by Rune Lind
In my years as an instructor in Krav Maga for military units I have been asked a few questions by commanders and leaders: Why would somebody who carries a rifle need to know how to punch and kick? Why would somebody who works in teams know how to protect himself from an attack? My counter questions are usually these: What could you do if the rifle malfunctions just as the knife-wielding terrorist is running towards you? What could Krav Maga contribute to the physical and mental development of soldiers?
Krav Maga originally comes from the military. The founder, Imi Lichtenfeld, found himself as the chief hand to hand combat instructor as the state of Israel was founded in 1948. He had spent the years before the war developing his fighting system and during WW2 he was actively fighting the Nazis and training others in the Haganah (Jewish resistance).
Krav Maga was developed in the IDF by Imi from 1948 and is still being taught to all the soldiers. It has spread to the world both in its civilian and its military version. So why would the military need KMG Krav Maga today? Isn’t everything done at long distance with rifles, rockets, tanks and planes? One would think so, but there are several reasons why hand to hand combat is a needed tool.
First let’s analyse the tools a soldier has today, he is usually equipped with a rifle and possible a secondary firearm like a pistol. Sometimes even equipped with less than lethal weapons like pepper spray, tazer, baton or rubber bullets, all according to the unit, role and position of the soldier. The more common situation however is that the soldier is just equipped with his rifle.
So if a situation would arise where a soldier has to act against an aggressor, what options does he have? Shoot or not shoot! Basically risking killing the other person, or potentially being hurt or killed himself. So what you might say, its war; its him or me. Yes true in some cases, but remember that the situations soldiers today find themselves in are often complex. It might be the guards outside a facility that are denying protesters entrance to it, or it might be the soldier searching a house of a suspected terrorist but encounters an innocent and scared family member rushing towards him. In these cases killing the other person is not an option. But the soldier without tools, and without the rifle, has few available options.
Enter hand to hand combat, where Krav Maga for military by Krav Maga Global is the leading solution. It provides a tool to manage violent encounters with less brutal force than shooting the other person. Thus making the soldier capable of solving more complex tasks. In the case with the protestors the soldier suddenly has tools to take control over the protestor, put him to the ground and put handcuffs on. The family member jumping out and grabbing for your rifle in fear might be defended without inflicting more injury than absolutely necessary.
I remember when I started my military service over 20 years ago. We were taught to shoot long distance and walk long distance. Because the threat was expected to be invading soldiers and we would be shooting each other at long distance. Today we have to know this warfare, but also solve problems in crises/peace time situation, either abroad or within our own borders. In some countries National/Home guard need to be able to solve problems that arises within the nation and deal with innocent citizens, terrorists and invading forces. All very different problems and situations we cannot always solve effectively with a rifle. Without hand to hand combat the soldier is in fact ineffective. Krav Maga (KMG) has been developed in a military force that has been using it every day for 60 years, it is a result of practice, evaluation, more practice and even more evaluation. It’s not designed by an officer behind a desk, but by soldiers like you and me. Serving actively both as part of a team and team leader of a team that is actually doing these tasks in my country, we experience what a difference the knowledge has.
For instance, KMG (Krav Maga) teaches you to use the rifle in a defensive manner against threats from a close distance. Way too often the rifle is thought of as an aggressive tool, only to shoot somebody with. Let’s look at the situation where the terrorist had a knife, what could you use the rifle for? In Krav Maga we teach you to use the rifle to block the attack and use kicks to hit the terrorist at the same time. Then to use the rifle as an impact weapon until the terrorist is down, or we have time and distance to clear the malfunction and make the weapon operational again.
Krav Maga for military and professionals integrates shooting and fighting. Often hand to hand combat instructors and shooting instructors are different people with different goals, stances and moves. In KMG we integrate them to make the soldier more complete. We do this through drills and scenarios in a safe but challenging methodology.
One thing is the actual ability to solve a problem, another very important factor for soldiers is the confidence that follows the knowledge that you can solve more complex problems. Through training different military units in my country and abroad, it is very easy to see how knowledge is confidence. The better trained soldier knows that he can handle a situation and this confidence very often makes him act more relaxed, and less likely to jump the trigger.
I know I would feel naked without the bases of hand to hand combat my unit is practicing.
When analysing the mental aspect, it’s very clear to everyone who has experienced Krav Maga fighting, that it is intense, scary and effective. The combination of the “intense and scary” exposes you to situations outside your comfort zone which is stressful. And as Ole Boe talked about in his blog, the effectiveness of Krav Maga in the same threatening situations is lowering the stress level, and giving relief. This exposure to stress and knowing the solution is building mental toughness in the soldier. It has a very strong synergy effect on building strong soldiers that can handle stress in many aspects of the job, not in just hand to hand combat situations.
For more on mental conditioning in general read Ole’s blog. Ole is one of my fellow Norwegian military officers and has done extensive research on the subject.
Strong soldiers with good physical fitness are important. A strong body can obviously perform more tasks, but is also better equipped with dealing with stress. Training with the traditional physical systems of weights and running is great, but the time could be used better. Combat Conditioning or Military Physical Preparedness (MPP) is a great way to train the body to become strong while training Krav Maga. It is two benefits in the time of one. More on how to build a strong MPP program in a later blog.
In the mean time you can read my fellow Global Team member Tommy Blom’s blog on GPP for fighting.
Building the best soldier possible means also taking into consideration what type of soldiers we are training. If you were given the task to train with special forces soldiers you are lucky. They are the best trained soldiers who are selected for their mental toughness, physical abilities and are trained in the specific tasks they need to perform. Usually the need for hand to hand combat strategies are limited. They need only a few solutions that will solve most of the cases they will encounter.
Training the national reserves are something very different. These soldiers are sometimes civilians that might only be serving a week every year, as is the situation in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and these reserves have very different tasks. Sometimes their assignments leaves them standing stationary guards for hours at a time. For most people it’s very hard to keep the mental focus up, and a surprising attack will be more difficult to defend effectively since you are not aware.
A system of hand to hand combat should cover all the needs of the different units and operations. Today many military units are making their own systems, often based on the knowledge of one officer, or sometimes even the knowledge of ring/sports competitors. MMA based solutions are popular these days, but it is often without looking at the bigger picture. Fighting MMA style is good, but we do not want to encourage going to the ground as a soldier. It is safe and even fun in the ring, but in the field a soldier, with all his equipment on, will have far less mobility on the ground with the heavy equipment and not to forget the problem of multiple opponents. In short, it is a very dangerous situation to knowingly put oneself in.
Another popular solution is to take what works for specially selected operatives and make a system that is expected to work for everyone. Ignoring the fact that what can work for a few special selectees and their mission portfolio might not work for the rest of the soldiers.
Neglecting to consider the extremely varying size, gender and athletic abilities of the soldiers, into the choice of hand to hand combat system is a very dangerous mistake.
The system of choice has to be complete and comprehensive enough for different units to pick the subjects and solutions relevant to the unit and the task they are set to perform. Military Police (MP) needs specific policiary subjects, just as military close protection need specific third party subjects. Stationary guard services, search and rescue, special forces all need specific subjects and tools suitable to their needs. The system need to be well planned, integrated and logical, not to mention it has to be built on natural reflexes to actually work under stress.
Krav Maga for military was designed within a military force that is actively using it in all units, both regular and special units. It is a military force that has both women and men serving and the system has to work for everyone. Choosing Krav Maga by KMG, as a combat system, is choosing the system that has gone through real everyday situations for decades.