has the potential to stop your opponent outright. It is also accessible at all ranges: long, medium, and short.

Pros Cons
– Highly sensitive for both men and women

– Relatively exposed to a leg kick

– People are more aware of this vulnerable point

– Attacks are more likely to be blocked

– Some people may be desensitized to groin strikes

Suggested moves vs the groin: Groin Flip Kick, Straight Groin Kick, Stomp Kick, Push Kick, Knees, Palm Strikes, Punches.


A well placed shot to the abdomen can potentially drop your opponent, especially when targeting the liver or solar plexus. However, it is not always a guarantee, as many people train to condition themselves to take hits to this region.

Pros Cons
– Many vulnerable parts: liver, solar plexus, stomach, floating ribs, etc.

– Well-placed shots can cause severe pain

– High damage to opponents

– Strike must be strong and well-placed

– Pro fighters usually train their abs to take hits

Suggested moves vs the abdomen: Knee, Front Kick, Straight Punch, Uppercut.


The throat is another major target that can stop anyone in their tracks. However, it can be a dangerous target if you do not know what you are doing. A mere 7lbs of force on the throat can cause windpipe collapse, potentially killing a person. Be careful with this one!

Pros Cons
– Easy to access

– Highly effective

– Potential for accidental lethal blow

Suggested moves vs the throat: Straight Punches, Elbows, Strike with the webbing between your thumb and index finger.


The neck contains the spinal column, the carotid artery (supplying blood to the brain), and the jugular vein (takes blood from the brain). If any one of these were severed a person could die rapidly, or instantly. Restricting blood to the brain with a technique like a choke hold can result in loss of consciousness in 6 seconds. The back of the neck, containing the seven cervical vertebrae (C1-C7),  is extremely sensitive to impacts; strikes to this region can be very effective, possibly even deadly.

Pros Cons
– Attacks on C3-C7 could paralyze a human

– Attacks on C3-C5 could disrupt nerve signals to the diaphragm, necessary for breathing

– Contains the brain’s major blood supply; the carotid artery and jugular vein run along the sternocleidomastoid muscle (from the clavicle to behind the ear)

– Difficult to access unless opponent is bent over, or already softened up


Suggested moves vs the neck: Downward Elbow, Downward Hammer Fist, Punch, Guillotine Choke, Rear Naked Choke.


One solid strike to the chin can be the end for many, but not all. This is a target for more experienced, confident strikers, but, with training, one could knock someone out with a well-placed shot.

Pros Cons
– Vulnerable to incoming forces from the side

– Shockwave will cause concussion

– Ineffective if opponent tucks their chin and has hands up

Suggested moves vs the chin: Hammer Fist, Elbow, Hook Punch.


The nose is one of the easiest targets on the face to strike, and it can be very effective. The nose is very close to the eyes and the tear ducts, allowing a solid strike to cause an opponent to cry in response. In addition, the nose can be broken or caused to bleed fairly easily, which may stop your opponent on account of both pain and psychological reasons.

Pros Cons
– Highly sensitive area

– Could stop opponent’s movement

– Could lead to control of opponent’s  head

– Difficult to access if opponent’s hands are up

Suggested moves vs the nose: Straight Punches, Forward Elbow, Grab, Palm Strikes.


The eyes are, without a doubt, the single best target to strike on a person. Any person who has even accidentally flicked themselves in the eye knows how jarring and unnerving this can be. In addition, if you take out an opponent’s sight, even temporarily, you have them at a severe disadvantage; as sight is considered our most important sense.

Pros Cons
– The most sensitive sensory organs on body

– Even light touches will stop opponent’s movement

– With enough pressure, you can control the opponent’s head movement

– Can be difficult to access

– People will naturally protect this area

Suggested moves vs the eyes: Eye Gouges, Straight Punches, Finger Flicks.


For those who have long enough hair to grab, it can, unfortunately, be used against you by assailants. However, this also means you can use it against others. Hair can be used to control a person’s head movement, and thus their body, using pain compliance. This is the reason many martial artists choose to have short or no hair.

