Monday, December 30, 2013

Self Defense Training: Identifying and Extending Your Limitations

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.
Albert Einstein
Once we accept our limits we go beyond them.  Albert Einstein

Self Defense training will highlight your abilities and limitations- physically, mentally, and emotionally. You will feel inspired as you learn life saving skills but frustrated when you struggle with certain techniques and exercises. Through these experiences you become more capable of protecting yourself. 

Here are some general examples of how Krav Maga training highlights your abilities and limitations.

Fitness. Training will improve your cardiovascular conditioning, strength, and flexibility. If you stay away from donuts and beer (or in moderation) you will also lose body fat.  In the process of training you will also meet your limits.  Even the fittest struggle through  Burpee jumps, chin-ups etc... 

Confidence.  Learning techniques is certainly confidence building. There will be times, however, when you struggle with a technique/exercise, or your test results are not what you hoped for. Unsettling?  Yes.  All students (and yes, instructors) will experience an ebb and flow in confidence.  It is part of your growth.

Comprehension. Krav Maga is a relatively simple self defense system but some techniques involve more detail.  When you have those epiphanies or “a-ha moments” it is encouraging.  There are times, however, when you will hit a mental roadblock.  For the longest time I couldn’t wrap my head around wrist releases.  Practice, practice, and ask questions. 

Decision-making:  Besides the challenge of learning specific techniques you learn when and how to use them.  Through various exercises you make better decisions in a shorter time.  Multiple attacker scenarios, for instance,  require quick and concise decisions and we all make mistakes.  The key is to practice and to minimize these mistakes as every correct decision can save your life. 

Focus on yourself.  There is always someone who is stronger, faster, younger, bigger, more experienced etc....  Focus on your abilities and limitations.  You will get frustrated but with consistent effort and informed guidance you will improve, enjoy your training, and learn life saving skills. 

Be safe, 

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Self Defense and Subways

Subways are public places but assaults still occur as people travel to work, home etc...  Some examples:
  • In April 2013, as a subway approached Davisville station a man was stabbed in the throat. 
  • April 2010, 2 men held down and mugged a 79 year old man on the subway near Chester station.  There were 20 to 30 passengers on the subway.  No one helped.
Surviving a subway assault requires you to be aware and to understand the particular challenges of this environment.

Here are some points to consider.
  1. Public place = safe place?  Sadly, no. Subways are a public place but as the above examples remind us, assaults still occur.  Be aware of who is on the subway and be mindful of their verbal and body language.  
  2. Confined space.  A subway is a confined space meaning escape options are severely limited.  Accordingly, you might be forced to stay and fight. 
  3. Limited space. Subway aisles don't offer a lot of room to move. This is exacerbated during busy travel times.  Flying spin kicks will have to be rejected in favour of short range striking tools (knees, elbows, etc..),, and grappling.  You must also be aware of obstacles such as seats, poles, suitcases, walls... 
  4. Getting Help.  Be aware of the presence of security personnel so you can ask for their help.  Subways also have emergency notification systems.  Be aware of where they are and how to use them.  Don't assume bystanders will intervene.  
  5. Defending From a Sitting Position.  There is good chance you will be sitting when an assault takes place putting you at a disadvantage.  If you are involved in self defense training ask your instructor for tips and to include such scenarios in your training. 

Subways are generally a safe way to travel.  Be aware and if you are involved in self defense training ask your instructor to help you prepare for potential assaults. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Image courtesy of Matt Banks at

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Unpredictable Nature of Assaults: An Overview

There are instances when we can sense an impending threat.  Escalating abuse in relationships of various kinds, for instance, give us many indicators - if we choose to acknowledge them.  Sometimes, a "predicable assault" offers mere seconds to avoid, escape, or try to calm a situation (e.g. road rage).

Assaults, however, are generally unpredictable.  We simply don't see them coming. 

Here are 4 aspects of the unpredictable nature of assaults.

When?  Crimes happen at night when darkness helps to conceal.  Many assaults, however, occur during daylight hours including early mornings. Last year, for instance, a man posing as a sales person entered a Toronto home at around 9am and assaulted two women.  Likely, he reasoned that people are less guarded during the day.  If he knocked on their door at 9pm would they have let him in?

