Why Learn Krav Maga

Today I read an article (here) by my instructor, Eyal Yanilov, where he asks the question "Why should you learn KMG/Self Defense?"

I thought about this quite a bit today. His answer is the most obvious of course: because you might die!

But this is not what I was thinking about. I was thinking about all the people I know personally who need to know self defense, who are in dangerous situations, or who have family members to protect that do NOT take self defense. As I write this I can name too many people who are dealing with a job that is dangerous, or a spouse or ex-spouse who is dangerous, who simply do not take the initiative to learn self defense. Is your life worth $99? Is it worth a few hours per week of your time? What about your families safety? What value do you place on that?

As an instructor and school owner I am constantly striving to provide courses that appeal to all walks of life, turn away no one, provide the greatest benefit for the time invested, and are affordable to the vast majority of people. I want to lower the barrier to entry so that only a persons desire and commitment are left. As the sign above my office door reads: If is important you will find a way, If not you will find an excuse.

To be proficient in self defense, like all training, it must be planned and consistent. It must have a permanent place on your calendar that you work around. In other words, it must be a priority in your life. I have often compared self defense to insurance. You hope it never gets used, but when you need it, you REALLY need it. In fact, in those moments when you use your training, it is more important that food, water or even air. And you need to have it before the situation requires its use.

I've also heard prospective students say "I need to get in shape before coming." Nothing could be further from the truth. We specifically teach our instructors not to push students past their breaking point. We allow breaks as often as needed. Will you get tired? Probably, but that is because self defense is a physical activity. I have seen students come in who could not make one lap around the mat, lose 60+ pounds, become very proficient in a relatively short period of time, and they have learned a life skill in the process. Each person who makes the commitment to learn self defense is getting healthier, happier, and is more self sufficient in the protection of themselves and the ones around them. Win - win - win!

To further accelerate the health benefits, we have added extensive strength and mobility classes, offered daily at no extra charge, for those who want to really get stronger and lose weight. When a person is stronger and more agile, they can perform self defense better, so adding these courses was a natural next step. Dedicating time to make your body stronger WILL make you a better self defense practitioner. To make them available to the widest range of people, they cost nothing extra and are offered at times that do not conflict with our krav maga classes. 

There are also students who want to get stronger and lose body fat in a serious way. They want to transform their bodies. They want to take their game to the next level. To this end we have a new program called The Amazing 12. It is a 12 week, body transformation program that will push your physical fitness into an entirely new realm you never thought possible. To introduce a program like this, I searched the globe for the BEST program available. Like our Krav Maga training / affiliation with KMG and our Kettlebell instructor training with StrongFirst, I wanted our body transformation program to be WORLD CLASS. The 12 Week Physique program assembled by Paul McIlroy is nothing short of world class. In just 12 weeks you will have a level of strength and a matching body that would normally take years, if ever, to achieve. I have put myself through this program and can attest to it's phenomenal ability to deliver massive strength gains, fat loss, and overall body transformation. It is done with no supplements, no drugs, and no tricks. It is just an exceptionally well developed program of strength, cardio and diet.

As 2014 started to close, we began to think about what else we could do to further make our programs better. To this end we are going to be adding:

  • New Amazing 12 classes during the morning and noon hours
  • New Kettlebell courses during the morning and noon hours
  • New Krav Maga mini-courses for those looking to advance their krav maga training quickly
  • New monthly Women's Self Defense classes for ladies 

Our school has expanded vastly over the last few years, but we are always looking to improve our programs to appeal to everyone. If you have any questions please give us a call or stop in.

Mike

PS: please find us on Facebook here

Self-Defense For Women

One of the main reasons that I started teaching self-defense was to teach women how to defend themselves. Unfortunately, women are attacked at a very high rate, even in today's relatively safe society. Rape is all too common on college campus. In our school, I know there are a number of women who are survivors of various attacks, and many have joined to learn how to defend themselves. We have had a number of younger women, aged 12-16, come in and take classes to prepare themselves for high school and college. 

Joining a self-defense school can be intimidating for women. Overall, the population of our school is around 40% women, but it can still seem like there are quite a few more men in class than women. We go out of our way to ensure that women feel safe and secure in class, and do everything we can to encourage their participation in self-defense. Learning Krav Maga will teach situational awareness, control, decisiveness, and empower you. You will learn how to have your unconcious radar working in the background to prevent situations that otherwise could become dangerous. 

There are also a number of physical benefits to learning Krav Maga. Your stamina, strength and flexibility will improve dramatically. We incorporate Primal Move into our classes so you will learn how to move better. Your balance, coordination, and proprioception will all improve. And course you will learn how to deliver powerful punches and kicks, and defend against a huge number of attacks.

We have a monthly Women's Self Defense Workshop that costs only $15, is open to the public, and meets on Friday evenings from 6:00-7:30pm. This is a hands on workshop, and we are constantly changing the topics covered in the course. We have an online MeetUp group that we keep updated for the class here.

The calendar for 2015 looks like this:

January 23rd

February 20th

March 20th

April 24th

May 22nd

June 19th

July 24th

August 21st

Sept 18th

Oct 23rd

Please drop into one of those classes if you would like to have an introduction to Krav Maga!

Hierarchy Of Needs

Self-Defense is a bit like insurance: when you don’t need it you don’t need it all, but when you DO need it, you need it more than anything else in life.

This is an idea that I have talked about for some time, but let me explain it in more detail. The basic idea of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that more basic needs are at the bottom, while the needs higher up on my pyramid usually only happen after the lower ones have been met. Let’s look at a few of these in a small bit of detail as a refresher:

Physiological Needs

These are the physical requirements for life: Air, Water, Food, Clothing and Shelter. Basically if you don’t have these items, you may die. 

Safety Needs

There are a few buckets in this group: Personal Security, Financial Security, Health and Well Being, Safety Net against accidents or illness

Love and Belonging

These are the interactions that we all experience daily: Friendship, Family and Intimacy

Esteem

This is basically the need to feel accepted by others and yourself. At this level a persons hobbies, enjoyable work, and social groups come into play. We like to feel respected and important. We all have some need for recognition and approval that can improve our self-esteem and make us feel useful.

People come to us to learn Krav Maga (and our other programs of course) for lots of reasons. Fundamentally, we are teaching self-defense, but those lessons and the community we have created at Crucible cross all of these needs.

When you are in a serious life-threatening situation, your self-defense skills will be THE most important thing in your life. Self-Defense will be more important than esteem, love, or even your need for food, air and water. Suddenly, you will find yourself cashing in on that self-defense policy that you invested in, and it will payoff (hopefully) by allowing you to take your life or limb with you.

There is an understated aspect of learning self-defense (which we will address in a future blog in detail) that we don’t talk about nearly enough: situational awareness as it relates to non-dangerous interactions. What does that mean? The ability to break-fall if you slip. Not stepping in front of the car that drives by without noticing you. Not running into someone who walks by. Helping other people around us who don’t notice the accident they are about to have. Anyone who has studied self-defense for a decent period of time develops into a master of his or her own body, and is able to prevent a great number of potentially dangerous, or just embarrassing, situations. If prevention is the best medicine, then self-defense training is the medicine for the quirks of daily life. I have never been robbed at gunpoint and used a Krav Maga technique, but I have used break-falls more times than I can count to save my bacon.

In my mind, the first and second levels on Maslow’s hierarchy can interchange depending on the situation. Many students come to us because they intuitively know that the world has gotten more dangerous and they want to do what they can to control that. As a single data point: when I was a child (70’s and 80’s) my parents would let me walk out the door, get on my bike, and wouldn’t hear from me until the sun came down. We rode our bikes all over the city when we were only 7 or 8 years old. And I grew up in a very rough part of town! Today, even in the relatively opulent and safe city of Plano, Texas, if you lose track of your 7 year old for even a minute parents are sent into a panic! Why the change? The world has gotten more dangerous and there are a lot of weirdo’s out there.

Rather than just hoping things will work out well, many of us want to try and put as many odds in our favor as possible. Here is the thing about self-defense: you have to invest in learning it well before you ‘need’ it. Regardless if it is a simple slip on ice (which can be fatal), a violent ex-boyfriend, or a random attacker, if you haven’t properly invested the time before you need to use your skills they won’t be there for you to use. Those of us that are at relatively advanced levels and have trained for years know this. We have worked with hundreds of victims, we have seen the trauma that can result, and we know how hard it is to become proficient. We also know that the alternative to not training is to live with an unrealistic expectation that things will just workout. I sincerely hope no one ever needs to use their self-defense skills, but if the day comes when your or a loved ones’ life or well-being is on the line, I hope that you have invested your time wisely. 

Stay safe!

Restarting Your Training

Over the last 20-ish years, I have had a number of ups and downs in my training career. Some years I have trained like a beast for months on end, some year’s life gets in the way, and some years you get an injury that side lines you. I have learned a number of behaviors that have helped me stay active, regardless of what life has thrown my way, and while they may not be ‘scientific’, they have been very helpful to me. As a coach and practitioner, I have seen one very disheartening thing over and over: students who stop training when life throws them a curve ball. When the waves are calm and life is easy, they are dedicated and consistent. But when life gets hard, their training is the first thing that is eschewed. Unless someone has at least 2-3 years of consistent training, I still consider him or her to be ‘new’ and thus vulnerable to abandoning their training at some point. 

There is a point in time, somewhere around 3+ years, when training is what you do. Your life and day just aren’t the same without it. As I have said many times, the hour a day I spend training make every other day better, and no matter the state of my mind, emotions or body, I will make the effort to get my training in. In a metaphorical way, your training becomes like a rock in your otherwise tumultuous life. I remember vividly many years ago going to the gym on a particularly bad day, and realizing that the weights didn’t care one bit about my day, and that no matter what else happened that day I could come in and push myself to a positive accomplishment. 

When I see students drop out, especially those with 6+ months of training under their belt, I am most disappointed because they have not yet made this realization.  Once you have made this association, no matter where you are in life, you will return to training. In my own practice I have seen all types of obstacles appear, and having a solid method to restarting my training after taking a break has been key to being active for all these years. 

Problem 1: Work, work, work!

Working is a key part of all of our lives. Whether it is being a parent, a student in school, or having a full-time career, pretty much all of us have a daily responsibility that consumes a good part of our day. As a school owner, I realize that by spending an hour or two training with us, you are trading some of the very few free hours you have each day (something we do not take for granted!). Try as we might, ‘work’ will get in the way, sometimes for extended periods of time. A family member may get sick, you may transfer to a new job position, or you may take on a large class load that prevents you from training as often as you would like. 

Tip 1: Try to make your workout a permanent part of your schedule. This isn’t always possible, but if you determine that a specific time (for example: 7:30pm – 8:30pm M/W/F) is dedicated to training, you will be more likely to maintain it. People that try to fit fitness into their lives, rather than fitting their lives around fitness, will have a harder time maintaining their training over the longer term. You will constantly be juggling priorities, and in the end working out will often get left off because it isn’t an emergency to get done. You can always workout ‘tomorrow’. 

Tip 2: Be mindful that your workout is as important as your ‘work’. Of course work will supersede your workout from time to time. But over the long term, will you want to look back and see memories of yourself sitting in a cubicle or enjoying the activities that make you happy? Five to ten years from now, do you want to have a healthy body? After all, you have to live in it 24x7. Many of us find life long friends at the gym and we bond with those people through the various experiences we share and look back on.  Years from now I will bet you will remember those experiences with more fondness than the extra hour you spent working instead. 

I have had a very long career in technology, and there have been times when I couldn’t get to the gym for days, or even weeks. However, I have never quit. I kept my memberships active, and got right back to training when I was free enough again. Is it hard? Yes. But it was worth it.

Problem 2: Emotional stuff

This is a big, broad category of ‘life stuff’ that gets in the way. It could be as small as just not feeling up to it that day/week/month, to going through a loss like a divorce or a loved one dying. It could also be something great, like getting married or having a baby. There are almost endless things that can cause us emotional distractions, both good and bad, that can impact our working out. You might think that only ‘bad’ things draw people away, but I have found that both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things tend to pull people away. 

Tip 1: Be mindful that your workout is an anchor of neutrality. Whether your life is going really well, or really awful, your workout doesn’t care and won’t go any easier or harder on you. It can be a humbling anchor to bring you back to earth when things are going well, and it can be equally helpful to bring you back up when everything else is going bad. This is why it is so key to keep training regardless of how your life is going. Your workout will have its own unique goals that you can set, making you accountable and grounded.

Tip 2: Yes, you can use your emotions to your advantage during a workout. Having a hard day? Use it to fuel your workout. Feeling awesome that day? Be a BEAST that day? Feeling tired and useless? Go to the gym, have a mediocre workout, and you will still leave feeling better knowing that you made some progress towards your goals. 

Problem 3: Injury recovery

If you are going to use your body in any physical activity (walking, lifting, swimming, fighting, bowling, etc…) you run the risk of injuring it in some fashion. Bodies break, sometimes badly, but they will almost always recover. It may not be in the time or fashion that you want, but in general recovery happens. I have had some rather severe injuries, and whole list of minor ones. One rule I have personally lived by is: don’t train an injury, train around it, and above all don’t stop training completely. Obviously your condition may require some medical guidance from a doctor, but in general you can usually workout parts of your body that are not affected by an injury. For example, if you have a lower body injury, try doing as much as you can with your arms, shoulders and core. You may not be able to be as intense as you once could, but that is really more of a mental adjustment, not a physical one. When your body changes, it gives you the ‘opportunity’ to workout in new ways and with new goals. If you give in mentally because your old goals are no longer attainable, you will ultimately stop working out completely.

Tip 1: Keep working out, as long as it is safe to do so

Injuries WILL happen and they will set you back. They are part of the deal, so get used to it. What you need to do is keep with the schedule, and keep training to the greatest degree possible. If you need to completely stop, then do it. But there is almost always something that can be done, whether it be just stretching or extremely lightweight modifications, we can usually come up with something. 

Tip 2: Be realistic with the time it takes to get back to 100%

This is an area I have down to a science for myself. If I take a few days or a few weeks off, I have a rule of thumb: it will take 2x as long the time taken off to get back to where I was. So for example, if I take 1 week off for vacation, I should plan on 2 weeks of progressive training to get back to where I was when I left. I will proactively scale back the weight and times I was training (~25%) and then scale it back up over the next couple of weeks. That gives me a safe ramp up back to my training weight, and gives my body the time it takes to recover and prevent injuries. I see students trying to get to 100% the minute they get back, and then complain how much they hurt the next few days. (Side note: I see the same thing with new students. They feel they are way behind and want to kill their bodies on the first day to recover. I try to steer them wide and clear of that pitfall if I can).

The Big Picture

I view working out as a life long endeavor. I want to be the 80 year old guy doing pull-ups, not the one in a wheel chair. I want to continually learn new activities and learn how to be more efficient and safe while doing them. I want to push myself as far as I reasonably can go given the various restrictions in my life. Having a strategy for recovery from time off is a key part of a life long pursuit of physical activity. You will need to figure out what works for you by listening to your body. As I say at the school: what is the alternative? Not improving? Not being in shape? Sadly for many it is, but with a proper strategy it doesn’t have to be you.