Sunday, April 19, 2015

Defending Against Ice Pick Knife Attack - Close Range (P1)

Footage of knife attacks often show the assailant stabbing in a downward motion- what we call the ice pick attack.  It is not a sophisticated attack but can be very strong.  
Avoidance and escaping are your best options as any knife attack can lead to serious injury or death. If avoidance is not possible and distance allows, a kicking defense is most effective. We do not want the attacker to close the distance.  What do we do, however, if the the attack is close, too close to run or kick?    

Some tips to surviving such an attack:

1. Block and strike at the same time. Your blocking hand is open as your perform a forearm defense using the bony part of your arm against his wrist. (See pic below). You are not absorbing the arm but attacking it as early as possible to minimize his momentum and to keep the knife away.  You are striking at the same time with a punch or palm strike to the face. This strike can hinder his momentum and prevent him from closing the distance. Otherwise he will continue his attack with repeated stabs.  If his head snaps back the rest of his body might follow allowing you to escape. (Disarming (G1) is an option but escaping is preferred if possible).

Avi Moyal with simultaneous block and punch

2.  Kicking (an option):  Kicking after the initial block and strike might not always be practical - imagine, for instance, you are defending on a slippery sidewalk, or in an elevator.  Kicking, however, can give you more time to escape.  Bursting, by blocking with force, and striking the face as hard as possible can stop the attacker's forward momentum and even reverse it, creating space for a kick.  It is vital that you maintain contact with your blocking arm (see pic below) to keep the knife away and to have a tactile sense of the most immediate danger.  

Kicking attack while maintaining contact with knife hand

3.  Some Common Mistakes:  

  • closing the fist of the blocking hand
  • not maintaining contact with the blocking hand as you punch/palm
  • not recoiling your strike
  • not leaning forward (body defense)

The ice pick attack is on of the more common knife assaults.  If escape is not possible you have to "attack the attacker".  As daunting as this is, it is the only way to survive a close range assault.  

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blind University Student Learns Krav Maga in Toronto (IKMF Toronto) by Luke Gagliardi

 On December 16th 2011, a blind man from Ponoka British Columbia was beaten until his face was unrecognizable to people who knew him well. On October 29th 2013, Micheal Smith from Whitby Ontario was assaulted by two females over a taxi ride. Unfortunately, there too many cases similar to these to relate them all without needing a forest of paper. The prevalence of assault cases on the blind is serious problem in today’s society. “People who feel anonymous are more likely to act violently”, a retired police officer once told me in reference to internet crime, “When people think they’re anonymous they feel empowered to do what they never would in a face to face situation… People almost never commit a crime that they think they will get caught for, at the time of the crime they always think they will get away with it”. That seems to hold true for the cases regarding assaults on the blind. Perpetrators assume that they are anonymous, and that the blind are defenceless. They are wrong.

 I talked to my friend Ka, whose eyesight is so limited that he is considered fully blind, and he is far from defenceless. In all appearances Ka seems like an average guy, but he’s not. Ka is one of the most driven people I know, he’s incredibly independent and ambitious. He’s one of those guys who you know are going to get exactly what they want from life. Ka has had a very athletic background; he’s done everything from goal ball— a really fun blind sport that is sort of like a hybrid of handball and soccer— to rock climbing, and he’s putting all that experience to the test, every Monday and Wednesday, at the International Krav Maga Federation of Toronto. Under the direction of lead instructor Christopher Gagné, Ka is learning what most would agree is the pinnacle of self-defence. When I said Ka wasn’t an average guy, I meant it. Ka, is blind in only the stiffest definition of the word. He has incredible echo-location and spacial-awareness skills, as well as hundreds of hours of traffic awareness training. Despite his lack of optics, Ka is a highly visual person that follows self-constructed, and very detailed mental maps of his environment. Ka has no problem navigating familiar spaces, or exploring new ones. If you can picture how Neo sees in the Matrix, you might start to understand how Ka navigates. Now, if you can picture Neo fighting blind, you’re getting closer to understanding Ka. 

Krav Maga is one of those arts that requires more than reflexes or biceps. It’s an intensive art that requires incredible dedication, and thousands of hours practice. It’s not just about form and stance. It’s about tactics, and to Ka, “it’s all about strategy”. I asked Ka how he is as a martial artist, I asked him to put modesty aside and tell me how good he thinks he is. Being a humble guy with high goals, Ka said only that he “has a lot of potential”. Ka mentioned that part of his potential is the practiced awareness he has for his surroundings and his own level of dedication at accomplishing his goals. Ka told me that most of his friends are very successful people who inspire him to reach further, and inspire him to set high goals. To Ka, blindness isn’t a disability, it’s just something that makes him work harder. It’s this work ethic, this level of commitment and perseverance that makes Ka a perfect martial artist. Ka, is always on the move, always trying to improve himself. He is a great advocate for independence and constantly works on acquiring the skills to be completely self-sustaining.

 For Ka and many others, Krav Maga adds an unshakable confidence that bolsters this independence. What Ka wants the blind community to know is that they are not defenceless, they possess innate skills that give them martial advantages, and make them dangerous to those who would mistake them as easy prey. Ka explained that when people move he can track them by the sound the air makes as it rustles their clothes. He can follow their movements and he can strike. I asked Ka if he thinks people would be surprised at how easily he could put them down. He told me that his instructor remarked on how “he barely ever misses”, and he has learned how to put a lot of weight behind those hits.

 But it’s not all hitting, Krav Maga teaches you situational awareness. Ka talked me through the basic stances. He elaborated on the passive stance, a stance that is to be constantly maintained with a vigilance that leaves a person always ready. This doesn’t mean that those trained in Krav Maga walk around always looking for a fight, just that they are always prepared in case one is brought to them. This is something that appealed to Ka when he was deciding what martial art he wanted to try. Ka mentioned the “One-Touch System”: training specially designed for blind people that teaches them how to break holds or escape grabby strangers. This, Ka said, “isn’t the most effective way to do things” he mentioned how “you break the grip, sure, but then what?” The One Touch System doesn’t, if you’ll pardon the pun, pack the punch Krav Maga does. It doesn’t take you all the way. This is the strategy that Ka mentioned earlier. Krav Maga teaches more than what to do when you get in a fight. It teaches you how to talk down aggressive people to avoid one, or how to incapacitate someone long enough to get away after one. Krav Maga, while militaristic, isn’t overly violent. Sure, it’s hard, but it’s effective, and it’s all for defence.

 Ka’s final message was one of encouragement. He told me that he wants everyone, especially those in the blind community, to have the skills to be independent. He wants to help others achieve that independence, he wants to encourage everyone to learn Krav Maga, and one day he even dreams of instructing a specialized course for the blind. He believes that Krav Maga gives the blind a confidence and edge that no other training can give. And as far as I’m concerned, if it means that the people assaulting the blind think twice before trying anything, that’s good enough. Those pathetic predators should be warned, Ka and his ilk are a lot closer to Daredevil than the damsel in distress.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Horizontal Elbow Strikes(P1) - Effective Short Range Tools

One of the goals of the Practitioner 1 program is to introduce striking at various distances, directions and angles appropriate to the situation. For an overview of striking tools visit:

Elbows are close range striking tools.  The IKMF Practitioner 1 curriculum includes three horizontal elbow strikes: Inward, sideways, backwards.

  1. Inward:  This is a forward strike.  Examples include defending against two-handed shirt grab(G2) and defending against gun threat from behind (see pic below).  If you are striking with your right, bring your hand to your shoulder, bending the arm in a tight "V".  You are usually striking the side of the attackers head/face.  Your non-striking arm (in this case your left) should be vertical, hands up protecting your face and ribs.  For maximum power, you are rotating your shoulder, back, hips and right foot.  You are striking on a horizontal plane, making contact just below the tip of the elbow.(this concentrates your strike on a small surface). Keep your hands open!

Expert Gail Boxrud demos inward elbow...

       2. Sideways:  You are striking someone beside you at close range. Escaping bear hugs
          from the side, arms free(P3) is an example.  Go through the target in a circular motion 
          striking with the surface just above your elbow.

Sideways elbow against side bear hug

        3. Backwards: The motion is similar to Sideways but you are continuing through the middle of
            your back.  Escaping bear hugs from the back - arms free (P3) offers a clear example.

Student performs backward elbows to escape rear bear hug.  

Elbows are very effective close range striking tools.  Remember to keep you hands open, bend your arm into a tight V, rotate your body, and strike through the target.

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto