Krav Maga has a bit of a PR problem – any quick search on YouTube will yield a dozen results, most involving large men in military fatigues and a disproportionate amount of rifle-wielding.
It’s not that Krav Maga doesn’t cover military, para-military, and police techniques – it certainly does, and law-enforcement services around the world make extensive use of Krav Maga training. That being said, civilian Krav Maga is actually more nuanced than its military counterpart, which makes the singular focus of most social media somewhat inaccurate.
The threats and dangers that most men, women, and children face frequently fall into a “grey zone.” The “grey zone” is an area that encompasses situations that make a person very uncomfortable, but are not so severe or so traumatizing as to be easily labelled in black and white fashion as, say, “assault.” Sometimes, analyzing and responding to a “grey” threat appropriately is more challenging than dealing with an obviously life-threatening situation. In cases of clear-cut threats to one’s life, it is much easier to recognize that an immediate, dynamic reaction is required. Otherwise, when the threat is less pronounced, the options for response increase in number and experience is required to determine which option is best. This is where “soft techniques,” which we’ll refer to as “educational blocks,” become so useful.
Because Krav Maga is a defensive system, our primarily focus is to help you to keep yourself safe. In order to do that, we teach awareness as a first step. It is vital to be observant of your environment (both the persons and objects in it, as well as your position in relation to them); this is key to avoiding problems before they begin. We advocate using the knowledge of Krav Maga techniques only when absolutely necessary, and the response that you have must be measured – it must use only as much force as necessary and no more. It is relatively easy to teach students to punch and kick, but these techniques are not always necessary or appropriate, and they don’t always address the concerns that the average person has about “grey zone” problems that they’re most likely to encounter on a day-to-day basis. This is where the elegance, simplicity, and effectiveness of “educational blocks” really shine.
Precisely what is an Educational Block?
An “educational block” is a low-key technique that produces minimal damage to an assailant and requires little movement. It is, however, sufficiently unpleasant that an attacker should recognize that the intended victim is not as easy a target as anticipated. This is the “educational” component of the technique. It is, essentially, one-step deterrence. On your part, it demonstrates that a) you are attempting to de-escalate the situation and are not reacting irrationally or needlessly violently, and b) you likely possess the skills to end the confrontation to your advantage if peaceful resolution fails.
Educational blocks are the logical stepping stones between situational awareness and what might be termed “Plan B” techniques – more aggressive techniques to be used in cases of greater danger.
Educational blocks include, but are not limited to:
- pressure on the thumb to release unwelcome and prolonged handshakes
- pressure near the interclavicular ligament to release an aggressive shirt-grab
- soft techniques using pressure against the thumb to release hand-grabs
- “wind-milling” to release shirt-grabs
None of these techniques require tremendous physical strength, great height, or a weight advantage. As is always the case in Krav Maga, applied knowledge of basic anatomy and physiology is what allows a practitioner to free him/herself from an undesirable situation, and this is never more true than it is in the case of educational blocks, which involve subtle movement. You’ll also notice that no punching, kicking, throwing, groundwork, or other more forceful techniques are mentioned, as these fall into the “Plan B” category, to be used if gentler “education” is ineffective or a more obvious threat is made immediately.
Why do we need Educational Blocks? What Grey Zone?
In a country as stereotypically polite as Canada, we’re often so concerned with not giving offence that we sometimes allow others to compromise our personal space in order not to come off as “crazy,” “mean,” “angry,” or “aggressive.” We sacrifice our safety for social grace; unfortunately, there are those on the street with sinister intent who take advantage of this good-heartedness. Soft techniques offer us a comfortable middle-ground between surrendering our well-being and reacting in a way that is unrealistically aggressive for the average man, woman, or child.
Perhaps it’s a trip on a crowded bus or train and someone makes an attempt to hold on to your hand. Perhaps it’s a business meeting in which an “innocent” handshake becomes prolonged and painful. It may be a misunderstanding that becomes heated but hasn’t yet become more physical than a shirt-grab meant to direct you (albeit unpleasantly). In most of these scenarios, we feel apprehensive, but we want very badly to believe that nothing more serious will occur. We are torn between wanting to remove ourselves from the situation and wondering if there really even is a problem or if it’s “all in our heads.” If we react too quickly, too strongly, we worry about being seen as “not all there,” though we realize that the alternative – not reacting – leaves us vulnerable to treatment that we haven’t consented to and that we don’t want to continue. It’s a terrible spot to be in because it feels as though there isn’t an easy way out.
These are the times that knowing low-profile, simple, soft-techniques gives us the peace of mind that we can extricate ourselves from unpleasant scenarios without unnecessary drama. The confidence that we gain from knowing that we can successfully look after ourselves – no matter how “tricky” a situation is – is enormous.
Thus, no rifles and no bellowing, but purely effective nonetheless. The beauty of Krav Maga rests in how comprehensive it is, how many options it gives us to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. Watch for these excellent educational blocks in class!
The Academy Team