Krav Maga Self Defence Penrith
I spent a large portion of my life studying two endeavours, fighting and basketball. From being an athlete to a strength and conditioning coach and lastly to a coach in both. The similarities between the two are eye opening to say the least. The more in depth I have explored them, the more parallels I see that are not only common to these two, but sports in general. I really believe we should be implementing more sport science into martial arts/self defence training rather than tradition and chi. Initially I used basketball as a replacement for my roadwork but in hindsight it’s clear it has contributed a lot more.
First thing I learnt was …well………people. Politics aside and people being given opportunities they don't deserve, just like in martial arts everyone wanted to learn and practice the cool stuff. Fundamentals are key, boring for most, but key. Players that didn’t have a solid grasp of a basic move felt they had graduated to learning a cooler, more advanced move even though the latter was a prerequisite. Just like in martial arts people come in wanting to learn pistol disarms and knife defence when they can’t move their feet competently. Everyone wants to skip building solid fundamentals for the superficial, it’s a never ending battle. Whenever I teach a beginners course in combatives I tell them that you are right now learning the same stuff that I myself & my instructors would probably use in a fight, the only difference is we presumably do it a little faster, with a little more power and are able to apply it in more contexts under more pressure. Focussing on fundamentals, that is doing everything as efficiently and as meticulously as possible is how to become elite. At our level we saw kids who had been watching the NBA emulating what they are doing to the detriment of the team. They don’t understand that these guys are athletes of the highest order, possessing far superior athleticism which allows them to get away with being less economical and also that these players spent years toiling over basics to enable them to advance. Us mere mortals need to be as efficient as possible. Same for fighting, for a 60kg practitioner to have decent power, they must align everything perfectly. That is structure, trajectory of strike, sequence of moving parts etc like the basketball player equivalent they do not have the luxury of being able to get away with inferior biomechanics and should master these. Its crazy that people celebrate a demo of the fastest pistol disarm or another seldom used technique. Having the ability to be able to do these does NOT make you a good fighter which is the same as spinning a ball on your finger, it doesn’t happen in a game! The carry over is minimal and it belongs in the party tricks category, you’ll see it at the Harlem Globetrotters (The WWE of basketball) but not in real games.
As much as I do not like Kobe for some of his off court incidents this video illustrates his obsession with fundamentals:
In both endeavours, especially the self defence world, you need to adopt a multidirectional stance otherwise known as the athletic stance which is common to many sports. This is a stance that allows you to move 360 degrees as quickly and efficiently as possible. In both you need to be like a coiled spring ready to explode in any direction as the opposition dictates. The stance needs to be repeatable ie easy to reproduce under most conditions. That is once you finish a technique you should be in or slightly out of that original stance so if a follow up movement is required you are in a position to be able to. Basketball has a stance called the triple threat position that allows the offensive player to pass, shoot or dribble from the same starting point. Our stance needs to be the same triple threat, put us in a position to attack, defend or run. Basketball footwork has the analogy ‘big to bigger’ referring to your feet are either shoulder width apart or wider, never smaller. This is the same for fighting, those kung fu movements of crossing over the feet are counterproductive, it’s a sure fire way to make yourself vulnerable. A stance that promotes an explosive first step & sound footwork is vital.
Energy systems in use is another similarity in that you need a combination of all three. This is the battle I have had writing general strength and conditioning programs for both. It’s difficult to address all three. By that I mean it’s impossible to chase speed & endurance so a happy medium must be found dependant on what is a priority for the individual. I played a basketball grand final once where I had to guard a 6’9 140kg behemoth who it took everything I had to hold him off the ball . This was the catalyst for a number of drills to truly test the conditioning of a fighter.
The constant wrestling and pushing coupled with running wore me out pretty quickly (we lost) this is akin to going from striking to grappling etc very, very tough. You need to be well rounded and in great shape.
The ATP Phosphocreatine system includes individual movements of maximal exertion such as power strikes, bridging, takedowns etc that require all out effort, maximum intensity for 0-6 seconds. In basketball this happens with jumping, making a long pass, first step quickness etc This is the system where a street encounter is won or lost, Mick Coup says something along the lines of the person with the better first 5 seconds will generally win. This is where you need to be able to expel maximum force and output in minimal time, something I preach constantly. The Lactic Acid System 6-45 Seconds would include extended grappling or striking exchanges & in competition generally the rounds. Same with basketball running up & down the court and continued jumping or defending. Lastly the aerobic system in both due to the length of the activity. Sport fighting when you get in to multiple rounds & basketball as the game is longer than 45 seconds. Self Defence is often shorter & less time is generally needed in this system however it doesn’t hurt to have this up your sleeve. This is where many lazy practitioners justify their lack of conditioning. One of my team, a police officer negated this argument in that to make an arrest he had to run up a flight of stairs on one side of a railway platform then down the other to engage in a wrestle with the offender which lasted several minutes, he said he was already breathing heavy by the time he got there & could’ve ended it sooner had he not been fatigued.
Same may be said for self defence, imagine you are chased for a time then you have to engage, rule #1 Cardio.
