Welcome

The mere mention of self defense, thanks to Hollywood, has the effect of mentally conjuring all sorts of complex moves that blend the amazing acrobatics of Jackie Chan, the flexibility of Van Damme and the slick moves of John Wick.

As the average adult in the workplace considers the prospect of donning workout clothes and trying their hand at a self defense class, the concerns that they are not fit enough, young enough or strong enough immediately flood their mind. Simply stated, they become intimidated…This is the primary reason that self defense schools are mostly populated by young children and teenagers.

Adults just can’t see themselves breaking away from their busy schedule, to work at something they will feel physically inept at. They will sooner take a spin class or go through the physical challenges of Cross Fit, then prepare themselves for the possibility of a physical threat, especially if that preparation requires feats of physical prowess they don’t believe they have or can get to.

To all those reading this, who happen to identify with these sentiments, there is something to consider:
The self defense system of Krav Maga was created by Imi Lichtenfeld, a Hungarian Jew who witnessed the brutal attacks on his friends and family by the Nazis, with the following assumptions…

You are:

  1. the smaller,
  2. the weaker,
  3. the slower person in the fight

Krav Maga uses the body’s natural reactions and movements to react to a threat. You do not need to remember intricate spinning kicks, or have amazing flexibility to be effective. Krav Maga believes that the only time you would ever kick to an opponent’s head is when he is already on the ground in front of you! The notion of “economies of motion” is the central theme of all your defensive and offensive moves…if you are confronted by a larger, stronger opponent, you can be comforted that your strategy for victory will be attacks to areas you can easily reach, using defenses that merely require off angle movements and blocks that require minimal power and use your opponent’s power against them.
In my years of teaching Krav Maga, I have seen the full spectrum of students achieve proficiency:
from older grandmothers to petite women and even the physically handicapped. All of these students have found a successful outcome in fending off an attack. Strategies for success exist in all adverse situations, all you need do is train and trust the system. I encourage everyone to truly explore self defense, especially the Krav Maga system. Once you have trained for a period of six to eight months, you will attain a level of skill that will empower you to succeed in most attacks from unskilled attackers; regardless of shape, size or age!

Let’s hit the mats!

WHY KRAV?

What is it about Krav Maga that separates us from the rest? Why should someone for that matter, opt to enter into a Krav Maga studio rather than any other martial arts dojo? The answer comes down to one simple question: “what are you, the student trying to accomplish?”.

I have great respect for every martial arts system. All of these great styles incorporate strong instruction of balance, striking/kicking technique, defense and physical conditioning all the while being steeped in tradition and teaching respect, self control and self discipline. They provide an excellent framework from which to learn not just physical but life lessons. Indeed, some of the best martial artists I know in Fairfield County are exemplary instructors and role models. So there are certainly no downsides to learning their respective systems.

Krav Maga is also a martial art system that has its foundation in Israeli hand-to-hand combat. It is, what I like to say, heavy on the martial and lighter on the art. While we definitely stress the same values of respect, self control and self respect, we teach our strikes, kicks and defensive maneuvers from a framework that is very reality based. Many of our drills start with you, the student in a disadvantaged position (on the ground, in the grasp of an attacker, having a punch/kick coming at you with limited response time for defense, multiple attackers, etc.). Our first responses are sometimes not as pretty or elegant as other systems (eye gouging, biting, groin shots, head butts etc.), and our strategy once we successfully defeat our attacker is to immediately leave the situation.  Krav Maga does not understand the notion of a cage or octagon with regards to its fighting tactics. There is no sport in fighting for us. We do not have opponents, we have attackers. There are no referees on the street, no weight classes, no disqualifications for a low blow, no rules. Period. In Krav Maga, we start every physical engagement with the belief that the battle can turn lethal. We do not want the fight to last more than a few seconds, and if we can beat back our attacker with a sucker punch, a small joint manipulation or a thumb in the eye, so be it.  Let’s just say that decades of training and use by the Israeli military has brought forth techniques that are truly “battle tested”.

So back to my earlier question…why study Krav Maga when there are all these other dojos around? If someone wants to learn a system that will teach them techniques that focuses more on the artistry and flow of the battle, or are interested in a form of “kinetic chess”, where every move by one opponent can be foiled by the ensuing counter, then the more traditional styles apply. They are excellent sports and provide conditioning and frameworks that will last a life time. If the desire, however, is to learn how to handle the chaos of a street fight, bar fight, parking lot attack, car-jacking attempt, home invasion, child abduction, etc., then Krav Maga becomes highly relevant.

In other words, we are not always as cool to watch, but when a fight starts and an ugly situation starts to play itself out, we are very well equipped to deal with it.

WHEN TO PUSH THE “GO!” BUTTON

The art of self defense is truly a mosaic of applying several pieces of knowledge in a timely manner:

  • how to throw certain combinations
  • which technique is most effective for the attacker before us
  • where we should target our attack, given our distance and circumstances

But what about when?
The timing of when we launch an attack or even whether we engage in battle at all, is crucial in our ability to successfully defend ourselves in times of physical threat.

Assuming nobody reading this wants to be a “bad-ass”, walking around looking to impress their friends with their street fight record, we will discuss scenarios that start when you are confronted by person of bad intent.

Let me start with a quote by Sun Tzu that I find invaluable: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”.

There are a lot of romantic notions of battle and how brutally dealing with a foe makes you feel proud, valiant or “more alive”. The reality is that unless you are being paid good money to risk your physical being in a combative event, you rarely have reasons to engage in a fight and expose yourself to multiple, and sometimes, significant injury. Many times the victor suffers as much damage as the loser: a broken hand, dislocated shoulder or knee or even a concussion. All for what?

The contents of your wallet or purse? The besmirching the name of your favorite sports team? The rudeness of cutting you off in traffic?

Whenever possible, de-escalation should be your first tactic. Talk your way out of the situation. Tell your would-be assailant that you have no desire to fight. Walk away, and know that by not battling it out you possibly saved yourself an encounter that could have suddenly and inexplicably escalated into weapons and possible death. Remember, you do not know your attacker and have no idea what they are capable.

If, despite all your efforts to calm the situation down, you are forced to defend yourself from physical attack then the question of when to launch your attack is key.

It is my sincere belief that once you have an attacker within range (range can be kicking range or punching range, depending on your comfort in the technique), you should always launch the first strike. Strike quickly and strongly to a target that renders the person physically disadvantaged.  Don’t go with some fancy move from a Bruce Lee flick, may not be effective in stopping your opponents advance and leave you off balance.

I prefer a low line attack to the knee or the groin. The first removes your attacker mobility, the second their ability to respond for several seconds. If successful you should be able to launch 2-3 additional strikes to available targets and then immediately leave.  There is nothing to be gained by staying behind and  admiring your handiwork.

Your assailant may not be alone and your staying there places you in a situation where you may have to defend yourself again.

Now if you are not the first to launch a strike, but are forced to defend an attack that was launched unexpectedly or with very short notice, it is the practice of Krav Maga that you launch your defense and near-simultaneously launch an attack. Block/strike in unison, creates confusion for your attacker as they go from being the predator, to being the prey! They think they’re about to devastate you, and suddenly they are hit. As before, take that moment of confusion to follow-up with 2-3 brutal and direct combatives and immediately leave.

The point of this discussion is that there needs to be a button in your head that is your “GO” button. As soon as you realize that you are being forced to fight, push it. Immediately and brutally go on the attack. Throw as many strikes necessary to end the situation and then you escape to safety. Fights are won and lost based upon the hesitance in pushing that button. If you do not throw the first strike with intent to end the encounter, you must assume your assailant will.

EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN, UNTIL THEY GET HIT!

The world of combative sports and self defense trains you, the participant, how to throw an endless assortment of devastating punches, kicks, elbows and knees. Indeed, by virtue of these techniques, there is no shortage of confidence you feel when you are hitting the heavy bag or working focus mitts with a partner. In your mind, you have the power of Tyson, the speed of Pacquiao and the footwork of Ali. You are the master of the universe and even John Wick looks up to you.

A funny thing happens, however, when there is actually a combatant firing back at you. Suddenly your breathing changes, your body gets a bit stiffer (and therefore, slower) and all these slick combinations you always blast out in the gym will devolve into the occasional 1-2 punch and maybe a kick. The last thing you notice is that time has stopped moving altogether! Regardless of the length of round you are working, it seems like time is moving so slowly that you are convinced you need to replace the timer, because it must be broken.

Then the unthinkable happens…you get hit. It can be to the head, the body or the legs. Your defenses were just a bit off and now you’ve been hurt. All your strategies start to leave you as you focus on the pain from the shot that got through, you begin to mouth breathe due to anxiety and now you regrettably start going into survival mode…

The reality that we must all face is that every person that enters a combative contest, whether professional or amateur, whether world champion or weekend warrior, gets hit. There are no exceptions. Part of the training that all students need to consider is not just physical training, strength training or agility training, but mental toughness training. We must all have training sessions where we allow ourselves to be at our most disadvantaged position. Whether that be knocked to the ground and mounted, up against the ropes and continuously hit with punches and kicks or some other variant that takes us to the most uncomfortable place our sport of choice can place us. Those are the key moments of training when we get to test not our technique, but our GRIT.

Fights almost never go as planned. Invariably we need to adjust to a situation we never considered:

  • a blow that catches us unexpectedly
  • a change of strategy from our opponent which confuses us
  • fatigue as the fight goes longer than expected
  • pain if we are injured during an exchange

There is no way to prepare for every possible variable, but you must train in a way that places you in many different uncomfortable circumstances. For example, challenge yourself to fend off an attack minus the use of your dominant hand/leg, run sprints for 3 continuous minutes and then begin a 3 minute round of sparring, grapple while wearing a blindfold and see if you can achieve dominant position by using your other senses. Fight continuously for 8 minutes with a fresh opponent entering the ring every 2 minutes.

To prevail in a combative sport or in a self defense scenario, you must know that you can handle whatever comes your way. Working mitts and heavy bags prepares the body to throw your techniques with proper power and speed, but you need to train the mind to be able to adjust to those situations when you are least comfortable, most exposed to injury (or injured) and close to fatigue, so that you can steady your nerves, take a deep breath, and rely upon strong defenses while unleashing your various combatives to end up victorious. It’s not about how well you hit or defend, but how well you trained.

Self Defense In Fairfield County

Welcome to Israeli Krav Maga CT!

One of the first questions I am repeatedly asked is “Do I really need to think about self-defense if I live in Fairfield County? It’s not exactly a high risk area, right?”

Hollywood has done a lot to condition our psyche with respect to when to feel threatened. Dark alleys, ominous street corners in vacated sections of large cities is where all the nefarious action takes place on screen. Swelling music right before the attack is also a great cue. Sadly, real life does not offer us such a simple formula to consider…Darien, Greenwich, Wilton, New Canaan or Westport have none of those risks, right? Perhaps not.

What is real, however, is that all residents of these seemingly safe communities, leave those communities at some point for work, college, vacations or business travel. Cos Cob and Silvermine, for example, will probably never be hotbeds of criminal activity, but as college seniors go away to college, holiday seasons bring day trips to NYC, and business travel potentially takes you to all points on the globe, the ability to feel safe when confronted by the unexpected or the unsavory will be comforting.

I do not believe in paranoid notions of the “boogie man” being around any corner, but I do believe that knowing what I know has enabled me to walk in any city or be surrounded by “uncomfortable/threatening” elements, and still feel confident that I can protect myself. This sense of peace if priceless.