Despite my attempts at entirely avoiding any comment on other martial systems, or sub-par Krav Maga instruction for that matter, it has become apparent this year that my goal simply will not be achieved.
My frustration with elements of the martial community stem from various segments offering self-defense that is demonstratively unsafe. In other words, the self-defense being taught in some martial schools address violent and dangerous situations by creating even more risk for the defender in executing – what he/she believes to be – effective self-defense. This simply isn’t right. To make the problem more complex, the instructors teaching unsafe defenses often are not aware that the curriculum being taught is fundamentally unsafe. These instructors are dangerous, because they lack the skills to effectively evaluate danger (and prescribe a reliable solution).
But, perhaps, the most dangerous instructor is one that teaches a striking art as self-defense, and worse can convince others that the striking curriculum (or primary focus on striking within the curriculum) is self-defense. It is not. And, while I don’t refute that striking plays a powerful role in self-defense, it often cannot and should not be the focus.
I claim this based upon the definition of self-defense – where an aggressor puts a defender in a position of disadvantage (compare and contrast a knife threat to the throat vs. trading punches with an aggressor). “Disadvantage” means the defender has likely been surprised and is pulled into violence after an initial violent effort by an attacker has already been launched. In this case, the defender is (for example) staring down the barrel of a gun or reacting to a tire iron being swung at the head – this is in stark contrast to a starting in a relatively neutral position with his/her dukes up ready to fight off an aggressor. The difference is night and day.
My indigestion this week comes from Tim Larkin, the founder of Target Focused Training, after he developed a three-part video review of Krav Maga. Larkin’s pretext of wanting to avoid parochial infighting within the martial community (as he claimed) seems totally disingenuous to me – given the material he collected to “evaluate” for his three-part evaluation. Specifically, the material he utilized for his evaluation was seemingly curated to allow him to arrive at a previously planned conclusion. Primarily because the vast majority of material (videos) collected and analyzed were absolute hogwash (translation…videos I would have called out as being very poor representatives of the Krav Maga system).
Here are a couple of questions to clarify Larkin’s conducted:
(1) Did Tim contact established Krav Maga associations to collect information about Krav Maga for his evaluation (or just cherry pick poor video representations of Krav Maga)?
(2) Did Tim reach out to high-level black belts within the Krav Maga community to better understand Krav Maga?
(3) Did Tim research the principles of Krav Maga, their application, and/or engage Krav Maga thought leaders to explain or to expand his limited knowledge?
(4) Did Tim train in Krav Maga under a knowledgeable instructor for a reasonable period of time?
The answer to all these questions is negative. Rather, Larkin’s student base kept asking him about Krav Maga (by his own admission in his videos), and he apparently needed to do something about it. But, in doing this disingenuous and poorly researched evaluation, Tim has materially misrepresented Krav Maga – an ingenious and thoughtful approach to self-defense. That fact alone makes him the most dangerous martial artists…one who appears to put his own motivations above the safety and well being of those seeking real solutions to terrible and violent situations.
Now, I know some will see this article as a “sour grapes” response to a negative evaluation of the self-defense system I teach. But, before you make that flawed assumption, you should know:
(1) I have studied many martial systems including Ju-Jitsu, boxing, Thai boxing, Gung Fu (JKD), Balintawak, Tae Kwon Do and several others I don’t care to run on about (for over 35 years now).
(2) I have evaluated – by training in the systems – several other self-defense approaches, and I enthusiastically endorse Bill Kipp’s, Fear & Adrenal Stress Training (FAST), several Ju-Jitsu concepts, Bas Rutten’s striking philosophy, some aspects of the Spear System, and several concepts from Balintawak. These systems and concepts have proven worthy over time.
In contrast to Larkin’s evaluation, one of my highest level (and most intelligent) Krav Maga black belts attended a seminar in Las Vegas to evaluate Tim Larkin’s Target Focused Training (taught by Larkin) as a potential source of inspiration for our Krav Maga program. Upon his return, he reported that it was a “complete waste of time.” And he had very specific and powerful reasoning to say as much. I won’t go into the detailed reasoning, but suffice to say some of the things being taught were simply unsafe (as represented at that seminar).
It’s ironic that I’ve sat on this information for years now, because I’ve never felt threatened by Tim Larkin or his system (nor do I now). My instructional staff and I simply moved on – eventually training with and adopting Bill Kipp’s FAST system as a powerful one and/or two day experience for our students. The bottom line is…my self-defense approach is open and flexible – if it works; I want it. And, Krav Maga works.
Finally, Tim Larkin’s evaluation of Krav Maga (and the lack of effort in reaching out experts and experiencing KM for himself) appears self-motivated, disingenuous, and without merit. In the recent past, I wrote a short article called Caveat Emptor for Kravology that captures this kind of gambit. If you are looking to begin or continue your self-defense training, it’s worth the read. As for Tim Larkin…the most dangerous man in martial arts…caveat emptor (buyer beware) people.