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Urban Krav Maga Student Experiences: Updated Version

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An updated version of my article in Martial Arts Guardian Magazine: how I and some of our students have used the stuff to defend themselves and others, and the teaching and training lessons to be learned from these experiences:

The Nazi Baton Attack.

So a couple of months  ago I had to jump in and protect some people that were about to get whacked about a baton-wielding Nazi (maybe not a sentence you expected to hear today): a brief description of the incident and some of the lessons arising therefrom below.

We left the main body of that day’s Anti-Fascist march in Central London to meet some friends of my friends in a nearby pub. On the way we saw the aftermath of a really vicious attack on a Trade Union leader outside another pub. Just after we reached the pub where the friends were drinking, a group of men that we had seen around that attack that were screaming racist obscenities (“fucking monkey” etc) came past and identified us as people taking part in the Anti Fascist march.

An unpleasant verbal confrontation ensued, I was particularly anxious that this did not escalate into a row as the people I was with were not exactly experienced brawlers. My focus was on the mob in front of us. To my left a guy had moved towards our group, quietly, not shouting like the rest. He wrenched a banner flagpole being carried by one of the girls in our group, stepped back and started a two-handed swing aimed at that girl and her friend, also a female. Classy guy.

I was able to jump in to the guy with left foot and left knee raised, this got me very close and in between him and the girls; this defended them, and me, as I was too close for him to cause any real damage with the baton; my left arm was raised high and straight -bit like a Nazi salute ironically enough-with the bicep close to my ear to defend my head, which was good as I did come away from this with a reasonably large bruise on the elbow. On impact I wrapped my left arm around the bat, stepped away with my left leg and hit the guy’s arms with a right vertical forearm smash.

I came away with the bat, said nothing and stood there holding it. This guy and his mates just went off and the cops showed up sometime shortly after.

Now, some lessons from this:

1. If you’re on a march, don’t leave the main body of that march, safety and solidarity in numbers.

2. Be aware of tunnel vision during stressful situations and it’s damaging effects. I will be forever annoyed at myself that I let this guy sneak in so close to our group when my focus was on the mob straight ahead of us, this was partly because I thought I recognised a couple of the guys but no excuses.

3. Train for a variety of attacks from different angles and specifically how to defend other people under attack, this was not a case of a guy fronting me up and wanting to swing for my head.

4. Train specifically on how to close the gap between you and an attacker quickly: I am too old for this shit as someone once said but in a situation where I had to close a pretty big gap quickly I had sufficient plyometric power and technique left to do so. Had to sit down for a nice cup of cocoa soon after, however.

5. Always cover and defend as you move in, particularly your head if  a bat is involved.

6. Train techniques that don’t rely on extreme violence, I really did not want this situation to escalate so avoided any attacks on this guy’s face with my forehead or hands that could have precipitated more aggro.

7. Some people suggested after that I should have whacked the guy with the bat etc. Would have been a very bad idea. Apart from escalating the situation, note that the police turned up very shortly after this happened: if a guy is on the floor and you’re beating him with a stick when the Old Bill turn up, it’s very hard to persuade them that you’re being progressive.The Crack Whore Ass.

If someone grabs you from behind, even if they get a good choke on you, you can still move your feet and hips; but you have to be quick. Once the choke goes on, you drop your weight, turn your feet and hips 90 degrees, stick your butt out and shoot the leg nearer to the guy behind him to screw his balance: then get medieval on the guy, or perhaps late Renaissance. 

We use the phrase “stick your ass out like you’re a crack whore” to describe the motion. Moderately offensive but memorable, mnemonics often work better the more outrageous and silly they are. 

This helped our guy D when he was followed by a dodgy looking guy in Pittsburgh. He was a bit apprehensive but he had to get some cash out at an ATM: after he got the cash the dodgy guy grabbed his shoulders, D’s first thought was “crack whore ass,” he did the manoeuvre, got behind and got medieval. The bad guy hit the floor and was knocked unconscious. D escaped with his cash. 

So, train to condition a response and use a vivid and memorable visual image to aid the conditioning process. 

“The Aggression Just Kicked In”

P, an awkwardly tall guy with a very gentle, thoughtful nature, had been with us for a couple of months. He was confronted after class by a bunch of young guys in New Cross demanding money very aggressively, the mob leader carrying a knife. P was in no mood to take this, unleashed a guttural scream and decked the leader; he continued screaming and swinging at the others who left very quickly as did P.

P said that the classes had prepared to handle verbal aggression, and in fact it was this from the gang that triggered his effectively angry response.

So, make sure the classes incorporate plenty of verbal as well as physical aggression and that people are able to get into the zone in which they can do the violence very quickly. A good guttural scream can help and it makes you appear like a nutter, and nobody wants to fight the nutter. 

And teach people early on how to hit very hard.

Theatrical Choking.

In J’s own words. 

“A group of yobs came into the small theatre pub we run. Their behaviour made me so angry I twisted the leader’s torso the way you showed me, got behind him and choked him, after a few seconds I released him and left him gagging on the floor, I told his friends to fuck off, and they did.”

Now J is a very gentle and slight young man and this is out of character. 

So, train leveraged techniques in detail and with precision, but practice them under stress so your body can do it without the thinking, analytical part of the brain, the “you,” bit playing a part. Make it part of your lower level “unthinking” brain.

And ham up the aggression, pour discourager les autres.

Guard the Coffees

In the words of R:

“I was carrying a tray of coffees back to the Urban Krav Maga Instructor Training Seminar in Hackney. A car came speeding round the corner and nearly ran me over. I remonstrated with him, he jumped out of the car and ran at me; I didn’t want to lose the drinks so I just leaned back and rear-leg stomp kicked him. He went flying back into his car and had to be helped up by two policemen who were parked in a car just across the road on a tea break.

He picked the wrong time and place. All the coffees survived intact”

So, you can’t always use the hands, learn to kick. And learn to love the stomp kick, much greater chance of quick success than the rising groin shot. 

And don’t give unnecessary verbal. The guy in the car was a dick but this fight could have been avoided; and I would have got my coffee much quicker and warmer. 

Carry Your Own Baseball Bat.

R was on a lunch break in the St Paul’s area of London. He heard some shouting and then saw a young man running at him with a handbag he had just nicked from a Japanese tourist. As he went to run past, R sidestepped and caught him with a nice straight arm shot in the face. The thief’s head recoiled straight back, he was unconscious by the time he hit the floor and his head made a very loud noise as it hit the pavement. 

The police turned up soon, the thief was still unconscious a good 30 minutes after being hit. He recovered in hospital later. 

So, learn to love lateral movement and that the “clothes line” strike is a real friend. Also, this is powerful stuff and you don’t want to kill people: learn at least some basic first aid, recovery position etc, and get the emergency forces there as soon as possible. 

Train With Intent and Pressure

In the words of PD.

“He kept on swinging at me. I just used the wedge block cover, charged into him, grabbed his head and kneed his groin and stomach. He went down and vomited. His strikes felt like nothing compared to some of the stuff that you threw at me in training.”

So, within reason give them some grief in training so when it kicks off it seems like breeze. 

Awareness and Suspicion are Everything.

PD jumped on a tube compartment and saw a group of people being threatened by a very angry and screaming attacker. He couldn’t see what it was but the assailant had one arm behind  his back. If this is the case we tell students to assume it’s not a bouquet of flowers and act accordingly. Either get out quickly or take out quickly, don’t waste time with “show me your hands!” or the like. 

PD here went for the take out option and stomp-kicked the geezer, he hit the floor quickly as did the nastily sharpened map dividers he was carrying as a weapon. 

So, if you can’t see what he’s carrying, assume he’s carrying and act accordingly; and again learn to love the stomp kick. 

Defending Others:

A writes: 

“Used the peek-a-boo choke the other night at the camp: there was a fight amongst some. young gentleman; as one grabbed a stone ready to bash in the other guy’s head I came from behind, hooked the arm and applied the peek-a-boo choke hyper extending the arm to force the dropping of the rock… Worked nicely.”

The peek-a-boo is where you choke, say with the left arm, look over his right shoulder (hence “peek-a-boo”), place your left hand around the back of your neck, hook your right arm over his right arm, pull him back, apply the choke, grab his wrist, twist and extend the arm over your chest to make drop any weapon he’s carrying. 

So, train third-party protection whether you’re a security professional or a regular student. Make sure that some techniques under that heading can be adapted to a guy carrying a weapon. 

Don’t Let Them Get Comfortable.

B was on holiday in Spain, his story:

“we got into a verbal dispute with some local boys, it looked like turning ugly so we took off. Too late, they had people blocking our way. I was punched to the floor and the guy got in top into  mount and went to punch me. I remembered what you said about digging the elbows into the knees so he couldn’t bring them any further up and don’t let him get comfortable, so I bridged up at the same time, pushed my fists into his hips, threw him off, got up and ran. 

So, learn to grapple and learn to do for the street. Had B done the usual grappling gig of rolling over on top of the guy the latter could have thrown guard by wrapping the legs around the midriff; a bad situation with other attackers around. And never let the guy get comfortable in mount or any other grappling position: if it’s on, it’s on, and it can be damned tough to escape. 

And of course get up as soon as you can.

If They’re Big, Take Them Down.

In the words of BT:

“It’s funny I did some filming with you on the Wednesday on the double leg takedown with the head in the gut. On the Saturday I went to a party and there was a big guy there who got drunk and was being very aggressive. I didn’t want to take this guy on, drunk or not; as he started to swing I got low and went into the double leg takedown. He was much calmer for the rest of the party”

So, against bigger guys you need a few equalisers. Don’t rely on the punch in the face or the kick in the nuts, take him down; and in a way that means you don’t have to go down with him. 

The Head Follows the Nose, the Body follows the Head.

A girl started with us in December. We teach people early on how to respond to aggressive close-in threats by getting control of the head and using ashi-sabaki to drop the attacker. 

In this case the lady was confronted after a few weeks training by a drunk on New Year’s Eve: he wouldn’t stop pestering her and stuck his face right into her’s, she slapped both his ears, put her left hand round the back of his head and pulled, at the same time she used her right hand to push his nose away and stepped back quickly with the left leg turning her hips 90 degrees. He hit the floor very quickly and noisily, she took off very fast. 

So, a lot of it’s about learning how the body works, its weaknesses, and about learning how to use your feet and hips in a useful harmony. 
In many ways, the essence of the traditional martial arts. 

Be careful out there and keep training for the real.

Thanks for reading, happy new year and peace!