Archive for the ‘Class’ Category

Getting and Giving Feedback

Posted: September 1, 2013 in Attitude, Class

megaphoneI think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.
Elon Musk

I have been thinking a lot about feedback lately. I’m talking about in-class feedback, the kind you get in the “heat of battle”, in the midst of a drill, in the thick of things rather than post-class feedback. There are lots of ways feedback is given and it can come from all sides — from instructors as well as fellow students (more and less experienced than yourself). Some of it is useful, in fact most of it is, but some can be unwarranted, unwanted, poorly timed, and just plain annoying.

So, in my humble opinion, what constitutes good feedback? Well, first let me describe what I think is bad feedback because — despite what some people may tell you — I believe it does exist. (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…)

Is Krav Maga Really for Everyone?

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Class, Older

Krav Maga started out in the early part of the last century as a military-style of combat specifically and deliberately suited for everyone capable of walking — young, old, fat, skinny, man, woman, whatever. It made sense and it was essential to the survival of Israel in a time of intense conflict with Palestine. Everyone was necessary to join the battle and no one was turned away — they couldn’t be! It worked and, you know what? Krav Maga came about in these circumstances, designed to be suitable for anyone willing to defend the country and all its people not only in a military sense but also from everyday anti-Semitic violence. That doesn’t mean everyone was fighting with the same effectiveness or fury, certainly athletic men in their prime were “out-damaging” young 80-pound girls. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that everyone needed to join the fight and no one could be turned away if they were in any way capable of defending their country and themselves in a very turbulent and violent time in history. (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…)

Knife Defense CT 707

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Class, Technique

“The winner in a knife fight is the one who dies the next day.”


Several weeks ago my school held a fantastic seminar on knife defense. The techniques we learned were from the Israeli Defense Force’s Counter-Terror Unit 707 (CT 707) and were brought to our school directly by our instructor who had trained with Nir Maman.

One of the biggest eye-openers I walked away with was that I didn’t know what I thought I knew about knife attacks and knife defense. What follows is a summary of the class that I hope you’ll find useful.

Knife is a Most Deadly Weapon
In the seminar we learned that the knife is the most dangerous weapon to defend, apart from someone shooting you outright with a firearm or cooking you with a flame thrower. We were told that if you fight you WILL get cut or stabbed. The reason for this is that the knife requires no kinetic motion to be deadly, unlike bat or other blunt weapons. This means that you really don’t need to swing it like other weapons for it to be deadly.

This was highlighted by a story. Our instructor told us of an altercation in a parking lot with a knife wielding moron. The first cop to arrive was able to capture the knife then subdue the loony.  As more cops arrived, a “dog pile” on the perp ensued as the assailant became hard to control, virtually crushing the bad guy and the first officer on the scene. When everyone finally got off the cop who had arrived first, disarmed the attacker, and began the dog pile sat up and gave a huge gasp for air — and dropped dead instantly. Turns out the bad guy had another concealed knife he was able to pull out of his boot. Even as he was piled on by numerous cops, his movements severely limited, he was still able to make small stabbing and sawing motions, enough to kill the officer on top of him. (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…)

In the time I’ve been learning Krav Maga I have realized that there are two primary variable in a partner that come into play when you are working together: aggression and the amount of control they have over their bodies and movements — coordination.

Aggression is that pure “lightning in a bottle” that we all like to develop in training that allows us to go from zero to hero in no time flat. Some people have a huge amount of aggression that they can tap into and bring into their training, even when they are on the verge of exhaustion. I like training with these people as it helps desensitize me to getting hit but also inspires me to try harder. Some people have very little of this and just go through the motions. Class to them is almost an aerobics class with pads. They mimic behavior in class and don’t really put much oomph into it. These people can be very frustrating to partner with as it sometimes can rub off and cause you to not try as hard or to feel almost guilty when it’s your turn and you want to pummel.

Self-control is a hugely important concept that so many people I’ve partnered with just don’t get. Sure they can go all out but without proper coordination and control of the movements can be a real walking danger. Many White Belts are in this category but with the right mindset they rise above it to some extent or another to become someone you enjoy partnering with.  I’ve partnered with a lot of students in this category and very much was one at one time. The result of partnering with such a person can range from a minor annoyance to real injury. I’ve had broken toenails, countless bruises, and unexpected hits to my neck, head, thigh, etc. when I wasn’t expecting it. It is often followed by a barrage of sorries but fat lot of good that does you when you’re hobbling off to the side groaning “Ow! Ow! Ow!” through clenched teeth.


Empty Your Cup…But Not Your Head

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Class, Older

“You cannot learn anything if you already feel that you know.”

You might have heard it before that you should empty your cup before learning anything new, particularly when it comes to something like martial arts. This means, of course, that you rid yourself of preconceptions (how you think things should be) and start from the beginning, keeping yourself open and receptive to new ideas and teachings. This is such an important concept, I think. Everyone comes into the dojo (particularly guys) with their ideas of how to punch, kick, etc. and can easily fall into the trap of learning these techniques by reshaping or refining their existing notions rather than tearing those ideas down completely and starting from scratch learning these techniques. That is, emptying their cups. To truly develop you need to let go of these old, crude ideas and be willing to be a blank slate, be that empty cup that’s willing to be filled.

I think there’s a danger when someone goes too far with the idea of emptying their cup. These are people who have either emptied their cup willingly or been sort of beaten down into that state of mind. They are now docile students looking to be shown and told everything — step by step — that needs to be performed for a given move or counter attack. They become almost like robots in a way, awaiting the next command to spring into action. I see this pretty often, and not only with junior belts like myself. This is something that just about anyone from beginner to intermediate can fall victim to. I was doing it myself for a while until I realized that it wasn’t doing me any good.   (more…)

Pre-Sparring Meal of Champions

Posted: April 6, 2012 in Class, Food

…or favorite pre-sparring meal for me, anyways.

As practitioners of Krav Maga we are often faced with the question, “what should I eat before my instructors abuse me?”  You want something light, optimally, and quick, with minimal cleanup.

Now, I’m no nutritionist but intuition tells me this is pretty healthy.  I love having this a few hours before a workout. Doesn’t weigh me down, cause gas, or make me want to barf two minutes into class.


What we have here is:

  • A mound of old-fashioned oats (not instant or quickcook oats)
  • Handful of fresh blueberries
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Some dried fruit (papaya, pineapple, raisins, coconut, etc.)
  • Half a sliced banana
  • Some brown sugar
  • Real maple syrup
  • Low fat milk to cover

I let it sit for 10 minutes to soften the oats but I don’t cook them.  Then chow time.

Give it a try sometime.  Your options are limitless.

For more info on this kind of thing check out my other post Pre-Training Meal of Champions

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…)