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Krav Maga For When Reality is Cruel and Unpredictable

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Train Right to Prepare Yourself to Survive

By Jason Brick

reality is cruel

If you ask 100 different martial artists what kind of training is most important, you’ll get 100 different answers. You’ll get 200 if you come back a year later and ask them again. Moni Aizik has trained in multiple martial arts genres — in the classical arts, sporting arts and military arts — and the worldview he developed led him to a set of answers he regards as universal truths. He went on to found Commando Krav Maga, Combat Survival and Elite Combat Fitness, and he’s taught those systems to countless clients in the military and in law enforcement, as well as in the civilian sphere, for more than 40 years.

I had an opportunity to talk with Aizik about what Commando Krav Maga is, what it does and how martial artists like you can apply it to their reality-based training on and off the mat.


Although renowned for his contributions to the Israeli art of Krav Maga, Aizik is also a longtime fan and practitioner of the traditional arts. Black Belt readers don’t require much reminding of the benefits they get from the martial arts that are taught in the dojo.

An incomplete list would include stress relief, cardiovascular exercise and falling skills. What’s more, those benefits are likely to protect us from the most common killers of modern humans, dangers like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer, which are far more common than assailants lurking in alleys.

However, those ancillary protections don’t include surviving sudden violence. That requires training with intention, and it’s what Aizik specializes in.

“When you train in traditional martial arts, you tend to believe that’s the way it is,” he says. “You don’t open your mind to the different things that really happen on the street. If you deal only with grappling, as an example, you forget that somebody might have a knife or a gun. If you do striking only, you forget you can fall.”

While creating Commando Krav Maga, Aizik reviewed more than 20,000 videos of violence collected from CCTV cameras, dashcams, bodycams and similar sources. He used this research to develop a system of self-defense that addresses the realities of street violence in the 21st century. Although every criminal incident is unique, Aizik’s research identified patterns.

One of the most important patterns is how people respond when attacked. “Most of the time, when adrenaline kicks in, people will do what they are trained to do,” Aizik says. “A wrestler normally likes to engage by grabbing somebody. If somebody attacks them with a knife, they might find themselves trying a double-leg takedown, which is the worst thing to do against a knife. A karate practitioner might try to kick the knife, which is not advisable because against a knife, you need extremely good stability.”

On a similar note, consider how most training sessions that involve sparring or self-defense focus on light blows delivered while on a level floor, one that’s often covered with mats, while participants are wearing comfortable clothes and have warmed up their bodies. This bears almost no resemblance to fighting for one’s life in a litter-filled alley at night while wearing jeans and a pair of work boots, Aizik says.

While recognizing the value of traditional and sport training, he insists that people need methods that more closely mimic reality as it manifests in the modern world, and he applies that insight to things you can do before, during and after an attack.


Training to survive — and prevail in — a violent attack is a matter of building reflexes that work under the conditions that occur during the commission of a crime. A friend throwing a pulled punch in a controlled environment does not equal what you’ll encounter in the real world, Aizik says.

On the other hand, you can’t train under conditions that are identical to a real attack because that kind of force would carry the risk of serious injury every time you stepped on the mat. This is why Aizik suggests his students alter how they train sometimes so the circumstances more closely match a realistic assault.

“When training in a traditional martial art, you need to remember there are specific concepts for handling reality,” he says. “But reality is cruel and unpredictable!”

As an example, Aizik talks about lighting conditions. If your only training is under fluorescent lights in a strip-mall dojo or under sodium lights in a warehouse space, your situational awareness will suffer when you’re in a parking lot at night. To combat this, Commando Krav Maga conducts workouts in dim lighting, near-total darkness and even

under strobe lights. Sometimes instructors add audio elements like the sound of an angry crowd or a police siren.

This changes the context of training so practitioners don’t unconsciously rely on having a certain set of conditions when they execute their self-defense techniques. Altering the environment when you train is key to preparing for the realities of street self-defense, Aizik says.

“We train in street clothes,” he adds. “We initiate training that involves things to make it more like [a fight] on the street. For instance, we know that in real fights, you’re going to sweat a lot. Everything will be slippery. So we put oil on a gun or knife and then you have to do the disarm.”


When you’re attacked, even if you’ve trained to the context, you have to account for the impact of adrenaline and other fear factors, Aizik says. This isn’t news for any serious student of self-defense, but he takes it a step further.

He built Commando Krav Maga to factor in how our physiological responses degrade our fine-motor skills. “It’s based on simplicity,” he says. “The only things that really work on the street are simple. Anything that takes more than two gross-motor skills will not work for you under stress and pressure. All moves are straightforward and simple, and

[they] don’t require strength.”

Take, for example, a defense against an aggressive right hand. It could be a punch or a push or a grab. Relying on simple sequences of grossmotor skills, Commando Krav Maga teaches a response called “the rhino.”

It unfolds like this:

• Raise your left hand and place it behind your head as if you’re combing your hair. Point your left elbow forward, toward the attacker.

• Step forward with your left foot, catching the attack on your arm. If possible, strike the aggressor in the face with the point of your elbow.

• Follow up with a right palm strike to the face. After that initial response, you have a fraction of a second to decide what to do next, Aizik says. Depending on the situation, that might mean retreating, stepping forward to reposition yourself behind the bad guy

or continuing with additional strikes to neutralize him.

It’s important to reiterate that the rhino doesn’t differentiate between types of unarmed high-line attacks. Taking the time to identify what’s coming and then choosing a specialized response can make you freeze even under ideal circumstances. Instead, Aizik’s system encourages you to practice a near-universal response until it’s reflexive.

As you can see, the rhino uses only large-muscle, gross-motor skills — the ones we can rely on when our bodies are flooded with adrenaline.


Against a knife attack, Commando Krav Maga teaches you to create distance and disengage, but if that’s impossible, you should seek to control. “The delivery system for the knife is not just the edge of the blade,” Aizik says. “It is the entire arm and the shoulder and the legs. All of that has to be controlled.”

Only after achieving control can you safely attempt a disarm, as in the technique he’s dubbed “the wiz.” It’s perfect for use against a lunging knife attack:

• Step clockwise offline and swing your left arm forward to redirect the knife. Be certain to face the back of your hand and forearm forward to protect your radial artery.

• Raise your hands into a prayer position, using both to control the opponent’s knife hand while your left elbow pinches and traps his arm.

• Strip the weapon with your right hand, then counterattack or disengage.

As with the rhino, the wiz applies the strength of your entire body against a single vital point of your attacker while relying on grossmotor skills that remain after an adrenal dump.

These concepts apply across a broad spectrum of attacks, Aizik says. Students of Commando Krav Maga learn them from the beginning, but traditional students can incorporate them into their own training and take their self-defense off the mat and onto the street.

But Aizik’s system goes ever further. It teaches other techniques and training methods that are designed for reality-based attacks.

“We teach gun disarms from standing, from kneeling and from lying on the back — from so many angles,” he says, illustrating the fact that martial artists might be called on to defend themselves in positions other than on their feet in a stance they’ve practiced.

The same goes for ground fighting — which Commando Krav Maga doesn’t teach, he says. Instead, the system schools its students in ground survival, which Aizik describes as “how to escape and get to your feet from any situation.”

This verbiage and the subset of skills it refers to implicitly convey the message that rolling on the ground is dangerous because it leaves you exposed. It also stems from the fact that stand-up systems like krav maga do better while the practitioner is standing.


Many knowledgeable martial artists lament that students receive very little training in the skills they need before violence begins, and they’re right. Most instructors pay lip service to the importance of de-escalation, situational awareness and other soft skills but then spend very little mat time practicing them.

That situation pales in comparison to how little attention most workouts allot to what happens after a fight. At worst, self-defense instructors dig out the old saying, “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six” — as if those are the only two options available when confronted with potential violence. Reality is far more complex.

“The fight is not always over when you get out of the situation,” Aizik says. “If you hurt the guy too much, you might find yourself in jail. You need to know what happens post-attack.” There are legal, moral, ethical and financial issues associated with self-defense that any system billing itself as realistic and responsible must prepare its students for. One way Commando Krav Maga accomplishes this is through teaching students to attack an aggressor’s mindset as well as his body.

An attacker feels big and powerful, at least compared to the person he’s attacking, Aizik says. Otherwise, the person wouldn’t attack. To inflict pain and fear — what he calls “becoming the bully” in that moment— it’s possible to destroy the assailant’s will to fight. If you make the other guy run away, it’s better for everybody.

How so? You haven’t had to seriously injure another human being. The bad guy isn’t maimed or killed. Bystanders — by which I mean witnesses — see that the person is in good enough shape to retreat. All this combines to help you mentally and emotionally survive the altercation, as well as help protect you in any legal battles that might follow.

A second consideration is how to deal with fear. As a violent event approaches, your body’s physiological response limits your higher order mental skills just as much as it erodes your fine-motor control. By training in situations that induce or mimic the body’s stress response, you don’t just train yourself to apply your physical skills; you help yourself stay calm before violence erupts, which can help you avoid a fight in the first place.

Aizik also advises students to learn the self-defense laws of their area. In particular, you should endeavor to understand when self-defense becomes assault, what rules surround firearms and other weapons, and whether you live in a stand-your-ground jurisdiction or one with a duty to retreat. The better you know the legal context of self-defense, the more prepared you are for the after-fight battles.


The key, Aizik says, is to “insert a piece of reality into what you do to be able to face a street fight properly.” For some, this might entail direct training in a reality-based system, but it doesn’t have to mean giving up your art. According to Aizik, many students of Commando Krav Maga are also traditional martial artists who add the street-oriented lessons to what they learn in their conventional classes.

Others, however, are all in. They absorb the reality-based concepts like the role of environment, the need for simplicity and the importance of stress training, then inject that into the martial portion of their brains. They’re confident that making such realistic considerations part of their lifestyle will better prepare them for anything they might face

off the mat.

Jason Brick is an Oregon-based freelance writer and martial artist who’s trained in a variety of styles for more than 35 years. His website is

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