“”The wise adapt themselves to circumstances as water moulds itself to the pitcher."
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.
Owner, Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga Federation, Toronto