Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Commando Ninja appraoch VS. Ending Violence Quickly

It’s been awhile since I blogged.  Life has been kind of crazy.  I have had lots of stuff to blog about.  So much in fact that it became a daunting task.  So this will be a combination of things that have been on my mind lately. 

I recently had an opportunity to attend a two day Krav Maga Defensive Tactics for Law Enforcement class.  I will start this blog with a brief review of the class to help make my points.

Remember Marc MacYoung’s advice when judging the validity of training or a system in general:

IF you're talking about using Krav (any system)for personal safety then -- like ANY system -- a huge factor of its effectiveness is WHO is teaching it to you.
  • First CAN that person do effective movement?
  • Second can he teach it to you?
  • Third, does this person understand the realities AND the consequences of violence? Or is it "this is what I heard from my teacher?"

I don't give a shit, what the 'system' or 'art' is supposed to be. If the person can't (or isn't) doing those three things, you're not only wasting your time and money, but dangerously so.
As Rory said "It's easier to instill confidence than competence." And you can have all the confidence in the world, until the shit hits the fan, and then you'd better be able to actually do something to Git R Done.
If all you are ever going is use it for getting into shape, break into a sweat and vent frustrations, then what I just said doesn't matter.
Any Krav school - any dojo - will do. (Well, as long as proper safety measures are taken).
If you're going to be staking your life on it working in a violent situation AND if want to keep your ass out of county jail, then you'd DAMNED well better -- and this goes for ANY martial art, training system or weapon -- make sure the person who's teaching knows WTF he's talking about!

So with those guide lines in mind lets break down the class

The Instructor was a Sgt in the IDF who served in some very dangerous places and for the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) so he passed the legit experience test.

The fundamentals were solid, and the physics were good. 

However here is where I start disagreeing with what was being taught.  The class was advertised as Krav Maga Defensive Tactics.  But this class had nothing to do with defensive tactics.  This was just a Krav class (square peg) being taught to cops (round hole).

The class started with jab / cross training.  I generally don’t teach this to cops.  It’s hard to articulate punching a guy in the face, it looks horrible on tape, to the public, to the jury, and unless you have conditioned your hands you are likely to cut/tear/break your hands. 

Sure enough 10 – 15 minutes into training ¼ of the class had cut or injured their hands.  The entire morning session was spent on punches, kicks, knees, elbows.  All offense.  Intensity and aggression was the focus of this training.  State statutes and department policies regarding the use of force were never mentioned.  Well, never mentioned except in jokes about excessive use of force. 

The Instructor was talking about when one of his students from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office was being charged with excessive force (this made my eye brow raise but seemed to go unnoticed by the group) for delivering 15 knee strikes to an arrest subject.  The attorney asked how many knee strikes does it take to cross from self defense / control to excessive force.  The Deputy replied 14 is too few and 16 is clearly too many.  The point the Instructor was making was do what you need to do to go home alive don’t worry about getting sued.  But all I heard was – if you do what I am teaching you, you are going to get sued.

The afternoon session was centered around defenses.  The counter ambush training started with a 360’ drill where you keep blocking and blocking.  The point of the drill was you can’t do that so you have to move.  That was cool.  The counter ambushes shown were very prescriptive he does this you do that but teaching cops to move is always good.

The day was very physically challenging, very cardiovascular.  Most of the students were all but crawling out of the gym by the end of the day

Day 2 – Weapon disarms
Some nuggets of goodness (basically stuff from WWII Combatives “Get tough” and “Killed or be killed”) but then transitioning to multiple repeated strikes and some very high motor skill of removing of the weapon.  I am a big fan of bouncing a guy off the ground.  If then I notice he has a weapon, all the easier to remove it from someone who is trapped to the ground and recovering from being struck by the planet

Some other things I noticed. Lots of 20 something buff dudes, tattoos, tap out apparel, BJJ backgrounds, and hair gel – lots and lots of hair gel used to make the mandatory faux hawk hair style.  Namely – “no shirts” - Cop no shirts.  Cop no shirts + aggressive  / intense 5 extra strikes mandatory training = dangerous.

I like to illustrate points by using popular culture and comic books (because I’m a nerd).

In the GI Joe comic book version of the origin of Snake Eyes ( an actual Commando Ninja ), the man who would become Snake Eyes is having dinner with his family, where he reveals to them that he is being shipped out to Southeast Asia (Vietnam). Snake Eyes and his dad have a conversation about keeping his faith; Snake Eyes questions his faith and prefers to believe in luck. His father switches gears "If you're heading into that jungle armed with nothing but luck... then I wish you all the luck in the world. Luck runs out quick, though. You step up to gamble one more time, and the next thing you know... "Snake-Eyes""

Cool right?  But what does this have to do with Budo? 

Many Lethal / Military / Commando / RBSD systems that are the current “buzz words” and are so popular are successful based on demographics not on quality.  These systems are designed for 18-24 year old men in peak physical condition. 

Any buff 20 something with enough aggression and intensity (and luck) can bumble his way through most violent encounters despite their training not because of it.

However, "If you're heading into that jungle armed with nothing but luck... then I wish you all the luck in the world. Luck runs out quick, though. You step up to gamble one more time, and the next thing you know... "Snake-Eyes""

There is always some one bigger, stronger, faster, younger, and more aggressive – then what?


Even if you are an 18-24 year old stud you won’t always be.  There will come a time when you peak.  There will be a moment when you will never be faster, stronger, or leaner than you are right now.
All that is left to you is to become smarter and more efficient

I talk about the golden move and/or over in 3 quit a bit.

Rory Miller’s Golden Standard - The technique should:
Improve your position
Worsen the their position
Protect you from damage
Allows you to damage (or control) them.

Marc MacYoung’s standard of effective technique
Every move you do needs to meet three fundamental standards.
These are:
1) It secures your perimeter (keeps you covered)
2) Disrupts his ability to attack you (stuns him, unbalances him, changes his orientation, undermines what he needs in order to attack you)
3) Sets up your next move.

This happens with EVERY move you make, not every technique, but every move within that technique.
-Marc MacYoung

The thing that got to me about the Krav Maga class was, the techniques being taught easily could have ended the confrontation in 3 motions or less.  But every technique was at least 8 motions.  Motions 3-8 being repeated (excessive) strikes (usually knees or groin kicks).   

I like to make chess analogy.  I’m not that great at chess.  But if I could move a piece 3 times {1)It secures your perimeter (keeps you covered), 2)Disrupts his ability to attack you (stuns him, unbalances him, changes his orientation, undermines what he needs in order to attack you), 3)Sets up your next move.} For every one of my opponent’s moves I would be undefeatable.

I didn’t want to appear disrespectful.  I did my best to do the techniques I was shown.  But when we did more spontaneous (closer to randori / Jyu waza) I found myself taking the attacker’s back or pinning them to the ground kneeling on things that hurt.  See also ending violence quickly. The instructor would usually say that’s very nice but more striking please, more intensity please, more aggression please.

Betting your life on being more intense and more aggressive than someone  who is willing to violently attack you ( see also demonstrating aggression ) is a foolish game.  It may work for awhile but then you step up to gamble one more time, and the next thing you know... "Snake-Eyes"

So take you intensity and aggression and focus it on becoming more efficient.  On ending violence as quickly as possible.  Thus diminishing the likelihood of injury for yourself, and the attacker.

Now you know and knowing is ½ the battle

Yo Joe!!!!


  1. As a practitioner of Krav Maga, I would have to say that your criticisms are pretty accurate, though I'm not really experienced enough to really comment on the whole efficiency thing.

    However, I would like to add that for many students (myself included) Krav is the first system they have trained in, and as such using strikes would be more effective than other types of attacks. This is partly relevant; my instructor says that he doesn't usually cover techniques in depth when teaching at seminars, as it will take time from teaching other concepts, however, I can vouch for the fact that most combatives in Krav are strikes. That being said, my instructor encourages us to cross train where possible.

    As for the lack of focus on the law - I find that this varies from instructor to instructor; I've been told that the Israeli instructors tend to be a bit more relaxed when it comes to worrying about the law. It's possibly a context thing...

  2. Elias,
    Thanks for your reply. I hope my post didn't read as me dissing Krav Maga. I like Krav Maga and enjoyed the class. Its the Krav Maga for law enforcement part I take issue with. A general use of force continuum goes something like this:
    Officer pressence
    Soft Empty Hands
    -joint locks, take downs, pain complaince etc...
    Tasers are usualay around here
    Hard empty hands
    Lateral Vascular restraints
    Fire arms

    You can see that strikes are a very small part of the contunuum. I'd so that the3 vast majority of encounters involve soft empty hands. I agree strikes are easy to teach and learn but and Officer's job is to control. I think Krav would be better used by cops in the context of- your in a bad situation -strike - tranisition to weapon / higher use of force. Higher force that ends the confrontation quickly is safer than lower force over a long time. Getting to a taser is preferable to delivering 15 knee strikes. Our job is to control violent people not to punish them for being assholes. Krav could be great for Law Enforcement but it has to be tweaked to meet the needs of cops.

  3. Great information, Kasey. I would have to add that I believe it's a good idea in general for civilians to be smart about their tactics as well. It's good to learn all the ranges, including how to strike effectively. However, this day and age it's easy to end up in the brig just for defending yourself and not being able to articulate your use of force to the judge and jury.

  4. Interesting. I've had World Wide Krav Maga's DT Level I Instructor certification class; my experience was a little different. It was a week long class -- and very very physically demanding. Focus in their program was on "self defense" (basically defense against several grabs and intro into their combatives - strikes and blocks), gun retention, and dealing with an attacker with a gun. The instructor I had is an LA Sheriff; we did discuss (briefly) the legal stuff but the emphasis on the class was on how to teach the physical material -- which, of course, included how to do it. Got some good drills out of it, and several of the techniques were good, not relying on too much small muscle stuff, etc. Everyone there was a LE instructor -- and most of the class was the Basic LE academy staff. Overall -- I was and remain very impressed with the class and material. But that was only ONE presentation of the material...

    You've pointed out one of the things I find absent or incomplete about most "DT programs" that were developed by martial arts programs/instructors. They don't get the whole idea of controlled use of force... and don't address it at all.

  5. Kasey - I didn't read it that way at all, I was just trying to address why the system is as it is. As for your criticisms, as I said, they seem fair to me, and it's always good to know where the gaps in one's knowledge are.

    Thanks for an interesting read :)

  6. good post, this was my first time at your site and look forward to reading more....

  7. And more importantly... did anyone else happen to notice when SnakeEyes and StormShadow faced off across the court yard just how freaking FAST those ninja are? Where's the seminar for that!?

  8. Travis, that was pretty dope wasn't it