94 BLACK BELT www.blackbeltmag.com / SEPTEMBER 2009
Lessons from BY HENRY KOU
Imagine that you’re preparing for
a marathon. Every time you train,
your goal is to ready your mind
and body to cover 26.2 miles.
The day of the race comes, and
you’re feeling up to the task. You
run nearly the full distance over
several hours and endure all the
stresses and strains. You fi nally
glimpse the fi nish line and begin
squeezing the last few ounces of energy
from your muscles to make it. As soon as
you cross the line, the organizers announce
that the race isn’t over. You now have to
run all the way back to where you started.
For the average marathoner, being hit with
that kind of pressure at that moment in time
would be too much. It would be the breaking
Being able to handle that kind of pressure
can be the key to surviving a violent
attack. It requires the willpower, physical
strength and mental fortitude you cultivate
through experiences in which you’re forced
to overcome unexpected obstacles.
Don’t believe it? Consider what would
happen if, after a hard week of work, you
went out with your family to unwind. At the
end of the evening, you’re walking back
to your car when a thug jumps out of nowhere
and pulls a gun. He demands your
money and starts getting physical with you
and your wife. Deciding that things will only
get worse, you take action. In the ensuing
struggle, the gun goes off and the bullet hits
you in the leg. Is it your breaking point, or
are you tough enough to stay in the fi ght?
You’re probably thinking, Of course I’d
keep fi ghting! That’s easier said than done,
however. Unless they’ve been through
stressful situations, people tend to freeze
up. They quickly fi nd that harnessing mental
toughness is more diffi cult than they
thought. That’s why more and more people
are signing up for the Commando Krav
Maga Intensive Boot Camp, now in its fi fth
photography by Rick Hustead
ANTI-PUNCH: The adversary closes the
gap and uncorks a right haymaker, causing
Moni Aizik to raise his left arm and
cup his hand over the back of his neck as
protection (1). He immediately follows up
with a palm strike to the chin, a technique
that’s intended to injure as much as to
knock the man backward and to the
ground (2). Aizik’s next move could be to
execute a stomping kick or disengage and
SEPTEMBER 2009 / www.blackbeltmag.com BLACK BELT 95
year. Presented below are a few of the lessons
martial artists learn during the hardcore
• Because CKM was founded by Moni
Aizik, a former commando in the Israeli special
forces and a seven-time national judo
and jiu-jitsu champion, it’s based on his vast
knowledge of fi ghting and extensive experience
on the battlefi eld. In other words, it
teaches only what works in life-or-death
• To prepare a person for real self-defense,
a system must use a scientifi c approach
that incorporates what-if scenarios.
That’s why Aizik’s Boot Camp adopts a philosophy
that real attacks are never static. It
forces you to create dynamic solutions that
require you to adapt to the circumstances.
• A reality-based self-defense system
must prepare you to handle the unexpected.
Boot Camp does that by teaching you to
manage stress while you deploy techniques
that will bring immediate results in the form
of incapacitation of the enemy.
• In Boot Camp, you’re immersed in tactics,
techniques, concepts and philosophies
during 35 to 40 hours of intensive training.
It takes place over three to four days, which
gives you little time to relax. The intensity is
intentional: It fortifi es your being, both mentally
and physically, by showing you that
ANTI-GRAPPLING: The opponent is about to break Moni Aizik’s arm with a cross-body
armbar (1). Aizik attempts to lift the man’s left leg over his head to begin his escape (2).
If he’s unable to move it, he can bite his calf to distract him (3). Once he succeeds in
getting the leg off his face (4), Aizik relocates the other leg (5). As he scrambles to his
hands and knees, he fl ips the opponent onto his stomach (6). From his superior position,
Aizik attacks his groin (7) before disengaging.
you’re capable of far more than you thought.
• For maximum versatility, you focus on
concepts and principles over tactics and
techniques. That helps you think outside the
box, Aizik teaches.
• Street fi ghts are unpredictable because
you never know whom you’ll be facing,
Aizik says. There are no weight classes
or referees. Furthermore, you don’t know
when your foe will attack. You may be in the
middle of a pleasant stroll with your spouse
when you fi nd yourself looking down the
barrel of a gun. What started as a one-onone
fi ght may turn into a mass attack.
• Consequently, it’s impractical to try to
learn a technique to deal with each situation.
It’s better to master concepts that can
be used in a variety of altercations. That approach
requires less thought before you act.
• Boot Camp avoids teaching the unrealistic
choke defenses that other styles advocate.
If your defensive methods revolve
around punching your attacker or chopping
down on his arms while he chokes you, you
may be setting yourself up for failure, Aizik
says. Such moves often work only when
your partner is gentle or if he’s choking you
with straight arms.
• On the street, chokes come explosively—hard
and fast with no warning, often
with the attacker’s arms bent for maximum
power. You can be rendered unconscious
in seconds. It’s crucial to immediately establish
balance while loosening the choke
so you can breathe. After that, you must
disable your enemy. At Boot Camp, you
learn how to respond that way against an
ANTI-KNIFE: As soon as the assailant (right) makes his move, Moni Aizik positions
his body defensively and readies his arms as a barrier (1). The backhand slash is
stopped by Aizik’s block (2), after which he wraps his left arm around the knife arm
and uses his right hand to control the weapon hand (3). The Commando Krav Maga
expert executes a fi gure-4 lock on the limb (4), angling the blade so he can use it
against the attacker (5).
96 BLACK BELT www.blackbeltmag.com / SEPTEMBER 2009
The Seven-Minute Myth
Is seven minutes a short time or an arduously long time? One week ago, I would have
said that it’s not very long at all. You can soft-boil an egg or prepare a pot of coffee in about
fi ve minutes. So in the grand scheme of things, seven minutes seemed relatively quick. Or
so I thought.
Last week, I found out that even in the same day, seven minutes can be blink-your-eyes
quick or as long as a root-canal treatment. To understand what I mean, indulge me while I go
back in history a few months.
First, a little about me: I’m a 51-year-old fi nancial-services executive with a black belt in
karate and experience in kung fu and kickboxing. I try to stay in shape but still manage to
enjoy a full life with family and work.
In the early spring, I was looking for a martial arts retreat I could attend to get a workout
and learn some new skills. I did some research and came across the Web site for Commando
Krav Maga. CKM is a reality-based self-defense and survival system that was developed for
the Israeli military. The founder and chief instructor is Moni Aizik, a former Israeli soldier and
special-forces operative. He’s perhaps the scariest and toughest man I’ve ever met.
Anyway, CKM offers a weeklong boot camp for men and women who wish to learn practical
survival strategies for personal gain or so they can instruct others. I was interested in
both, so I applied. One of the prerequisites was a telephone interview with Aizik. I was a little
surprised and impressed when he called me from a training session he was conducting in
London. He grilled me on my martial arts background, teaching experience, health and lifestyle
before fi nally telling me that I could register.
A month before the course began, I sent an e-mail to Linda, the organizational wizard behind
CKM, and asked if lunch was provided. She wrote that students are encouraged to bring
“several light snacks, lots of water and several T-shirts.” There was, she said, no scheduled
lunch, just a seven-minute break once an hour throughout the day. Was she kidding? As it
turned out, she wasn’t kidding. She was exaggerating.
On the fi rst day, I met my fellow attendees, a group of guys with varied martial arts backgrounds.
We were introduced to the assistant instructors, and then Aizik arrived. After a few
minutes, they set us to work. And work we did—nonstop drilling in tactics Aizik developed to
enable us to prevail against punches, chokes, kicks, knives and guns.
After a couple of hours, it occurred to me that he’d forgotten to give us a break. Many of
the guys just brought their water bottles into the dojo. Nobody wanted to be the one to ask
him if we could stop for a moment.
The fi rst seven-minute break came after four and a half hours of training. Apparently, that
was intended to be lunch, as well. It turned out to be the only break we got the fi rst day. I went
home as stiff and sore as I’d ever been, but I was exhilarated by what I’d done.
The second day was another endurance fest. Aizik allowed us three breaks—for seven
minutes, fi ve minutes and two minutes. The day ended with some more pain, way more skill
and one less student—one of our comrades decided he couldn’t fi nish the week.
I can’t even remember the third day, although my notes tell me that we had two sevenminute
breaks. That was also the fi rst day I didn’t have to soak in Epsom salts when the fun
was done. My confi dence in the learning was growing. One of the instructors told us that
Aizik had been going lighter than usual on the fi tness training and that we could expect him
to make it up the next day. He did.
At this point, it probably makes sense to talk about the types of training involved. The fi rst
is skills training: learning defl ects, disarms, stances and takedowns and practicing them over
and over with a partner. The second is surprise attacks: You work with two or three partners
who test your skills by trying to kill you in real time. As soon as you dispatch the fi rst one, the
second is on you immediately, delivering a punch, kick, knife thrust, choke, head lock or gun
attack. The third is fi tness training: push-ups, burpees, squats, wind sprints and so on. Breakfalls
are an important part of CKM because you never know when you might be knocked
down, so attendees spend a lot of time falling.
The last day was for grading. We worked out for a couple of hours, then were invited to
have a two-minute drink break before getting called up to prove ourselves. The fi rst part of
the grading was demonstrating, with an uke, every single tactic we’d learned. Then came the
real fun—fi ghting off three attackers, nonstop, in real time, for seven minutes. Each minute
felt like three as we were repeatedly stabbed at, knocked down, held up by a gun, punched
and kicked until, mercifully, Aizik yelled, “Time!”
Here’s what I learned about seven minutes:
• Hourly seven-minute breaks don’t happen every hour.
• Seven minutes is a very short time when you’re eating, drinking or resting.
• Seven minutes is an eternity when you’re being continuously attacked and have to
Having said that, let me also say that Commando Krav Maga really works and that the fi rst
students I intend to take in as a level-two instructor will be my own family. In the meantime, I
need to start training again—the level-three course is only a year away. —M. Lyon
SEPTEMBER 2009 / www.blackbeltmag.com BLACK BELT 97
1 2 3
ANTI-GUN: The criminal approaches Moni Aizik and places the muzzle of his weapon
in the small of Aizik’s back (1). As soon as he detects the position of the gun, Aizik spins
clockwise and uses his right forearm to point the barrel away from his torso (2). Circling
his right hand up and around the gunman’s arms, Aizik traps the weapon (3). He grabs
the slide with his left hand (4), leverages the fi rearm out of his grip and fi nishes with a
palm strike to the face (5). Afterward, he steps backward in case he has to shoot.
• Some of CKM’s best choke defenses
are aggressive counterstrikes. One is called
the “wave strike”—you forcefully deliver
your palm to your opponent’s nose, then
rake downward to take out his eyes.
• Other effective counterstrikes include
groin and throat shots, grabbing the Adam’s
apple and biting. Just about any sensitive
part of the human body can be targeted.
• In some systems, the focus is on outfi
ghting your opponent by being a better
striker or a better grappler. You learn to use
your hands and feet as weapons to punish
the other guy until the referee intervenes. On
the street, that mentality can send you to the
morgue, Aizik says.
• Anything can happen in a real fi ght,
he continues. Your attacker might sense
that you’re a better striker and pull out a
gun to compensate. You might be choking
him when he grabs his knife and stabs you.
That’s why Boot Camp trains you to engage
and disengage as quickly as possible. Never
stay in the fi ght to punish your attacker.
Debilitate him with “illegal” moves such as
groins strikes, eye gouges and head twists.
• It’s a fact that most fi ghts end up on
the ground. If you’re a skilled grappler and
plan to take your attacker down, know that
it’s risky business, Aizik says. On the street,
things are too unpredictable. Imagine trying
to perform a triangle choke when your attacker’s
friends show up and begin stomping
on your head.
• At Boot Camp, you’re taken to the
ground over and over, and each time, your
mission is to infl ict damage and get to your
feet as quickly as possible. Enter the Five-
Second Rule: You must get up in less than
fi ve seconds, or you may fi nd yourself on
the receiving end of some good-natured “attacks”
from your classmates. It can be a rude
awakening from your comfort zone.
• Forget what you see in the movies.
You won’t be snatching a knife out of an attacker’s
hand and walking away unscathed.
Thinking that’s possible can cost you your
life. Expect to be cut or stabbed.
• Of course, the best tactic against a
knife is to run, Aizik says. Don’t let your ego
keep you from doing that.
• If you absolutely need to stand and
fi ght—if the attacker is between you and
the exit or if you’re with a loved one—fi nd a
weapon. It can be a stick, a chair or a belt.
Go empty-hand-against-steel only if you
have no alternative.
• Never try to block a knife while simultaneously
striking the attacker. If you’re a
woman who weighs 120 pounds and your
adversary weighs 220 pounds, your strikes
will only enrage him. Also, if he’s pumped
with adrenaline and charges at you with an
overhand stab, blocking will be impossible.
Focus on getting the knife rather than delivering
• Boot Camp also covers gun defense.
Aizik teaches that if someone threatens
you with a fi rearm, he wants something—
money, information or maybe a chance to
take you hostage. Although that’s terrifying,
it means that you have time to react. If he
wanted to kill you, he would have already.
• Gun disarms must be straightforward
and fast and work regardless of where the
gun is held. Again, the goal is not to punish
the gunman; it’s to get control of the
• For realism in drills, the attacker
should be verbally aggressive while making
his demands. You should practice being
submissive until you get your hands on the
gun. Once you have control of it, order the
attacker to get down.
• Never try a disarm when your enemy is
out of reach. Do it and you’ll get shot. If he’s
that far away, comply until you can close
the distance. Or, if the situation permits, run
away in a zigzag pattern.
• After running through hundreds of drills
for a variety of attacks, you endure a Boot
Camp pressure test. You learn that disorientation
is a component of real fi ghts, and
to beat it, you need to train accordingly. The
pressure comes from being attacked with
knives, guns, kicks, punches, chokes and
takedowns—everything you’ve learned how
to deal with so far. It pushes you beyond
your limits and tests your will to survive.
• In a recent Boot Camp, an instructor
who was in great shape lasted a full 30 seconds
before nearly collapsing.
• To up the intensity of a pressure test,
introduce objects into the training environment
to simulate debris or an uneven surface.
Make sure the objects are safe so that
if someone falls on one, he won’t be hurt.
• As Boot Camp progresses, a lack of
sleep and a nonstop regimen of training
combine to push your body beyond its limits.
The second day is often the breaking point
for the unprepared.
• By the time the course ends, you have
a newfound confi dence in yourself. It’s about
more than having learned a few tactics and
techniques. It’s about more than getting into
shape. It comes from having dug deep and
awakened your inner warrior. It’s about shattering
the limits you thought you had.
About the author:
Henry Kou is a Vaughan,
Ontario, Canada-based freelance
writer who’s trained under Moni Aizik
for fi ve years. For more information,
98 BLACK BELT www.blackbeltmag.com / SEPTEMBER 2009