It was over 18 years ago – give or take – when I heard the words, “Wallets, wallets, wallets, let’s make this quick.” The hand cannon the man carried looked enormous to my thoroughly surprised eyes, as it was leveled at my chest a mere 18 inches from center mass. The world around me slowed down to a near motionless state, as I stood dumbfounded in the middle of a restaurant parking lot. I had been learning and teaching Kung Fu and Jujitsu for years, but I had nothing – no tactics, no techniques, just a few calming words were all I could muster.
I told the man, “Be cool. We’re going to get you out of here quickly.” I collected the other man’s wallet and the woman’s purse – the people I was with that night – and handed them over, whispering, “Run!” That’s exactly what he did. A get-away car, waiting where the parking area intersected with the street carried the gunman away. In the aftermath, long after the police had taken their report and a line-up was completed, I begun to wonder if there was a tactics system that could effectively deal with modern day threats and violence.
Now, 18 years later, that question has been definitively answered: Krav Maga. And, I have developed what I believe to be a highly effective method for engaging in and learning Krav Maga: The Kravology Method. So, I hope you’ll take a look, read, consider, and implement the concepts that best support your growth in the Krav Maga system.
As for me, well, if you’ve never heard of my Krav Maga School, you’d probably be in the majority. Despite my school’s (Krav Maga Houston), track record in developing some of the best, high-level instructors, I’ve held my preverbal cards close to my chest for well over 15 years now. I don’t really advertise, engage in political squabbles, and rarely speak to the media.
Over the years, my school and instructor cadre have been described as, world-class, legendary, an instructor hotbed, the (instructor) farm, “the best (licensed) school anywhere”, “top shelf”, and “a gold standard.”
These descriptions have come from other, respected high-level U.S. instructors, SWAT commanders, a variety of military personnel, Israeli special operators, and former students of highest-level Israeli instructors. Today, my little 2,900 square foot school in Houston holds more high-level black belts than any other licensed school in the Worldwide ranks.
Sorry. I despise blatant self-promotion, and I write this only as a means of offering you – the reader – some proof that you should spend your valuable time and effort studying this publication and viewing the associated videos. Further, I mention these things with the highest of intentions – that is, to offer you the Kravology Methods of learning Krav Maga techniques. I have found the Kravology Methods to be highly effective, super efficient, and very user friendly. I strongly believe these methods and this publication will assist you in taking your Krav Maga practice to the next level, and I’m honored to be able to share this with you.
The Kravology Methods
The Kravology Methods are a process for evaluating and mastering Krav Maga and a blue print for mastering self-defense techniques in general – developed over the past 15+ years from both the knowledge and enlightenment of master instructors and the pain and suffering that so often accompanies experimentation and revision. Kravology is, at best, an innovation and, at worst, a useful method for fast-track learning and improved performance. In short, it’s worth your time and effort to study and implement.
The Kravology Methods draw substantially from my own experiences and the labors gladly sacrificed to learn and personally “own” Krav Maga techniques, as well as from my many varied efforts to help others achieve their goals as Krav Maga practitioners and/or instructors for over a decade and a half.
The Compromise of Competing Factors
At it’s very core, effective self-defense is a thoughtful compromise of competing factors, and as such, we should first understand that the Kravology Methods must be applied in the context of the defense being taught, evaluated, and learned. To begin this process, we must first lay out the foundations of Krav Maga. These cornerstones must be understood and applied at ground zero – the starting point – of the Kravology Methods. Going forward, these concepts and principles will be assumed and therefore, a review is in order.
We will start the conversation with the concept of strong-arm attacks. This provides a broad canvas with which to work and will be most accessible to nearly all readers (every Krav Maga beginning student and expert alike have been exposed to the concept of a strong-arm attack).
If you’re from a different system or style, think of a strong-arm attack as “a physical assault in which the attacker uses his/her size, speed, and/or strength to overcome his/her targeted victim.” For example, a choke with both hands from the front is considered a basic strong-arm attack.
