PictureCrystal Snyder with Krav Maga instructor AJ Buzzell.
Today's blog is by ABD Krav Maga orange/white belt

There is a saying I found on Facebook about comparison, written by Bonnie Pfiester.  I’ve shared it there before, and I really like it.  It follows:

“I will beat her.

I will train harder.

I will eat cleaner.

I know her weaknesses.

I know her strengths.

I've lost to her before, but not this time.

She is going down.

I have the advantage because I know her well.

She is the Old Me.”

I love the concept of this saying, because it affirms what I already know is true: the only thing I really have to beat is my own weakness.

I’ve trained at ABD since October 2012, coming up on eight months.  I’m a white-orange belt.  Many who began with me, or even after me, have moved on to BBT, while I remain in Basic.  Many have asked me whether I ever get upset or discouraged that I’m “still” a basic student, when so many of my peers have already tested past me.  It always seems a funny question to me…why would someone else’s achievement be a reflection of my effort?  As Sensei has talked recently about comparison, this question seemed especially important to me lately.

As I answered this question for myself, I thought it might be helpful for anyone who follows behind me in my path to hear the lesson that I learned.

Consider this:

Man A is jogging through Norwich.  As he passes Man B at Norwich Free Academy, his friend asks, “Where ya going?”  Man A replies, “I’m jogging to ABD!”  Man B replies, “Sounds good!  I’ll jog with you!”  And so they jog along.  They reach the marina, and they see their friend, Man C.  “Where you guys off to?” asks Man C.  Man B shouts, “Man A and I are jogging to ABD!”  Man C responds, “What?!  I love ABD!  I’m coming too!”  And so they continue on.  As they travel, Man A tires a bit, and sometimes has to walk.  But he never stops altogether.  Man B and Man C travel with him for a while, but not wanting to hold them back, Man A says, “Go on, you guys!  You rock!  I’ll catch up!”  So Man B and Man C run on, and soon reach ABD. 

Now Man A is really tired by now, but he hears the shouts of Man B and Man C cheering him on, and so he keeps pushing.  Sometimes it feels like Man A is barely crawling.  But he wants so badly to get all the way to ABD, and he can still hear the cheers of his friends, so no matter what, Man A just keeps moving.

After what seems like a millennium, Man A finally reaches ABD and joins his friends.  They’re all drinking water and cooling down, when Man C says, “Wow.  It’s a long way from the marina to ABD!”  Man B laughs and says, “Whooo buddy!  You should’ve seen how far it is to ABD from NFA!”  Man A is quiet for a while, and smiles to himself.  Man B asks, “Man A, where’d you start from anyway?”  Man A sheepishly grins.  “Ledyard.”

That’s how I feel about my martial arts journey.  Some may say, “Gosh, she must be so discouraged to be training eight months and still be a white-orange belt.”  But the thing you have to understand is, just wearing ANY martial arts belt is farther than I thought I could go, as recently as a year ago. 

Whether you see yourself in Man A, B, or C, the important part is that you are encouraged by your own progress.  Looking around at what everyone else is doing will just make you dizzy.  Seriously, try doing ten burpees while looking all around the room.  You only succeed by looking straight ahead, at your own goal.

Tonight, I’ll tie my white-orange belt on with pride.  I’ll bow onto the mat, and then I will face that beautiful, strong woman in the mirror, and I’ll bow to her too.  She deserves my respect.  She’s come really far.  And I know she’ll go much farther.

For the next three months, we're working on knife defenses.

In Krav Maga, knife defenses can be broken down into three categories:

1) Knife on Knife - both attacker and defender are armed.
2) Knife Attack - the stab or slash is in process.
3) Knife Threat - the knife is being held on you and there are verbal demands or threats.

This time, we're working the worst of the above scenarios: the knife attack.  

Don't get me wrong, they're all bad.  In fact, they're all awful - and if you ever find yourself in a self-defense situation involving a blade, statistics show that you can expect to be cut or stabbed.  How's that for confidence?