Pros Cons
– Allows you to control opponent’s head and subsequently the whole body – Some people may have short or no hair

Suggested moves vs hair: Grab and Pull


The ears are often an overlooked target. But, like the eyes, if you strike just right it could end the fight on the spot. However, as they are on the head, an opponent that is actively defending themselves may make it difficult to strike these small targets.

Pros Cons
– Can stop the threat quickly, as it disrupts not just hearing but balance and coordination – Might be hard to hit in a manner that disrupts the senses

– May cause permanent damage, so you must be able to articulate why you did it.

Suggested moves vs the ears: Hook Punch, Ear Smash/Pop.


Knees are one of the most important joints on the body for mobility.  Because they are a hinge joint, and only like to move in a specific way, they can be injured easily. This makes them excellent targets, especially on larger opponents;  if you take out their base effectively, the fight is ended. Remember, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

Pros Cons
– Easy to target on an unsuspecting opponent

– A well-placed shot can be extremely effective at reducing the opponent’s mobility

– Requires considerable skill with well-placed kicks and timing to hit accurately

– May cause permanent damage, so you must be able to articulate why you did it.

Suggested moves vs the knees: Round House, Oblique Kick.


Though not as effective a target as the knees, feet can be the best choice when there is no other option. These targets often present themselves in grabs and holds where your options are limited.

Pros Cons
– Easy to target on an unsuspecting opponent

– Low risk to you, as your heel is unlikely to be damaged, even in bare feet

– Shoes may restrict damage

– Not always a realistic target unless you already screwed up.

Suggested moves vs the feet: Foot Stop, Low Oblique Kick.

Commit these vulnerabilities to memory! While they are the areas we target in Krav Maga, never forget that attackers can use these same points on you. There is a reason why in class we keep telling you to keep your hands up, chin tucked, and to be aware of your surroundings. Preventing your opponent from accessing any of these points on you, before you access them on your opponent, can make the difference between having a good or bad day.

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

The Body: Weapons & Ranges

Posted: March 13, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
Tags: , , ,

If you seriously intend on learning to defend yourself you must understand range. Range means how close you have to be to another person in order to use your body’s weapons.

  • Long Range (LR) – Kicks, etc..

Groin Flick Kick 3

Example: Groin Flick Kick/Groin jab. All kicks are long range.

  • Medium Range (MR) – Punches, etc…

Eye Flick

Example: Eye Flick. All punches, or attacks with extended but not completely locked out arms, are medium range attacks.

  • Short Range (SR) – Elbows, Knees, Grabbing, etc…

Krav Maga Knee 4

Example: Knee. Any attack that can be done from a clinch or control point is a close range attack

  • Control Point (CP) – Reference point 1, Reference point 2, Point of Dominance, etc..

Reference point 1 takedown grip 1

Example: Reference point 1 control, or “live side” control. Controls are positions in which you have broken down your opponent, and are controlling their body in some way.

As much as possible you should maintain long range prior to conflict. This allows you to assess the overall situation while still being able to attack your opponent if you need to.  If you need to Preemptivley (PE) strike, you should start from your long range; as you already properly assessed and gauged your distance. If you decide that you need to fight rather than run, attack in whatever range you are in and begin closing the distance. Once you have achieved close range you can control-and-disengage, or control-and-take-down, depending on your skill, your objective, and what will most effectively stop the threat in that situation.

One of the best ways to become effective at closing the distance and learning your ranges is sparring. While learning self-defence techniques does not necessarily require sparring, it is a MUST be included if you are serious about realistic training.

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

Avoid Injury

Posted: March 6, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
Tags: , ,

Another important founding idea of Krav Maga is to avoid injury.

Avoid Injury.jpg

This is, of course, in jest, but no seriously…

It is both a fundamental principle and expectation that you will do your best to avoid injury in both training and in real life. In the gym, we train hard. We kick, punch, and spar, but at no point in training is it permitted to intentionally hurt your training partners or instructors.

On the street, hopefully, all the knowledge you gain in the gym will help you avoid outright fights. However, should you find yourself in such a situation you must remember that you probably have a day job. Unlike professional fighters, who make tens of thousands and sometimes millions to fight and can afford to take months off to heal, you cannot. If you throw a punch in self-defence and break your hand, but you require your hands to do your job, you may have survived the conflict but negatively impacted yourself in another way.

It is because of this that Krav Maga prefers techniques that minimize (but not eliminate) the risk of injury during a conflict.

The most common example of this is how we punch. Kravists should be punching with 45 Degree Knuckle.jpgtheir first 45 degrees in relation to the ground, not overextending their elbows, and using their bodies to generate the power. This differs from boxing, where gloves are worn and it is acceptable to over-rotate the fist for more range and, arguably, more power. Or Wing Chung Kung Fu, which uses vertical fists to increase punching speed. Kravists choose the middle ground between power and speed, so that our punches are more likely to land with the larger two knuckles.

Another example is the concept of soft on hard, hard on soft in which we use hard parts of our bodies to strike the soft parts of the attacker’s body, and soft parts of our bodies on the hard parts of their bodies. An example of this would be switching to a palm strike, if we are keen enough to notice they have lowered their head exposing the harder part of the skull; punch this with bare knuckles and you may break your hand, but a palm strike will deliver the same effective force with limited damage to yourself.

So remember, both in training and practical application a Kravist will always take the path with the least chance of injury to themselves.

Note: Of course, it must also be understood that Krav Maga literally translates to “contact combat” or “close combat,” and accidents do happen. As such, it is unrealistic to expect, over the course of years of training, that you will never get hurt. Choosing not to practice or train because of fear of injury is not good at all. This is a common occurrence, as people accidentally get injured and then create a mental block related to training. Just remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the faster you bounce back the happier and healthier you will be.

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

They say, in life, that if you assume, you just make an ASS out of U and ME. The problem is, sometimes assuming could save you. Just like in life, we have to make certain assumptions in Krav Maga to ensure our maximum survival in any situation.

Assume They Have a Weapon

Assuming that your attacker has a weapon, even if it is not readily visible or identifiable, could save your life. This is because weapons change what you should or should not do with regards to tactics and control methods. Obviously, if you know there is a weapon your training will tell you what to do.  However, if you don’t see a weapon, but assume they have one, you are mentally prepared and can still rely on your senses and your training if that situation suddenly changes.

A good example is controlling the arm. In wrestling, it is totally acceptable to underhook the opponent’s arm above the elbow, near the shoulder. Unfortunately, while such a control may be great for controlling you opponent’s body, it does not, however, control their arm’s ability to bend at the elbow. A motion which is perfect for stabbing and slashing. You may get your underhook control in, but maybe it was dark and you didn’t see the knife; you assumed, incorrectly, that your control was sufficient, sudden;y it is not. In this particular case, a better control would have eliminated their arm’s ability to stab or slash. Just like in splinting for first aid, always isolate the joints; one below and one above. If a attacker is using a knife, they are holding it, so you should do your best to control the arm near the wrist and prevent the elbow from moving easily; thus preventing an effective stab or slash motion.

Effective control of the arm is just one example of how assuming they have a weapon drastically changes your acceptable control mechanism and your tactics.

Another example would be the tactics employed if you are a trained as a sports striker, say Muay Thai or kickboxing. Your training gives you the confidence to want to “dance” with your attacker, because you recognize your skill set to be far greater. However, you failed to assume they had a weapon, so you go for a clinch, controlling their head and neck. They’ve had enough, they pull a knife, and next thing you know your guts are all over the ground.

