In the post on headlocks, I posed a question regarding the overwhelming number of submissions available to a skilled grappler in that position:
Should we learn unique techniques to counter each attack?
At first glance, this might seem appropriate. Chokes, elbow locks, shoulder locks, knee locks… Surely these all require different responses, right? Many self-defense and grappling systems do just this and have very, very large catalogs of techniques to address very specific possibilities. There may even be multiple techniques for each nuanced scenario.
While there are certainly many not-to-be-named systems and instructors that teach laughable techniques that could get you killed if you attempted them, there are a greater number of martial arts that—if taught and trained well—are technically sound and proven effective. However, most all of these arts require years to develop proficiency. Even then, there’s the risk of “analysis paralysis” because you have too many techniques to choose from when you must react without hesitation under stress.
One of Krav Maga’s central tenets is to have one solution to many problems, and this is reflected in two of the system’s defined principles:
- One defense must work against a variety of attacks.
- The system should be integrated so that movements learned in one area of the system compliment, rather than contradict, movements in another area.
The relative simplicity and utility of Krav Maga has a flip side, however, and that is that the system may appear to lack solutions to certain scenarios. Instructors often hear “What if x-y-z?” (See also: “27 Ninjas Questions”) and “It’s not in the curriculum? Why Not?” Most every realistic scenario can be solved by applying Krav Maga concepts. Keep in mind that the more esoteric the scenario, the less likely it is that you will encounter it. If every possible permutation of every attack was to be addressed in the Krav Maga curriculum, Krav Maga would lose its effectiveness as a defensive tactics system. It would be no different than any other martial art or self-defense system that has heaps of techniques with little cohesion between them.
As much as we imagine situations involving multiple attackers, multiple weapons, and/or multiple/odd angles of attack, such situations are statistically rare when compared to cases of basic grabs, basic punches, and basic weapon threats. Training for the most common types of attacks, therefore, has a two-fold purpose:
- You are better prepared to defend yourself against the most statistically probable types of attacks.
- You will strengthen your fundamental technique concepts and, under stress, you will be more able to apply those principles to a situation for which you have not specifically trained.
This training ideology coupled with the principles of Krav Maga is the foundation of the system.
A discussion on Krav Maga’s principles and concepts would be incomplete without mentioning another very important feature specific to Krav Maga Worldwide: The highly trained and experienced senior instructors of KMW are constantly refining and improving the system, always using the principles as navigation. This adaptability is reflected in our insignia, the kouf-mem. The open circle represents the open nature of the system: New concepts and techniques are continually added into the system, while old and out-dated ideas are removed.
To help illustrate the difference between techniques and concepts and how they interrelate, I’ve taken some of the most commonly questioned scenarios and defined these building blocks. Krav Maga techniques are the specific steps to executing a defense against a particular attack or threat, Krav Maga concepts are the general principles governing how a technique is derived and why it works, and What-ifs are scenarios not explicitly covered by the Krav Maga curriculum but for which we can deduce a response based on the concepts of a related technique.
- Chokes with a push.
- Building on natural reaction, address the immediately danger of the choke while simultaneously regaining your balance and redirecting the attacker’s momentum.
- Choke from the Front with a Push
Choke from Behind with a Push
- Choke from the side with a push
Knowing the techniques to defend against chokes with a push from the front and from behind, we apply the concepts on which they are built: Shoot your arm straight into the air to create the lock against the attacker’s fingers and wrist, then explosively pivot to redirect the attacker’s momentum. Whether you turn to the front or to the back will be determined by the angle of the attacker’s arms in relation to your shoulder. That is, if the attacker’s arms are in front of your arm once raised, turn forward like Choke from the Front with a Push; if the attacker’s arms are behind your arm once raised, turn backward like Choke from Behind with a Push. When the choke and push come from the side, you’re actually halfway to one or the other.
- Lower your center of gravity, form a strong base, create space between your attacker’s hips and yours. Make yourself difficult to hold by fighting like an animal.
- Bearhug from the Front with Arms Free/Caught
Bearhug from Behind with Arms Free/Caught
- Bearhug from an angle
Bearhug with one arm caught, one arm free
Lowering your center of gravity and forming a strong base with the legs are the constants in all bearhug defenses and are instinctive for most people. Depending on whether the attacker is more in front or more behind, use the nearest hand—free or caught—to strike at the face or to create space between your hips and the attacker’s. All combative strategies from there remain the same.
- Straight punch to the face.
- Redirect the attack with as small a motion as possible, counterattack.
- Inside Defense
- Every combination of 2 punches and defensive hand positions
The Krav Maga curriculum addresses straight punches inside our hand position (Inside Defense), outside our hand position (Outside Defense) and basic 1-2 punch combinations. It does not address every possible combination of straight punches and hand position (i.e., L/R, R/L, and the relation of those punches to our hand position), but from our concept of “redirect the attack with as small a motion as possible”, we can fill in the blanks and make the appropriate defense. You might make two Inside Defenses, two Outside Defenses, or one of each; you might defend with your left then right, right then left, double right, double left. If each of these possibilities had its own assigned technique in the curriculum, there would be dozens of defenses to be learned separately. And, if that was the case, why stop there? What about three straight punches?!
- Threat with a handgun held in front of you within your reach.
- Redirect the line of fire, Control the weapon, Attack the gunman, Take the gun.
- Gun from the Front
Defense against Threat with a Handgun: “Cupping” Technique (Two Hands)
- The gun is pointed at your head
The gun is pointed at your belly
The gun is in the attacker’s right/left hand
The gun is held tilted sideways
Central principles aside, Krav Maga Worldwide‘s weapons defenses are one of the most standout features of the system in both concept and technique. Our Gun from the Front defense in particular compliments and is complimented by several other techniques within the system. Most importantly, it works no matter the orientation of the gun, the type of hand gun, or the handedness of the assailant. So, whether it’s a long-barreled Desert Eagle held to your chest in the gunman’s right hand or it’s a snub-nosed .38 held sideways to your head in the gunman’s left hand, the RCAT concept holds true.
I must add as a caveat, however, that there is an additional consideration unique to firearms: your environment and the other people in it. The fundamental defense will not change, but the angle to which you redirect the line of fire must take your surroundings into account.
Returning full-circle to the opening question, what’s the answer to almost every choke and joint lock available to an attacker holding you in a headlock on the ground? Prevention, the concept behind the basic defensive position: keep your chin tucked and limbs pulled in.
We instructors try to help students make conceptual connections by both explicitly highlighting compliments within the system and by creating training scenarios in which students discover these interrelationships for themselves. Making connections between techniques will increase your proficiency in the system as a whole, and this is when you can start training in terms of concepts rather than collecting specific techniques.