Where? Some people might assume that assaults happen only in "rough neighbourhoods"or in areas where an assailant can isolate an individual - walking paths, quiet side streets, underground parking lots etc....   Assaults, however, can occur anywhere including very public places such as subways, malls, bars, busy streets....
Who?  The assailant stereotype is that of an unkempt wild eyed man, yelling...  History tells us that assailants can be well groomed, hail from various backgrounds, and be very presentable and charismatic. 

Why?  “Motive” is often discernible, particular after an assault has taken place - a jealous partner, a stalker, someone with a personal vendetta.........   Motive is often less visible beforehand and in many cases there is no premeditation - acts of rage, crimes of opportunity...etc. You might simply be a random target.  

Prevention is sometimes possible if we are aware and the assailant offers visible signs of aggressive intent.  In most of these cases our decision-making window is small.   Self defense training must prepare you for situations that defy our traditional notions of how assaults take place and to prepare you for the unexpected.  

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Knife Threats: Cooperate or Fight? 7 Factors to Consider.

When you are confronted with someone threatening you with a knife there is a vital choice before you. Do you cooperate or do you fight?

There are innumerable variables at play and every situation is unique.  Generally speaking,  avoidance is the best self defense.  Escape is the next best option.  We also warn of the dangers of trying disarm someone with an edged weapon.  Sometimes, unfortunately, these options are not available. 

Here are some general factors to consider when threatened by a knife-wielding assailant.
  1. Theft. He wants your watch, iPhone (I almost said Walkman!), cash...? Give it to him. You don't want to risk getting stabbed for an object.
  2. Distance.   Is he far away demanding your wallet or purse? Give it to him.  Did he sneak up to you and place the knife against your body? Here, escape might be more difficult.  You might have to act quickly as even the slightest move of his hand can lead to serious injury or death.
  3. Escape Routes? Are you in a parking lot with numerous escape routes or trapped in an elevator?  It is safer if you get to an exit without engaging too much with the attacker.  If you are in an elevator and he wants more than property you might have to disable and disarm the attacker.
  4. Are You Alone?  If an assailant threatens you when you are with with a friend or family member you obviously have more than yourself to consider. If you are walking with your kids, for example, techniques that involve striking then quickly escaping will likely not work. 
  5. Is He Alone?  One assailant is challenging enough.  Multiple attackers makes the situation more dangerous. 
  6. Abduction? If he wants to bring you somewhere more private don't go!  History tells us that "leaving the first scene" usually has a tragic ending. 
  7. Intuition.  Sometimes we have a "gut feeling".  Listen to your intuition. Can you appease him and get home safe or will you have to fight for your life?
Self-defense training must prepare you for as many situations as possible.  Besides learning and refining effective techniques, you must learn to make decisions - quick decisions - appropriate for the situation.  Such training teaches you to adapt and can save your life.
Here are some examples of IKMF Expert/Global Instructor, Tamir Gilad teaching knife defenses in a public setting...

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Friday, November 8, 2013

December Workshops - Dec.9(Surviving Gun Threats), Dec.11 (Defending in Public Places), Dec. 13 (Law Enforcement/Security)

Marcus Torgenson, Expert 2, will be visiting Toronto December 9th to 13th to offer 3 workshops. (see poster below).  Marcus is an excellent Krav Maga instructor with extensive knowledge and a genuine will to help people protect themselves and "walk in peace."

For questions or to register please feel free to contact me at 416-657-1028 or

To register online visit:

Registration deadline for all workshops is Friday December 6th! 

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor
IKMF Toronto

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Edged Weapon Threats: What Does He Want?

Threats with knives or other edged weapons such as bottles, screwdrivers, utility knives, are relatively common because such objects are readily available and easy to carry and conceal. 
For the assailant, the edged object is used to intimidate someone to agree with their demands.  “Do what I tell you to do or........!”  From a practical standpoint it is easier and more effective to hold a knife to a person than to use simple brute force. 

What does the assailant want?  Here are 3 general possibilities. 

  1. Property (money, I phones, vehicles, wallet, jewelry....).  “Give me your wallet!
  2. Sexual Assault: The edged weapon is used to gain your cooperation.  “Take off your clothes or I will cut you!”  Intimidation might allow him to forgo using physical force.  
  3. Abduction:  Taking you to another location.  “If you don’t get in the van I am going to kill you!”  It is easier to display a weapon than to carry a struggling person to a second location.
Of course these goals are not mutually exclusive.  An assailant, for instance, might successfully rob you and then decide he wants more.  An abduction can lead to sexual/physical assault and theft.  Threats can easily become attacks if the assailant decides you are not agreeable, is enraged, doesn’t want witnesses, or simply wants to inflict pain.

Understanding what the assailant is seeking plays a very important role in how you defend yourself.  If you can appease him by giving him some money please do so.  If, on the other hand, he is trying to take you to a more private location you must fight. 

To cooperate or to fight?  This is the topic of our next blog.  Knife Threats: Cooperation or Action?

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, October 28, 2013

Workshop: Introduction to Surviving Knife Threats - November 24th


Assailants will often use a weapon to solicit compliance - theft, sexual assault, abduction....   Knives, being readily available, is a frequent weapon choice.

Topics include:
  • What does he want?
  • Assessing the danger - when to comply when to act.
  • Defending Against Threat and escaping
  • Defending in small spaces
  • Defending from a sitting position
  • Introduction to Disarming.
No self defense experience necessary.  Beginners welcome. Techniques are easily to learn and easy to perform. 

International Krav Maga Federation, Toronto
2156 Yonge St. Lower Level
Sunday November 24th, 2-5pm
$80/2 people

To register online please visit:

In the meantime, here are some articles about knife threats.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. 


Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Defending on the Ground Workshop - November 10th


Many self defense situations end up on the ground. You might fall and an attacker might try to kick or punch, or try to control you through holds etc...

On November 10th we are offering a workshop focusing on giving you the skills to survive these situations. 

Topics covered include:
  • Escaping chokes and holds on the ground
  • Getting up from the ground safely
  • Defending against strikes
  • Escaping to safe places

No self defense experience necessary.  Techniques are easily to learn and easy to perform. 

International Krav Maga Federation,  Toronto
2156 Yonge St. Lower Level
Sunday November 10, 2-5pm
$80/2 people

To register online please visit:

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Defending on “the Ground”: 5 General Points

Many self-defense situations occur on the ground.  You can be knocked down, pushed, or dragged from a standing or sitting position.  You can fall on the unstable or slippery ground.  On the ground, an attacker (attackers) can kick, punch, stab, choke, hold, control.....

 It is a very dangerous place to be.

Here are 5 general thoughts about defending on the ground.
  1. Don’t Go There(if possible)!  It is not always possible but try to avoid going to the ground.  Why? See points below.
  2. The Fall.  If you don’t know how to fall, or can’t because you have been stunned(punch, blunt object), falling can lead to various problems, including head injuries, sprained or broken limbs etc...  Self-defense training must teach students how to fall - break-falls, rolls....
  3. Visibility/Lack of. Being on the ground severely limits your ability to assess your surroundings.  Your vision is especially impaired if the attacker is on top of you.  
  4. Size, Strength. Size and strength are always factors but they especially come into play on the ground.  Throwing off an attacker who outweighs you by 60lbs is no easy feat. 
  5. No rules. No referee.  Taking down an adversary during a competitive fight (MMA, judo, wrestling etc...) requires refined skills and can be tactically effective.  In real life, however, you might have to contend with harsh surfaces (gravel, cement), multiple attackers who can kick, punch, or stab you while you are grappling, and assailants doing things you can't do during a competitive fight - using a weapon, biting, eye gouging......
  6. Getting Up/Escaping. Gaining distance from an assailant and escaping to a safe place is obviously more difficult from the ground.  Accordingly, self-defense training must include getting up from the ground in effective and safe ways (also a great workout!).

Avoid going to the ground if possible.  This being said, you must devote significant time to training on the ground - just in case!

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Women's Self Defense Workshop - Oct. 27th

Violence against women is a horrible reality that we must confront in various ways.  Education, for example, can challenge some of the archaic thinking and practices that contribute to such violence. 

Another way to prepare for the reality of violence is through self defense training - training the fosters awareness, promotes prevention, and develops the skills to survive when prevention is not possible. 

This workshop offer an introduction to self defense focusing on developing your awareness as well as your ability to escape and survive violent assaults.  All fitness levels are welcome.  Ages 16 and up. 