Decision making is a major factor in determining whether a player is good in all sports. Tom Brady was one of the athletes who tested poorly in the draft combine for athleticism yet he is widely regarded as the GOAT in NFL. His ability to be able to make decisions in hundredths of a second whilst under pressure is extraordinary. This is one of the most neglected aspects of fighting/self defence when it comes to programming training drills. I refer to fighting as high powered chess with massive consequences. You need to think under pressure in a high stakes environment which is a tough thing to do particularly when arousal levels are high. Basketball even though the negative consequence is minimal you do have to think and process whilst under physical & mental pressure, you need to go from gross motor, strong movements to finesse(fine motor) when it comes to shooting the ball etc Combat sports exhibits the same. Self Defence may be different as we are lead to believe fine motor skills aren’t as prevalent. An area that I have been speaking about a lot lately is processing skills. That is the ability to be able to see a stimulus and work out a response and finally put it into practice often referred to as ‘reads’ in basketball. This is huge in fighting also, with split second decisions and reactions needed to be carried out swiftly, that’s a tough and often neglected skill. Most martial arts training is concerned with closed skills ie isolated movements. Rarely do we see the drills being open for the fact that success levels decrease and that’s too big of a hit to people’s ego to not have success. Both fighting and sports do not take place in a vacuum so why train it that way? Even though I’m not a great tennis player I believe that if I had to return serve off the world number 1 & he was limited to serving to my forehand side at a particular pace & depth I would see success. Let him serve the way he would in a game & I’d have no chance! A number of other sports science principles that apply to fighting that are evident in my coaching stemming from my studies in sport psychology include anxiety and arousal management through cue words and a variety of other means. Concentrating on the right aspects at the right time can be learned. More of this in a future blog!
This season when we had trials for our team we selected young men who had the ability to make decisions themselves, those who didn’t need explicit instruction, this made coaching a lot easier when instinctively they did a lot of the right things and were in snyc. That’s what I try to achieve when coaching self defence, gear peoples current skills if they are useful and accommodate for their individual differences. Some people prefer to strike, others to clinch or go to ground so rather than try and change that we steer it where it needs to go.
Being ambidextrous is advantageous in both. You are at an advantage if you are equally effective with either hand/foot. It benefits in both to be able to use the hand that the opponent dictates you use. The concept of counters is prevalent in both. It’s kind of like a chess game. You have a move to which your opponent has a response, you need to build drills and the ability to counter all the possible counters. That’s the way I approach fighting as well. If your opponent does A we do 1 if they do AA we do 2 etc There are no certainties as there are so many variables here that we cant have one solution to every problem, there needs to be room for variation.
We had one player who was exceptionally athletic but didn’t have a vast skill set. He was able to dominate smaller, less polished opposition with his physicality. As soon as he came up against someone equally as physical or super skilled he did not experience the same success. You always need a plan B. Your plan A which is generally your go to move can work a lot but it will not work all the time particularly as the level of competition or ability of your opposition increases. This is more accurate for combat sports whereas self defence is more about overwhelming your opponent with ferocity and ‘Constant Offensive Pressure’ or GLF. In a self defence altercation you do not have the luxury of going to your corner between rounds and having your fight strategy analysed. In the ring/cage you need Plan B & maybe C & D. In fighting for example your strategy needs to change based on the opponent. This was one of my biggest strengths in combat sports, I love to use my hands, if someone I fought had better hands than me I could change it up & kick or clinch, I could adapt. As a coach players need to adapt & so does your team offensive & defensive sets again all based on the opposition, not the script in your head.
There is a myth in the self defence world that being angry will make up for your lack of skills, that mindset overrides everything. Being angry may conceal fear & often pain but if you suck, you suck, its not turning you into Mike Tyson, the Hulk is not a documentary! It may assist in some aspects but not all. Same with basketball, I remember playing a grand final against a team who had a lot of support. Their cheer squad were heckling us badly & it fired me up. It put me off my game, I was better at the gross motor aspects of the game ie running, jumping, most things physical and I got worse at the fine motor movements such as shooting as well as decision making. Did it make me a better player? No, would it make me a better fighter? Probably not, it may improve a couple of attributes at the expense of others which are arguably more important.
My mantra that I said over & over was ‘game speed’ The team would use that phrase when doing impressions of me because I said it so much. Whenever we would practice the boys would slow down to ensure they got their shots in. I would stop them and say if that was a game the defence would’ve have come along & stopped that. This is identical in Self Defence/Martial Arts where people train slow & feel they are being productive. Sure you slow it down in your skill acquisition stage but that’s it. Once you have it, it has to be performed at the right speed, otherwise its just lazy & helping you achieve success in training but not in the game/real situation. This is where this whole knife defence training is divided, in one corner is the ‘technique’ guys who can get any number of things to work once the intensity is dialled back & refuse to train it at the right speed as they know their system will come unstuck. In the other corner there are very few of us, those who are interested in the truth.
Self Defence and/or fighting needs to be performed at ‘game speed’ or you are in for a rude shock. I kinda had the last laugh with my team, even though I was very disappointed, when we played a really high level team. Our field goal percentage was significantly lower, we made many more errors all caused by, you guessed it the game speed. Better opposition gave us less time to do what we wanted, less space and less room for error. Hopefully now they realised I was right all along. Training should be harder than the event, its easier to lower the intensity than raise it in your time of need.
Lastly people claim self defence hard skills to be skills that you only have to brush upon to be proficient, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You will get an understanding but just like in basketball you need to work at it to improve. The more you put in the more you get out. This is why I say over and over we must apply sporting principals to our Self Defence training where results are everything. If we are altering and researching the best means of getting a ball in a hoop then why on earth aren’t we being equally as meticulous when it comes to self preservation?