Krav maga is the official combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces and an excellent system of self-defense for men and women. “It’s taught and practiced with the David and Goliath scenario in mind, which emphasizes speed and well-placed infliction over size, strength, age, or fitness,” says Matan Gavish, personal trainer, founder and chief instructor of Krav Maga Academy in New York City.
Even though you’re not relying on brute strength, these movements are intended to cause maximum harm and impact in a life or death situation. Gavish, a former Krav Maga officer for the Israeli Defense Forces, has trained Special Ops soldiers, U.S. Navy Seals, and U.S. Army Rangers in the design, practice, and implementation of Krav Maga, Close Combat, and Counter Terrorism techniques, and regularly works with the NYPD Tactical Training Unit.
The following three defense moves should only be applied in situations of duress. “It’s important to remember that whenever you’re in danger and decide to react with force, always aim for soft spots like an attacker’s eyes, nose, jaw, ears, throat, groin, pubic bone, knees, and the Achilles tendon,” Gavish says. Just know that hitting these target areas with inflect serious injury to your attacker and should only be used when absolutely necessary.
Get familiar with these moves; they can help strengthen your mind and body and maybe even save your life one day.
Note: Men’s Fitness does not endorse violence. Always train at a well-regarded, reputable school staffed by well-trained experts.
Defending a One-Hand Choke Against a Wall
Description: An attacker uses one hand to grab and hold your throat, putting pressure into the wall behind you.
Note: “The one-hand throat grab is designed to make you comply with the will of the attacker,” Gavish says. “Pretending like you’re complying and non-resistant could give you the advantage of first strike.” You need to break free from this position quickly so your attacker doesn’t have time to use his other hand to choke you or reach for a weapon.
- Tuck your chin in toward your chest, putting pressure on your attackers thumb to weaken his hold.
- Raise your hands and open your palms close to the attacker’s wrist. Using your non-dominant hand, grab your attackers wrist (near the thumb) and “pluck” it off your throat (driving it down toward the ground), while simultaneously bringing your dominant hand up to strike your attacker’s nose, jaw, or throat. Gavish refers to this move as the “Pluck and Strike.”
- Rotate your hips into your strike to add force and momentum to your punch or hit, making it more powerful.
- Continue to knee your attacker in the groin and strike the noted soft spots.
Disarming a Knife-to-Throat Attack From Behind
Description: An attacker places a blade to your throat from the rear while his/her other hand might be used to control your arm and limit your movement.
Note: “A knife to the throat is the ultimate convincer,” Gavish says. “Because the danger of death is so imminent, people will do just about anything to avoid it, which is why this form of attack is so prevalent,” he adds.
- Pretend to fully comply with your attacker’s demands. You don’t want to resist any initial movement since an accidental (and potentially fatal) cut to your throat can occur.
- In a swift motion, place both hands on his/her wrist that’s holding the weapon and pull their arm down (keeping it tight to your chest). Drop your entire weight down, tuck your chin, and look towards the blade. “This motion transitions the threat from your throat to your face, which is significantly less deadly,” Gavish says.
- Use your hand that’s closest to the attacker to strike their groin, then quickly return to restraining their wrist.
- Your attacker’s arm should still be wrapped around your neck with your hands pinning their wrist by your chest. Say it's their right arm around your neck. In this position, you should be slightly off to their right side. Tuck your head under their right armpit, keeping your chin down and their wrist (that holds the weapon) secured. Pivot your feet and body so you're on the side of your attacker instead of back to front.
- Step firmly on to your attacker's foot (the one that’s closest to you) and shove them to the ground.
Stomp Kick to the Groin
Description: An attacker kicks or knees you in the midsection or groin, which can lead to severe damage, agonizing pain, and follow-up attacks.
Note: This works with other defense moves too, but if your attacker kicks with his right leg, defend yourself with your left hand and vice versa. Always mirror your attacker. This way, your arm will stay relatively straight so your forearm—as it swipes across your body almost like a windshield wiper—will create maximum coverage and protection.
- As your attacker brings his leg up to knee you in the groin, use your mirror hand to divert his leg by using the aforementioned “windshield wipe” movement. You want to use the entire length of your arm to do this; don’t just grab his leg.
- Step sideways, away from the direction of his leg. The momentum will set you to your attackers side or back.
- Strike the face with a closed fist immediately after the block.