Principle 6 - Power Punching

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 30th Jul)

6. All techniques should utilize maximum body weight. This involves striking with forward movement

Our system recognizes that in the first instance it is often difficult to deliver and perform powerful strikes. To align the hips and transfer weight forward can be extremely difficult in the first moments of dealing with an assault, especially if you are not just figuratively, caught on the back foot. This is why we advocate fast strikes to the eyes, throat and groin that can be delivered using hand speed alone, that requires little or no power/force to have effect i.e. a poor eye strike will be much more effective than a poorly delivered punch. After these initial quick strikes to soft targets have been delivered the necessary power strikes, that will finish a fight, can be executed. Whilst an eye strike can disrupt an assailant and cause “psychological” confusion it is not really a finishing move. Power strikes using punches, knees and elbows etc are required to achieve this end/aim. This is not to say power strikes can’t be delivered as initial attacks or responses rather that they require a higher level of skill and technique, which can be difficult to achieve at the very first moments of an attack.

I wrote the list of principles 10 years ago and the idea of setting everything up from quick, fast non-power strikes was not an idea I’d really worked out. I’d used these strikes before in real-life encounters but had never “found” a place for them; they were things I did in specific instances, such as when dealing with multiple assailants – using a quick eye strike to disrupt one person whilst focusing my attention on another. I’d never really systemized their use. I now understand that I used eyes strikes, throat grabs and groin flicks as entry points in to other things, such as fists, elbows and knees. I now advocate their use as primary assaults to set up secondary power strikes where the opportunity to generate forward movement can be difficult; which is normally when being first attacked.

For any strike to have power there has to be forward movement, either through use of the hips that turns/shifts weight forward or by literally stepping/moving the body forward. Using the arm and shoulder alone to generate power in a punch is utilizing maybe 10-15% of the potential force that can be generated. The masters of the “linear punch” are without doubt Japanese/Okinawan Karateka. If Karate has a speciality it is the straight punch, often delivered with a step, as well as with a turn of the hips i.e. with forward movement. This is how bodyweight is added to a punch – in fact it should be this movement which starts the punch’s journey.

The problem students often have is that they overplay this body shift, especially when delivering strikes using the rear hand (for a right handed person in a left leading stance this rear hand is their right). Often when people first start to throw these strikes, they throw out their rear hand so far that their rear (right) foot lifts up from the floor and they are literally balanced on their front foot, with not only 100% of their weight on it but their rear foot somewhere of the ground. If you are working/holding pads for someone who does or is doing this you should point out the need to correct this – don’t do it on every occasion but mention it at regular intervals until the person corrects it.

Whilst the weight should shift towards the front leg when striking, the rear leg must remain on the ground – in traditional martial arts the heel never lifts; Krav Maga uses a more boxing style stance and movement, so for us the heel can lift HOWEVER weight should still remain planted in the toes. In fact the rear punch should be delivered from the toes, with the definite feel of the hip being pushed forward as the leg extends against the “pressure” of the ground. This is how you remain rooted in a strike whilst still moving the weight forward.

It is a lack of the idea of the punch being pushed that often leads to the arm being over-extended, whilst the foot comes off of the ground. If when you are working the pads and throwing your rear hand your emphasis is simply on reaching and making contact with the target you will often find yourself judging the success of your strike by the speed at which it hits the pad and not the power it generates. Although you want a quick strike you need for there to be body movement behind the punch and not for the strike to be simply pulling the body behind it. If you are going to be throwing a hard power strike you need it to be effective as a power strike and not simply as one that makes contact – this is where the fast, light strikes to vulnerable targets come in.

Next time you work the pads make sure your range is appropriate for delivering strikes that allow the body to shift its weight forward without making it lean so far forward that the rear foot leaves the floor. In fact make sure you can sense the ground beneath your foot as this will give you the feeling of being rooted and not over-committed.

The next time you train try to put these principles into action and not settle for a strike that simply makes contact.


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Being The Athlete/Person You Want To Be

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 23rd Jul)

Everybody wants to either: lose 10 lbs, put 10 lbs of muscle on, get stronger, get fitter, be faster, be better etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic Athlete or an ordinary Joe Schmo. I made my choice of who I wanted to be when I was around 8 years old and I’m still working at it – the task never stops. I don’t have any special talents and I’m not naturally or athletically gifted - something I discovered aged 19 when I realized despite my hard work and determination, I didn’t have what it took to be a professional Judoka. I also have accrued enough injuries and possible excuses to give up training many, many times over the years. I don’t write this to be congratulated or admired (people’s opinions of us don’t change who we are) but to draw attention to the spirit, enthusiasm and commitment that was shown during Saturdays training.

Saturday was tough, I know that: Gorilla Crawls on sand aren’t easy and sit-ups in the surf are hard. Training for 90 minutes without a break means your head has to be in a certain place. Everyone will have had their private thoughts e.g. “how much longer?” “I don’t think I can push out another rep.” But everyone bought into the concept and idea of keeping going, not giving up and more importantly smiling throughout the process. This is what training is about: hitting the moment when every part of the human condition, mental, physical and emotional comes together and lets you know who you are and who you can be, even if the result is no more than just a glimpse for the briefest moment – that moment should be one of complete satisfaction and that does makes you smile. When you have it, get it you don’t want the training to end.

It doesn’t happen every time you train or step out on to the mats if it did it wouldn’t mean anything. We all have the sessions when we suck (most people have seen me have my off days when lifting etc) and the ones where the end couldn’t have come quickly enough. Maybe these are the times when we question if what we’re doing makes sense or if we’ll ever “get it” or be good. The martial arts are full of the people who listen and take full notice of these doubts. They go from school to school, style to style, searching for the miracle, they stop running and lift weights, give up weights for swimming etc all in their quest for that “something” that is made/perfect for them. They never realize that you don’t make the training, the training makes you.

Saturday was a great reminder for me of this. As an asthmatic 8 year old I was gassed on the mats more times than I got to train but I made a decision to myself, that I would dig in and do my time. I knew everything physically that I tried would be hard and that I couldn’t cheat at either getting fit or being able to defend myself. But with the simple thinking of an 8 year old I knew that the training would make me.

Often we think too much. I used to see this when I was a personal trainer, teaching people how to lift weights in the gym. Lifting is dead simple. You want to get stronger, you have to lift heavier. There isn’t a simpler formula, yet just about everyone I trained wanted to cheat this. They wanted me to come up with cleverly formulated workouts, training different muscle groups one day, using complicated patterns of sets and reps and engaging in the most bizarre and esoteric training routines etc. They would read an article in “Men’s Health” and question me on it – if I told them they just needed to lift heavier weights in order to get stronger, they’d often see me as some form of lifting idiot who wasn’t privy to the secrets of the masters - f anyone wants to borrow my copy of Zatziorky’s classic text on Olympic Lifting, I have one of the few, rare copies BUT for all the words and theories it’ll still tell you to lift heavy if you want to get stronger .If my clients had approached their training with the simple thinking of an 8 year old, their training would be much more effective and productive. Apply the direct simple approach to what you do and you’ll get the results.

Children are often better at surviving wilderness disasters than their adult counterparts. In a child’s world nothing exists beyond the horizon, which means they don’t run/walk further than they can see. Adults think they know what is beyond the skyline, children don’t. If a child is hungry they stop and eat, if they’re tired they sleep. Their world is simple and their solutions are simple. They don’t look for alternatives they do what they need to do according to the situation they are in.

On Saturday, when you ran with a sandbag weighing 50 lbs or so, there were no alternatives (except for giving up), if you had to do push-ups you had to do push-ups etc. At the time you weren’t looking beyond the horizon to see where your efforts might be leading you those are the thoughts you have at the beginning and the end of the training. Everyone who steps out on to our mats to train does so having made a decision: you want to be someone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an 8 year old or a 32 year old make the decision about who you want to be. In your training be the 8 year old and accept the situation. On Saturday everybody attacked the day as a child both in the dream and the situation. Those are the sessions which are truly amazing.


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Travel Security - Airport Pickups

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 15th Jul)

On Friday, I conducted an afternoon of training for a group of executives whose role sees them travel abroad on a regular basis - to a variety of countries in both the developed and developing worlds. I am always impressed by companies and managers who see the value in equipping their staff with both self-protection and self-defense skills. It shows both a personal level of care for their employees as well as recognizing that they are also an asset and resource to the business. One of the things we discussed in the seminar was the way in which familiar business protocols can be exploited by those who plan abductions/hostage taking.

Familiarity is one of the greatest dangers to our personal safety. One of the reasons that CP/EP (Close Protection/Executive Protection) Operatives advise “at risk” people to change the routes they take to work etc. is not simply to help prevent potential aggressors and assailants from knowing their whereabouts at any given time but to also increase the awareness level(s) of the person making the journey i.e. If you always take the same route to work you will soon end up travelling 90% of it on autopilot, if you alter and change the route you will find yourself focusing much more on the journey itself.

If you travel for business, the familiar picture of a driver holding a card with your name on it at the Arrivals Gate can be a sight for sore eyes; especially if you’ve just endured a 10 hour flight. The fact that 99 times out of 100, the driver has been legitimate and has taken you to your destination does not mean that you should automatically assume that the person waiting for you this time has your best intentions at heart. Any driver, especially if they are driving a car with “Livery” plates, is themselves a target for abduction. This is a common ploy in South America, where a driver/chauffer is abducted in the airport parking lot, bundled into the trunk of his vehicle whilst a replacement driver is sent to wait at the Arrivals gate for the unsuspecting target. Although this method is more common in the developing world it works equally well in the developed.

It is however a fairly easily abduction technique to avoid as long as a modicum of time is spent up front – like most self-protection strategies…
The first thing is to make sure you don’t arrange to meet your driver at Arrivals. This has a couple of advantages; the main one being that any individual/group planning to abduct you would have to consider that your driver would be meeting you in a “specific” pre-arranged location, which isn’t the norm in these situations and if pressed your original driver would have to actively divulge the location. Both are possible but that doesn’t make them probable. A second advantage is that you can exit the Arrivals gate looking like you know where you are going and with an air of familiarity that smacks of someone who is in control of their environment – we’ve all seen the “tourist” with the fanny pack at the arrivals gate looking around for something, anything that is common and familiar…

This is one of the reasons I always advocate checking the layout of an airport before you depart/arrive (most airports have maps that are available online); being able to walk with your eye-line anywhere but the overhead signs giving directions, gives off a clear message of someone who is both familiar and at one with their environment. Watching what other people are looking at can tell you a great deal about them; when someone is looking for signs and directions their unfamiliarity is obvious. These are also the individuals who are normally happy to accept anybody’s help, handing control of their situation over to them. If you look/are lost and someone offers to help you are very likely to accept.

There is nothing wrong in asking the company who is sending the driver to provide both their name and a photograph. When you first meet them (at your pre-arranged location – away from arrivals) you will know it is them. You can also ask for them to provide you with ID. Criminals often foul up on the smallest of details and it is worth remembering this. They may send a driver who looks similar to the one you are expecting (if they are extremely organized) but forget to equip him with the appropriate ID etc. a small omission that if picked up on can thwart the whole abduction/exercise.

If in any doubt you can phone the company/agency employing the driver and ask that they send someone else or take your own transport (taxi, bus etc). If you have done your research properly and looked at the maps of the airport, you will know exactly where these depart from.

Negotiating an airport or any entrance route to a country/destination contains many risks; this was just a brief glimpse into some of the things we teach on our “Travel Security” courses. We will be looking to run more of these types of seminar, for a general audience, in the coming months.

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Training In Different Environments

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 9th Jul)

I’m going to take a break from the 10 principles of fighting to write about our experience(s) of beach training on Saturday. Firstly, I’d like to thank those who turned up to try something a little bit different from our usual training experience(s) in the studio. I think everybody started to get an idea of the benefits of training in different environments and I’d like to explain and detail some of these and why it is so important to “mix up” our training from time to time.

I’ve been involved in martial arts and self-defense virtually all my life (since age 8); and I’m still as passionate/child-like in my learning and training 22 years on. The excitement I have when I gain a new understanding about what we do, how something works or an enhanced appreciation of something I’ve done for years but only now start to see its real genius, is something that keeps me coming back to the mats, over and over again. I sometimes get this when I’m teaching, some realization of a particular point to a technique or similar that has just becomes so pivotal to everything we do that I get lost at how to communicate it fully (it then takes me the rest of the day, night etc to think about the best way to explain it). Beach training on Saturday was one of those moments.

When I saw the Human Weapon Episode on Krav Maga, one of the lines that stuck in my mind was when Dennis Hanover and the Hisardut guys, who was training on the top of Masada in the heat, was asked about him choosing such an outside location for practice said, “This is called Survival, this is not a gym, this is nature”. It is sometimes easy to forget that what we train in the gym is not actually for use in a gym. There is also something very “real” about training outdoors i.e. we are basically animals and this is our natural environment. The world we have created for ourselves, indoors, is an artificial one. I don’t believe we were designed to sit at a desk all day etc, rather that we are creatures that need to move and engage in physical activity – one of the reasons that training gives us such a buzz/high. When we couple our need to engage in physical activity whilst performing it in our natural environment it’s extremely invigorating. There was definitely something primordial about Saturday’s training!

Don’t get me wrong, training on the mats is essential. This is where we build up the necessary skills and can create a “controlled” environment however it’s great at times to take this training to an “uncontrolled” environment and try and work what we do there e.g. try generating power in a kick whilst in water and standing on sand. Will you ever have to do this in real life, probably not but if you can think about what you will be able to do on a flat surface such as concrete. If you don’t hesitate and commit to a defense, even when you realize a wave is going to put your head under water, think about the lack of hesitation you will have when doing that technique/defense in another environment. Mixing things up and training what you know in different ways is a great way to start speeding up your training curve, or certainly getting over those humps when progression has slowed down.

Being able to adapt to your surroundings is a key survival skill and at essence what we train for is survival. We will always be a mat based, studio based school; we will be bringing a car in as soon as we get the green light, so we can have a “reality based” training area but on certain occasions it’s good to get back to nature and train in our first and natural environment.


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