Key self-defense concept - Attack timelines

One of the most important concepts that I have learned from KMG is the timeline of attacks. What we mean by timeline is that attacks develop over a period of time, one that is unique to each attack. The point in time where the attacker has decided to move against you, and that sequence of events meets you in reality, determines your response. A response from you early in the timeline will likely not work at the end of the timeline.

Learning to recognize attacks

Why is it that we need to train for so many years if we could simply avoid be attacked in the first place? The answer is that we can only respond early if we recognize the attack, and one of the best ways to recognize the attack is to have seen it many times previously, making it very recognizable. 

I like to say that we would rather you prevent being choked than escape from a choke. However, the only way to prevent being choked is for your brain to recognize that a choke is imminent, and have the associated motor skills to respond in a beneficial way. 

Achieving mastery 

Mastery in self-defense / fighting is having your brain recognize the attack that is developing, and to begin the correct response to that attack immediately. Imagine we take a video of an attack and look at the individual frames of the video. If a few seconds of film flash by at 30 frames per second, a novice will only recognize the attack near the end of the video, after hundreds of frames have passed. Their ability to respond and the type of usable responses will be limited by that point in time.

If you were to compare that to a master, ideally they would have already recognized and simultaneously started to respond on the first frame. Your instructors / masters are not necessarily physically faster than you are. They have simply seen the attacks so many times, and performed the correct responses so many times, that they react immediately. 

Freeing your brain

If your brain is able to respond pretty much on auto-pilot to a stimulus, it allows you to start thinking at a higher level. Instead of worrying about what hand they are striking with and how to defend it, you are thinking about 1 - 2 moves ahead, learning how your opponent responds to certain stimulus, and able to deal with higher level problems. 

This is why we spend so much time focusing on the fundamentals of movement and striking. It takes literally thousands of repetitions to achieve mastery of any particular movement. Sometimes this seems boring, but the end result is that your mind is capable of doing the necessary in the moment while starting to think ahead to the next move. 

Applications beyond fighting

The timeline of an attack may extend many minutes, hours, days or longer prior to any physical contact. This could involve all kinds of stalking or other pre-attack indicators that are situationally dependent. Once we intimately know the behavior of attackers, we can learn to see indicators much earlier than most. We like to say that are "prepared, not paranoid", and this is what we mean. You become much more situationally aware of your surroundings.

One of the benefits is that other types of problems, such as dealing with potential accidents, become easier to predict and respond to. You see the warning signs of road rage much earlier and begin processing your response sooner. When someone is about to fall or cause an accident, you can see it and respond earlier. (A simple example - I once saw a waiter next to me with two plates of food on it. I knew if she removed the wrong one it would be off balance and cause the other to fall. As I thought, she grabbed the plate closest to her, causing the platter to become unbalanced and tip over. I grabbed the now-in-flight plate from the air and placed it on the table. It looked like I was fast, but really I just anticipated the accident.)

Keep training

The answer to all things is self-defense is "keep training." At some point in your training career you will start to understand that the techniques you have been working on, are now working on you. Training systems have been around for thousands of years for a reason - they work. A good training system will cross over into vast parts of your life, not just your physical safety while under attack. The key is to keep training - forever. As in most things, those that persevere achieve the greatest rewards. 

cruciblekravmaga

Kettlebells and Krav Maga - Connecting the dots

When I first opened Crucible we did not have a fitness, strength or kettlebell program. We simply had a fundamental striking class and a Krav Maga class. At the time I did not yet understand the linkage between body mechanics, learning capacity and achieving technical proficiency. I did however know that students needed to be more "mobile" and "flexible" to perform some of the Krav Maga movements.

What about yoga?

At the time the only thing that came to mind when I thought about mobility was yoga. So we implemented a yoga program at my gym in Dallas and then also the one I had in Plano. And for a time it seemed to be a good fit. However, I noticed something in my own training - I was not getting more mobile, and sometimes it even hurt. Other than to simply keep trying to perform a yoga pose, there was no instruction on how to get from point A to point B, or understanding of the underlying body mechanics that governed if it was even possible for my body to get into the positions they were asking. So I continued to look and came across Kettlebells (www.strongfirst.com). It also happened that many top Krav Maga instructors were also top Kettlebell instructors. 

The Hardstyle System

What I like about using Kettlebells is that the instructors that certify and promote their usage are well versed in proper body movement. Safety is the number one metric that is considered. But what determines if a movement is safe? This is where the real gems of the system start to shine. The biomechanics of the movements have been studied extensively. They are backed up by many smart people and have a reputation for making your movements better and stronger. I highly recommend you dive into the vast number of articles on the StrongFirst website here (www.strongfirst.com/blog). Grey Cook and the team that developed the Functional Movement Screen are big advocates of the system as well. 

