Why do we practise Krav Maga?
It’s late on a Friday night and you’re walking home. You’ve been out for a few drinks with colleagues after work and now the buzz of those five ciders is beginning to kick in.
Across the road you notice a guy in a hoodie who seems to be watching you. About to turn the corner, you’re second-guessing your decision to go down that dark alley.
“It’s probably nothing,” you think. “At least I practise Krav Maga twice a week.”
Discovering your reason for training
Most people have certain expectations when they come to a class in Krav Maga. These expectations usually centre around getting a good workout, learning some practical skills and perhaps a cool trick or two.
Rarely do we talk about the soft-skills of Krav Maga: the de-escalation strategies, the avoidance, the situational awareness. None of this stuff releases endorphins like a good multiple attacker drill with knives and sticks.
Yes, the high intensity and sometimes technical fighting is absolutely essential to your training in Krav Maga. At some point, though, you have to ask yourself a question: Why am I practising Krav Maga?
The answer will vary, but for many it’s simple. To get myself and those I care about home safely.
This is why I practise (and teach) Krav Maga. It’s not about showing off who’s the stronger person. It’s not about massaging your ego.
I hope you’ll never have to use the things I teach you.
Fighting is the last tool you want to use
In reality few of us will encounter something like a high-pressure terrorist attack. No, the situations we might find ourselves in are of the aggressive-driver, drunken-bar-fight, creep-following-you-home variety.
If our goal is to get home safely, these encounters often have many opportunities for us to achieve our goal before we even have to fight. Fighting is truly the last resort.
Sergeant Rory Miller in his book Facing Violence illustrates this point nicely:
“It is better to avoid than to run. It is better to run than de-escalate. It is better to de-escalate than to fight. It is better to fight than to die.”
Our egos get us into trouble
Okay, so far, we’ve established that avoidance is the best option, then running, then de-escalating. Where we run into trouble is when the ego gets involved. Our egos are responsible for us not taking the out.
I spoke with Krav Maga International Australia’s Lead Instructor, Jarrod Krafcyzk about the role of the ego in confrontations, and he seemed to agree with my thoughts.
“Unless it comes down to an actual attack, there’s no reason for you to get into a physical confrontation. None whatsoever,” he says.
“So, it’s about identifying your triggers and then addressing them. Realise that if you’re easily insulted you begin to wonder why and then [take steps to] get past it.”
If someone tries to start something in a bar, and we take it personally and respond in kind (getting the ego involved), are we avoiding the situation, or ratcheting up the intensity to get closer to a fight?
Objections to avoiding confrontation
“But Luke, doesn’t it make me a pushover if I don’t stand up when someone confronts me?” you might ask.
Remember your objective: to get home safely. Who cares what some random guy in a bar thinks of you? Sure, in the eyes of the aggressor you might be a ‘pushover’, but do you value your ego more than your safety?
The question becomes more complicated when it comes to muggings and situations where you’re giving something up. A potential way out would be to hand over the goods, perhaps earning the label of pushover. This may be a safer option than de-escalating, which would involve talking with the person, trying to understand their point of view and calm things down. You’re trying to keep your stuff (and your life) while reasoning with the other person.
Putting it in perspective
The steps preceding violence and force are incredibly complex. There are so many factors at play. What environment are you in? What is the state of the attacker? Do they have a weapon? What state are you in? What are they asking? What options do you have?
Fighting by comparison can be much simpler, albeit a much higher risk. It can then be tempting to gravitate toward the fighting, missing the opportunity to get out of the situation early. There’s a sense of comfort and confidence in the Krav Maga training you’ve done.
If my attacker throws a haymaker, I’ll block it and punch them in the face. That punch will flatten them, giving me time to run. But is it ever that simple? What if you muck up your block? What if your punch doesn’t land or is ineffective? Because we train, fighting can seem like the simplest part of an encounter, but really it’s just as intricate as avoiding a situation or de-escalating. However, the price of serious injury or imprisonment is a much higher one to pay.
It’s an important reminder when continuing your training. These skills are to be used in a worst-case scenario –they’re just one of the tools in your arsenal.