Knife attacks are situations where the negotiation is over.  The blade is coming at you - downward ice-pick style (think "Psycho"), straight stab, upward stab, or slashing.

And here you are, unarmed.

Obviously, the best bet is to run.  This training presupposes that running is out of the question at the moment.  

This is seriously worst-case scenario kind of stuff, but that's why it's so important to practice.  We'll be starting slow, piece-by-piece, and build it into something you can perform under pressure and anxiety, using Krav Maga stress drills.

One of our students works with violent offenders.  Just last week, a new patient grabbed a knife and attacked him with an upward stab.  Though new to this technique, he was able to make it happen - with the added bonus of not injuring his attacker.  You never know when or if this kind of thing will happen; you can only hope to be trained enough to respond.

It's the end of March, and that means cycle testing for our Krav Maga students in Norwich.

This cycle, we did a number of things.

Basic students worked on ground defense and Muay Thai combinations.

Intermediate and advanced students did wall chokes, guillotine and forearm choke defenses as well as a kali double stick set.

As usual, parts of the test are top secret (until everyone has gone through it) but below are some pictures of that test that are public.
Double Stick Set.
Test #1 of 4.
Krav Maga Test #2, morning group
Test #3
Test #4
Jay Pawloski, from Brooklyn CT, got our Victory of the Month in February for losing 43lbs in his first year of Krav Maga and Muay Thai training.  He's alos 
On Sunday, March 3rd, Kayla Fritz from America's Best Defense in Norwich conducted a women's self-defense seminar at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

Sensei Fritz is a third degree black belt in the ABD system and has over eighteen years of experience in the martial arts.  During the class, she taught Krav Maga "combatives" and a few "scenarios" (situational drills) to the college-aged attendees.  Participants got to practice the techniques on each other as well as on Krav Maga's target of choice, the tombstone pad.  

Krav Maga is ideal for women because of its focus on aggressiveness over physical power.  It's unlikely that a woman, even one trained in martial arts, will be able to overpower a larger, stronger assailant.  In Krav Maga, however, speed and preemption help to equalize the playing field.  A KM student is taught to never stop counterattacking - until the assailant is either incapacitated or gives up the attack.

Obviously, a two-hour session is not enough to prepare someone for real life self-defense.  Participants were encouraged to seek out formal Krav Maga training to further their knowledge and expand their confidence in the possibility of a real situation.

Sensei Fritz was assisted by Eddie Xiloj, Barbara Cedio, and Jenn Job.

Kayla Fritz is available for on-site Krav Maga self-defense seminars for women's groups, churches, schools, businesses, etc.  Please contact her at America's Best Defense Norwich or by emailing her at abdfritz (at) yahoo.com.  

By Charlie McShane

It's been explained to me by more than one very experienced Krav Maga instructor, that the self-defense "scenarios" that KM employs were systematically arrived at by reviewing hours of videos and eye-witness accounts to street violence.  After sifting through this information, the highest percentage attacks were obvious, and the original developers knew what to start working on.

In other words, the most common street assaults were boiled down scientifically and statistically, which informed the creators of KM, from Imi Lichtenfeld downward, what to spend all their time on.  Rather than saying "let's come up with an interesting defense to a cross-side, upside down 45-degree thumbless grip", the data told them that that kind of threat may have only occurred (unfortunately, I've not seen the actual findings) only .003 percent of the time, so it was almost useless to address that type of attack.  That's why, as Krav Maga students, we train on only about twenty major scenarios, instead of countless, endlessly more imaginative ones.

Not to be found on "Street Thugs Gone Wild" DVD.
It's important to note that the vast majority of martial arts systems do not approach self-defense training using the statistical method.  If they did, attacks like this wouldn't appear so often in their curriculums. -->

The information also provided, obviously, the most commonly faced situations: frontal chokes, headlocks, bear hugs; in short, the staple techniques taught in every KM school in the world.  These are the situations or "scenarios" that are addressed the most in Krav Maga because they happen the most in real-life, human to human encounters.