See poster below for details.  To register online visit:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Functional Fitness: 4 Fitness Benefits of Krav Maga Self-Defense Training

As self defense instructors, our raisin d'ĂȘtre is to give you practical skills to save your life.  This being said, there are other benefits to Krav Maga training.  Once of these benefits is fitness, something I like to call functional fitness.

What is functional fitness?  Essentially it is fitness that improves your capacity to protect yourself.  You will lose body fat and improve muscle tone but we are not preparing you for beach season or photo shoots but rather for real life assaults. 

So what does this involve?  Here are 4 elements of functional fitness.

  1. Improved Cardio: Training prepares you for intense situations that challenge your cardio.  Striking, releasing holds, blocking, deflecting, running... are all exhausting! 
  2. Less Body Fat/More Muscle Tone.  We don't take measurements but students lose weight (unless training induces irresistible donut cravings).  High intensity workouts utilize all muscles and burn fat.  
  3. Flexibility: Training involves stretching as flexibility improves your performance and prevents injury that could occur from a sudden attack.  
  4. Coordination: Krav Maga offers simple techniques but your motor skills improve significantly as you learn to use your body to defend yourself from various distances, angles, heights, directions.....

Every exercise we do is aimed at improving your ability to protect yourself.  Better physical health and self esteem are added benefits.  

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Understanding the Attacker. 4 General Ways an Attacker Will Approach You.

There are various ways an assailant will approach you from overtly aggressive to subtle and deceptive.  You should be aware of these various tactics.  

Here are 4:

Ambush: You don't see him coming. He grabs you from the side or even behind you when your guard is down.  Initially, you have no idea what he looks like or what is happening.

Intimidation. No holds barred charge, attack, verbal threats.  Nothing subtle here.  By design or not, his actions often lead you to panic, to freeze. 

Charm. "How are you? It's raining your hair will be a mess.  Get in. I'll give you a ride."  Well dressed, well groomed.  Well intentioned?  You don't know.

Deception.  "Please, I have a flat can you give me a hand?:  "Hi I am selling... Would you mind if I came in and told you about our special deals?" "There was an accident. I'm late for work.  I have to use your phone or I'll get fired."  Students have told us about people feigning car trouble to lure them or someone they know to an isolated area.  We all want to help but be mindful. 

A survey of assaults in Toronto and globally offer innumerable examples of such tactics.  Without becoming utterly cynical consider these various approaches and how best to respond (sounds like a future blog topic!).

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Thursday, September 19, 2013

October 5th Workshop: Intro to Surviving Close Range Knife Assaults

Recent events, including a 76 yr old women having part of her nose severed in an elevator and a fireman tragicly being fatally stabbed, have highlighted the extreme danger of knife assaults. 

For more information on these incidents visit:

This workshop will introduce you to the problem of knife assaults in close quarters. Topics include:
  • understanding how people attack
  • defending from different angles
  • defending from different positions - standing, sitting, on ground, walking
  • surviving when you have an escape route and when you don’t (e.g. elevator)
 Beginners welcome!
**See poster below for details.  To register online go to:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 Tips for Defending Yourself in Small Spaces


Our previous blog outlined the general reasons some attackers prefer small spaces such as elevators, bathrooms, etc...

Besides understanding assailant tactics, we now have to address the question: "What can do we do to avoid/survive assault in a small spaces?

Here are 5 tips.

1. Trust your instincts/logic.  If you feel that entering/remaining in a small space is potentially dangerous then respect this.  If, for example, you are about to enter an elevator with one or more people you perceive as dangerous then don't get in.

2. Awareness. Small spaces don't allow for much reaction time. Be aware of who else is sharing the space and what they are doing. Please look up from your screen/phone.

3. Minimize burdens. Numerous shopping bags, backpacks, etc... hinder your ability to defend and escape.

4. Use Close Range Tools:  Elbows, knees, hooks, uppercuts, headbutts, biting…  Small spaces and leaping spinning back kicks do not mix well. 

5. Use Your Surroundings: In small spaces there is an increased danger of your head or another vulnerable body part being hit against something like a wall.  Better his head bouncing off a wall than yours. 

6. Aggression: Unfortunately, if you are attacked you are going to have to be very aggressive!  Any pretensions of civility go out the window when your survival is at stake.  