The hardstyle kettlebell system that Pavel Tsatsouline pioneered is just that: a system. When I first started learning it, I realized I would never think about strength training in the same way again. Looking back at all the time I spent in the gym, I realize that I probably wasted a lot of time and effort doing things that were not very beneficial - and sometimes they may not have been safe for my body. After learning hardstyle kettlebell training, my body is more resilient, stronger, more mobile, with better range of motion and conditioning than at any other point in my life. And I did it faster. 

When I see students come into the gym for the first time, I am usually looking for two qualities: coordination and mobility. I tell students that if they are mobile and coordinated, I can teach them anything. If not, it is very hard to learn anything. Practicing yoga made me neither stronger nor more mobile. This is not a generalization about yoga, just my personal experience. However, the ability to make the vast majority of our students both more mobile and more coordinated by learning the hardstyle system is what made me a big believer. The concepts are fully scalable to nearly every person that walks in the door, and can be put to use immediately. 

Why we use kettlebells

The reason we advocate for training with kettlebells is not that they make you stronger than any other tool. You can get strong with pretty much any tool. The reason is that we can engrain proper body movement, improve coordination, and make people safely strong at any level of current physical condition. It truly is a Swiss army knife type of system that is very adaptable.

Daily application

When new students come in to learn our kettlebell program, the first thing we do is put them through a Ground Force Method based mobility warm up. This allows me to assess their movement skills and to start getting their brains re-wired immediately. With a simple crawling drill I can tell almost instantly who is moving well, and who will require some additional work. 

In our typical first day of our 3 Part Fundamentals program we cover a large amount number of strength and movement skills:

  • crawling
  • hinging
  • dead lifts
  • swings
  • hardstyle planking
  • pull-ups
  • push-ups
  • farmers walks

After just one session we can teach a substantial amount of material. 

Connecting to Krav Maga and Self-Defense

How does all of this relate to Krav Maga? As I said earlier, the two main factors I look at are mobility and coordination. 

Mobility

Mobility, as I define it, is the ability to safely and with control put your body into a position. The ironic thing about training in hardstyle kettlebells is that while we are strength training, we are going to gain mobility at the same time. Traditionally when I think of strength training, mobility is usually something you give up. But by constantly reinforcing proper body position, and doing so under load, your body adapts in a positive way. Your shoulders and back become stronger and more mobile. With more mobility comes the ability to deliver more power in your strikes.

Coordination

Coordination is one of the most under appreciated skills in self-defense. As self-defense instructors we do not understand just how much more coordinated we are than average people. Traditionally the way to get good at fighting was to just do a lot of fighting - which is still true, but there are more effective ways to improve a persons coordination which will allow them to learn other skills, like fighting, faster. 

A kettlebell swing, turkish get-up, or a snatch are wonderful movements that require a high degree of mobility and coordination. When we first start students in the kettlebell program, one of the first enlightening thoughts they have is - hey this is harder than it looks and requires a lot of coordination. Being able to disassociate your shoulders and hips, and allow your limbs to do independent activities are some of the hardest skills to learn in self-defense. Learning the hardstyle kettlebell program will allow for a much higher degree of coordinated movements which will directly translate into an accelerated learning process for Krav Maga.

Core Strength

I'm going to add a third element here, core strength. It really can't be overstated that having a strong and mobile core are absolutely critical to your training. All of your movements in self-defense are basically a transfer of power from your feet and legs, through the core, and out to the limbs. And by "core" we are not referring to just a six pack of abs - your back, spine, pelvis, and posterior chain can also be considered part of your "core". 

When we learn how to leverage our striking through the core of the body (vs just hitting with the limbs) the amount of force we can deliver or repulse goes up very dramatically. When we say "use your legs to strike" what we really mean is "use your legs to drive, transfer that power through the core, and deliver with your limbs." Learning how to store and leverage the strength of your core can increase the strength of your striking by 2x - 3x. 

Conclusions

I consider the hardstyle system of kettlebell training to be the martial arts of strength training. It is versatile, safe, and effective. It makes everything you are doing today, better. It will make you a more resilient person, allow you to transfer power more effectively, and give you the kind of body control that enables you to learn material much faster. 

turkish get up

Stalking - What to do when someone is stalking you

Unfortunately I have had numerous students who have had to deal with stalkers. Sometimes they are violent, sometimes just a nuisance, but they almost always disrupt your life in some way. Dealing with a stalker is not an easy task, and may involve more time and energy than you think it should. (As an aside, we have a great Escape and Evasion course offered - check here to see if one is on the calendar) Lets dig into some of the specifics of how to handle this.

