ARTICLE | THE THINKER AND THE WARRIOR IN KRAV MAGA | by Orjan Pettersen
In an unpredictable world, we believe we need to be our own heroes.
That’s what we tell ourselves. We picture ourselves as the fearless, steadfast and impenetrable wall between the bad guys and those appointed to be deserving of our protection, certainly including ourselves.
That’s why we all sweat, bleed and train until soreness, aches and bruises leave an unseen diploma of achievement on our bodies like a great Hall of Fame for what we sacrifice for our family, friends and ourselves, right?
Like the mythical warrior of ancient past, many Krav Maga practitioners and martial artists ascribe a similar code of honour and ethics applied to our quest for proficiency in what we do.
Courage. Strength. Persistence. A character to train hard, fight harder and defend what is right.
Although these values are important in our training, modern and developed Krav Maga demands an additional ingredient to be relevant beyond these age-old beliefs.
To be an effective Krav Maga practitioner, you need to be a thinker as much as a warrior.
Modern Krav Maga is no longer the world of a bygone warrior where the fight was right according an ancient value code and justified by a now-obsolete legal body of law.
Today, in a complex and progressive world, the assailant is not identified by his war flag or his battle dress, opposed across a field of battle to a fight to death.
He is defined by disguise, guile and and lack of a moral code, himself protected by the same legal framework that you are subject to.
This means a modern Krav Maga practitioner need to understand and apply training beyond the simple techniques and tactics of how to fight and protect ourselves. Many questions arise from this.
How does the practitioner behave to avoid being selected as a victim?
How does he (or she) analyse the physical, emotional and human environment to avoid the confrontation before it starts or to prepare for it or even avoid it?
How does the practitioner use camouflage behaviour in body, movement and voice to rebalance the odds back to him (or her)?
How does he (or she) understand local law and apply legal parameters within the pre-, in-, and post-fight situation?
How does the practitioner know how to apply medical emergency care if injured in the violent encounter?
These questions all have a ‘thinking’ answer and not one rooted simply in Krav Maga techniques and tactics, nor a simply ‘warrior’ attitude to self defence.
This can be the difference between better and lesser effective Krav Maga schools.
The former demands the practitioner to be a ‘thinker’ as much as a ‘warrior’, the latter must now also focus beyond the simpler militaristic origin of system.
These questions must be addressed in the training of the practitioner. Equally important they need to be trained by the practitioner in their regular school sessions.
These demands mean critical components in effective Krav Maga must develop to take into account a range of supplementary topics.
Body language training to avoid being picked as a victim is important.
Situational awareness to read, plan and apply the immediate environment is key.
The use of words, voice, tone and pitch in deescalation or legally establish the defence of preemptive strikes can become critical.
Criminal psychology and how you respond to potential perpetrators, both mentally and physically, is something that can either determine whether the conflict takes place or not.
If you can camouflage fear or even the advantage your skills provides you, to spring a devastating surprise to the attacker, you may have the upper hand.
Legal awareness to enable you to defend your actions, before, during and after the incident, can make all the difference between staying safe now, but facing criminal or civil action later.
And finally, do you know what to do if you survive the initial encounter, but you’re severely injured.
A stab causing a punctured lung. A bullet resulting in a life-threatening bleed. An impact weapon breaking a major bone.
How do I apply first response trauma care until the emergency services arrive?
This type of a Krav Maga training demands a specific mind-set of the practitioner - and even more so, the instructor responsible for their training.
Starting in the Krav Maga training studio, the use of ‘thinking’ is critical to the person developing their Krav Maga skills.
This is facilitated by a constant focus by the practitioner, supported by the instructor - from the first step inside, to the slam of the closing door - on the circumstances around the scenario they are training.
What is my body language like?
What situational awareness am I applying to the surroundings?
What words do I use before, during and after the technique with the right tone, pitch and volume?
What camouflage behaviour is required by me - and why?
What words and actions are used by the assailant and how do I respond to these?
What are my legal rights and how are these changing during the scenario and how do I influence and protect myself legally as the exercise develops?
Is the speed of both execution and observation of the training such that the mind can learn or is it simply responding to amygdaloid shock and stress?
Do I need to stop and self-correct either my behaviour or physical action to re-train my mind and body to an optimal state?
Only at this point, is the ‘warrior’ state applicable.
Are my fighting skills good enough? How do I execute the best technique? What are my optimal tactical action? Is my strength of mind and physical capability to the level I want them to be?
To develop training in the ‘thinker’ side of Krav Maga, knowledge of body language, criminal psychology, human behaviour, situational awareness techniques, self defence law and medical issues are required.
This is demanding as it requires intellectual capital to continuously evolve our knowledge and teaching methodology.
Federations and associations who value Krav Maga evolutions and development, including through partnerships or knowledge-sharing with leading professionals, organisations or industry bodies, such as within criminology, psychology, legal and medical arenas are better placed to enhance their customer offering.
The ‘warrior’ is needed to keep you safe during the conflict.
The ‘thinker’ is needed to never have to call on him or her in the first place - or have to explain why he or she entered the field of war in your defence.
In the end, it boils down to this: Always train hard, but even more, train smart.