Krav Maga Mindset

 When I was asked to write about the “mindset” of krav maga, the first thing that came to mind was the nature of its mindset as it pertains to its creation. Krav Maga was created for a people surrounded by people that want them, and their nation, to cease to exist. Of course this system would be more practical, efficient, and aggressive; and it is. I’ll speak a little bit more on that, but I’d also like to share some of the principles of krav maga, and how we can apply these not just in “contact combat” (what Krav Maga means), but also in life. I will also share a few very important mindset shifts my teacher taught me,  essential to self defense when dealing with the worst kinds of real world violence.

   First, on the matter of practicality and efficiency, Krav Maga is made to be simple. I believe the approach to the creation of any good tactical system, for the accomplishment of any worthy goal (and in this case specifically self defense) should be like this. To the question of how many tactics one needs, the answer is “as few as possible and as many as necessary”. The main goal of Krav Maga is to protect oneself and evade danger. The ultimate objective is to get home alive.

  Krav Maga’s origin perpetuated its purpose. In the mid-1930s, the rise of antisemitism endangered the lives of Jews in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Imi Lichtenfeld, a Hungary-born fighter, led a team of wrestlers and boxers to protect the Jews against the Nazi regime. Lichtenfeld quickly understood the difference between competition and street fighting and realized traditional fighting was not enough. Thus began the development of Krav Maga, changing what was once just martial arts––to a clinically designed self-defense method. Krav Maga went on to become the fundamental self-defense method of the IDF.1

  Mindset is essential to good krav maga and good self defense. My teacher, Eyal Yanilov, once told me that we must be able to go “from being the lamb to the lion”, as the predator already sees us as prey. Then he added “but you must also be able to go back, or else you are a psychopath”. He also taught me, in response to a question I asked about a particularly precarious gun defense situation, that it is important to realize who we are dealing with in such a scenario. For example if all the gunman wants is only our wallet, perhaps we should give him our wallet. But sometimes the imminent threat is more dangerous, and we must adjust our mindset based on the aggressors. Sometimes fighting is the best option, and others it is not. Remember, there are no medals; our only objective is to get home alive. So there are times that simply leaving the scene is the right response; and sometimes strong defense with aggressive counterattack is the right approach. Eyal said, “you must know when you are dealing with a terrorist; then any attempt to improve your situation improves your situation”. Obviously in contrast to the times when compliance may be the better choice (in case that wasn’t obvious).

We teach 5 principles of Krav Maga as pertains to the self defense piece of our curriculum at Krav Maga Martial Arts. 

  1. The first is to identify and remove the immediate threat. So, in the case of a basic choke from the front, for example, the threat is the thumbs to our trachea. The pluck defense is designed to remove that threat while applying principle two. In life too, we need to identify and remove the immediate threat. This includes the sugary, highly processed and other junk food that’s killing us, and the equally insidious junk that some allow into their mind. It includes bad habits that harm us mentally, physically and towards the accomplishment of our goals, as well as toxic relationships, negative thinking and any and all internal or external threats to our well being.
  2. The second principle is simultaneous and violent counter-attack. In the case of the front choke example, this is often a strong front kick  to the groin of the attacker. This principle is one of the things that made me fall in love with krav maga; I love the proactivity of it.

Even as it pertains to blocking and striking, the counter attacks are always simultaneous- except when they’re not. This leads us to another of the mindset principles relevant in self defense and in life mastery: the principle is the principle until another more important principle takes precedence. Gun threat is an example where the line of fire must be re-directed before the counterattack; but then, we still counterattack as soon as possible, and before even disarming the attacker. There are important reasons for all of this. Incidentally, the effective techniques for defense against stick, knife and gun attack were another reason that I started my krav maga journey after 22 years of traditional martial arts training, and also why I chose to make the system the self defense piece of the Blackbelt Leadership program at my academy.

  1. The third principle is to control the weapon. While the attacker has been weakened by a strong counterattack, it is also critical that we control his continued attack, be it with a stick, knife, gun, stone, open hand or any other weapon. It’s much like the leadership principle of seeking the root cause- it’s not enough just to solve the immediate problem, but to try to eliminate the problem that makes it happen again and again. It’s why training is so necessary. Be it in business or self defense, “it’s a good thing to get stabbed with a rubber knife all day long.” This is our way of teaching that it’s important to experience failure and feedback in a safe training environment, so that we can perform with excellence when the threat is real.
  2. Counter-attack as necessary (until the threat is sufficiently neutralized), and
  3. Disengage and assess.

These are the basic ones we teach for unarmed threats; the weapons principles are only slightly different. And of course, there are others as well.

But, if I had to choose only one thing about the training and self defense mindset of krav maga, that I love, live and develop in my students it is to survive and thrive in any situation. It is the attitude that there is always a way. It’s why we “never die in training”. This is to say that we don’t stop fighting in any situation. If we make a mistake, we “make the attacker pay for it”. It’s an attitude of “I will until”. It’s an aggressive and positive posture that expects to win. And it’s a great one to have, for self defense, business and all of the challenges of life.

Prepare To Live; Empower To Lead!

Grand Master Stephen J. Del Castillo
Founding Master Instructor, Krav Maga Martial Arts

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About Grandmaster Stephen J. Del Castillo: Grandmaster Del Castillo is the founding Master Instructor of Krav Maga Martial Arts and has been empowering lives in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties since October of 2000. He is a 7th degree Blackbelt, MBA, author, mentor and success coach, a US Army Veteran and a proud father and grandfather. He is married to Ms. Barbara Del Castillo who helps him run the school. Grand Master Del Castillo began his training in the early 80’s and has high level blackbelts in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Premier Martial Arts and Krav Maga Martial Arts as well as experience in kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and Jiujitsu. He has high level instructor certifications from BBSI, IKMF, and KMG and has been featured in numerous Martial Arts publications and also Success magazine. He was a competitive sport karate and American Kickboxing instructor until he enlisted in the US Army where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he won an Army Green to Gold scholarship and proceeded to ROTC and the University of Tampa. He was commissioned in 1992 and went on to serve in Germany with the 3rd Infantry Division and then in several other posts in the US until he left military service to pursue his dream of creating KMMA in 2000.

The Krav MagaMartial Arts Headquarters is in Lutz, FL at 1900 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., 33549. Krav Maga Martial Arts serves Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, and surrounding areas.

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