Most styles fail to assume a weapon may be present and they do not train for this occurrence appropriately. Your style may be perfect for unarmed fighting, but if you have little to no experiences with knives or guns, you may have a problem. See the example in this tragic story, in which a high level of training in empty-hand martial arts still wasn’t enough versus an identifiable weapon.

Weapons change everything.

Assume They Have Friends

Another thing we need to assume is that the attacker has backup. Remember, in the real world there is no referee, there is no cage, and any person, even a stranger to you and your attacker, can jump in against you. For example, you could agree to a fair fight, but once you start to win opponent’s friends think it’s unfair, so they jump in and you go from winning to losing.

Or, you got away from the initial attack but forgot to scan and look around, so didn’t see the other attacker 6m away; who now lays you out easily because you mistakenly thought you were already safe.

Forget honour, forget rules of engagement, and just assume that their friend is ready to cold-cock you from behind. Because failing to constantly check for more than one attacker could turn a “good” encounter with violence into the one we all fear. Worse yet, if one person has attacked you and there is a group with them, it is easy for mob mentality to kick in and their normally peaceful “friends” suddenly become bloodthirsty goons.

So, remember, until you are truly away to safety, assume there is another attacker.

Assume it Didn’t Work

While we try to use the most efficient, reliable techniques, in the end you need to remember that techniques can fail, you can miss, and your opponent could be better than you. It’s because of this reality that we apply strategies like Retzef and Cause pain, Off-balance, and Disrupt. If I assume that what I did, for whatever reason, was not sufficient to stop the threat, then I will always continue constant pressure, while maximizing my effectiveness, until the threat is in fact stopped. Words do not always work, no matter how much we would like, so we must be prepared to continue our self-defence strategy. The same, however, can be said for violence; if it doesn’t initially work, we either need to escalate or escape to fight another day. The truth is, in the moment we don’t really know what worked and what didn’t until the dust has settled. So, it is a safe practice to assume that what you did didn’t work, so that you don’t prematurely stop and end up dead.

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

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Posted: January 16, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
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When encountering a threat, humans typically have one of two instinctual reactions, with an occasional third; we fight, we flee, or, if we are unlucky, we freeze.


For many, especially untrained individuals or for those overwhelmed by a threat, this can be a subconscious, automatic decision. For trained individuals this response can be honed and controlled at a more conscious level. Whether the decision is a conscious one or not, your brain will do a quick calculation based on your past experience, your skill level, and your conditioning, to determine which option is best for the situation at hand. The most important part is often not which decision is made, but the speed at which the final decision is reached (supported by whether or not you can commit to it).

“Strike fast, but run faster” – Unknown

The following is an excerpt from a previous article found here.

“The fight or flight response refers to physiological reaction that occurs when a person is placed in a threatening situation. ‘Fight or flight’ simply describes the two basic options that are instantaneously weighed in order to resolve the dangerous situation being presented, by either making a quick escape or fighting back.

The physiological process of this response begins with one or several of the five senses, typically vision. A person will see threatening stimili, such as person or animal, the stimili is then sent as a signal, via the optic nerve, to the brain. This threat signal is usually processed in the amygdala, known as the ‘fear centre,’ which sends signals to the hypothalamus, which in turn activates the nervous system. Another signal then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which will send impulses down the spinal column to the adrenal gland, where the hormone epinephrine is released (also known as adrenaline). Epinephrine will cause the heart rate to increase, allowing it to be sent further throughout the body as the heart beats faster. At the same time, this stress hormone will signal the liver to release glucose, which will then be converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is an energy carrying molecule used to activate muscles. The heightened level of epinephrine in the body will also activate the lungs, causing the breathing rate to increase in order for the body take in and utilize more oxygen through dilated blood vessels. The pupils in the eyes will also dilate, to take in more light and increase visual acuity. Finally, the dilation occurs in the blood vessels of the ears, for increased auditory perception.

