Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Self Defense Training and the Flywheel

In his seminal book, Good to Great, Jim Collins explores how good companies become better great.

Though focused on business, Collins offers some lessons that can be applied to becoming a proficient Krav Maga practitioner.

One of these centers around the analogy of the flywheel.  Collins writes:

     Picture a huge, heavy flywheel - a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds.  Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and as long as possible.
     Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first.  You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.  You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.
     You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation.  You keep pushing in a consistent direction.  Three keep pushing...the flywheel builds up speed...
      Then, at some point - breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kick in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn...whoosh!...its own heavy weight working for you...Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier compounding your investment of effort...
      Now, suppose someone came along and asked, "What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?"
     You wouldn't be able to answer; it's just a nonsensical question.  Was it the first push? The second? The fifth.  The Hundredth? No!  It was all of them added together in the overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction..... (165)

To me, this speaks not only to the evolution of a great business but also to other aspirations such as becoming a proficient Krav Maga practitioner. This person trains regularly and, in a steady manner learns, works, and improves. It isn't her near perfect Practitioner 3 test, or an epiphany during a workshop he attended last year. Rather, it is the accumulation of the weekly strikes, attention to technical detail, the questions, conditioning exercises, reflexive drills..... all of these focused activities lead to greater proficiency.
As the student gains momentum, she is able to perform defenses reflexively without pause. Movements that once felt awkward become comfortable. New situations and solutions are assessed more readily.  Of course, to improve he must continue to train.

Don't look for shortcuts.  It is the consistent, focused and effective efforts that lead to progress, and ultimately make you better able to protect yourself. 

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

picture courtesy of Can Stock Photo Inc.

Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't.  New York:               Harper Collins, 2001

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 27 Workshop: Defending in Close Quarters

Avoidance, we like to say, is the best self defense.  Sometimes, however, situations force us to be in physical contact with an aggressor. 

Consider the following scenarios:
  • An elevator
  • Home invasion
  • Leaving/entering your vehicle
  • On a subway/streetcar/bus
  • A small room (e.g. a public bathroom)
This workshop will offer tips on avoiding and escaping danger but will focus on what to do if these options are not available.

Topics include:
  • protecting your body
  • close range striking - elbow, knees....
  • how walls and other physical structures can hinder and benefit your safety
  • escaping holds/grabs

This workshop is open to ages 16 and up.  Beginners welcome!

International Krav Maga FederationToronto
2156 Yonge St. (1 block south of Eglinton)
Saturday September 27th, 3-5pm

To register online via Paypal or credit card visit:

For more information please contact:

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, August 11, 2014

Perseverance in Training

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
― Confucius, Confucius: The Analects

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
― Confucius

To become proficient in anything requires sustained effort and focus.

It also involves working through various obstacles or challenges. These can be many:
  • Perhaps you are not as athletically gifted as some of the other students. 
  • You might have a busy life that only allows you to train once a week.  
  • There are certain techniques that you are struggling to understand and perform. (I always had problems with wrist releases.)
  • You have a temporary or permanent disability (e.g. back problems) that can slow down or limit your training

Such factors can frustrate.  They can be more frustrating if you are comparing yourself to other students (or instructors) who have rapidly moved up the testing ranks. 

We can’t always expect rapid, monumental progress in our training.  Besides the above-mentioned limitation we might experience injuries, busy schedules, or simply find ourselves struggling with particular techniques, concepts, and exercises. 


Here are some suggestions to help you persevere:

Be a tortoise:  There will always be students who are more athletic and seem to perform techniques and exercises with annoying ease.  You might not be as gifted but persist over the long run and you will marvel at your progress.
Adjust Your Standards:  Monumental leaps in proficiency are not always forthcoming. Strive to improve a little every month, every week, every class, and every exercise…  Your sustained effort will reap beneifts. 
Don’t Compare:  There is always someone better.  Don’t torment yourself by comparing yourself to someone who is more skilled.  Focus on your own development.
Adapt Your Learning.  You body is tired?  Watch some Krav Maga videos.  You are physically tired?  Stretch.  You have a leg injury?  Consider how you would defend yourself from a sitting position.  Adapt. 
Don’t Forget the Fundamentals!  Continue to refine you basic strikes, releases, body defenses etc…  This will help you when learning more complex techniques. 
Don't Binge. Train Consistently.  I have seen students who try to binge by showing up 4 times a week before a test vs those who show up consistently once or more week on a consistent basis.  The latter do better.

Persist with small steps and you will improve and become proficient.

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Being a Krav Maga Instructor: Developing and Improving Quality Teaching

People ask me why I become a Krav Maga instructor, particularly an instructor with the The International Krav Maga Federation, (IKMF).  It is a great question and there are many reasons.  One reason centers around what I see as the IKMF's continued efforts to ensure quality instruction to offer the best possible self defense to our students. 

Becoming a Certified Instructor
There is no short cut to achievement.  Life requires thorough preparation - veneer isn't worth anything. George Washington Carver

It is recommended that candidates have 4 years of martial arts experience.   I would also strongly suggest some training at a reputable Krav Maga school.  The Civilian Instructor Certification (CIC) runs for 20 days, 8 hours a day.

The course is divided into 3 parts: techniques, theory, and teaching methodology.  Prospects must achieve high standing in all three categories to pass the course.  It is, of course, tempting to simply flood the market with instructors to make for more short-term returns. We cannot, however, compromise on quality. There are no shortcuts to becoming an IKMF instructor, no correspondence courses, or weekend crash courses where Friday you pay a substantial fee and by Sunday you are certified to teach.  There is too much at stake.  Your safety!

Here is a video with IKMF Global Instructor Tamir Gilad describing the Civilian Instructor Course (CIC):

Renewals and Continued Education

“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.” - Denis Waitley

Becoming certified is only the first step.  Instructors are required to renew their certification annually to maintain technical quality, improve their skills, and stay current on any curriculum changes.  This assures that your instructor's knowledge and skill level are up to date and you have access to the most  effective techniques.  During these "renewals", instructors also have to opportunity to talk with other instructors as well as National Directors and members of the Global Instructor Team(GIT). This offers a great opportunity to share training and teaching tips.  Instructors always return to their schools with more knowledge and wisdom.  

This commitment to quality control is one of the main reasons I decided to train with the IKMF and continue to teach as part of this organization. With your safety we don't want to take any shortcuts or compromise teaching quality. 

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Workshop: Escaping an Aggressor - Awareness, Tactics, Techniques..July, 12-3:45-5:45pm

Avoidance is the best self defense. There are times, however, when we cannot avoid and our next best option is to escape - to get away from an assailant, find an exit, and minimize injury to yourself.

This workshop will help you:
  • develop an awareness of exiting options
  • tactics to distract and disable (usually temporarily) an assailant to "buy time" to escape
  • techniques to disengage from an attacker trying to control you
Here are some tips for escaping:

Beginners welcome!!


Saturday 3:45 to 5:45pm
IKMF Toronto, 2156 Yonge St.

For more information please feel free to contact me:

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto