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