Speaking for myself, I use the following concept as a teaching model: "scenarios" can be split into two major sections: the initial response, and the follow-up - which are called "combatives" in KM terminology.

I like to split it into two sections to be easier for beginners (and sometimes, even more advanced students) to digest.

If the first part (initial reaction) is not effective, everything that comes after that is not very important.  For instance, take the scenario "Choke Against Wall From Behind."  This scenario assumes that you don't find yourself suddenly smushed against a wall; you're standing a step or two away from it.  An attacker rams you, face-first, into a wall, or car, or ATM that you're standing in front of.  

The first, and most important, thing taught in this scenario is to turn your face and slap your forearms and palms into the wall in order to save your skull from being smashed.  I call the arm motion "goal posts" to help students visualize and remember.  After this, you spin and go into some cool combatives.

Everyone loves combatives.

I think you'd agree that if you don't turn your face, if you don't absorb all that explosive forward motion - including all your body weight and his - that everything after that doesn't matter much.  You are, most likely, partially asleep, bleeding from a nose which now takes up more of your face than it once did, in a heap on the ground - not exactly the best state to execute terrifying hammerfists, elbows and knees from.

That first reaction is important.  So important that many instructors make it a point to isolate that first motion repetitively before ever allowing you to begin counterstriking.  That's why so much emphasis is placed on plucking correctly, or basing out correctly, or spearing correctly.  You may be in a hurry to deliver that awesome flurry of unstoppable knees, elbows, and groin shots... but unless you actually make them stop strangling you first, you may not have a chance to impress them with your overlapping counters that inspire fear in tombstone pads far-and-wide.  

The second part of the scenario comes second for a reason.

So take time developing those initial responses, and have confidence that a lot of statistical work has gone into the why's and how's of what you're doing.

I was walking down an alley and... bam!
And be grateful that the data collected on the highest percentage, human vs. human attacks did not support that "monkey steals the peach" happens frequently in the wild. 

Jake Steinmann from Sityodtong Boston visits ABD Norwich to work Muay Thai with Matt Frank.
The America's Best Defense system is Krav Maga, with a bit of Muay Thai kickboxing thrown in.  You could say that a student in the ABD system is majoring in Krav Maga and minoring in Muay Thai.

The benefits of Krav Maga are obvious: ruthless practicality, simplicity of learning, development of an aggressiveness trigger, etc.  

But why add Muay Thai to the mix?  

You'd have to ask Master Garcia, the founder of ABD, for the official answer.  However, I can offer an opinion.

I think there are a number of reasons why a Krav Maga student might enjoy supplementing her training with Muay Thai... and here they are:

1) It's a good fit.  The top level Krav Maga experts in the world would not deny that a good deal of KMs techniques - specifically, the combatives - are taken from other martial arts systems.  Muay Thai, with its emphasis on power generation through factors other than brute muscle, fits nicely into the striking section of Krav Maga, specifically the elbows, knees, and devastating kicks.  Krav Maga is concerned with delivering maximum power with every strike, and Muay Thai's long lineage of technical refinement supplies that power generation.

2) It's a great workout.  Krav Maga places a great emphasis on physical fitness... and it's nearly impossible to train in Muay Thai and not get in shape.  Thai pad rounds alone can reduce someone to a state of fatigue very quickly... and there's something really satisfying in kicking those pads as hard as you can

3) There's nothing fancy.  Muay Thai, known as the "Art Of Eight Limbs" does not waste time on fancy, Hollywood-style techniques.  Everything impractical has been weeded out and all that's left are high-percentage strikes and techniques.  

4) The availability of competition.  Krav Maga, only concerned with survival, is not a competitive system.  But Muay Thai is a sport, and offers the possibility of getting in the ring against another trained fighter, if that's your interest.

At ABD Norwich, we place almost no emphasis on competition, and have very few students who choose to fight in the ring.  However, I love including Muay Thai in our classes because of the sheer technique and power generation available.  If you've ever watched a traditional Thai match - those guys are not very big compared to average Americans.  But their kicks land like baseball bats.  Through the techniques of Muay Thai, a smaller person can learn to deliver a lot of power - and obviously, that sounds great to students of Krav Maga.

I always look forward to the Muay Thai component of the ABD program for just that reason... honing my movement to deliver maximum power with maximum efficiency.  And taking a look at our classes in Connecticut, everyone else likes it too.

Guest blog by Barbara Cedio, ABD second-degree black belt.
I've been at ABD for a while, and like everyone else that has been for any length of time, can't live without it. The one thing that has bothered me from the start is making a "mistake" during class. I'm a southpaw. I've always trained right handed though because my theory is to train my weaker side. But I'm pretty sure I'm a closet dyslexic and on top of being left handed, well you can get where I'm going.
     I do like doing the Mauy Thai forms, but I do stress out (alot) if I make a mistake, and throw a jab instead of a cross, or hold the pads to the left instead of the right. I REALLY like doing the Krav Maga that we are doing this cycle! It's a great self defense, it's awsome stress relief, and we get to throw our punches, knees or kicks out of order!! Just throw them! Some left, two or three right....It's awsome!
     Yes, it is good to do a form to teach you to use combinations in sparring situations. And the gun and knife defense has a series of movements that is "preset". With training in the Krav style you learn that you just explode. It's a nice change to be able to not worry what comes next, or if I used my left punch instead of my right punch. I'm really liking this Krav cycle!!

Today's post is from ABD brown belt Matt Frank.

I absolutely love Americas Best Defense.  The school is very rewarding both mentally and physically.  Our instructors are some of the best walking this earth. 

Before I came to ABD I was working and paying my bills.  I was living but not doing anything very rewarding or productive. I was drinking quite a bit and kind of wasting my life. ABD has made me a dedicated person who tries to bring what I learn in class to my everyday life.  

I recently started doing Jiu-Jitsu. It is soooooo fun.  It is also very humbling.  I am a brown/black belt in the ABD program. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I am a white belt.  It feels very good to go from being an advanced student and sometimes teaching and mentoring the white belts, to have that role reversed.  

Anyone who lacks direction, wants to lose pounds, get in better physical shape, or just have a great time in a positive environment should come to ABD.

Today's guest post his by Ledyard, Connecticut's Rosa Fontanez, Shorin-Ryu black belt and ABD Norwich white/yellow belt.

Hello fellow martial artists. My name is Rosa and I started the Krav Maga / Muay Thai class about a month ago, after not training for a few years. I can talk to you about all the wonderful things I’m learning , but instead and with your indulgence what I would like to talk to you about is the heart of a martial artist.  I had forgotten that true martial artists are a rare breed. I was reminded of that the first day I took class.

My first class turned out to be a stripe day class. Not sure if I would have shown up if I had known. It was a fast paced class. Here is where I was reminded of the heart of a martial artist. I was struggling a little with some of the exercises we had to do and the young woman whom I was paired with help me and encourage me to do better. What I heard from her was “come on you can do it, give me one more”.  Now here was a woman who didn’t even know me but yet was encouraging me to keep going. And that’s what I mean by the heart of a martial artist. From the lowest belt to the highest belt you will always be encouraged and helped to give more when you think you have nothing more to give.  A martial artist will pat you in the back when you have gone the extra mile and will pick you up and help you go that extra mile if you can’t do it on your own.

I had lost myself for a little while, but little by little in class I am finding the woman I use to be. Martial Arts: the one thing in this world that hasn’t disappointed me.

Heart: that’s what part of martial arts is all about. It’s hard to succeed in martial arts if you don’t have the heart.

Thanks for reading.