Van Damme and Krav Maga: What the 80's Got Right!

So I’m watching Bloodsport 4 the other day (don’t judge me) and a fantastic quote pops up. The prison warden is organising underground fights. To the death, of course, or what would be the point. Right before each fight starts he proclaims:

“We have only one rule… there are no rules!”

The crowd goes bonkers, and a barrage of flying kicks that would never work on anything other than a pad commences. Ironically, there are very strict rules in those fight scenes.

My unfortunate taste in movies aside, it got me thinking (well, and this blog here too).

This is a line I’ve heard in every single self-defence and Krav Maga seminar I’ve ever attended – and rightly so.

Just thinking about it the cheesiness of it makes me want to put my aviators and ninja headband on, rip the sleeves off my gi and start playing 80s synth rock while hitting the air with hilarious facial expressions.

But what does it actually mean? Why is it so popular?

No, not my silly movie-montage day dreams. The line – there are no rules.

There are so many things that can fall into this, so I’m going to look at as many as I can fit in the time I have before I have to go to training…

We can break this down into a few areas:

It’s all about me!

These are things that affect you, or may cause an attacker to think that you are an easy target:

  1. Clothes maketh the man (and woman): Combat sports have protective equipment. Gloves, mouth guards, gi, shin pads, etc. All of these will not be there in a real confrontation. This means that whatever techniques you train must be trained in a similar fashion. If I always use boxing gloves and hand wraps, and am then forced to punch without them, there’s a good chance I’ll hurt my hand. Added to this is the fact that there isn’t a comfy uniform like you have in training. You will be wearing ‘street clothes’. Maybe it’s a suit, or a skirt, or jeans. Maybe you’ll have boots or high heels or thongs (flip-flops). Point is, you won’t be comfortable. And it’s easier to attack someone who has impaired movement.
  2. How are you today? – attackers are looking for a victim, not a fight. That means they will look at attacking when you are visibly vulnerable – sick, drunk, tired, distracted, etc. Whatever makes you vulnerable!
  3. Jack-in-the-box – not complicated enough? The person attacking you won’t be waiting for you to be ready or wait for you to agree to fight (i.e. suprise and conesnt). This is one of the hardest things to deal with. If you are not aware of what is happening around you, and sometimes even if you are, you may not realise you are being attacked until after you’ve been hit a few times! This means you will have to switch from defence to offense quickly and under tough circumstances, which is one of the hardest things to do. It also means that if you are not aware of what’s going on, you are a much easier target to attack.

Actually… It’s about them!

Here are some things that relate to your attacker:

  1. Created Equal – combat sports are competitions of skill. The idea is to make the playing field as even as possible. Most commonly, this is done by establishing weight divisions. Unfortunately, this is the opposite to most real attacks. The person who will attack you is likely to do this because they believe they can dominate you physically, mentally and emotionally. Oftentimes, this is due to a perceived size or strength advantage. Unfortunately, you don’t have the option to ask the guy to lose 5kgs before he attacks you so that it’s fair…
  2. DUI – often attacks will happen when the attacker is under the effects of something. “Everyone is under the influence”, as George Thompson would say. This can be the effects of things like rage, fear or anger, or it could be the effects of alcohol or drugs. In addition, they will also have the affects of adrenaline (much like you will). This will alter their performance. They may be less coordinated or able to make intelligent decisions. They may also be stronger, faster and more immune to pain.
  3. Willing and able – When you enter a combat sports arena, you know, to a great extent at least, the skill level of your opponent. They might be faster or stronger than you anticipate, but you would have likely had a chance to see them fight or train before or know something about their training methods. When you are attacked you have no way of knowing what the person attacking you knows. This means you should always assume they able to, at the very least, deal with what you're throwing at them.

Actually… it’s about everything!

Here are things that affect everything in the situation:

  1. Bullseye – ‘there is no krav with groin kicks’ is something I’ve heard plenty, both in good and bad connotations. But it’s kinda true. Certain targets are illegal in competition, and that’s because they have the potential to end a fight quickly or do some real damage. The groin, eyes, throat, back of the head, spine, knee joints, etc. All of those are targets that have the potential to create long-term injury or even death. The flip side of this is that you can also hit with everything and anything on your body. Spitting, biting, forearm strikes, headbutts, etc. Use everything you can!
  2. X marks the spot – Combat sports have a known, predetermined and agreed upon set of outcomes that constitute a victory. Knock out, submission and/or points being the most common. Unfortunately, life doesn’t happen that way. An attack can be anything from verbal abuse to multiple armed attackers, and there is no way to guarantee it will end other than you making it end. There are plenty of examples of attacker continuing to kick someone in the head when that person’s unconscious. Or, could be that they will just push you and walk away. We often have no way of knowing, which makes the whole thing much harder. Our goal is to do what we can to make sure the person doing us harm is unable or unwilling to continue to do so – whichever happens first.
  3.  A to Z– There are no rounds or a set time limit. This means you can’t take a rest in between rounds, as there aren’t any! You need to be able to deal with the situation in one go. This also means that ‘fight strategies’ such as the ones in combat sports don’t really work here. You don’t have a couple of rounds to feel out your opponent and analyse their movements and responses. Adding other elements (multiple attackers, weapons, etc.), means we can’t take too long. Combat sports timing is very complex, but in self defence it is fairly straight forward. When you go, you go!
  4. And in the red corner... – Seeing as there isn’t a set time or known outcomes to decide victory, there isn’t someone who will be there to guarantee the attack stops… so don’t count on it.
  5. Step into the Ring – there isn’t a ring, or a cage, or a nice matted area where you can fall or throw safely. You may not have space to move like you do in training. This is such a crucial element, that I’ll discuss it in a separate blog altogether!

Again, all of these only to the ‘no rules’ principle, though we can see how it can branch to other principles… which I’ll discuss later on.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to watch some Van Damme movies. And remember: there is only one rule... there are no rules!!!

I always wanted to say that!

Stay safe, stay out there

Osu/Oss

Last modified on Friday, 13 April 2018 15:05
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Ron Amram

Co-Founder and Co-Director of Combat Arts Institute of Australia. Nidan Gendai Ryu Krav Maga & Jujitsu, Shodan Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, Brown Belt Dennis Hisardut, Krav Maga Instructor, Cert IV Training & Assessment

Website: combatartsinstitute.com.au/
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