We will also assume, unless otherwise dictated by the defense being assessed, that the defender will start his/her defense from a position of disadvantage – not a neutral position in which neither combatant has taken an aggressive, physical advantage. In short, violent attackers don’t walk up to their targets, announce their intentions, and ask their would-be victims to prepare for battle. Rather, attacks are launched at unsuspecting (and unaware) people – putting them in an immediate position of disadvantage.
Your Body Under Siege
A sudden attack causes a predictable reaction inside the defender’s body. A chemical cocktail is released – most commonly identified by laypersons as adrenaline. As the heart rate quickens to 140+ beats per minute, the chemistry and capacity of the body changes dramatically. As an instructor, I teach my students to remember these words as a means of recalling the reality of an extreme stress encounter: Clumsy, Stupid, Half Blind, and Deaf. Let’s take them one at a time.
Clumsy: Under the extreme stress of an attack, the body loses the ability to produce fine motor skills. More specifically, only gross motor skills are available as the amygdala (a part of the brain often referred to as the low brain or frog brain) shifts into control. Surprisingly, the horror movie’s have always had it right, the girl being chased by the bad-guy in a mask with a chainsaw really cannot get her key into the key hole and escape to the safe confines of her home – she has no fine motor skills.
Stupid: The amygdala is not the smart part of your brain, nor is it accessed consciously. Instead, hard-wired, instinctive responses to danger, driven from the amygdala, are often the first movements made in response to an attack. On average, according to studies I’ve read over the years, the human Intelligence Quotient (IQ) drops approximately 50 points under the extreme stress of an attack.
To put that in perspective, assume your IQ is 125 (25 points above normal and a mere 15 points from genius). As you lose 50 IQ points, you bottom out at 75 IQ points – the top end of what is considered “clinically retarded.” In short, problem solving and complex thought are not core competencies under the extreme stress of attack.
Half Blind: Under the extreme stress of an attack, the eyes lose the capability of visual tracking and often develop tunnel vision. This is dangerous for several reasons: 1) defenses to attacks that require good visual tracking (i.e. an edged weapon attack) must be dealt with immediately to avoid the visual tracking that would be required of a constantly moving knife making many stabs and slashes, 2) tunnel vision reduces the human eyes’ capacity to see at the periphery, muting the ability to 1) identify other attackers, 2) notice improvised weapons that could aid in defense, and/or 3) locate escape routes.
Deaf: The brain collects approximately 85-90 percent of the information it processes with the eyes, and under extreme stress, the brain wants even more information from the eyes. So, the brain often takes the resources it’s using for the ears (called auditory exclusion) and pushes those resources to the eyes. That is, by the way, why victims of attacks often see things in slow motion (the brain is processing action at a much higher rate, thus slowing our perception of the unfolding action/event). The truth is, if we can’t hear or hear well, we may mistake “look out for the knife” with “hey, how’s your wife.” Enough said on that issue…
Implications: The implications of these sobering facts are revolutionary for self defense practitioners: First, to form an effective defense, Krav Maga must be uncomplicated and gross motor skill-oriented while harnessing the instinctive responses associated with the amygdala. Further, Krav Maga and effective self-defense techniques must be forgiving when not applied with highly technical skill and must avoid decision making requirements as part of the standard operating procedure whenever possible.
Effective self-defense must incorporate training that mirrors reality, seeking to increase the heart rate, developing drills that cause confusion in the midst of a defense, and testing/training under various levels of stress (note: stress can be achieved by utilizing many variables individually or in conjunction with others. Here are a few: Unknown drilling/training time, unknown number of attackers, unknown attacks to defend, unknown full repetitions, unknown weapons to defend, and compromising one or more of the senses/capabilities – such as the closing of the eyes, the blurring of sight with goggles, or determining an arm or leg cannot make a defense or counterattack during a drill).
Krav Maga’s Blue Print
Keep in mind that in Krav Maga we utilize a defensive blue print that is primarily principle-based, so that the principles can be adaptive to address whatever violence might be introduced. Here’s a quick review using a choke from the front strong arm attack as the example:
- Address the Danger First: Using speed, leverage, and working 90 degrees away from the power of an attack, we respond by harnessing our instinctive response in forming a powerful plucking motion to loosen the thumbs/hands making the choke.
