Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

Brown Belt Achieved!

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Attitude, Belts

belt2-brownA few weeks ago I earned my Brown Belt. I’ve written about belts at my school before, of course. It’s a natural thing to fixate on and, particularly to younger or newer students, is a very important aspect of training initially. I say ‘initially’ because in many cases (definitely for me) the whole concept wears off and you’re not quite as enamored with them after several months. Yes, they are great milestones and goals, don’t get me wrong. Getting a new belt is a huge achievement and something that everyone at my school earns with a lot of extremely hard work. It’s just that, as a student, the training itself becomes the obsession rather than the long strip of cloth you’ve got strapped around your midsection. (more…)

Pause for Reflection

Posted: November 22, 2012 in Attitude, Food

Today’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. where I live. It’s not just a time to stuff ourselves silly with good food and spend time with family and friends, it’s also a time to stop and think about all the things we have to be grateful for. For me, it obviously extends to many aspects of my life: my family, my job, house, health, etc. Since this is a Krav Maga blog, however, I want to focus a few minutes on Krav Maga and one thing in particular that I am thankful for. (more…)

Anyone Can Get Beat Up

Posted: October 28, 2012 in Attitude, Technique

Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.
~ Joe Lewis

I don’t know how long you have trained, how big/strong you are, how vicious a fighter you are but I can tell you this: you can get beat up. You are not invincible. Your martial art is not perfect nor have you perfected it. It has likely prepared you for defending yourself better than the average person, especially if it’s a RBSD style like Krav Maga, but you are not invulnerable. That’s right. I said it. I don’t know you but I can tell you with complete certainty that you can be beat. You can be hurt. You can lose a fight. (more…)

Partner up!

Posted: October 14, 2012 in Attitude, Class, Older

I had to get up run in the morning for 2 hours, go to the gym and also get good opponents as sparring partners because I’m a big believer in that how you train is how you will fight; at least when it came to me that’s how it worked.
Alexis Arguello

Photo courtesy of “Mixed Martial Arts in DC News Blog”

Few things can mess up your training than ending up with the wrong partner. A partner is not someone who just holds pads, succumbs to (or administers) the technique of the moment, or someone opposite you who’s waiting their turn. They are an integral part of your training and their importance cannot be overstated.

I’ve had bad partners, good partners, and phenomenal partners. If a partner’s no good you run the risk of being barraged with meaningless/inaccurate critiques, getting slightly (or seriously!) injured, not learning the techniques being focused on that day to the fullest, getting frustrated, or constantly having to readjust yourself (in a bad way) to accommodate your partner’s shortcomings. All of these make for a horrible training session in my book. True, there’s something you can salvage from even these sessions but, having been through a fair share of bad ones, I’d just as soon not have to be in that position if it can at all be avoided. Hey, I’m here to learn and only have 2 or 3 sessions per week to get it right so why not make each minute really count? (more…)

I frequent /r/kravmaga on Reddit. It seems that a really common question is “I just joined a school. What should I expect? (somewhere around “Where can I find a school in ______?”). I was wondering the same thing, as you can see from one of my earlier posts.

It’s a very scary time. It’s exciting but also nerve-racking. Depending on your appetite for new things and being pushed outside your comfort zone (not to mention your current fitness level) you can be on the calm side of the spectrum or on the “I think I’m having a heart attack” side.

To help you address this challenging time I have put together a guide to tackle the most common questions people have. It’s a 74-page guide called the KMJ Guide to Starting Out in Krav Maga. It contains over 40 tips on what to expect and how you can make your transition into Krav Maga as smooth, stress-free, and comfortable as possible!

Two useful bonuses include a Cheat Sheet of tips for easy reference and email access to the author for any additional follow-up questions the student may have after reading the guide.

In this Guide you will have many (I hope most!) of your burning questions answered — and the best part?  There’s no need to take a notebook to the coffee shop to jot down notes! It’s all there for you, neatly typed out and organized clearly for your reference!  I’ve put a lot of thought into this material and have sweated over the contents, the structure, and the very nominal cost. It’s all there and I’m proud of the results.

Happy training!


Snap Out of It!

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Attitude, Class, Video

When thinking about intensity of training, it occurred to me lately that we don’t always train at the level we think we are. Sure, we’ve all been told time and time again that intensity trumps technique — it’s the more vicious dog in the fight that wins (even if it’s a little dog); that the enraged football player will thump the calm martial artist standing Zen-like before them; that cops would sooner face off with a black belt who’s posing in a crane stance in front of him, ready to defend, than an angry, deranged, and drugged out lunatic who’s screaming and flying towards him like a nuclear powered chainsaw — like those lightning-fast zombies from that movie 28 Weeks Later

And yet.

As students we so often fall into an exhausted “good enough” frame of mind. I sometimes glance sideways during drills to guage how intense our class is. Some are brutally intense, almost psychotic. Others are going through the motions. Many are in between these two ends of the spectrum. Many start at the intense end and as they get progressively more tired and fatigued slide towards the other end. In fact, I bet that to some extent we all do that. (more…)

Hey, look at that. A whole year of training behind me. In some ways it seems like it has been an eternity, in other ways it seems like only a few months have gone by.

I’ve been doing some reflecting over the past several weeks in anticipation of this post. There are so many things I’ve learned over the last 12 months but I wanted to take a shot at writing down the most crucial lessons. Each one of these could be a post unto itself and might end up as one. I just want to at least capture these to provide a recap of the major takeaways.

Bravado at an older age vs. younger age
I recall 25 some-odd years ago when I took martial arts as a teen. After just a few weeks I felt invincible. I walked with such swagger and my confidence at school absolutely went through the roof. I was indestructible. Part of the explanation there lies in the teen mind. Let’s face it, it doesn’t really take too much to bloat a teen boy’s head into thinking he’s Superman.

As I’ve grown older, and I’d like to think wiser, I’ve come to realize that we are all vulnerable. MMA fighters, black belts, weight lifters, macho men, everyone. Everyone is susceptible to smack down given the right conditions, a bad decision, an off day… Take a look at every major fighter. They all go down — no one is perfect.

This extends to the street too. Even if you are heavily trained in the fighting arts and self-defense you are just human. This has stayed with me as an adult, not as a frightened adult but a realistic adult, and applies to my perspective on my training. Yes, of course I’ve increased my self-confidence but it’s always tempered with a pragmatic view of how violence can occur at any time and isn’t always necessarily in your favor.

Injuries can happen at any time, usually when you least expect it
You can make all the necessary precautions, wear all the right equipment, have the perfect attitude and awareness for your safety and still get whacked in the head. I’ve gotten my fair share of injuries this past year — fortunately all minor — and I’d say that pretty much every one of them was completely unexpected. They came from wild partners, slipped gear, a poor grasp of my technique, misjudged distance, slippery mats, you name it.

I still keep my awareness at full strength but realize that this isn’t ballet and try as you might you WILL get hurt. Vigilance keeps it to a minimum and hopefully keeps the extend down as well. (more…)

Foot? Meet Elbow.

Posted: April 21, 2012 in Attitude, Injury

Ah, another stupid injury. Stick with me long enough and we’ll work our way through body parts in alphabetical order.

This was one of my dumber ones. Working on our side kicks, our partner would hold up Muay Thai pads and we’d give it a good whallop, making sure we got some good momentum and power with the ol’ hips.

Perhaps this is a good time to point out the strange coincidence of a recent post where I polled people about whether they trained barefoot or with footwear. Well, for the record, my school is 100% barefoot. I like it this way but in this particular instance it made for an unfortunate outcome.

I lined up, confident in my kick prowess I’ve been developing in Friday night sparring, and let it rip with a left kick (no switch step). What should have resulted in a vinyl ‘Whaap’ sound was instead a dull ‘Whump’ sound as the top of my foot connected with my partner’s right elbow.


Initially my thought was that I would end up with a good bruise and, in fact, I did. Just not where I expected I chalk this up to the uneducated guess that tight shoes pushed some blood to the surface where it was pressing on the foot the least.

In the end, nothing it broken (I ended up getting an X-Ray later in the week when the bruising got worse) or even fractured.  I will be back in the saddle early this week and can’t wait to get back into it.  (more…)

Krav Maga as a Fitness Craze

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Attitude, Class

Before reading this post take a moment to read this article.

Done? Good. On with my take of this. I am all for fitness. We in the U.S. (and many other parts of the world, I bet) have grown very sedentary over the past few decades. We are couch potatoes who generally are more interested in sitting on our ever-expanding butts than getting some exercise.

“We have come for your bacon!”

Now I get that this isn’t actually a very revolutionary thought. But look around — hell, look in the mirror. Odds are you fall into this category since, according to the CDC, a third of adult Americans are ‘obese’ and another third are considered ‘overweight’! We are becoming a society of porkers. For those who want to change that quality of themselves they’ll try just about anything. This includes but isn’t limited to fad diets, running for week (before quitting with plantar fasciitis or shin splints), liposuction, going to the gym for a month or two (before mysteriously getting “too busy” to continue), and, for some, taking Krav Maga.

There’s nothing blatantly wrong with seeking out fitness by way of Krav Maga. I think, to some extent, I was looking for fitness by starting last year. And, don’t get me wrong, I am also in no way, shape, or form the authority on who should and shouldn’t take Krav Maga and for what reasons. That said, I have noticed an interesting take on Krav Maga in the media (as noted in that representative article above) and in a good number of people joining class over the past several months.

There are many ways you could split a class of students. One way that conveniently serves the point of this post is to consider what category a student falls into when it comes to their primary goal, fitness or self-defense. Yes, as I noted above, you can and probably do want both but one of these will dominate. For me it’s always been about self-defense first, fitness second. For others it’s the opposite.

So what, right? What’s the point? Well, first off, let me say that it hasn’t anything to do with machismo or a feeling of superiority over folks in this other category. Someone who’s fitness-centric has just as much right to the dojo as someone who’s self-defense oriented, for sure. But there has to be a consequence to this when you have a mix of the two groups. I find that fitness-centric students have a far different training ethic. They very often lack aggression in their attitude and oftentimes go through the motions and completely wuss out on many of the more intense drills.

We were doing “hammy sprints” back and forth across the dojo the other night. You very likely know the drill but just so we’re all on the same page, this is the drill where you pump your legs up to waist height, landing on your toes, and pump your arms in rhythm. The pace is slow and eventually agonizing. The blood pumps, the heart is thumping, and the sweat flows within a few minutes of this intense drill. If you do it properly you progress very slowly across the length of the dojo, far slower than a walk. Your leg pumps are assertive, violently mimicking the thrust of a driven knee to your unfortunate attacker. By the time you reach the opposite side you are beat. You jog back and start another lap. If you do this drill as a fitness nut you gleefully sprint across the dojo with a grin on your face and silently congratulate yourself for making it across quicker than anyone else.  (more…)

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”
Albert Einstein

One thing I can say about my experiences in Krav Maga so far is that I know my body and its limits pretty well. I like to push myself as far as I can humanly go but am careful about how far I go beyond that. That means shutting out all desire to “keep up” with others all the time or — God forbid — try to show off in class. I am my own yardstick and I stay true to my limits and my progress, always pushing myself to go harder, further, faster but never disrespecting my body’s needs. Hey, this doesn’t mean wussing out during hard drills or avoiding sweat. Absolutely not. It also doesn’t mean being “safe” all the time. There are many times — at least once or twice per training, I’d say — where I have tunnel vision, am steaming like a furnace, and am panting wildly at the end of a drill. When I train, I train as hard as I possibly can and always leave behind a lake of sweat and ghostly sweat footprints on the mat.

That said, all too often in class I’ve noticed people going too far and ending up on the sidelines, dizzy, looking nervous/confused, or even barfing. Yes, the barfing has actually been pretty common and the weird thing is: most every person who I’ve seen in this predicament has been on the “younger side of things”. Say, in their mid-twenties. Why is this? My theory is that the poor soul came into class with something to prove. They are all about external validation. When you’re younger, and in better shape than these old farts around you, you are much more inclined to be the Alpha student, strutting around and trying like hell to run faster, punch harder, and be the overall bigger bad ass. This is all well and good — I really enjoy an enthusiastic partner and will eagerly pair up with this student any ol’ day of the week. What becomes a bummer is when they have to teeter off dizzily partway through class to  hold up the far wall, head between the knees.  (more…)

Know When to Fold ‘Em

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Attitude, Older

The following is a comment I read in the Krav Maga section of Reddit recently. It was posted by one m1foley.

After 5 years, I’ve been through the stages of a Krav practitioner:

  1. Beginner: “Why are these people wearing groin protectors? Oh. Oh my god…”
  2. False sense of mastery: “I hope someone tries to mug me in the street!”
  3. Wisdom: “I’m no idiot. I know some stuff, but will never use it unless my life is in danger. If Stephen Hawking threatens me, I’ll throw him my wallet and run away.”

All too often people get caught up in the aggressiveness of Krav Maga and lose sight of the big picture outlined above. I think it’s understandable and I am guilty of it as much as the next guy. We are pushing ourselves in class in an environment designed for intensity. We are barked at to “GO! GO! GO!” and trained to go full bore. We are always pushing forward, never retreating. We are driving through drills, smashing through our walls. This is pure, adrenaline-fueled intensity.

What I am trying to keep in mind, and I think I have arrived at stage three above, is to keep Krav Maga in context. Out in the real world it is possible that these techniques might be needed, especially if your safety or that of a loved one is threatened. In cases of more minor confrontations, which I would hope would be the vast majority, we should remember that disengaging and retreating are the way to go. In many classes this option isn’t — in my opinion — given much credence. It all comes down to destroying anyone who messes with you, becoming the “second attacker” as it were. This is all well and good I think but there should be some mental judgement going on at the same time. Yes, I need to disable my attacker but above all, I need to get my ass outta here safely ASAP.

There’s a book by Rory Miller called “Facing Violence” that talks about the consequences of street fighting. We can imagine punching, kneeing, and kicking someone into a pulp with our skills and aggressiveness and, if faced in real life, can probably pull it off but there’s a line that can be crossed where self-defense becomes assault. There’s an art of “not-fighting” to be learned that deals with deescalating the situation and avoiding the brawl.


Aggression Before Technique?

Posted: November 12, 2011 in Attitude, Older, Technique

Out of curiosity I recently ran an informal poll on this blog asking folks what they thought was most important of the four:

  • Speed
  • Technique
  • Power
  • Aggression

I didn’t have a ton of responses so I didn’t have a large sample size but of the people who did respond, the last place answer was power. I don’t know if there’s a universal “right answer” but based on my training I would tend to agree with that. The interesting thing about this answer is that most people who do not train in martial arts would probably rank power as top of the list. I imagine this is because people envision trained fighters ending matches with one well-timed killer blow. WHAM-O! Knockout! In reality, fights are hardly ever that decisive or clean. They are brutal, fast, no-holds-barred affairs with no finesse. If I were to rank the factors in order I would think it might be:

  1. Aggression
  2. Speed
  3. Technique
  4. Power

I recognize that they are all important and one without some of the others is probably a recipe for failure. What’s aggression without power? What’s technique without aggression? They are all intertwined. But there is a critical balance that needs to be achieved to be successful.

Students come to the school all the time who go through the drills with over-the-top power, at least for their current fitness and skill level. They pay attention to the techniques they are taught and try to hit as hard as they can while applying these techniques in drills. Eventually they believe that, as they progress and get better, speed will naturally follow. This was me too.

One of our top senseis tells us all the time that aggression is king. He’ll ask if we’ve ever seen a brawl in high school where a brawny football player faces off with a highly trained Black Belt in the school halls. The Black Belt squares off and starts to get in form as the football player charges in like a rabid rhino and beats the surprised, overwhelmed Black Belt into a pulp. The lesson is that aggression wins out. The tiny dog can savage the slower, bigger dog with the same principle. Overwhelm the attacker.

When I first started, not too long ago, I was having difficulty trying to figure out what I should be emphasizing. I was in the “Power Camp” and thought all my strikes should be knockouts, regardless of speed. This left me exhausted 30 seconds in on a 3-minute drill, wiped out and often with strained muscles. The instructor would be yelling, “Faster! Faster! More aggressive! Like you mean it!” I thought this meant I just needed to condition more and all would be better. This turned out to be only partly true. While in this phase, I was also wondering how speed fit in. Surely if I got my power up with my better conditioning I could just do it faster. But then, what about technique — where did that fit in? Do they all equal each other. Oh, my head.

This notion of power was put to bed quite effectively when we were enlightened with a simple example. If you have your opponent in a clinch and have the opportunity to land a driving knee to their head, leg cocked back and ready to strike, would you be better served to pull your leg back several more inches to deliver a crushing sledgehammer of a blow or launch your flurry of lightning fast attacks at that moment? The answer was the latter. The thinking here is that the split second of additional time necessary to cock the leg back gives the opponent that much more time to recover — and in many fights that can make a big difference. Knee! Knee! Switch step! Knee!

We should attack like a hive of VERY pissed off bees. The opponent should not know where the next hit is coming from this enraged, psychotic dynamo who, only seconds ago, was the victim. No longer the case, the victim is now the attacker, doling out pain in a barrage of quick, painful blows from seemingly every direction as the former attacker either collapses in a bloody and bruised heap on the ground or runs for their life.

Aggression! Roaring, adrenaline-soaked, raging, furious, break-the-chair-over-the-guy’s-head aggression.

This doesn’t mean that technique is out the window. Of course not. Otherwise we’d just show up at the dojo and flail violently at each other like psychotic patients in the mental ward. It also doesn’t mean that power is out the window. With proper form and execution the power will be there. We certainly learned this with 180 kicks when first starting out. Kicking our tombstone pads, our tendency was to power into the kicks — RRRRAAAHHH! Whop! turned into driving a nearly deadened leg around using mostly our core muscles — RRRRRAAAAAAAHHH!  WHAP!!!!!!!! Huge difference. And strangely, a lot less straining to perform.

To some degree or another I struggle every class to find the right balance. I don’t think there’s a universal formula that works for all people or even the same person across all circumstances. I haven’t gotten this all figured out. What I do believe though is that I have to keep these attributes in mind and be aware of how I am applying them.

And in Krav Maga, I’ll try to never forget that to overwhelm any attacker, Aggression is King.