Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Starting Off: Krav Maga and Beginners

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Image and Reality: Krav Maga Self Defense Training

"So one may walk in peace." 
-Imi Lichtenfeld, founder of Krav Maga

...defending yourself is not being aggressive, it is doing what’s necessary.” 
― Charles F. Glassman 

 Perceptions not grounded in experience or sound reasoning can be very misplaced.  This certainly applies to how some people perceive Krav Maga training.   Some of our students have described how family or friends are puzzled as to why they want to "learn to hurt" or even  "kill" people.  Others, have suggested that training promotes or even encourages violence.  The general protest revolves around the assumption that Krav Maga is promoting aggression and violence.  

To be fair, many Krav Maga schools have not helped their cause.   Many of the images on You Tube, Facebook,  include people grinning with knives, guns or other weapons.  Moreover, there are schools that reinforce a "fight club" mentality.   Before coming to us, a student visited another self defense school asking what they can expect.

"Blood, sweat, and tears!" The instructor said.

What does that mean?

Rather than a fight club mentality we focus on one thing -  giving you the knowledge and skills to get home safe. Yes, there will be sweat (we'll skip the blood and tears) and hard work.  Yes, you learn how to strike effectively and to fight aggressively but only when necessary and only to protect yourself and others.  

There is nothing romantic about violence and promoting it as such is irresponsible and misguided.  Violence, however, does exist and we want you to survive it.   Krav Maga training has one overarching goal, at least as I see it:  to get you home safe.   

Stay safe, 

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Tip of the Iceberg: Curriculum as a Foundation

Our IKMF curriculum covers various "families" of self defense techniques and situations including stances,  striking, escaping holds and chokes, surviving weapons assaults, third party protection, and multiple attackers.  The highest levels,  Expert 3-5, specialize in VIP protection, Law Enforcement, and Military techniques and tactics.  
The curriculum is comprehensive and very well designed but we must approach it as a foundation rather than as an answer to all self defense scenarios.  During classes, students will often suggest a new problem.  What if the attacker chokes you this way instead?   What if he grabs your shirt and tries to punch you like this?  This is excellent because it demonstrates that the student is engaged and it brings up variations that could happen.   

Let's take for instance an ice pick/downward stab knife attack at close range.   In Practitioner 1 (P1) you block and strike with a body defense and escape.   In Graduate 1 (G1) you defend, strike, control, and disarm.   What happens for instance when the attack grabs you by the shirt or throat then attacks?  What if he grabs the arm that your would usually punch with?  (See below video for some solutions). Since teaching is based on principles (plucking chokes, striking the most accessible vulnerable point, etc...) practitioners can adapt to novel situations.  

So, while the curriculum provides the essential tools to survive, it is important, (with the guidance of a certified instructor) to explore variations to better prepare for real life situations.   If we can't come up with solutions then we can always call upon our excellent Global and Expert Instructor teams for answers and suggestions.  

Stay safe,  

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Krav Maga: Self Defense that Adapts to You

”The wise adapt themselves to circumstances as water moulds itself to the pitcher." 
Chinese Proverb

The elements of every self defense situation is unique: the attacker, the attack itself, the physical setting etc.  This is why Krav Maga is based on principles rather than rigid techniques based on predictable attacks.  Moreover, all self defense practitioners are unique, possessing various physical abilities, mindsets and experience. 
With such diversity a self defense system must have the capacity to adapt to people's unique qualities.

Here are some examples of qualities that many of our students have addressed.  

Size:  Height and weight can help or hinder but there are ways to adapt techniques to your body type.  A tall person, for example might use a knee strike against an assailant whereas a shorter defender in a similar situation might use a kick.  

Strength:  Some students are incredibly strong but inevitably we all meet someone who is stronger.  Some of us might not be very strong at all.  Techniques are designed so that you are using strong muscle groups against their weak points.  With many choke and wrist releases, for example, we attack the thumb with our shoulder, back and hips.  

Agility: One of the reasons Krav Maga endorses simple techniques is to rely less on agility and athleticism.  If a technique cannot be performed by someone of average or below average agility then it is inadequate and we have to change or adapt it.   

Experience: "I am a beginner with no martial arts experience".  This is a frequently cited concern.  Beginners, however, blend in quite easily and many join us every month.  Techniques are simple and easy to perform so students tend to see early progress and develop confidence.  Also, some people have little or no experience with physical violence.  It is our job to explain what assaults look like and to include exercises that mimic (a much as safely possible) the stress of real situations.   

Disability:  One of our most dedicated students is blind.  He wants to learn to protect himself so we work with him to modify techniques to more effective.  His progress is astounding.  IKMF instructor Stephane Chatton is developing an "Adaptive Self Defense" program to modify techniques to give practitioners with physical disabilities the best chance to protect themselves.  

Fitness: One of the more frequently expressed reservations students express is that their fitness level will not allow them to participate.  We tell students to go at there own pace and offer modified exercises (e.g. pushups against a wall rather than on the ground).  Time and time again we see fitness levels improve.  

Age: Next to fitness and experience, age is most frequently mentioned as a concern.   I turned 47 this year and can't deny that my 27 year old self was a little stronger and faster.  However, Krav Maga have taught me economy of motion, awareness, effective striking, fighting tactics and so much more that more than compensate for any effects of aging. 

All of us are unique with strengths and weakness.  The key is to adapt techniques to our unique qualities with sustained and attentive training.  

Stay Safe

Christopher Gagne
Owner, Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto