I grew up practicing martial arts. I started learning Tae Kwon Do when I was 10 years old and reached first or second dan sooner or later. I studied Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Pankration, BJJ, and several others with varying degrees of interest and dedication, but I was always searching for something different. Many martial arts are focused on the performance of the art. Many more are focused on sport or competition. Both are great pursuits, but I wanted something raw. I wanted something no-nonsense focused on getting out of a bad situation or stopping it altogether. It took me a long time to find that what I wanted was krav maga.
"Krav maga" is Hebrew for "contact combat". The art was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld, who began teaching it to what would later be come the Israeli Defense Force in the 1940s . I like to think of krav as the engineering approach to martial arts. It aims to provide the most simple, effective, natural, and direct way to address as wide a range of bad situations as possible. There is nothing subtle or elegant about the art. Most of the techniques boil down to:
Address the immediate threat (block the punch, get off-line from the gun, get the hands off your throat, etc.)
Give them something else to think about (simultaneously hit them)
Continuous follow-up (don't stop hitting them)
Make space (run away)
As with anything, the more you do it, the more subtlety and nuance you find. There is infinite depth and room to incorporate techniques from other martial arts, but the stuff that may save your life basically boils down to the four steps above.
I have made many good friends through martial arts in general, and krav maga in particular. My gym in Tucson provided a much-needed outlet for me when my wife left me for someone else. My girlfriend and I met because of our mutual interest in krav. And I have never had to use it in a real situation; nor do I hope to.
And that gets us to the crux of the post. I think that everybody should know how to defend themselves. Unfortunately, I think that this is especially important in our world for women and children. Learning to defend oneself can be fun, great exercise, and can lead to lasting friendships; it can also save your life. If you've thought about it but haven't wanted to commit, please go find a gym near you that focuses on self defense. And while learning the techniques is certainly important, please also consider what your "go" buttons are. Set limits that, if crossed, mean you will act. Take the decision out of your hands if you ever find yourself in the situation where you need to use what you've learned. For example, my go buttons include:
If a loved one is ever threatened with a weapon
If I am ever told to handcuff, tie, or otherwise inhibit myself or a loved one
If an attempt is ever made to force me to get into a vehicle, or any other attempt is made to move me to a secondary crime scene
If someone starts shooting (run, hide, or fight, depending on what options are available)
There are others, and there is some nuance in my head with respect to some of these, but the important point is to learn to defend yourself, and to decide in advance what makes it go time so that you don't freeze up when you really need it.
In this post are some pictures from level 1 and level 2 tests at Rising Phoenix Self Defense and Fitness in Tucson, AZ. Some of them are among the earliest pictures I took since purchasing my first digital SLR (an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II). If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend checking out Rising Phoenix. Jesse is a fantastic teacher, and the whole group is great to train with.
And if you find yourself in Colorado Springs, I recommend checking out First Strike Krav Maga. Ben provides insights I have never heard before, and the group is fantastic.