The first thing I usually ask: is this person known to be dangerous? When presented with a stalker I want to know if I'm dealing with someone who has already been violent. If someone has been violent in the past, I 100% expect they can be again in the future. If they have not, I assume that they could be, but that we may have a little time on our hands. Based on their history we can start to build a background on what types of actions are most likely to happen in the future. Once we start painting a picture of their history, I want to know more about them and relationship they have to the victim. Everything is on the table, but a background on someone starts to fill in the missing pieces.

The next thing I want to know is the victims immediate circumstances. Where do they live? Where do they work? How much free cash do they have? Do they have safe people in their circle? Do they have a safe place to go? Are they armed? What plans have they already made? The questions about the victim tell me about their state of mind, their personal circumstance, and how much of a safety net they have to fall back on. The type and detail of the plans they have made tell me if they are taking this serious or not. 

In many cases (most actually) people do not take stalkers nearly serious enough. When someone is stalking you, and is dedicated to it, a tremendous amount of their time and resources are dedicated to the effort. It is something that is clearly important to them. If you are the subject of the stalking, you should keep that in mind before dismissing it as just someone who is seeking attention. They have already put their lives on hold to pursue you, threaten you, and interrupt your life. You should take their threats seriously.

Tips to become better prepared

Here are some good tips I've developed over the years.

Mindset

Imagine that you get a call - "You cannot go home and you need to be hard to find. NOW!" What would you do? That is the mindset you need to have when thinking about how to deal with a stalker. When you think about everything through that lens it changes everything. The comfortable life and luxuries you have now can suddenly be removed for an undetermined about of time. 

Action

Establish a plan of action.

  1. Create distance! The more dangerous and disruptive the stalker, the further you may need to go. The safest place to be is not anywhere in the vicinity of the stalker.
  2. Where would you go if you needed a safe place. A family members home may be a good short term option, but if your stalker knows your family they will look there first. Have a backup family member or friend to stay with. Alternative housing/hoteling is a good option if you can afford it.
  3. How will you survive financially? This is where a safety net comes in very handy. You may need some financial assistance in the short term. I recommend keep at least $100 on your person (more if you can swing it) for emergencies. 
  4. Document every interaction with your stalker. It can be used as evidence to support your case against them should it end up in court. 
  5. Arm yourself. You might want a taser or some other non-lethal weapon, or even a firearm. The degree to which you arm yourself will depend on the perceived level of violence and your ability to use it. 
  6. Have a bag of essentials. Sometimes referred to as a "bug out bag" or a "go bag", this is a bag of essential items that will help you survive for a short period of time should you find yourself needing to be on the move immediately. 
  7. Create a police report. The police can't help if they don't know you are in trouble. Even if you just file a police report, at least the paper trail is officially started and will be reference point should anything escalate. If you need a restraining or protective order, I suggest you file one as soon as possible. This will also let the stalker know that you are serious about stopping them and that the authorities know about them. If you are successful in getting one, and the stalker violates it, there can be very real and serious consequences. 

Be aware of your surroundings

This sounds a bit cliche, but it is all too often true. We get comfortable with who and what is around us. We fall into routines, eat at the same place, work at the same place, and generally have a very similar schedule on a daily basis. You should be very mindful as you move through life, especially when you are being stalked. I tell students to be "prepared, not paranoid." Sometimes I hear that this is a huge amount of effort for some, when in reality it's just being conscientious of the goings on around you, and especially who is doing them. Being on the lookout for suspicious people, vehicles and situations should be a common practice anyway, and is a must when you are being stalked.

Worst case scenario's

As I mentioned earlier, many people do not take their situation as seriously as they should. Just because someone is stalking you does not mean they will be taken to jail or otherwise stopped through legal instruments. When I tell people this they seem to be taken completely off guard, not understanding that even though a stalker is bothering you it may not elevate to the level of legal enforcement. Many times people can't understand why their stalker just doesn't stop stalking. 

In the worst case scenarios, stalking can lead to:

  • Being taken hostage (in various forms)
  • Being injured or killed
  • Having property damaged or destroyed 
  • Having your entire life, image, work, business, and relationships affected

In some instances I simply recommend that people relocate to another part of the country, even if temporarily. Given the seriousness of some situations, your life is more important than what you might lose by staying. I tell people that they aren't running, just starting a new chapter in their lives.

Students attending one of our Escape and Evasion courses.

Students attending one of our Escape and Evasion courses.

Promotion to KMG National Team

Just a quick note that our founder and chief instructor was recently promoted to the KMG National Team. You can find more information here:

KMG National Team Website

The KMG National Team provides training and workshops across the country and is selected by Eyal Yanilov himself. 