We advocate avoidance as the best self defense but assailants can be cunning and we are not always alert.  If you are training in a self defense school ask your instructor to devote class time to defending in small spaces.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Image courtesy of maya picture at

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Understanding the Attacker: 3 General Reasons Assailants Choose Small Spaces

At around 2pm, on August 24th, a 76 year old woman was assaulted in an elevator at Dundas Square.

For details go to:

Besides highlighting the disturbing reality that assaults can happen anytime/anywhere(not only during late hours or in discrete locations) this horrible incident also points to the problem of defending in small spaces. 

 Some examples of small spaces include:

·      Elevators
·      Parking lots (close to a car)
·      Public or private bathrooms
·      Hallways
·      Home invasion
·      Public Transit (subway, streetcar, train)

Why Small spaces?

Here are 3 reasons an attacker will choose a small space.

  1. Discretion:  An elevator, even a public bathroom, is an opportune space for an attacker to isolate you.  An elevator in motion, for instance, does not allow for escape or access to help. 
  2. Control:  Small spaces allow him more control as it forces physical closeness and limits access to escape routes. 
  3. Limited Mobility/Reaction Time:  The attacker knows a smaller space means there is less room to move.  There is little or no chasing and your reaction time is severely reduced.   

Assaults in small spaces are particularly challenging due to limited mobility, escape routes, and access to help.  Our next blog will offer some tips on protecting yourself in such settings.

For more insights into assailant tactics go to:

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Self Defense Striking Tools: An Introduction

Striking techniques – punches, kicks, knees, elbows etc..., are used to defend yourself in various circumstances.  Over time, your training allows you to strike an assailant from various directions, distances, angles, and heights. 

Here is a list of 7 basic striking tools.  All of these, with the exception of knees, can be performed in all directions.  (Only Chuck Norris can knee backwards).

1. Kicks.  Kicks are generally long range tools used to strike when you want to maintain or create distance.  Your legs are more powerful (you are using your body’s most powerful muscles) and offer more reach than your arms.

2. Punches. Medium range strikes can be very effective.  Proper technique must be used to avoid breaking the many bones in the hand. 

3. Palm Heel Strikes.  Easy to perform as you don’t have to make a fist.  Palm strikes are also less likely to incur an injury to your hand.  Excellent if weak wrists or inexperience don’t guarantee proper punching technique.

4. Hammer Strikes.  Similar range of punches and palm strikes that allow you to diversify your direction and angle of attack (e.g. striking to the side, behind, down…).

5. Elbows.  Short range strikes.  Elbows are very versatile as you can strike various angles and directions. 

6. Knees.  Very powerful strikes!  Excellent close range tools, difficult to defend against as they are usually very difficult to see. 

7. Head butts.  Not everyone’s favourite but very effective.  There are times, for example, when our hands are confined and the attacker is very close.  Go for the nose!

There are more advanced strikes (finger strikes etc...) but this comprises a general overview.  Please feel free to offer your insights and questions. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Friday, August 23, 2013

What is a Krav Maga Self-Defense Workshop?

Every month our Toronto Krav Maga school offers one or more specialized self defense workshops.  Essentially, these allow participants to delve into detail about a particular topic.  From between 2 hours to an entire day, you have the opportunity to focus on a particular problem.

What kind of self defense problems do we cover?
Essentially everything!  Over the past year, for example, we have covered(see posters below);
  • women’s self defense
  • blunt objects
  • armed attacks
  • defending from a sitting position,
  • defending close range attacks
  • ground defenses
  • escaping chokes and grabs
  • surviving gun threats… and more… 
Who can participate?
Workshops, unless, specified are open to beginners and advanced alike. 

Why do we offer workshops?
As mentioned above, workshops allow you to immerse in a particular topic.  For beginners it offers an overview of the topic.  Advanced students can refine their skills and often cover more advanced topics.  Such attention to detail is vital to progress and, possibly, to survival.

Where do we offer workshops?
We have monthly workshops at our Toronto studio and can also be offered in various locations in the Greater Toronto Area.  Workshops can be held in studios, gyms, backyards, parks, offices, parking lots.. - essentially anywhere. 

Here are some samples of recent workshops:


If there is a self defense situation/theme that is of particular interest or concern then it is worth delving into it with attention to detail. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Self Defense and Your Surroundings

Sometimes one can be so closely involved with things that the larger context is lost to view.
Brian Ferneyhough

One aspect that separates Krav Maga from many other self defense systems is its emphasis on context.

In real life situations, your primary concern is the imminent threat - usually an assailant.  This deserves focused attention as there are innumerable assaults-punches, kicks, grabs, chokes, stabs.  What is often overlooked, however, is the context in which these assaults occur.

Context might include location, people involved, space, and many other factors vital in determining how you must act to survive.

Here are 4 general contextual factors to consider.  
  1. Is the attacker alone?  During competitive fighting you can focus on one person – your opponent.  Unfortunately, outside of the ring there might be more than one attacker.  This will significantly influence how you protect yourself.  
  2. Are you alone?  Over the years, I have encountered comments such as, “If he has a knife just run stupid!”  It is good advice if you are alone and can access escape routes.  What if, however, you are with your partner, your kids, or both?  How you defend when protecting others is different from saving yourself. 
  3. Escape Routes.  Avoid and escape if possible.   Always be aware of escape routes.  Also, be aware if an escape route is not readily available (elevator, subway…).  Access to escape routes must play into your self-defense tactics.  On a sidewalk perhaps you can run.  Running in an elevator won't get you very far. 
  4. Size of Space.  How much room do you have? Defending yourself in an elevator can be very different than in a near empty parking lot.  Kicking in an elevator, for example, is a much more challenging feat than in a near empty parking lot. 

There are always more factors to consider but this offers an introduction to the topic.  One challenge, of course, is blending this appreciation of context into your self defense training.  We will address this challenge in future blogs and welcome any of your ideas. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, August 19, 2013

Abduction Prevention Workshop Saturday September 14th 2:30 to 4:30pm

Abductions are among the most frightening aspects of violent assaults.  It involves an assailant taking you (deception, intimidation, by force) to a more discreet location.

Here is an example of an abduction that occurred at the University of Toronto.

You do not want to comply! For more on this visit:

This workshop will focus on giving you the knowledge and skills to prevent such abductions.  Topics will include:
  • Preventing/Escaping grabs and holds that involve the assailants taking you to a secondary scene.
  • Surviving threats/intimidation (e.g. knife threat)
  • Accessing escape routes
  • Understanding assailant tactics
**See poster below for details.  To register online go to:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Partner Training and Realism in Practice. The Vital Role of the Attacker!

As Krav Maga instructors we strive to educate students about how real assaults can take place. This includes:
  • Describing situations, e.g. when and how assaults take place. 
  • The psychology and tactics of the attacker – What is he trying to achieve? Why/How is he trying to do this? 
  • Simulating what assaults look, feel, and sound like.  
During partner training, students naturally focus on the defensive role.  After all, you are here to learn how to protect yourself not to attack others! What is often overlooked, however, is the important role of the training partner(s) playing the role of aggressor.  This role, and how you perform it, is vital to the development of your self-defense skills.  You are giving your partner opportunities refine the skills that can save their life while learning how assailants actually attack.

Here are (4) general ways you and your partner can improve as aggressors, and by extension, as defenders. 

Offer a Realistic Striking Distance.  Defenders need to understand distance.  If your kicks, punches, stabs, are more than 6 inches from the target then you are deceiving your partner.  There are many creative and safe ways to strike within close distance.

On Target Strikes.  Similarly, students often veer their strikes to the right or left, not giving their partner a sense of the actual trajectory of the punch, kick, stab, etc…  Aim for where a real attacker would strike.

Please Recoil!:  Punching, kicking, stabbing, without recoiling, does not make for a realistic scenario.  For beginners, we minimize recoil but as you progress you need to account for it. 

Pad Work and Kicking
Students, beginners and advanced, tend to stop when their partner is performing a defensive or side kick- kicks intended to stop the attacker's advance.  This habit can come from being timid or not wanting to bowl over the defender. Stopping, however, can give the defender an inflated sense of their kicking power.   A determined attacker, after all, is not going to stop dead in his tracks to accommodate you.  Talk with your instructor and your partner about how to offer a realistic approach while ensuring the safety of you and your partner. 

Skip the
Massage.  Choke Please
You can safely mimic (to a degree) a choke without cutting off air and/or blood flow. The point is to give your partner a sense of how a person would actually choke rather than tending to sore shoulder muscles. Relaxing? Maybe. Creepy? Probably. Helping your partner prepare for real life assaults? Nope.  Ask your instructor how to challenge your partner in a safe way.

Hang on Tight
Bear hugs, in real life are usually difficult to escape.  For beginners, of course, we take it easier.  As you progress, however, the holds need to be more resistant and more difficult. 

To better prepare you for real life situations we have to give you an accurate and realistic sense of how assaults occur. Playing the aggressor role during training exercises is not a passive one.  You need to present your fellow students with the opportunity to learn according to their ability and experience.  

 Of course, various safety measures must be in place at all times. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Continuing Education For Self Defense Instructors: 5 Benefits for Instructors and their Students.

"Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will."
~ Vernon Howard - See more at:

"Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will."
~ Vernon Howard - See more at:

Krav Maga classes focus on students and improving their capacities to protect themselves in real life situations.  What is overlooked, at times, is instructor development.  Instructors can be busy, or so focused on students that they neglect their own development as instructors, practitioners, and business people. 

They must continue to learn and grow.  One way to do this is through continuing education programs.

Instructors with the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), for example, are required to participate in an annual Instructor Renewal.  This program is 4 days (8 hours/a day) and involves training with a member of the Global Instructor Team (GIT) to refine skills, learn new techniques, receive curriculum updates, share effective teaching strategies and to upgrade their level. 

This training is essential to instructor development.  Here are 5 benefits.

  1. Curriculum Updates.  Techniques are refined or changed to make them more effective.  Instructors need to be aware of these so they can pass them on to their students.
  2. Refine Technical Skills.  There is always something we can improve upon.  Working with someone with more expertise/experience is an opportunity to become a better practitioner. 
  3. Teaching Tips.  Members of the GIT are excellent as are the other instructors participating in the program.  They offer innovative and creative teaching methods, exercises...etc for you to try at your own school.  
  4. Connectedness. Training with other instructors is a reminder that you are part of something bigger than your particular school.  Instructors all over the globe can relate to your experiences.
  5. Inspiration: There is something inspiring about a group of instructors striving to improve their craft.  Returning to your school with better skills, fresh ideas, and the feeling you are part of something bigger is invigorating. 

Enriching yourself as an instructor will benefit your students, develop your skills, and feed the passion that inspires you to teach. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, July 29, 2013

First self-defense class? Feeling intimidated? 6 ways to alleviate your anxiety.

You walk into the studio, there are various people – some look friendly, some don’t.  Some might be practicing moves that you don't understand but look very formidable.  They look how you don't feel-comfortable.

These feelings are natural and shared by many Krav Maga beginners. 

Here are 6 ways to ease your anxieties.

1. Meet/talk with your instructor before your first class. Get a sense of their teaching philosophy, background, and personality. Ask questions.  Share your concerns.

2. Talk with other students. A conversation will help humanize the students. They have work stress, kids, vacation plans, etc – much like you.

3. Read some testimonials.  Besides talking to students in person, find out what other people say about their experience.

3. Partner with other beginners.  There is something reassuring about training with another person who is adjusting to a new experience.

4. Manage Your Expectations.  Don’t be hard on yourself.  Mistakes will be made and some techniques/exercises will be more difficult than others.  Be patient, train consistently, and you will see significant progress. 

5.  Have Fun.  Yes, self-defense is a serious topic but that doesn’t mean you have to be.  Train hard but have fun. 

New experiences can be daunting.  By taking steps to ease your anxieties you can make your introduction to self defense a more enjoyable one.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, July 22, 2013

August 11, Workshop: Defending From A Sitting Position

Assaults can happen anytime including when you are sitting: 
  • On public transit
  • A bar or lounge
  • Outdoors – e.g. in a park
  • In a home
Defending yourself from a sitting position is a special challenge.  This workshop will cover:
  • How to get up in an efficient manner
  • Using a chair or stool to protect yourself.
  • Defending against punches and kicks while sitting
  • Surviving armed assault while sitting

Beginners welcome!

IKMF Toronto - 2156 Yonge St. Lower Level
Sunday August 11, 2:30 to 4:30pm

**ask about group rates

to register online go to:

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto