Combatives & The Combative Mindset

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 25th Aug)

Those of you who have trained with Dave Ashworth, this time, or previously will have heard and/or me talk about and use the term “Combatives”, and I thought it would be worth writing a Blog post on exactly what “Combatives” is/are, and how the term relates to Krav Maga in general, and Krav Maga Yashir specifically.

The traditional martial arts approach to fighting and self-defense, is one that takes a long term approach to building the necessary skills and abilities needed to become a competent fighter – in many arts the techniques and the system is not really tested as to whether it adheres to reality or not e.g. many sparring styles such as sport Karate and Olympic Taekwondo have rules which are designed to promote competition and demonstrate certain abilities rather than to replicate a street fight; this is not to say that there aren’t individual practitioners who are able to take the skills they’ve learnt and apply them to real life situations, but rather that the system itself doesn’t work to promote such an end . Combatives systems on the other hand are based solely on real-life situations and look to train an individual in a very short period of time in how to successfully survive a violent confrontation.

To do this the development of physical skills takes second place to the development of a combat mindset. In fact techniques are often used as a means of developing the ability to act violently and single mindedly when a person is attacked and has to defend themselves. The accuracy and form of a specific technique is less important than the effort and degree of commitment that is used when executing it e.g. a sloppy technique delivered with maximum intent is looked on as being more effective than the perfect technique thrown with sub-maximal focus, effort, intent and concentration. To this end combatives techniques tend to be very simple and rely on large body movements that can be driven and powered emotionally rather than by any conscious thought process. Doing is everything.

If you’ve ever witnessed a street fight where one or both parties rail in on each other, “wind-milling” and swinging repetitive wild punches at each other, with full aggression, commitment and utter abandon you will get an idea of what the combative mindset entails. Whereas many martial arts may attempt to promote “calmness” under pressure, combatives training sees the practitioner adopt many mental characteristics of the successful untrained individual. The combatives mindset is in this regard a very natural mindset to adopt – it’s what we are naturally equipped with for dealing with violence and something that doesn’t require much training to enhance e.g. it is easier to cope with violence, by becoming violent than it is to adopt a calm and neutral state of mind. Staying calm in the face of extreme danger is not a natural skill for most people.

Where combatives training steps in, is that it attempts to focus this mindset and apply it to the execution of easily performed body movements – in a repetitive fashion. Any technique that is difficult to perform when under duress is dropped, any technique that comes naturally is adopted etc. The Krav Maga Yashir system, uses proven martial arts training methods to help develop the necessary skills for close combat, but recognizes that in real-life conflicts it is a combative mindset coupled with simple techniques that will ensure survival. Many other Non-Israeli Krav Maga systems simply concentrate on the fitness aspects of combat to help develop this mindset.

Tomorrow, Dave Ashworth, with teach and demonstrate proven combatives – along with the mindset – that has seen him survive and be successful in a large number of high risk and dangerous situations. Dave continues to work in some of the hostile environments on this planet, and importantly with little time of in between operations. If you have time to attend one or both of tomorrow’s seminars with him, take the time to do so. 

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Personal Responsibility, Blame & the One Stop Martial Arts Shop

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 19th Aug)

We live in a society where entitlement, rights and personal freedom trump reality. This week I conducted a series of external classes/seminars where the people attending the sessions were possibly only doing so because their organizations had deemed it necessary for them to undergo some form of personal safety and self-defense training. When you train groups, with members who haven’t voluntarily elected to be there you sometimes get a mixed response when you suggest that it is an individual’s, personal responsibility to ensure their own safety.

Whilst I will be the first to acknowledge that the blame for an assault lies squarely with the assailant I am always amazed when people use this fact to absolve themselves of the reality that they are in no way in control of their personal actions and behaviors, which could see them attracting the attention of a predatory individual. I don’t believe that a drunk woman, choosing to walk through a bad part of town late at night is “asking” to be assaulted – or would be to blame if she was – however the decision to do so has to be questioned if there were other alternatives available: regardless of her rights and freedoms to walk where she wants at any time of day. In a perfect world our society would be a safe one to live in, and we would be by default exempt from any dangers, risks or threats. However that’s simply not the world we live in and it would be irresponsible to act as if it was. I have the “right” to walk to my car without being assaulted however I still check my environment before leaving my house to make sure I can do this safely. I shouldn’t expect to be have things stolen from my car but I still lock it.