- Counterattack: We counterattack using the closest weapon to the nearest target generally, and we continue with counterattacks to soften the attackers physical capacity. In this case, a groin kick followed quickly by other combatives.
- Control the Attacker: We grab and control the attacker for several reasons, most obviously to ensure we can use additional combatives. But, we may also want to keep the attacker from leaving or going somewhere or to someone. Finally, we can use the attacker (in a weakened state) in a control position as a shield against other imminent attacks. Ideally, control position is achieved initially on the dead side with some form of head control.
- Finish the Fight: At this point, we’re using control and combatives, as well as our environment to finish the fight. We fight until the danger is neutralized and/or escape is highly probable.
With that summary completed, let’s consider The Kravology Methods.
Kravology Method 1:
A Powerful Perspective: The Effect Mindset
Often, students become mired in the technical aspects of defenses that, quite frankly don’t require substantive technical skill. The vast majority of strong arm attacks fall into this category (bear hug defenses come to mind).
But, when I ask the majority of struggling students what their thought process is, many reply, “I’m thinking about doing the technique correctly.” However, during a drill where defenses are being made quickly with substantial vigor, over-thinking can be Kravology sin. Instead, the defender should gather whatever he/she has learned and apply it very aggressively – throughout the drill – with a mindset of effect.
The “effect mindset” can be explained this way, when I kick the groin, I think “break the pelvic bone!” Now, compare these mindsets and make an assessment of the resulting effect of a groin kick: 1) I am doing this correctly? 2) Break the pelvic bone!
The answer is obvious. The focus on the desired effect of a counterattack creates a much more aggressive and powerful effect on the target. Remember, your intention shapes your result.
Therefore, know when to think and move technically during training and when to simply apply whatever you’ve learned aggressively. Ironically, over the years, this simple concept has proven to be, perhaps, the most effective tool in significantly increasing short-term performance during high stress drills.
Kravology Method #2
A Powerful Incentive: Train with Forewarning
When training seems/feels flat and out of sync, I will often stop the workout within the classroom environment (and in my own training) and take a short period of time – let’s say 12 minutes – to play a fantasy game. The game involves forewarning. Essentially, I tell each student that I am going to quickly review the salient technique/defense. Each student must ask questions (if confused) to ensure he/she is clear on the defense.
Then I drop the bomb. I explain that through secret government technology, we’ve been given a glimpse of the future. And, we each know for certain that at 2am tonight, we will each have to do the defense we are currently training to save ourselves and/or family (this is unavoidable). I ask each student to take one minute to consider what’s at stake. Then, I let them know they are on the clock – the class only has 12 minutes to practice. Try this; watch and feel the intensity rise!
Kravology Method #3:
A Powerful Understanding: The Krav Maga Family Tree
I often ask my instructor cadre to think of Krav Maga as a system of specified, discernable motor skills. Now, consider that each self-defense technique is made up of a handful of these motor skills – some more, some less. Would it surprise you to know that by my unofficial count, there are approximately 40-50 motor skills in the Krav Maga system through Black Belt level (depending on how you might classify/define a motor skill)?
This understanding was, for me, revolutionary. I began to realize that my true goal was to perform (at some acceptable level) each motor skill. Or, to put it more bluntly, I realized that if I could adequately perform 40-50 motor skills, I could learn and perform (again, at some acceptable level) the entire Krav Maga system – by connecting together and applying those motor skills within the requirements of each different technique.
For instance, when I’m teaching, I often ask the class to imagine I have a bucket full of 50 Lego pieces. I pretend to dump these Lego pieces on the floor, and I ask the class how many “things” they could build with the 50 pieces if they were allowed to build, then disassemble, and reuse the pieces over and over again. The answer is almost always thousands! This visual illustrates how the Krav Maga system can be developed effectively with approximately 40-50 reusable motor skills.
