Friday, September 14, 2012

Krav Maga: Week 1

I decided a long time ago that if I were to ever get into any kind of a hand-to-hand defensive training program, Krav Maga would be it.

I don't remember how I first learned about Krav but it immediately appealed to me.

I've heard it described in many different ways but the gist of Krav is dirty, effective, street fighting. There is not a lot of fancy moves or strikes. It's not for sport or for show or points. Krav is about kicking someone's behind quickly and effectively so that you can get away.

At the same time I don't want to say that Krav is 100% about defense either. Whereas that is what you would use it for, Krav is very much into the "the best defense is a good offense" kind of a thing.

Now, I do not come from a martial arts background. I have nothing to compare this training to other than the few one-time-only self defense classes I may have attended throughout my lifetime (mostly within the last four years). In which case it makes sense that I would go ahead and compare what I'm seeing to those and what I like and/or don't like.

1) I love that I get to go back.
In one time self defense classes, you go for an hour, maybe a couple hours, maybe even a couple of days and that is it. You are thrown a ton of information in a very short period of time and given a matter of minutes to try to perfect the move before you have to move on. While good stuff does stick with you it's understandable that a lot of it is lost.

When you are enrolled in a structured program, however, the pace is a lot slower. You get one, maybe two or three moves that you work on throughout the class. You have much more time to work with your sparring partners and work on the skill and even chances to see variations and modify. If/when you forget something, you will very likely be presented with it again in an upcoming class so you are refreshed and reminded and get to work it out all over again.

2) I love the small class.
This may change, but because Krav is very new to the area and there wasn't a lot of advertisement, the class only has four people in it right now, including myself. We all get a lot of attention and a lot of opportunity to work the moves. Of course a few more students would mean a little more diversity in sparring partners but I really hope it stays small. Definitely under ten students.

3) I love what I'm learning.
I'm not spending hours standing there and repeating a move over and over and over again. While I know that has benefit and has its place in training, 100% of the moves I make are against another person.

If we are shown a punch or a jab or a grab or a hook, we are immediately lined up against a sparring partner and told to try it out against them. While I do find myself phantom punching throughout the day (and laughing as my son tries to copy my mad moves) I love that I get to work with other people and not air or a dummy when in class.

I am, however, really liking the idea of a punching bag in my basement for non-class days.

As to what I don't like?

Well, the top of that list would be my lack of strength. I won't waste a lot of time wallowing in self pity and excuses. I need to make a change if I mean to be serious about this. Especially if I'm going to be putting so much money into it every month. Might as well get the most out of it by making the most out of me. While I understand that sometimes sheer determination, willpower and aggression can help you succeed, it doesn't hurt to also be strong enough to back yourself up, too. Lord knows I'll never be big enough.

Second on that list would be the lack of aggression by the guys towards me.

I've complained about this before. I go to male-dominated classes and I watch them kick the crap out of each other. Then we switch sparring partners and they treat me like I'm a crystal vase.

One of the guys in the class whimpers, "My mom is going to be so mad at me," every time he hits me.

But, the good thing about this is that we are going to be seeing each other twice a week for who knows how long and hopefully that means he (and the other guy in class) will get over it and get to the point where he's okay being more forceful with me. The instructor sure is and so is my husband. While the instructor tries not to pair me and my husband up I'm perfectly okay with it because my husband will actually fight me and that's what I want. Guys aren't doing me any favors by taking it easy on me. An attacker isn't going to pull his punches, I don't want my sparring partners to either. Okay, well, maybe just enough so I don't break anything.

As to what I've learned so far?

The sort of Krav Maga motto: Simultaneous defense and offense, drive 'em back and finish with a bang! Then disengage and look for the rest of them (cause we all know bad guys run in packs).

Something else that's being driven home is something I've known for a long time but can't seem to get: Getting in close.

Man, I hate, Hate, HATE getting in close to my attacker. Who doesn't? Right?

Someone starts showing aggression towards me the last place I was to be is at a distance where I can smell his breath and feel his sweat.

I hate it. I loathe it. I want to back away, turn away, run away. I will give almost anything to not get close to my aggressor. When intimidated I tend to immediately start thinking, "Don't hurt me," or "How can I get away?"

The problem is that it doesn't work very well. In fact, it's never worked for me.. at all. I get my butt handed to me every time I try to go completely on the defensive with a "get away" mindset.

Granted, getting away is exactly what you should do when you have a chance to get away, but when the game is on and you are in the encounter, the time for defensive posturing and crawling away is over. It's time to crank up the aggression, go big, get in his face and take the fight to him.

So what do we do in Krav? Well, of course we step in.

If there is a list of steps to take in any Krav Maga move book I think Step # 1 would always be, "Step in."

Okay, maybe not every move but darn near.

Someone's going to punch you? Step # 1: Step in!

Someone's trying to grab you? First, step in!

I spent the majority of the last class with both arms wrapped around my sparring partners, hanging from their necks or waists, using their own bodies to jokey for position and land good blows. I was in their faces, between their legs, under their arms, wiping the sweat of their brow from my neck. I hated it, but loved it because it's exactly what I need to get over my distance phobia that would likely get me killed if put to a real world test.

I'm also digging the simultaneous defense and attack thing.

Deflect a blow and punch him in the nose, or throat, or kick him in the groin or elbow him in the face.


And from there it's game on. There are no rules in Krav.


We've learned a couple of punches, jabs and moves to get out of grabs and a cool neck hold thing that's hard to explain. Not a whole lot of stuff but good stuff (I think).

This is good for me. It intimidates me, it makes me uncomfortable, it emphasizes my weaknesses, but it's what I need so I'll drag myself there next week and probably the week after that, too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gun Centric Much??

On the third day of Handguns 1-3 at TDI this spring I was introduced to a sort of force-on-force portion of the class taught by Bill Posey. In this exercise he made up scenarios and randomly selected students to interact with to see how they would respond to the unfolding scenario. There is, of course, no right answer but the point of the drill is to get people thinking about scenarios and what they may or may not do in said scenario.

While waiting for my turn to get picked on there was a scenario where Bill had his hands in his back pockets and was walking toward a student about twice his size while asking for money. The student, a former Marine, started to insist that Bill stay away but Bill ignored him. When Bill got about 15 ft from the student he pulled out a dummy knife and charged him.

The student dropped to his knee and pulled his gun (this was a force-on-force scenario, not a live-fire drill, obviously) but of course Bill was able to "stab" the student several times while the student attempted to even retrieve his firearm. This is the Tueller Drill at its finest. Of course, we talked about the Tueller Drill and Bill asked what we thought of the scenario.

I chimed in that had it been me I would not have attempted to go for my gun. Instead I would have gone for control of the knife. The former Marine interjected with, "There is no way you are going to be able to take a knife away from someone like me."

"I'm not trying to take it away," I said. "I'm just trying to keep you from stabbing me with it. That's my first goal. Then, if I can control you enough or gain enough distance to get out a weapon of my own I'll go for that. At least that's what I learned in the knife class."

Bill said, "Well, you've had additional training in these kinds of scenarios but not everyone has that same level of training."

There was a look of confusion amongst some of the other students and later I got to talk to a few who seemed concerned by the scenario in that the student went for his gun and was so easily stabbed. Of course, in that scenario he got no more than touched by a rubber knife, but in real life he put himself on the ground and would have easily had 3-4 hilt-deep knife wounds in his head/neck area before he even got his gun out of the holster. Doesn't seem like a winning situation to me.

I thought about this for a moment and it kind of bothered me.

I had to go to a knife class to learn the fundamental rules for drawing a weapon (gun, knife, what have you). I did not learn this "additional training" from a gun class.

What I've learned from gun class after gun class is, "GET YOUR GUN OUT FAST!"

Whether spoken or not there seems to be a predominant theory in the gun community that alertness, speed of draw and movement (or getting off the x) will save you in 100% of questionable or deadly scenarios. Yes, those things are an enormous factor in successful gunfighting, but no matter how fast you are, if your first indication of a threat is facing a weapon and your first thought is to get your own, then I speculate there might be some holes in your training.

And I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone here. I have gun class trainings coming out of my ears but still feel horribly inadequate when dealing with certain scenarios and, truth be told, the more I learn and the more I train, the less and less confidence I have in firearms as the defensive weapons they are hailed as. They have their place, no question about that, but it is limited and often secondary to good common sense, hand-to-hand skills and flat out luck!

Sure, I can be alert. I can practice my draw stroke until I can draw and fire accurately in 1/2 a second. I can even draw while moving but still end up with a knife buried in my throat because I'm putting too much effort into the wrong thing. I'm gun-centric instead of self-defense-centric.

And isn't that the point? Isn't that what we are here to do and learn? Defensive training? Why then, are we learning how to attack our guns and move and shoot with our guns when our guns are an afterthought?

Of course, you don't pay gun schools to learn about non-gun options and good gun schools recognize this. They give you what you pay them for--good gun training--and beg and plead with you to go out and flesh out your training in other areas knowing full well that most of their students will ignore that advice. Many will never take another self defense related class in their lives, thinking, as one man told me, "I already have my permit. School's out."

Don't get me wrong. The training I'm receiving is phenomenal. It's unbeatable and it's exactly what you need if you are going to carry a gun but it's not the beginning. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.
I can't help but feeling it's like a lot of people are rushing to first grade without first completing kindergarten or even preschool. We're trying to build sky-scrapers without learning to add 2 and 2 and trying to paint masterpieces without learning our colors.

What's worse is that there seem to be so many people who rush people off to first grade and don't even tell them that kindergarten is an option. They are rushing them off to gun schools and pushing them into ranges and off to apply for carry permits without a single mention of things like hand-to-hand defense or critical thinking and mindset preparation. Those who do recommend those things are drowned out by the droves of people who seem to believe a firearm is all one would ever need to be properly defended in this world. Inconsequentially, these are also the people who often say they will not even visit states or places where their firearm is not welcome.

Beginners to the field of self defense who consider a gun as an option are thrown into labyrinth of gun-centric idealism, conversation and training that carries them like a zealous wave. And like a wave they are swept away by the newness and the sensationalism of carrying that firearm; by, perhaps, the power they may feel and perhaps even by the enjoyment of the sport of shooting and the great friends made along the way (because, yes! gun people are some of the greatest people on earth... no doubt of it!)

But if put to the actual test, simulated or real, of defending themselves against some of even the most basic of attacks, they fumble for their firearms and flounder at their defense like a 2nd grader whose trying to learn to divide without first having learned how to add.

I got caught up in it myself. When I first started becoming more concerned about self defense I didn't go to hand-to-hand combat classes. I didn't go out and buy pepper spray. I didn't go to a women's self defense seminar. I bought a gun. One of my first "defensive" classes was a 2-day gun class. I've put more hours and money into gun training than I have ever put into any other form of self defense. And when pitted against simulated attacks my inadequacies to defend myself completely are glaringly obvious.

It frustrates me. I feel as though I've wasted my time.

I know that's not true. If forced to go to the triggers I have confidence that I would be a formidable opponent. But if, for some reason, I was not able to get to my gun in the first place, my confidence wanes.

And as someone in the gun community I see it over and over again and I get frustrated for other people who haven't gotten frustrated for themselves yet.

The newcomer asks the question on where to begin and the regurgitated answer is always, "Well, first, go apply for your permit and go get yourself some good gun training." It's like telling your pre-schooler, "Well, first you need to go to high school and then you can go to college." Yes, it's great advice, but there's a whole lot missing before that.

So, what is missing? Is it just hand-to-hand training?


And to be honest with you, I have no idea what all is missing. I'm trying to figure that out, too. I'm open to suggestions.

For one, mindset is desperately missing. The mindset to think, to use common sense, to out-smart instead of just out-shoot. Your options are not limited to shoot or don't shoot.

For another thing, emotional control is missing. I've said it before; emotional responses seem to be in vogue right now. It can be hard not to be emotional in some instances (if not impossible) but it's something to at least acknowledge and attempt to control. As the saying goes, "cooler heads prevail."
Strength and stamina are missing. And, yes, I'm looking squarely in the mirror as I type this. Americans in general are sorely out of shape, weak and diseased with their own poor health choices (myself included). If you're going to be serious about your safety, it only makes sense that you would be serious about your health and be able to at least last as long as or longer than your opponent if forced to go toe-to-toe with him. I can't even go the grocery store and back with two kids without feeling EXHAUSTED!!

Knowledge, skill and understanding of other tools such as knives, medical aid and the like is also missing.

I'm going to be starting Krav Maga this month and I'm excited to be fleshing out that area of my training. I'm hoping and expecting that it will help build my confidence in non-gun-related defense.

We'll see.