By Avi Moyal
The purpose of this article is to go through the factors that led Krav Maga to be the best self-defense system in the world. It is vital for us to know those factors in order to preserve it and pass it forward.
In hindsight, four major elements stands behind this achievement:
The evolutionary element
Every creature on earth, developed physical traits, which allowed him to survive in a constant dangerous changing environment. The ones that evolution gave them the right tools, Prevailed, and the ones that weren’t so lucky, (the mutation passed them) did not survive. Humans therefore, naturally carry the surviving genes, each of us born with a set of natural defensive, cognitive & reflexive traits, from the moment we emerge from our mothers' womb.
Examples for those genetic traits:
If someone walks in the street and hears tires screeching, he will turn to see the danger and will raise his hands forward in a push motion, even if it's a five tons truck forging toward him, and he has no chance of stopping it. We can see the same trait in a ball game, when the ball is in the air coming down towards us when we are not prepared to catch it, the natural reaction would be to cover our heads in a protective motion. Even if it makes no sense at all, it proves that those reflexes are deeply wired in our DNA.
Imi was the first man to recognize the existence of those patterns, that's why he loved watching kids, he saw them as a blank page written in the evolutionary language.He once told me, that this understanding flashed in his mind after one of his street fights against multiple attackers. He instinctively performed a defense he has never done before, studied or practiced on.
A baby will move its mouth toward any random touch on his face, will squeeze any finger which will touch the palm of his hand, that behavior is an expression for the need of assistance and its circumstances are clear.A grown child will react differently to the same random touch, he will pull his hand away from the touch.Obviously, the rapid changing threats our universe bring upon us, is much faster than evolution changes, but once the change occurs it stays within us for a long time.
I used to experiment with many opponents from all kinds of martial arts, watching their reactions on the mat, and trying to recognize their instinctive movements, the ones the human evolution has given them. A behavior which is sometimes, completely different to what they learned over the years. The results were always the same: the natural moves overcame the unnatural ones.
It made me see Imi's logic clearly, when he first recognized the power of instinctive natural defensive ability, and how one can enhance and use it better. Imi's ability to understand what many others failed to see, made him the great man he was, and this recognition established the fundamental ideas of Krav Maga as we know it today.
In order to recognize the evolutionary defensive element, the danger has to be receipted by one of our senses. Moreover, the danger must be immediate and unexpected.
Analyzing the human reactions worldwide, show us that all cultures and countries, has exactly the same evolutionary priorities, to firstly protect organs which maintain the promise of next generations. Woman tend to Protec their face because it’s the main organ they have to attract male company for coupling. Then there is the need of a pregnant woman to protect her stomach at all cost in order to preserve her unborn baby. Men will automatically protect their testicles in order to ensure their fertility.
The second priority for both genders will be to protect the head. Humans will protect their head even in the cost of sacrificing other major organs.
An immediate danger will always take priority over a later one, which takes over a visible danger, which takes over a contact danger. As a young instructor, I used to put my students in threatening situations even before teaching the defense technique to observe what the evolution has equipped them with, and show them how they are wired to act by instinct against that threat, and how to use this instinct in sync with the right technique.
IKMF Krav Maga has succeeded in preserving, as much as possible, the basic defensive instincts which are naturally wired in the human body, and to avoid reactions which are not natural and inconsistent with what will come naturally to us. Basically the Krav Maga logic is to sharpen and precise the human natural movements.
The experience element
Imi's life circumstances made him face complicated situations which enabled him to check the techniques in real life. Whether they were law enforcement techniques which he learned from his father, or, defensive and offensive techniques he brought from his wrestling competitions and later on in street fights against the Nazis. Later on, during his service in the "Hagana" and the IDF, he expand his technique arsenal adding stick and knife defenses that were created by the common attacks the Arabs used to carry out against the Jews, using mostly cold weapons.
The "trial & error" method generated genius techniques, and dismissed many techniques which were good in theory but failed in reality. "This technique is excellent, this one is not so good" Imi used to say, and then settle down and contemplate, trying to understand the logic behind every chosen technique.
Nowadays, I believe in one simple fact, that just like science hasn’t yet succeeded to explain everything, same goes with a technique that doesn’t always work, if it's not working it means that we haven’t managed to decipher something yet.
Over the years, IKMF Krav Maga found common elements in the most efficient techniques, which eventually became the principles of IKMF Krav Maga.
As I see it, Krav Maga is the meeting point of science and experience, but no doubt in my mind, that science has made the "longer way".
As IKMF Head instructor I make sure I maintain constant contact with leading military, police & security units in their sectors. By sharing experiences and knowledge with active units, we provide them with updates on techniques that are relevant to their field of expertise, and in return we receive the feedback and the confirmation for the knowledge we are spreading, a confirmation that our developments provided effective solutions to real time scenarios in the field.
This feedback is processed and distributed among the global instructor's team and from them to our worldwide instructors. And so, it is highly important that every head of division within the IKMF will have real field experience and that he maintains and keeps fit and updated with this experience, that makes him the best, most relevant instructor.
