An article written by Gershon Ben Keren

Different situations, different solutions.

(Gershon Ben Keren – Mon 25th Sep).

One of the ways to test security protocols and systems is to run a set of simulations against them to find out and discover their weak points, and the ways in which they can be breached and compromised. Every protocol and system has gaps and vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and running simulations allows you to expose and understand them. Changing a simple variable within a combination can cause a system to fail. Self-defense techniques, methodologies and solutions are no different; change a variable, such as the way a person reacts to a strike/punch,

and you can see your solution fail and fall apart; expecting an armbar to cause a break that renders the arm inoperable, and finding that it doesn’t, can severely compromise your solution. There are no certainties in real-life encounters and to assume that there are is an extremely dangerous route to go down. Never assume that a punch is guaranteed to disrupt or damage, or a joint-lock to incapacitate an attacker; this is simplistic thinking that may seem to make sense in the training environment, but has no place outside of it.

I have written before about the importance of training a technique to failure, and understanding its inherent weaknesses, and eventual breaking points – and every technique, regardless of style and system has these. This doesn’t mean the technique is worthless. A punch can be ineffective in disrupting a highly adrenalized, pain resistant (whether due to drugs or natural attributes), and committed attacker, however it would be stupid and incorrect to say that because of this possibility, punching shouldn’t be taught. At the same time, it would be incorrect and simplistic to not recognize this possibility – and either alter a solution when this is realized, or choose a different one from the start if you believe this is/would be the case. Because situations determine solutions, you should never just have one to work to. Running a different set of simulations against a technique will determine what works when under a certain set off conditions. Every technique will work within a limited set of conditions e.g. a certain knife disarm may work if you are dealing with a single attacker, with a certain amount of room, on even terrain, etc. – change one of these components and the technique may no longer be effective.

In the world of safety-testing, simulations are extremely important. You would not want to step foot on a plane that had only been tested and flown in good weather, where all the conditions are set to allow it to fly successfully, unhindered. You want to know that it can cope with adverse conditions as well. A plane has tolerance in certain weather conditions but will fall apart in others; a technique is no different. Understanding the limitations of something is as important as being confident in its abilities, and effectiveness. We should be taking techniques and solutions and running them through different simulations and judging their effectiveness, and weaknesses, so we can understand what works when, where and why. In real-life encounters, we can’t set and/or (often) control the conditions and variables that are present and color the incident, and so we need more than one solution, to what may appear in a sterile training situation, to be the same problem. Sanitized self-defense training is a decent starting point, but continuing to train within a vacuum, where an attacker will only respond in one way, doesn’t reflect the reality of violence.

Not all solutions/techniques are equal. There are solutions that are preferred in one situation, over another. In one situation, it may be preferable to control the weapon, in another, the assailant e.g. in many active shooter incidents, the killer has multiple weapons, and controlling the evident/primary weapon may give them the opportunity to pull their second or backup weapon. When Mark Moogalian tried to wrest the rifle from the gunman during the Thaly’s Train Attack (2016), the shooter pulled a pistol and shot him through the neck. Later in the same incident when three Americans tried to subdue the shooter, they were slashed and cut, as he gave up using his rifle and pistol. There are times when it is advisable to control the attacker, rather than their weapon. Next time you run a “simulation”, change the number of weapons and see if your technique/solution breaks down and either needs to be modified, or another solution chosen. The Thaly’s Train Attack is only one of a number of active killer situations where those tackling the killer found themselves having to deal with a second weapon, after trying to control the first e.g. the Thurston School Shootings in 1998, First Baptist Church Maryville, Illinois Shooting 2009, Pacific University in Seattle Shooting, Washington 2014 etc. In your simulations, when you test your techniques, add a second active weapon – when/where I lived in Glasgow, assailants would tape a knife to each hand/wrist when they went looking for victims (something that the London Bridge terrorists did with their knives in the 2017 attack – preventing the possibility of a disarm), or would attack using a pair of cutthroat razors, etc. In these types of situations, would your current solutions be effective, or would you need to think about altering and changing your approach/methodology?

When we look/consider all the different situations we may have to face, we need to consider all variables and understand the contexts in which a solution will and won’t work – there isn’t a one size fits all approach. This is what separates and differentiates Krav Maga from many other martial arts e.g. Boxing says that the only way to deal with an attacker is through striking, Judo and Wrestling through grappling, etc. These are linear approaches to self-defense and fighting, and we should not limit ourselves when dealing with real-life violence, to one approach. I have spent many years running simulations for businesses, agencies and enterprises, testing their precautions and preventions to avoid their assets being compromised and exploited, I take the same approach to the physical self-defense I teach.