I’D like to believe I know how to fight. Years of exchanging throws, submissions, kicks, and punches have honed me into a competent-enough martial artist. In fact, I’ve been competitive for a number of years now, winning championships in both judo and Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ) as captain of the UP Diliman Men’s Judo Team and member of Deftac Pilipinas. I’ve also developed a fascination for mixed martial arts, and ventured into Yaw-Yan, boxing, and Muay Thai training.
But what if a fight has no rules? In martial arts (or any sport, for that matter), the rules dictate your skill set. Boxing doesn’t allow kicks or knee strikes, so if you’re a boxer, you likely won’t practice executing or blocking them. In BJJ, many techniques on the ground (like controlling the back of your opponent) get you more points than takedowns do. Hence, you’re more likely to work on your ground techniques as a practitioner.
Outside the arena and without referees, things are different. Assume a boxing stance and your attacker can choose to kick the hell out of your lead leg—or worse, take you to the ground. Take control of someone and you suddenly find yourself vulnerable to a second attacker. In a real-world fight with no rules whatsoever, some practices and techniques that are popular in competitive martial arts may not be practical.
Don’t get me wrong: I firmly believe that many of the moves used in boxing, judo, BJJ, and other fighting styles can be effective in out-of-arena confrontations (just search YouTube and you’ll be very amused). But as any martial artist would tell you, your training prepares you for certain scenarios; and if you’ve never had a gun pointed at your head, then you won’t be fully prepared to tackle that scenario.
“It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” That is what Krav Maga Philippines instructor Fred Nogales, KMG G5, says of the self-defense techniques he’s about to teach me and 30 others. We’re enrolled in his group’s first KMX Street Combat Simulation Training, a day-long seminar aimed at testing the minds and bodies of participants under realistic circumstances.
The venue looks straight out of an old FPJ movie: A dark abandoned San Juan warehouse with nails sticking out of the ground, and cement walls with holes we’ll eventually have to crawl out of. There are medics on standby, and I’m not sure whether I’m comforted by this, or if it makes me more reluctant about what’s in store.
Unlike in every other martial arts tournament I’ve ever suited up for, there are no mats on the ground, no padded headgear to minimize the impact of blows. This is street-fight territory right here. You fully expect Paquito Diaz to saunter out of the shadows, pack of greasy goons in tow. Using items in our surroundings—from spare tires to clumps of hardened cement—we participants have to learn to defend ourselves against a number of empty-hand and armed attacks...knives and guns included.
“The solution must not be more complicated than the problem,” stresses Nogales. Krav Maga prizes efficiency and resourcefulness when it comes to dealing with deadly, real-life scenarios wherein weapon-wielding attackers could gang up on you unexpectedly. If you hope to survive such an assault, simplicity is key. When there’s a gun pointed at your head, a flying armbar or a spinning backfist is probably not the brightest thing to do. The simpler your movements, the higher your chances of survival.
DO OR DIE
Ruthlessness also comes into play. Case in point: retzev. It is a continuous attack that’s applied after executing a counterattack (like deflecting a straight punch). As techniques go, it’s immensely flexible. Palm strikes? Kicks to the balls? All retzev. After applying this continuous onslaught, you’ll be able to run to safety.
Retzev is delivered with plenty of speed, but its emphasis is on power. The goal isn’t to string together pretty combos to score points; you strike to kill so you don’t end up in a body bag. The ferocious delivery of retzev counterattacks can be likened to a rabid dog fighting for the last bone in the bin. It’s aggressive and it’s desperate—par for the course when you’re fighting for your life. And this is the exact mentality behind Krav Maga training. You’re not fighting for points or for medals. You’re fighting for your life and, more importantly, the lives of your loved ones.
At one point during a knife-disarming drill, Nogales admonishes us: “After you force your attacker to drop his knife, kick it away—do not pick it up. You don’t want to give your attacker the chance to grab the knife again, especially if your kids are in the next room.”
It’s at this word—“kids”—that all of us suddenly go silent. Personally, the thought of fighting for my wife and daughter—and not just for myself—strikes a chord, and the fight becomes real. We aren’t doing these drills for fitness or self-improvement. We aren’t practicing these techniques on the off chance we might need them in the future. We are training for the fight that matters most—the fight in which our lives and the lives of our loved ones would be forfeit should we falter. With that in mind, every movement and every technique quadruples in value because these could one day save our lives.
It’s good to remember what it is, exactly, that you’re fighting for. If you ever find yourself held at knifepoint by anyone, don’t leave your fate to chance.
NO HOLDS BARRED
If your attackers won’t play nice then neither should you. Strike these vital body parts for maximum impact
Fingernails to the eyes could impair your attacker’s vision
A broken, bloody nose can impede his breathing
A punch, knee, or kick right below the sternum can knock the wind out of anybody
Hit him where it hurts and keep him from running after you
A blown kneecap makes it hard to stand, let alone walk
BACK OF THE HEAD
The crown of the forehead is hard; go for the back of the head and rock his equilibrium
DISARM THE ATTACKER
If your attacker points a handgun at you, and is within striking distance, these five steps could save your life. Krav Maga Philippines (KMP) instructor Fred Nogales, however, advises against attempting to disarm an attacker unless you’ve been trained to do so and you’re confident in your technique. Try to comply with your attacker at first, but when you feel it’s do or die, take action.
1 REDIRECT THE LINE OF FIRE
Shift the gun’s aim away from you (toward the ground, for example) while moving out of its line of fire.
2 CONTROL THE WEAPON
Firmly grab the gun and control it to keep your attacker from pointing it at you again.
3 COUNTER ATTACK
Deliver a strike using your free hand, leg, and knee to set up your next move
Grab the bottom of the gun’s handle with your free hand and, with the weapon still pointed to the ground or at your attacker, take it from him. Easier said than done, but with regular training and professional supervision at KMP, you’ll get it.
5 RETREAT TO SAFETY
After disarming your attacker, immediately retreat to safety; you don’t have to restrain him. “For civilians, the end goal should be to run away. For law enforcement, it’s to restrain. For military, it’s to restrain or kill,” says KMP instructor Lean Villanueva. Just be sure not to run away with the gun in your hand, or else police might end up shooting you instead of your attacker.
AN INNATE LIFE-SAVER
When faced with life or death situations, we’re left with two options: Fight or flight. In other words, we can opt to directly counter the situation or flee from it. In either case, we’re able to do so with uncharacteristic speed and strength due to an evolutionary adaptation known as adrenaline. “Adrenaline triggers a fight-or-flight response, especially in emergency situations,” says Chris Velasquez, P.T.R.P., of the Philippine Orthopedic Institute. When adrenaline kicks in, muscles contract, blood vessels dilate and contract, and heart rate and respiratory rate increase, which can boost physical performance for short bursts of time. “This will enable you to respond to emergency situations such as attacks,” says Velasquez.