Sensei Gershon Ben Keren recently released this excellent blog on what Krav Maga can adopt from combat sports. I thought this was a particularly important piece (amongst his many excellent writings) as it highlights something that is often sorely lacking in Krav Maga, which I touched on here.
Too often martial arts and combat sports are dismissed in the purist self-defence circles (and no, those three things are not the same – more on this here). These criticisms range from painfully accurate to wildly fantastical, but at their core they are mostly the same: ‘that won’t work in the street’.
But there are many things that can be learned from martial arts and combat sports and applied in self defence. I’ve written about this extensively in the blogs above. This is what Sensei Ben Keren highlighted in the piece above as well.
But let’s look at the specifics. What specifically can we learn from combat and martial sports that can be applied in self defence?
In this article (and this video) I discussed some of the things that are important to include and consider when training for self defence. These are principles that are generally agreed upon by most self defence experts. In the previous blog I discussed the concept of no rules (and also my obsession with 80s action movies). In this blog we’ll look at one of the most significant factors that differentiate martial arts and combat sports from self defence – multiple attackers.
I vaguely remember my first time doing two-on-one sparring. The reason I remember it vaguely is not because I don’t remember what happened, but because it happened so quickly. I was trying to think about what to do, threw a few punches and next thing you know I’m on the ground with one guy hugging my legs and the other one wailing on me.
I also remember the first time it happened in real life. It ended much better (for me, at least…).
What is it about multiple attackers that makes things so hard? Why is it so often left out when people teach and train for self defence? What thing should you consider? What are common mistakes when training for multiple attackers?
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?
The internet has been abuzz the last week or so over a supposed feud between Krav Maga expert Ryan Hoover and the famous BJJ Gracie family. The keyboard warriors are out in force over who’s technique is better, who said what and who would beat whom in a fight.
As my friend, Guru Heikki Martikainen says - “want to talk politics? First we train. Then we talk”. In other words, let’s remember what’s important, and that’s training. Let’s do that first. So I listened to Guru Heikki. I just finished an hour of BJJ, then some boxing, and about to go do some Krav Maga. I’m now feeling like I can talk about this.
I’m not going to get involved in the politics of who’s right or wrong with this stuff. What I am going to talk about is why they can both be right, and why they can both be wrong.
If I’m lucky, I might even answer one of the most hated questions on the Internet… What’s the best self defence system in the world?
Belt tests and gradings are a source of much fear and anxiety, as they are for anticipation, excitement and joy.
Having to perform in front of a panel of experts can be daunting. Having people watch you and scrutinise your performance is intimidating and can be frustrating, as is not getting the results you want.
At the same time, passing a grading successfully is an incredibly rewarding and empowering experience. Personally, my black belt grading in Krav Maga is by far the most powerful, positive, empowering and memorable experience in my life so far.
Gradings also build a strong team bond. Having to go through something tough (and a grading should be tough!) together with others builds a strong and lasting connection, and memories that will be shared for a lifetime.
If you are anything like me, then chances are you stress over these for months, and I wouldn't stretch to say 'year's in my case, in advance. So how do you prepare for a grading? What do you need to work on? What should you remember while you are doing the grading?
The Eisenhower's Matrix is a great tool for time management, used by successful businesspeople around the world.
The beauty of the matrix is that it can be expanded to many other applications.
I'd like to share one of my favortie ones. It's a great tool for helping you understand what kind of threat you might be dealing with, and how the situation might develop.
There are many wonderful lessons to learn from the martial arts. Not just about how to move your body through space, but rather about who you are, who you can be and how to interact with others.
But is there one style that teaches this better than others?
I recall the following experience from the time I was studying music at university;
I was experimenting, before class, with a particular effects pedal for my guitar that I absolutely loved. The lecturer walked in 5 minutes late, while I was still playing around. He didn’t say ‘hi’ or ‘good morning’. What he did say was “yeah, cause that’s the sound we all want… turn that shit off and let’s do something useful. Start with this tune – 1, 2, 3, 4…”
In one short sentence, he managed to embarrass me in front of the class, mock my creativity and hurt my confidence. He moved on to the tune instantaneously and thereby eliminated any chance I had to reply or comment.
The rest of that rehearsal was torture. This was over ten years ago, and it still stings when I think about it! So why bring it up now?
If you’ve been around self-defence for a little while, you would have heard the term OODA loop. It stands for 'Observe, Orient, Decide, Act', and refers to how our brain makes decisions.
I have written about my interpretation of this here.
I refer to it as the 3P’s. I refer to it in this way not because I’m trying to be different or innovate, but simply because it’s easier for me to remember…
This concept is incredibly important to principle-based learning and problem solving, whether that’s in self-defence or in the ring.
Martial arts are a form of self-expression, so let's compare them to the one tool for self expression that we all share as human beings - speech.
We don't all speak the same, and every language sounds differently. When we speak a sentence, we put emphasis on particular words. We may speak slowly or quickly, and change our rhythm and pace. We use pauses to give meaning to certain words, and to allow the listener to process what we are saying. We change our pitch, tone and inflection to convey feeling and meaning. Where we stand (close, far, in front, on an angle, etc.) and how we use particular body language has a massive impact on the message we send when we communicate.
To me, sparring is the physical manifestation of the same principles. It is when we stop practising putting words together, and actually converse freely. It's when we improvise. So how do you learn to make great speeches when sparring?