The "israeli culture" element
Through thousands of years Jewish people would debate the "Talmud" and argue and discuss issues from the Bible to its smallest partials, sharpening the mind in attempt to understand the "Talmud" issues hour after hour, day by day, all year long.
The debate, the argumentation and the shared thinking are the touchstones of Judaism. Being knowledgeable and educated as one can be in a specific field, is the basic cultural element in Judaism. This mentality spread throughout the years into the non-religious areas of our being. As a state and as people. Now we use it to dissect and learn issues to their core in order to master them, just like our ancestors did with the bible.
As a young secretary of the Krav Maga "Aguda" (association), I remember debates, or more accurate loud arguments :) about Techniques. it came down to the position of the pinky in a certain technique, and endless discussions about which technique is more accurate. each member shared his personal experience and tried to convince the others and influence the doctrine.
Sometimes, those professional conflicts crossed personal boundaries, but there is no doubt in my mind about their contribution to the quality of the techniques and to IKMF Krav Maga as it is today.
Imi's role as the head instructor, was to decide, to be the one to say the last word without stepping on anyone's head, without being judgmental or to choose sides. He knew how to focus on the debate itself, kipping it in the right direction. It's not an easy task, but he excelled in doing just that. Imi never said to someone "It's Wrong"! He was always sensitive when dismissing instructors' suggestions. He would say something like: "It’s a Possibility, but that other technique may work better..." and immediately explained the way he believed in.
As Israelis, we are not strangers to rude and condescending behavior on the mattress. Things like an instructor stepping on the Mat, and a snotty boy daring to tell him the technique is not good, or an instructor in training suggesting a better technique.
All those years of arguments I had with my colleagues, expanded my knowledge and deep understanding of the logic behind every simple move, and made me observant and critic. I'm in a constant attempt to check and verify, and make sure that every movement will be the best to achieve the purpose.
The openness to outer influences from other martial arts and self-defense systems, and latest trends of the physical training
Imi Assembled techniques and gathered them into a huge collection, similar to the mixed martial arts (MMA) today, but he also managed to remove ineffective, irrelevant techniques which doesn’t integrated with our essence as a self-defense system, moreover, to modify existing techniques to improve them.
The Krav Maga Military systems absorbed civilian techniques and became an eclectic efficient mixture. Phrases such as "forget everything you learned so far regarding choke defense," or "we don’t do that anymore," were routinely heard by the trainees, and up till nowadays, some organizations veterans perform a deletion and implantation of a new technique, without a problem and in a natural manner, while the younger students lose their nerve when they are told about a change in a technique.
In the past, when there was a doubt about which technique is the best, the head instructor adds both versions, which makes the doctrine inflate and grow in such way, that one can't contain and control all, not even in a full lifetime.
Katta's were implemented in lower ranks and ejected immediately once we realized the trigger to perform them, is imaginary and not external & realistic. Training with Music became a common element in all parts of the class, and disappeared, leaving its trails only in warm-up and summaries drills, after the instructors collapsed due to inability to teach a number of classes in a row.
The BJJ fashion followed by the MMA turned the ground fighting popular, IKMF succeeded to implement many techniques but was also smart enough to eject techniques which left the defender on the ground, and kept techniques which helped him get up as soon as possible. Outer influences entered the IKMF from day one until today, when instructors brought along materials and knowledge from their fields of expertise.
Imi was a boxer in his essence, and he gave high significance to hand use in the early doctrine and laid the foundations for a realistic system, Eli Avigzar brought the cavalier techniques originated in Aikido, he made the Krav Maga effective for street fights.
And what is my role? - I am the head instructor - The "Gate Keeper”. My job is to take the relevant and eject the unnecessary, and keep the tradition. One of the things I did as Head instructor is to separate the techniques to categories. After realizing that each and every fighting unit has a different goal in the end of a physical conflict, it was clear to me that we need to divide the techniques to fields of expertise:
• VIP Protection
• Law Enforcement
Note: LE Krav Maga goal is to stop the crime and arrest the criminal, while VIP Krav Maga goal is to protect and evacuates the third party.
This system helps us specialise instead of colliding.
The development of sub divisions is highly important to the growth and professionalism of IKMF. Sub divisions such as car/driving for example. We also encourage instructors to develop their own sub divisions, such as Women, kids, fighters, security, SWAT, etc.
Like other free professions in which you become a professional, and then you choose your expertise and complete your internship (doctors, lawyers, etc.) I did the same in IKMF Krav Maga, after you become a civil self defense instructor you can choose your expertise, and complete your internship, to receive a new title, such as: Lead civilian instructor, lead tactical instructor.
As the head instructor, it is my duty to keep the system open to different influences and by that, improve our techniques and drills and to regulate these four elements:
Understanding evolution and its influence on new techniques.
Keeping close contact with Field units who use Krav Maga in their daily work.
Encourage open debates, let others state their opinion, to listen and to know when to embrace and when deny new ideas.
And most importantly, to allow the surroundings to influence us without changing us, so we will always know.
to return to our essence: IKMF KRAV MAGA - THE BEST SELF-DEFENSE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD.