Latest Black Belt Article - Commando Krav Maga

Latest Black Belt Article - Commando Krav Maga


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

1 2

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

seek safety.


year. Presented below are a few of the lessons

martial artists learn during the hardcore

self-defense course.

• 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).












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

defend yourself.

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


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.

uncooperative partner.

• 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,





More magazines by this user
Similar magazines