Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Retzev, OODA Loop, Curriculum and Testing


I have noticed that some individuals have landed on my blog because they were searching for information on a particular topic. I would like to address the four topics that currently seem to be searched the most.

Retzev is defined in David Kahn’s book “Krav Maga.”

Unlike other types of martial arts, krav maga emphasizes retzev, a Hebrew word that means “continuous motion.” To become a successful kravist, you must seamlessly integrate synchronized defensive and offensive techniques in an intuitive manner. It is imperative to understand the difference between retzev and merely a series of counterattacks. Whereas a series of counterattacks lacks continuity and does not flow automatically, retzev teaches you to move your body instinctively in combat motion without thinking about the next move.

In combat, each person must: Observe what is happening; Orient to the observations (interpret the sensory input); Decide what to do about it; and Act.

  • O: You see a fist suddenly growing larger. (observe)
  • O: I’m being punched! (orient)
  • D: What should I do about it? Block or duck? Duck! (decide)
  • A: Duck! (act)

The assailant is on step four when his action triggers your step one. His “act” is the first thing you “observe.”

Time is lost in the middle two steps. In the orientation step, inexperienced people try to gather too much or too little information. Hick’s Law can surface in the decide step. Hick’s Law states that the more options you have, the longer it takes to choose one.

For more information on the OODA loop, read Rory Miller’s book Meditations on Violence or see Chet Richards’ seven slide presentation.

Krav Maga Curriculum
I will only address the Krav Maga Worldwide (KMWW) curriculum because I’m only familiar with that curriculum. It can be found in the book Complete Krav Maga. In addition, you can find KMWW curriculum outlines for each belt level on the Krav Maga Dallas/Fort Worth Web site.

Belt Testing
Belt testing varies within and between the Krav Maga organizations. The common denominator seems to be the arduousness of the tests. Ask your instructor(s) the following questions:

  • How will the test be conducted?
  • What material will I be tested on?
  • How long it will take to complete the test?
  • What will you be looking for during the test?

I hope this has been helpful.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

When is Your When?

Pushing Go Button I attended the scenario-based class on Thursday and it was quite enlightening. The beginning of the class was like a TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) conditioning session. It was all part of our instructor’s diabolical plan for where he wanted us to be physically in order to produce an outcome.

The outcome showed our instructor what combatives we used at the final stage of the TUF session. For example, after being completely exhausted, I ended the session by throwing straight punches. I felt that straight punches would be my most effective combatives at that juncture as opposed to hook punches, for example. Unknowingly, each student ended the final stage of the session with what he/she believed to be his/her best strong suit under the exhaustive circumstances.

So... for the final drill... the class was broken up into groups of three. One student played the role of a victim and the other two were in the roles of predators. Each group’s scenarios played out differently based on the dynamics of the group.

What was most interesting... at least to me... were the comments during our open discussion after the drill. We were asked how we felt about the drill and if we had any issues. Several issues surfaced, but what stood out most for me was the problem of some students not being sure about when to strike.

As an observation, the instructor pointed out that he had noticed that one student allowed one of the predators to touch him at least three times. I can’t imagine me letting that happen.

For me, it’s matter of instinct. It may be rooted in what my neighborhood was like growing up. It may be a matter of déjà vu. Nonetheless, when I get that “gut feeling” and if I have no exit, I will strike first.

See Lawrence A. Kane’s Rule #1 in his Nine Rules to Live By. Also, see the OODA loop.

When I’m approached by questionable individuals, I immediately think of Geoff Thompson’s four D’s - dialogue, deception, distraction and destruction. Here’s his explanation of the four D’s from his book Dead or Alive.

Dialogue designed to disarm and distract the targeted victim is the professional attacker’s most common priming technique. His objective is to make you think about his question, so that you do not notice the weapon he is drawing or his accomplice coming round behind you.

An attacker uses deception to make himself appear harmless. Do not expect dangerous people to stand out in a crowd.

Distraction is a part of deception and usually comes through dialogue. The attacker may ask his victim a question and then initiate attack while the victim is thinking about the answer.

Destruction – Few people survive the first physical blow and most are out of the game before they even realize that they are in it.

For those of you having issues with when to push your “Go Button”, heed Rory Miller’s words from his book Meditations on Violence.

If you are ever faced with extreme violence, you will have to make the decision to act. Make it now. You must decide what is worth fighting for, never forgetting that the question involves the risk of both dying and killing. You must decide now. Taking damage in the middle of a shitstorm of fists and boots is the wrong time to agonize over the moral dimension of conflict. There are things worth fighting for. List what they are.

Lastly, a fellow Kravist at my training center suggested a book to me titled “Self Portrait of a Hero.” It’s a book of letters written by Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu to his family and friends. Lieutenant Colonel Netanyahu was killed in battle during Israel’s 1976 daring rescue hostage mission “Operation Entebbe.” In one letter, Lieutenant Colonel Netanyahu writes to his teenage brother, “Remember what I told you? He, who delivers the first blow, wins.”

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nine Rules to Live By

Lawrence A. Kane gives us nine rules to live by in his book Surviving Armed Assaults.
  1. Don’t get hit.
    The first person to be forcefully struck is at a severe disadvantage in any fight. If possible, withdraw before the first blow is thrown. Awareness, avoidance, and de-escalation are paramount. If you do have to engage an armed aggressor in combat, end the fight as quickly as possible to increase your chance of survival.
  2. Pain is your friend.
    Okay, so you’ve blown rule number one. The next most important thing to remember is if it hurts, you are still alive. There’s plenty of time to deal with pain after a battle is concluded. Never stop until you have disabled your opponent and have escaped to a safe location. Then, and only then, can you afford to worry about how much it hurts.
  3. Weapons are ubiquitous.
    Be prepared for an armed confrontation. Even if a fight initially begins with fist and feet that is no guarantee that someone will not pull a weapon at some point during the confrontation, especially if they feel they are about to lose. Be especially cautious if you face up to someone who leaves the scene then later returns.
  4. Always assume they are armed.
    Awareness is your first line of defense. Scan everyone that approaches you, especially if his or her hands are not in plain sight or you sense a potential confrontation. Unless you have personally searched an individual or he/she is fully unclothed and you can see every part of his or her anatomy, you must always assume that person has a weapon at his or her disposal. Since almost anything can be used as an improvised tool, be wary of anything within an attacker’s reach as well.
  5. Bad guys cheat to win; so should you.
    Once someone has assaulted you, never believe anything they say. A bad guy (or gal) is by definition bad. They will lie, cheat, manipulate, prevaricate, confuse, extort, bamboozle, and do anything else they can think of to trick you off guard and ultimately defeat you. There are no rules, pauses, time outs, or do-overs. Street fighting is a no-holds-barred contest for survival, a situation that must be approached seriously.
  6. Understand how weapons work.
    Just like empty-hand techniques, every weapon has strengths and weaknesses. Understand how they work and use this knowledge to your advantage. A life death struggle is hardly an environment conducive to learning. It is far better to make mistakes within the relatively friendly confines of the training hall.
  7. Expect the unexpected.
    Anyone who is attacking you has probably ambushed someone successfully before. He or she will use that experience in an attempt to inure or kill you. Actual combat almost never resembles drills in the dojo. Never underestimate an opponent.
  8. Yell for help.
    The word “help” is overused and often ignored, yet you really do need to get people’s attention if you are attacked by an armed assailant. Yelling “Fire!” is a good strategy, but screaming, something along the lines of, “Oh my god, don’t kill me with that knife” is even better in many cases. Not only may this tactic have a better chance of attracting the attention of a possible rescuer than generally yelling for help, but it also demonstrates for potential witnesses that you are, indeed, in reasonable fear for you life should you end up killing your attacker in self-defense. Attracting attention to your plight not only helps justify your actions in the eyes of the law, but it also helps eliminate the privacy that most lawbreakers desire while they commit their crimes.
  9. Check for bleeding.
    If a weapon is involved you may be seriously injured without even knowing it. As soon as a fight is concluded, check yourself over and attend to any medical needs before doing anything else. To protect yourself legally it is often a good idea to attend to your attacker’s injuries too.
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fighting Ranges

One of the classes I attended this week dealt with fighting ranges. Here’s a general category of fighting ranges:
  • Grappling range (touching)
  • Close range (arm length)
  • Short range (leg length/short weapon distance)
  • Mid range (long weapon length)
  • Long range (pole weapon length)
  • Extreme range (projectile weapon length)
We started the class with a little warm-up refresher doing Level I defenses and then Level II defenses. These Levels are your foundation in Krav Maga. Many times techniques from these Levels are used as a warm-up in our upper Level classes.

  • Our partner threw a punch (straight or hook) and we… standing in a stationary fighting stance… had to slip the punch or bob and weave under the punch.

  • With our backs up against a wall, our partner threw a punch (straight or hook) and we had to slip the punch or bob and weave under the punch and then counter with a three punch combination.

  • While we were moving around, our partner threw a punch (straight or hook) and we had to slip the punch or bob and weave under the punch and then counter with a three punch combination.

  • While our partner held a kicking shield and was beyond striking range, we moved toward our partner throwing punching and kicking combinations until we got into knee striking range of our partner. We then got into a clinch with our partner and delivered knee strikes to the kicking shield.

  • Our partner has us in a clinch and delivers a knee strike. We block the knee strike.

  • Our partner attacks with a knife at various angles. We block the attack or move out of range. We don’t counterattack or disarm. This drill is about adjusting to the range of a knife attack.

  • Our partner attacks with a stick at various angles. We block the attack or move out of range. We don’t counterattack or disarm. This drill is about adjusting to the range of a stick attack.

  • We are attacked by two attackers, one with a knife and the other with a stick. We block the attacks or move out of range. We don’t counterattack or disarm. This drill is about adjusting and then readjusting to the two different attack ranges.

  • Two students don’t have weapons. Everyone else in class has a knife or a stick. The two students are randomly attacked by everyone in the class. They block the attacks or move out of range. They don’t counterattack or disarm. This drill is about adjusting and then readjusting to the two different attack ranges.

  • The final drill was an unarmed assault. We were attacked and had to defend against the attack, however, the student playing the role of the attacker continued the attack until he felt that he was thoroughly neutralized. In other words, you might be attacked by someone under the influence of a drug like PCP. You kick the attacker precisely in the groin and he continues attacking. The attack ain’t over until the fat lady sings!
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Threat Level Color Code Conditions

Lawrence A. Kane explains the following in Surviving Armed Assaults.
Threat Level Chart Condition White (Oblivious)
In this condition, you are distracted or unaware, not only perceiving no danger in your immediate area, but also not alert for any that may be presented to you. The only acceptable spot for this condition is within the confines of your own home and then only if you are safely behind layered security appropriate for your situation.

Condition Yellow (Aware)
In this condition, you are at ease, not immediately perceiving any danger, but generally aware of your surroundings. This condition is appropriate any time you are in public.

Condition Orange (Alert)
In this condition, you have become aware of some non-specific danger (via Condition Yellow) and need to ascertain whether or not there is a legitimate threat to your safety.

Condition Red (Concerned)
This conditions means that you have every reason to believe that someone poses a clear and present danger to you or some one with you.

Condition Black (Under Attack)
In this condition, you are actively being attacked.

Although it is possible to skip nearly instantly from Condition Yellow to Condition Black, you can still more or less align the OODA loop with the various alert conditions. In Condition Yellow, you observe something amiss. In Condition Orange, you ascertain that it may be a threat, building on past experiences to orient and interpolate this new information. In Condition Red, you pre-determine a response and decide what to do. You act in Condition Black.

By pre-cycling through the OODA loop, your reaction time may be faster than that of your opponent. Without doing so, it most assuredly will not be.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Groundfighting Rules

Referee “ Krav Maga, whatever we do from an upright position, we do from a ground position, with modifications and with weight properly positioned. Just as there are no rules in an "up" fight, there are no rules in a "down" fight.” –David Kahn

We have to have some rules during our groundfighting night for safety reasons or we wouldn’t be able to make it to class on a regular basis due to injuries. So, what I’m writing about here is the mindset you have to have when you’re practicing your groundfighting. Remind yourself that you are... after all... a Krav Maga student.

I remember wrestling with my BJJ instructor one time and he was maneuvering himself into a position to apply a leg triangle choke from the mount position. I calmly and matter-of-factly said to him, “You know that I can bite your balls right now.” He shouted, “What!” I replied, “That’s Krav Maga.”

A few weeks ago, I was wrestling with a young man that had made the decision to smother me into submission. I bit him through his t-shirt on his upper abdomen. I didn’t break the skin, but I did leave teeth marks. He jumped off me like a hot popcorn kernel.

The other night, I was assisting with demonstrating how one removes his trapped leg while caught in an opponent’s half-guard. There are a few very nice finesse BJJ escapes from this position. However, during the demo, my streetfighting mind went into action and I thought, “In reality... I would ground and pound my opponent nonstop. His OODA loop would look like OO-OO-OO-OO.”

The bottom line for me is that even though I love the techniques of the grappling arts and its game of physical chess, I’m always... always thinking about the real deal while wrestling. The fact is that my opponent could have a weapon. The fact is that my opponent could have accomplices that decide to interject themselves into the fray... and they may have weapons. The fact is that... I will cheat to win.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Krav Maga Kata

After an apprentice instructor warmed us up, our instructor for this particular class began to take us through our paces.

Our first drill had us standing stationary in a fighting stance; our partner threw left jabs to vulnerable targets on our body while moving around us. Next, our partner, in a right-hand lead fighting stance, threw right jabs to vulnerable targets on our body while moving around us. As always in these drills, at some point there is a role reversal.

Next, our partner threw one straight punch at us. We had to defend and counterattack with a minimum of three combatives preferably mixing them up with upper and lower strikes.

The next drill resembled the former drill with the exception of our partner throwing a kick instead of a punch. Once again, we had to defend and counterattack with a minimum of three combatives preferably mixing them up with upper and lower strikes.

Now it’s time to mix it up a little. Our partner has the option of punching or kicking and we counterattack as mentioned previously.

Okay... now we’re in groups of three... one person takes center stage, another holds focus mitts while the other holds a tombstone pad. The person in the center punches and kicks their way toward the person holding the tombstone pad.

Once she’s in range, she delivers a knee strike to the pad. After the knee strike is delivered, the person holding the tombstone pad moves the pad into a position that enables the center person to deliver a downward hammerfist strike.

At about this time, the person holding the focus mitts slaps the center person to get her attention. The focus mitts person calls out punching combinations.

The center person responds by throwing the required punching combinations. Now the person holding the tombstone pad bumps the center person to get her attention and the cycle starts again.

Our next drill involved an attack by our partner and us defending and delivering a knee strike to the midsection causing our partner to bend over. Cupping our hands, we deliver a downward strike to the base of our partner’s skull (nose to toes) driving our partner down to the ground.

Our final drill was like a two-person kata... Krav Maga style. As our partner engaged us with combatives, he delivered a knee strike to our midsection causing us to bend over. Our partner applied a standing reverse headlock (guillotine) and we defended and counterattacked.

If a knee strike was not delivered, our partner moved around to our dead side and applied a headlock from behind (bar arm) and we defended and counterattacked. Essentially, it was as if going through the stages of a prearranged quasi-fight.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recognizing Punches

Boxer We started Monday’s 7:30pm class off by doing Bas Rutten punch combinations. We used our boxing gloves like focus mitts to practice the combinations. When we called out a number from 1 - 4, our partner threw the appropriate combination. The number 4 four-punch combination could end with a cross or an uppercut. Partners were rotated during this drill.

Once we were finished with the Bas Rutten combinations, we practiced targeting. While our partner stood stationary in a fighting stance, we threw punching combinations to available targets. We were allowed to make hard contact to the body targets.

Next, we practiced the various defenses for straight punches, hooks and uppercuts. First, we practiced all the defenses for straight punches, all the defenses for hooks and then the uppercut defenses.

Now, back to holding the gloves like focus mitts for your partner and calling out numbers for punch combinations. But this time, after a combination is thrown, you throw a punch and your partner defends appropriately.

In order to work on our recognition of the punches we did a drill with our partner standing in front of us and out of punching range. With our hands up and in a fighting stance, we watched our partner throw various punch combinations. We were looking for the “tell”, the signs of body movement by our partner that indicates a particular punch is about to be thrown.

In our final drill, we added headgear and ended the class by sparring. Essentially, the class dealt with upper body strikes, recognition of those strikes and defenses against those strikes.

I’d like to mention that any time that I am sparring; I never in my wildest dreams imagine that what is going on during my sparring is what is going to be going on during a streetfight. In a streetfight, I won’t be wearing protective gear, there won’t be an agreement with my opponent as to what is allowed or not allowed (rules) and I won’t be able to maneuver around the way I can in the pristine environment (terrain) of our training center.

I treat my sparring for what it is and that is practice for recognizing combatives, distancing, timing, targeting, absorbing punches and kicks, offensive attacks, counterattacks and defenses. That’s it, nothing more... nothing less.

“Martial arts and martial artists often try to do it all. They teach self-defense and sparring and streetfighting and fitness and personal development, as if they were the same thing. They aren’t even related.” –Rory Miller

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