Ground Fighting Workshops

The first and second events were jam packed with students, and we are expecting the third event to be the same. Be sure to be there Saturday August 12th from 1 - 4pm. We have a great class of ground submissions planned, including:

  • Triangle chokes
  • Arm triangle chokes
  • Arm bars
  • Shoulder locks
  • Rear naked choke
  • Anaconda and other front arm chokes
  • Escapes from all of the above

These are courses you don't want to miss!

-MIke

Women's Self Defense

I have either been at a gym training or owned one myself going on about 25 years. Over those years I have seen a distinct lack of women training in self-defense. Usually women consist of about 10 - 20% of the schools population. I noticed this problem when I was training in BJJ/MMA and again while a newer student in Krav Maga. There were just not that many women training.

Women have some distinct problems that men usually don't face:

  • They are sexually harassed at a much higher rate
  • They are stalked at a much higher rate
  • They suffer from physical spousal abuse at a much higher rate
  • They are raped at a much higher rate
  • They are injured or killed by partners at a much higher rate
  • They may feel scared or unsafe in many places where a man feels no threat
  • They are often physically smaller and have less muscle mass than many men
  • Their nature is to be less physically violent
  • Socially they are not brought up to fight (at least not like many men are)

The reasons for women to learn self-defense are numerous. Beyond just the physical safety skills learned, there are emotional benefits and the empowerment that comes from the training. I have had so many life changing stories of women learning self-defense, even coming to just one class, that I made it my mission to make our gym as female friendly as possible. The results speak for themselves. 

  • We have conducted over 30 women's self-defense workshops in that last two years
  • 40%+ of our daily students are women
  • We have observed many classes where there are more women than men training
  • We have several advanced female students and assistant instructors
  • We recently booked an event for 100 (yes, 100!) women to attend a women's self-defense workshop
  • Our MeetUp group has 1200+ members!

How do we succeed in getting women to train? The answer is we encourage women to train and we make our school welcoming to them. We present classes in a way that allows women to participate without being intimidated or talked down to. We also have noticed that parents want their daughters to train in self-defense, so we made family memberships affordable

-Mike

How we do testing at Crucible

This question comes up a lot, so I thought a blog post about it would help. Here is my basic philosophy on our daily curriculum: teach what can be used, not for a belt. We teach our daily classes so that you can learn how to defend yourself in the shortest amount of time possible. But Krav Maga also has a ranking system, so how do we address the needs of those who want to rank? 

The answer is that we test about every 6 months, and the two weeks leading up to the test we start to focus the nightly curriculum around material found in the tests. You should notice that you probably already know 85% of it, you just didn't know you knew it. This allows us to fill in the gaps for students. We also have pre-testing workshops on the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon prior to the test day (on Sundays from 1 - 6pm). This gives us even more time to fill in the gaps and allows students to ask questions. 

While testing is not a focus of the school, it is something that I HIGHLY recommend every student do. Why? Mostly because of the opportunity to compress a lot of great knowledge in a short period of time. At the instructor level this is basically how we learn as well. We attend workshops with those that teach us (KMG Global Team) over a long weekend to get our techniques tuned up. 

It also gives students a chance to understand where there may be gaps in their knowledge, and work with instructors to fill them in as needed. We teach the courses so that students can basically come to any class and fit in perfectly. However, that means that you might have missed those nights when we covered a key part of the testing material for your rank. By attending the workshop and test, you may uncover material that you didn't know you had missed. 

If there are any questions, please just ask! 

-Mike

Discipline is greater than Motivation

I recently put a post on my Facebook page (here) that discipline is greater than motivation. To start, lets define each. Motivation is wanting to do something. Discipline is doing something even when you don't want to.

Discipline is the number one thing that will determine how successful you are at almost anything. You can have all of the physical, mental or financial gifts imaginable, but if you can't apply yourself over the long haul you will have a hard time reaching your goals.

During summer there are a huge number of distractions from vacations to just doing fun things with friends and family. We usually see a dip at the end of summer going into fall. When back to school starts to take priority, training takes a back seat and students start to drop out. In my personal experience, if a student has less than 2 years of consistent training, taking a two week break will almost always cause them to lose track of training permanently about 70% of the time. I've read that it takes 90 days to make a permanent change in your behavior, but for something that takes as much commitment as training in Krav does, I would say that is way too short of a window. 

How can you keep your training on track with so many distractions? Set your schedule and let it run on auto pilot. Schedule events around your training, not vice versa. If your training times are unmovable blocks on your calendar, you will likely stick to them over the long term.

-Mike