People kick back from the idea that their personal safety is their responsibility all the time. People argue with me when I say that you shouldn’t rely on third parties to come to your assistance if you are being assaulted. I would love to live in a world where other people will intervene in a violent confrontation to ensure my safety (an unknown person) but I recognize that this is an unrealistic dream to hold to; people will walk away from a fight not towards it. You might like to hope that the world is a kinder place to you than it is to me however you know in your heart of hearts that the only person you can actually rely upon to save you is you. You must be honest with yourself and admit that if you were an observer to a violent confrontation you too would look for every opportunity and excuse not to become involved; you may even stand there watching and say to yourself “isn’t anybody going to call the police?” (as if by the time the police turn up it will have changed toe outcome).The larger the group of observers to a crime the less likely someone will intervene, or call for assistance as everybody assumes somebody else will.

This is not a blame game. When you look for someone to blame the event has already passed; it’s too late. When people start arguing who is, or not to blame for an assault, the assault has already happened – this helps no one. When I teach a class or seminar, I do not assume responsibility for everyone’s personal safety, I assume they have already done this because they’re attending the class. I see my job as giving them the tools and information that will help them exercise this responsibility. As a Kid I was taught the “Green Cross Code”, a system to help me cross the road safely, I see teaching self-defense and personal safety as being no different: I teach a system that helps you identify, prevent and avoid danger, it is each individual’s responsibility to use it to help them avoid becoming the victim of a violent assault – if they are assaulted are they to blame? No, but even to start arguing this is pointless.

People will often want to believe there is nothing they can do to prevent violence. This is not the case but it is used as an argument for them not to take responsibility for their personal safety. Taking the view that everything is inevitable and there is nothing you can do, is a poor and dangerous argument and yet many people make it and take it. Why? It absolves them of having to take responsibility, to make the necessary changes in their life which would increase their personal safety. It should be called for what it is: laziness. It also reflects on their own perceptions of their self-worth. If they believe as an individual they are a valuable person they would take the necessary measures to protect themselves but instead they would rather deflect this introspection and argue the case that there is nothing they can do. These individuals often have the loudest and most persistent voice in self-defense classes and seminars. Rather than spend the time considering what they could do they’ll spend the time arguing their case that there is nothing they can do, doing a great disservice to all those people who have successfully fought off assailants.

There are no silver bullets to protect yourself from violence, and there are no secret moves or pieces of knowledge that will keep you safe however if you accept that you are worth protecting, take responsibility for this you will have already upped your survival chances.   

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Meeting Violence With Violence

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 12th Aug)

Civilized people want a civilized response to violence – a solution that avoids harming or injuring their assailant, or at the most, causes their attacker just enough pain and discomfort that it dissuades them from continuing further. Such ideas come from the media’s presentation of violence, where assailants make singular, clearly identifiable attacks, which can be dealt with in a clean and crisp manner, using definable defenses that have been created with such specific attacks in mind. In reality, violent assaults are simply that; a continuous and often repetitive use of force, with each attack merging and flowing into the next e.g. a frenzied stabbing, where a knife wielding assailant simply stabs, recoils, stabs and recoils etc. at a target’s torso, so quickly that it is impossible to distinguish each stab from the next – this is how the uneducated and emotional assailant works. There is no civilized response to this: violence must be met with greater violence. This is the combative mindset.

This is a hard concept for people to grasp. It is not simply your technical ability that ups your survival chances but the mindset that the training of techniques – properly – brings. There are many people who walk through our doors that are searching for the “secret” techniques, and whenever you hear the word secret in the martial arts/self-defense worlds you should substitute it for “shortcuts”. These are the individuals that shun the hard work and the dedication that is necessary for them to progress. When I lived in the UK I did some DVD’s for a company that marketed to these individuals. I and other instructors were told that if a 250 lb, pizza eating, couch potato would question their ability to perform a certain technique we should drop it from our list. Their best-selling DVD’s was from a pressure point expert, who would teach you how to perform “killer” techniques in 10 minutes etc. simply by grabbing hold of someone in the right spot. The individuals who bought theses DVD’s believed that should they be attacked, simply touching meridian point G14, would bring an attacker to their knees. Whether this is true or not is immaterial: that a person can get close enough to a violent attacker to apply a pressure point is a ridiculous starting point from a self-defense perspective. These techniques did not train or work with the mindset necessary to survive a violent assault – although they appeared to promote extreme violence, they didn’t connect a person emotionally to the act they were performing.

Your training of techniques should incorporate the mindset element which encourages you to not simply attack your assailant but assault them with extreme violence. Your training should bring you to a point where you are so focused on performing a technique with maximum aggression that every other thought and idea leaves your mind. You should in any aggressive situation you face first claim the moral authority to act. If you have followed a path of de-escalation and disengagement and you are facing the prospect of being involved in a physical confrontation, the legal aspects of your situation will largely have taken care of themselves (or to the point where a good lawyer will be able to present a strong case in your favor) and so the “legal” doubt about acting should have been removed from your mind. It is the legal system that exists to ensure that we all behave in a civilized fashion, once this has been put aside, by your aggressor so must you. A Fight is a time for extreme focused violence.

If you meet violence, quickly, decisively and with greater violence – after first having exhausted your other non-physical paths, or having recognized the situation cannot be rectified through de-escalation and disengagement – the incident will be over quickly and with the reduced likelihood of injury to yourself. When you train, train with the concentrated mindset of delivering extreme violence (this doesn’t mean you have to hurt or injure your partner rather that you should not simply go through the motions of a technique but also reference your emotional side in your training). 

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Some Lessons From The Terrorism Awareness Course

(Gershon Ben Keren - Tue 6th Aug)

I firmly believe that a good 85 % of all potential violent crimes can be detected and prevented if a person has good situational awareness (SA) – a further 10-12 % can be dealt with using effective de-escalation and disengagement strategies, demonstrating that physical self-defense (armed/unarmed) represents only a small, albeit a very important, piece of the total personal safety/defense package. Having just had David Ashworth conduct a TAC (Terrorism Awareness Course) at the school, I thought I’d write a blog piece, on some of the aspects of personal security that were reinforced to me by his teaching.

One of the biggest enemies to having good Situational Awareness (SA) is routine. We develop routines for two reasons: to make sure every detail in a plan gets executed, and to allow us to not have to think – routines can save us time and ensure that everything gets done. A pilot will follow a checklist to make sure that nothing gets overlooked, that’s their routine, and a person getting up in the morning, will get out of bed, brush their teeth, get dressed, make coffee, eat breakfast, leave the house, get in their car and drive to work etc. The difference between their routine and the pilot’s, is that the pilot’s routine exists to make them think, whereas the other routine consists of habits that allow a person not to think. We all have these routines.

If you take the same route to work each day, not only does this make you a “predictable” target – should someone be surveying you – but it also switches you off; it allows you to not have to think, which is why you probably do it i.e. you can tune out, listen to the radio, plan your day etc. You go the same way, so you don’t have to think about your journey, and can therefore create some mental bandwidth for yourself, so that you can think about something else. By simply altering your route, you start to think about your personal safety. If you don’t have too many options about the way you go to work, doing something as simple as turning left out of your driveway rather than right, and looping back on yourself at the next junction will be enough to at least get you thinking in the right way; if you stop to consider which way you should turn when you leave your house, you will be taking a moment to consider your personal safety.

Planning. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the course to me. When you start to plan, you start to think, and when you start to revise a plan, you really start to think. One of the examples that Dave used was of changing the tire on a car. Dave’s Dad had distilled this down into an 8 step process for his mother to follow, should she find herself in such a situation. That such a plan has been made and exists, means that the possibility of getting a flat tire is considered i.e. when you accept that the unexpected and the unlikely may occur you will find that there will be no surprise and denial when it does – the early warning signs will be picked up on and recognized.

The fact that Dave tried to distill his father’s plan down to fewer steps, demonstrates two things: 1. He wasn’t following the plan blindly but working with it, and 2. He was trying to simplify things. If you simply go through the motions of following a plan but aren’t really taking in the feedback that it gives, such as a pilot ticking off that they’ve checked the fuel without actually noting the level, or a motorist glancing in their mirror before changing lanes without really looking and considering their environment then the plan, the routine will work against you and put you in danger. Trying to simplify things means that you are not only accepting that there is feedback into a plan, but that it would be a better plan if it contains less steps to follow i.e. it will be more efficient. A streamlined plan is more effective and much more likely to keep the focus on a particular outcome, such as changing a tire. In my experience it is always better to have a greater quantity of smaller, more focused plans, than one larger more comprehensive plan that looks to cover every eventuality e.g. if your plan is designed to solve the problem of a flat tire, then there is no need for it to include checking your oil-level etc. Making a plan as lean as possible will keep you on track to achieving a particular goal. From a personal safety perspective, if your “plan” is to get you from your house to your car safely, convenient as it may be, watering the plants, taking the trash out etc. shouldn’t be included.

For many people personal safety is an afterthought. For those that say they don’t need to really consider training in self-protection and self-defense because they have good common sense, my guess would be that they’ve never really thought about issues of personal safety (they may be in denial), and I would bet my overdraft on the fact that their level of situational awareness is nil.

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