Swimming in the Deep End of the Pool

Posted: March 5, 2014 in Attitude, Class, Sparring, Technique

Boxing the bear

As humans, it is so easy to do the least amount of work necessary to get the job done. We are optimizers. When faced with a task in everyday life we immediately — whether we know if or not — try to find a way to do it simply. We don’t like over-complicating tasks and we certainly don’t want to spend more energy, strength, or time needed to do something.

This is as true in the gym and training as it is in the “real world”. Take push-ups, for example. Proper form, to avoid injury and strain on the shoulders, is to have your elbows tucked in, rather than flared out to the side. Flared elbows make the push-ups much less difficult, effectively taking strain off the relatively weaker triceps and putting onto larger, stronger muscle groups such as the shoulders and chest. We’re able to bang out a higher number of reps in a shorter amount of time. More ‘oohs and ahhs‘ from the sidelines, if you will. The downside? Pain and injury and an overall “missing of the point” of doing the exercise in the first place.

So, where am I going with this? How does this apply to Krav Maga training? Well, think about it. Krav Maga class will never be categorized as a light workout. In most schools, training is brutal, unforgiving, and a great place to get injured no matter how safe you try to be. Confronted with this, it is not at all unusual for that optimizing mindset to sink in, especially over time. A student will find that happy medium that gets them through class, gets a good sweat, makes it look like they’re committed to training. Many people find that point and stick with it. They make their minimum their maximum. They are getting what they want out of training, no one’s calling them out, and maybe they have even fooled themselves into thinking they are learning self-defense that will help them in a life or death street situation. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” I’d apply that to Krav Maga training by saying that, “The self-defense skills we’re developing are those we exhibit when the instructor is on the other side of the dojo”. You can quote me on that.

Gus Waldorf Boxing A Bear In 1949 (4)

Are you the bear or the man?

But these students are setting themselves up for failure. When they wimp out on a technique by going through the motions; when they choose the smaller, weaker partner; when they drop to the floor, making a show of gasping for air, giving up on a plank before they need to — these all short circuit the training and begin reinforcing that idea that you don’t need to go the distance to get the job done. It strengthens the idea in your head that you don’t need to go to exhaustion and that “easier is okay”. This is bad because, as they say, in the real world we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

Let me give you another instance where I believe this idea relates to Krav Maga. It’s a widely held belief that one of the more stressful parts of Krav Maga training, at least in my school, is sparring. As a result, and coupled with the idea that we like to take the path of least resistance, we can be sorely tempted to partner with someone who won’t challenge us. Maybe this is someone less aggressive than you, or who hits very lightly, or is simply less experienced than you. Whatever the reason, the end result is the same: a partner who won’t challenge you, who won’t help you grow and stretch your abilities.

I try to stay aware of this tendency because, hey, I’m human like you. I don’t want to ever fall into this trap though. I simply won’t let myself. I don’t want to just go through the motions — I want an electric, high-energy, edge of my abilities kind of training every class. I want to stagger off the mat thinking, “Holy crap! THAT was intense. I was a hair’s breadth away from getting clobbered!” I want to be on the edge of the cliff without actually falling off.

For as long as I train, I will always try to be the man boxing the bear and not the bear boxing the man. Join me in the deep end of the pool.Man vs Bear Boxing Match6

Incidentally, the pictures in this post of the man boxing a bear are real. Yeah, that really happened. See here for the story.P.S. The bear won.
  1. CBJ Music says:

    Reblogged this on The CBJ Music Weblog and commented:
    Great stuff to consider here.

  2. […] Source: Swimming in the Deep End of the Pool | Krav Maga Journey […]

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