This process led me to see that a basic, level one motor skill may later be applied in a high-level knife defense. Taking this concept further, I began to think of the Krav Maga system as a family tree of techniques consisting of discernable and definable defenses that share common motor skills or traits that ultimately make each defense more or less related to one another – like a family tree. This exercise breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds mastery.
This exercise also highlights what is possible in responding to a threat both organically and in real time – asking the defender to select the motor skill most familiar (using feel) to the distance and angle from which the threat is presented and/or harnessing an instinctive response and moving to a familiar position (I will write more extensively on this topic in the future).
Finally, this process was designed to not only illustrate the effectiveness of the Krav Maga system – specifically it’s ease of use – but also to inspire students with a deeper understanding of what they are ultimately trying to master.
Develop your own version of a Krav Maga family tree – using defenses and the associated motor skills – and your understanding will flourish!
Kravology Method #4:
A Powerful Process: A Paradigm for Training in Self Defense
The Kravology Method assumes you have a solid understanding of the concepts summarized above, and that you are actively applying these concepts in your training. Kravology Method #4 is prescriptive in nature and asks the trainee to adhere to a specific schedule, noting successes and failures in a training notebook.
In summary, a trainee must be able to capture the essence of a technique and develop that understanding into an active, serviceable technique within 15-20 repetitions. How? We call it the “See It, Feel It, Do It, Teach It” process, and it’s summarized below.
See It: By analyzing a technique no more than 5 times, the trainee should be able to capture the movement, timing, and general effect of any technique. The very essence of the See It process can be summed up in four letters: PDAW. To remember these letters, use the memory-enhancing phase, Please Don’t Ask Why.
The P stands for Platforms (feet, hips, and shoulders).
The D stands for Distance (relative distance of attack).
The A stands for Angle (relative angle of attack).
The W stands for Weight (how the defense utilizes transfer of weight).
In general, an assessment of the role the platforms undertake, the varying distances utilized within a technique, the angles needed to perform the technique, and how the weight is shared/shifted/directed will provide all the information needed to immediately perform a serviceable defense (with adjustments for weapons defenses). The salient skill, in this case, is in the process of quickly identifying what specific actions are being invoked across the PDAW paradigm.
Feel It: This is a bit tricky. A trainee must be able to feel the general tempo and destructive capacity of a technique by feeling the technique being applied to him/her. This assumes the person applying the technique has mastered the technique.
However, even an unskilled application of a technique can and should generate questions about the efficacy of the technique and clarify what the trainee felt (or didn’t feel). This step also helps verify the initial assessment made in the PDAW stage of this process. A trainee should need no more than 3-5 repetitions to garner the information necessary to move to the next stage.
Do It: With a strong understanding of the way the platforms are moving, for distances, angles, and weight transfer & direction (and with a firm feel for the tempo and destructive capacity of the technique), the trainee should be able to complete five repetitions of dry work (without a partner) and five wet repetitions (with a partner) adjusting/refining as each full defense is completed. In the end, the trainee should be moving through the technique with a serviceable/workable technique.
Teach It: This step is more for instructors. Soon after learning a technique, it is highly advisable that you incorporate that technique into your teaching plan – even if this is done only with advanced training groups for a limited time period. This will further enhance your capacity to understand and become familiar with newly learned techniques.
Remember to plan your work; then work your plan. Track your repetitions, capture and record thoughts/ideas/insights the moment you have them, and push yourself mentally to focus on this process. Soon, you’ll be consistently developing a serviceable technique within 20 repetitions!
Finally, as you move through this process, remember that your connection to the ground provides the basis for power, balance, stability, and movement. Therefore, as you begin to make corrections in your defenses, start with the feet (your most common connection to the ground in most defenses) and work your way up to the shoulders/hands/head.
In the weeks to come, I’ll be writing in depth about the each of the first four Kravology Methods that collectively make up the Kravology Methodology, as well as detailing key concepts within each method, such as the “See It, Feel It, Do It, Teach It” concept.
Until next time, train hard, train smart, and walk in peace…