While the body is activating these defensive measures, it is simultaneously subduing processes deemed unnecessary during a dangerous situation, such as digestion, in order to free up energy for fighting or effecting a hasty retreat. The elevated levels of epinephrine and increased activation of these bodily processes will increase body heat, which ‘warms up’ your muscles in seconds as the mind registers the threat.

autonomic-nervous-system.jpgPsychologically, the combination of the increased heart rate, sweating, and the explosion of energy in the muscles, create a sense of acute awareness of the current situation and the ability to act quickly. While this illustrates a case in which the entire process runs smoothly, you must also be aware of the case in which it fails, known as ‘condition black.’ Condition black is also referred to as ‘non-functional freezing,’ locking up during a dangerous situation, preventing the individual from fleeing or fighting. Cognitively, a sense of increased aggression will be associated with the ‘fight’ response, and a combination of fear and anxiety for ‘flight.’ While a sense of fear and anxiety is commonly associated with ‘freezing’ as well, it often includes a physical sensation of stiffness. During this ‘freeze’ response, the parasympathetic nervous system dumps large amounts of hormones into the body, the same hormones that return the body to its relaxed state after a fight. This sudden increase of ‘recovery hormones’ during a dangerous situation will have the opposite effect of the desired ‘fight or flight’ response; mixing panic with an inability to act quickly. Although freezing can be useful in situations in which a person must remain still in order to hide from an attacker, it can be detrimental when faced with an attacker head on.”

In Krav Maga, we accept these natural reactions and work with them. We have a decision to make: If we are following the proper stages of self-defence, then we will choose Flight, as (A) Avoidance is the first choice when we have it and it is appropriate (for civilians it usually is, for those whose jobs require them to stay it will not be). Or, if we cannot avoid the fight and we cannot (D) Diffuse the situation, we fight. Depending on the scenario and how quickly you realized the fight is unavoidable, you will either act Preemptively (PE) and strike first, or React (RE) defensively to their incoming attack.

The “Freeze” reaction is a double edged sword; in some situations the correct tactical response to stop moving, in others it renders you defenceless.

Example 1: You are walking in the plains of Africa. You spot something. That something, you think, is a pair of eyes peering at you from the tall grass. You FREEZE! This is both to ensure that you identify the threat correctly, before making a decision, and to not activate the predator’s response to running.


The ability to recognize eyes and a face is so ingrained in our biology that our brains have sections dedicated to this task. This is a very primal, predator response; “I see face, I decide fight, flight or freeze.” Remember, these responses threaded throughout our biology as part of our survival instinct. So rather than struggling with them, train them.

Example 2: You are a Special Operations group moving silently through the night. You are still 1km from your designated target. A group of teens is up late, past the local curfew. You freeze, remaining motionless and silent, so as not to be spotted. The threat of detection passes and you continue.

In both examples, the freeze response offers a tactical advantage, as the threat is present but not active. But what if the eyes in the grass suddenly charged, or the teens turned out to be hostile? In the worst case scenario, the freeze response can become “code black” and turn into a catastrophic mental failure, preventing you from acting at all; the dreaded Non-Functional Freeze (NFF). This is the kind of freeze we hope to avoid. Some individuals are fortunate enough not to have a code black or NFF trigger, others will only know when it happens. If your brain is prone to “code black”, hopefully you have make correct life decisions and manage to avoid dangerous or life-threatening situations. If not, you may be in for a world of hurt.

One of the most effective ways to avoid a code black situation, especially under the threat of violence, is to train. Training is a form of exposure therapy, especially with the intensity of Krav Maga. Krav Maga cannot be called Krav Maga if the training never forces you to push your physical and mental limits through stress testing. This regular and relatively safe training exposes you to higher levels of mental and physical stress in slowly increasing doses, which allows your body to adapt and get used to the stimuli (internal and external). The more you are exposed to this stimuli, the easier you can turn a freeze response from an NFF to a tactical freeze to action, thus making the correct decisions in the moment and avoiding being overwhelmed by a real-world threat.

Under threat of life and death, do you know which response you are most likely to have? The right one could save your life, but the wrong one…

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