Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Effective Striking: Using the Right Tools

Krav Maga training involves giving students a range of striking skills including kicks, punches, elbows, knees, etc...  Having these tools at your disposal makes you into an increasingly versatile self defense practitioner.

Besides refining your technique, a significant challenge involves learning what tool(s) to use in various circumstances.  This becomes more difficult when faced with the stress of a real life situation.

Here is a general overview of 5 of the basic strikes, when to use them, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

  1. Kicks.  Great tools for long distance as well as being very powerful.  Kicks can help you maintain distance from an assailant.  They can, however, be difficult to perform on slippery surfaces (Canadian winter sidewalk) or in small or crowded spaces(not a great tool on a crowded subway or elevator).  It is important to learn to kick in all directions as you cannot predict the direction of the problem.
  2. Straight Punches/Hammerfists.  Great medium range tools.  You can strike at various angles and heights.  Unfortunately, you are closer to the assailant.  Also, if you don't make a proper fist you risk damaging and disabling your hand.  Palm strikes can be a nice alternative.  For more about palm strikes visit:
  3. Hooks/Uppercuts:  Effective at short range.  Some make the mistake of throwing long range hooks (some call these haymakers).  If "haymakers" find their target they are potentially devastating but also leave you very exposed and are relatively easy to defend.
  4. Elbows. Excellent close range strikes that can be directed at various angles and directions. Like hooks and uppercuts there is the inherent problem of being close to your opponent.  Flying elbows?  If you are far enough for a flying elbow just kick or run.
  5. Knees.  Very powerful and difficult to defend against.  Less directional options than elbows. (e.g. I am still searching for the elusive standing back knee).
  6. Headbutts.  Certainly not a long range tool unless you are a moose, ram, or Marvel Super villain Juggernaut ( a nod to comic book fans).  Effective, however, in very close range.

As instructors, much of our time is spent working to develop your power, speed and overall efficiency, as well as providing exercises to help you understand what striking tools are most effective in various situations.

The next step is accelerating your decision-making and reaction times.

After all, real life happens fast.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, February 25, 2013

Understanding the Attacker: Assaults and the Element of Surprise

A vital aspect of learning self defense is understanding how real assaults take place.  One of the elements we stress during training is the element of surprise.

Assaults are not like fights where two people are facing each other and saying: "I am going to mess you up!" or "I'm givin you a beatin."  As unpleasant as these exchanges are they do warn of potential violence and allow for some preparation.

A cunning assailant will not announce his intent.  There are some practical reasons for this:

  1. Evoking "shock,  or "freezing": Often, when surprised/frightened our ability to think and to act is severely compromised as is your ability to defend yourself. 
  2. Stealth/Alarm Prevention:  Assailants often sneak behind a person and cover their mouth to prevent a cry for help.  Without surprise they risk you attracting attention and help.
  3. Disabling.  Besides the psychological freeze, a surprise attack might inflict injury to disable or can even be fatal.  Weaken the victim so he/she can't fight back.  
  4. Self Preservation.  An attacker knows that surprise attacks minimizes injury to himself. 

Training must reflect this reality by training you to better manage your stress, to recover from physical attacks, and perform techniques based on how your body reacts.  See

We also encourage you to develop an awareness of your surroundings and minimize factors that hinder your ability to do so - headphones, texting, etc....  

Defending against surprise attacks is one of the most difficult aspects of self defense.  With focused training, however, you can better your chances of getting home safe.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Krav Maga Test Preps (Dates)

On April 14th, Avi Moyal, Director of the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF) will be visiting us in Toronto to offer level testing to our students.  Avi will be offering a workshop 12-3pm followed by testing beginning at 4pm.  Events will be at 2156 Yonge St.

Testing standards are quite high so leading up to the test we offer Test Prep sessions.  Here are some testing tips:

We have booked the following dates and times.  All sessions (exception March 3rd) are at 2156 Yonge St. Prices for Oakville are separate.

Sunday February 24rd, 1:30 to 3:30pm

Sunday March 3rd: (Oakville)***** visit for details

Sunday March 10th: 1:30 to 3:30pm

Sunday March 24th 1:30 to 3:30pm

Sunday April 7th  1:30 to 3:30pm


1 session: $40
2 sessions: $70
3 or more sessions: $100

To pay online visit:

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, February 18, 2013

Krav Maga Women's Self Defense Classes (Toronto)

With greater access to studio space and a growing demand we are now offering an ongoing women's self-defense class on Saturdays 11:45am to 1pm, at our new location 2156 Yonge St. (just south of Eglinton).

All ages, fitness levels, and levels are welcome.

We will be covering many topics including:
  • awareness, assessment, avoidance
  • escaping chokes and grabs
  • surviving armed assaults
  • how to strike effectively
  • using your voice
  • non-violent options
  • using common objects for self-defense
  • defending from sitting position (chair, subway etc...)
  • defending from the ground
  • abduction prevention
  • defending against blunt objects (hammer etc...)
  • improving fitness

You are encouraged to learn at your own pace and to ask questions.  Please bring indoor running shoes.  

Here is what some women have said about our training.  

Beverly Isla

, Owner, Urban Rejuve 
“I have been a student of Chris in Krav Maga training. I recommend his approaches in that he teaches you the common self defense moves regardless of level. He has a wonderful energy he brings to the class.”

Jacq Henderson

“Chris is a very good Krav Maga instructor. He is very patient with his students who have different levels of knowledge on the subject. Chris is approachable and is a good motivator. His deep and detailed knowledge of Krav Maga allows him to thoroughly teach the subject, and to address his students' questions. He makes Krav Maga fun to learn.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Friday, February 15, 2013

5 Reasons We Teach Women's Self Defense

One of the fastest growing aspects of Krav Maga is Women's Self Defense.  This is not surprising since  violence against women remains a pervasive problem in Toronto, Canada, and the world at large.  Along with education, legal reform, and other efforts, learning self-defense offers another means to combat this ugly reality.

Here are 5 main reasons we teach women's self-defense.
  1. Violence against women remains a very serious and widespread problem - locally and globally.  Women are targeted more often than men.  
  2. Assaults against women are a specific problem that requires the focused approach of a specialized class.  
  3. Some women prefer to learn in a women-only environment. 
  4. Women-only classes can be a nice introduction to self-defense and lead to participation in mixed gender groups.  
  5. A comprehensive self-defense program that develops awareness, confidence and effective techniques can help women avoid, prevent, escape, and survive assaults.   

At some point, we suggest, it is beneficial to train with men - at least periodically - to adapt to the generally larger size and to develop more confidence.   This is not something we push but something we encourage - when you are ready.

We are now offering ongoing women's self-defense classes on Saturdays 11:45 am to 1 pm at our new location, 2156 Yonge St. (just south of Eglinton).  Visit us for a free class!

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Krav Maga. What Do We Teach?

Krav Maga is relatively new to Canada and evokes many questions. "Is it like karate?"  "Is it like MMA?"  "How do you pronounce it?" "Where does it come from?"

One of the most frequently asked questions: "What do you teach?"

Since Krav Maga is a very comprehensive system it is a challenge to avoid giving a long-winded answer that makes you regret asking.

So, here is a concise(ish) and very general description of what we teach.

  1. Understanding Realistic Attacks:  Our federation, the IKMF spends a lot of time traveling the globe studying how real assaults take place.  Attackers, we have learned, are quite innovative.  We strive to match this and to pass on what we learn to our students.  
  2. Adapting to Various Settings:  Assaults happen everywhere - on the subway, in homes, walking or running, parking lots.....   We teach you to defend yourself in various contexts.  
  3. Situational Awareness:  Surviving an assault involves more than performing an effective defense against one person.  You need to identify other factors such as multiple attackers, motor traffic, escape and exit options.... You also learn how to avoid, prevent, and escape.  
  4. Using Your Natural Reflexes. As much as possible, our techniques grow from your body's natural reactions to danger.  See...
  5. Finding Simple Solutions.  Stress inhibits your motor skills.  Moreover, not everyone is athletic.  Accordingly, we keep movements simple and easy to perform.    
All in all, our mandate is to prepare you for real life violent assaults.

We hope this helps you better understand what we do.  Each of these points can be elaborated and we are happy to do so - simply ask us.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Anxious About Your First Krav Maga Class? 6 Tips to Help You Feel at Ease

For many beginners, the first Krav Maga self defense class can be daunting.  After all, you are trying something new and you might have concerns about your athleticism, fitness, safety, or other issues.

Many of our students, beginners and advanced, have shared memories of their first class.  These conversations have revealed some effective ways to make your introduction to Krav Maga more comfortable.

Here are 6 tips to help you feel more at ease.

  1. Interview the instructor.  Before you take a class ask the instructor whatever questions you might have.  Do I have to be fit?  What is your teaching philosophy?  
  2. Look for testimonials.  You might find someone you can relate to or points that ease your concerns.
  3. Attend a free trial class. Also, ask if you can watch a class.  Whatever your comfort level allows.  
  4. Try a workshop.  Workshop offer a nice introduction to Krav Maga and will give you a better sense of the instructor's teaching style. 
  5. Talk with students. Students are happy to share their experiences and answer questions. 
  6. Be patient with yourself:  Don't expect to pick up all the techniques right away.  Strive to improve every class - even in small ways - and you will be fine. 

It is natural to be nervous when trying your first Krav Maga class.  Apply some of these tips and before long your confidence, along with your abilities, will grow.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, February 4, 2013

Self-Defense: Doing What Comes Naturally

Our body often responds to stressful situations before we can identify the threat.  Consider your hand recoiling from a hot object, your foot lifting after stepping on a sharp object, swatting a bee away...  These reactions happen before we understand the precise nature of the threat;  hot kettle, broken glass, flying insect...

These are our body's natural reflex mechanisms that protect us from harm.

As much as possible our Krav Maga self-defense techniques grow from your natural reactions to danger, giving you have a better chance of defending under stress.

Here are some examples of how we react to assaults:

  • Your hands grasp at your attacker's as he tries to choke you.
  • You throw your hands up to protect against an incoming punch, stab, attack with a blunt object
  • You move your head to avoid a punch, thrown object...
  • Your hand moves down to shield or deflect a kick to your stomach or groin.  
  • You swat a the hand of an assailant trying to grab you or holding a knife.

From these reflexes we teach you to "pluck" against chokes, to block a circular knife attack, to efficiently move your body away from harm,  to use your arm to slide against a blunt object of kick, to deflect and incoming hand - armed or otherwise.

There are innumerable examples.

Assaults can happen quickly and our reaction time can be very limited.  Under stress your body will react and it is our job to refine these reactions into effective techniques.

Try this exercise.  Consider how you would reacted to various assaults.  What would be your initial movement?

Chances are the techniques we teach flows from this.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto