Krav Maga Defense: How to Defend Yourself Against the 12 Most Common Unarmed Street Attacks

Krav Maga Defense: How to Defend Yourself Against the 12 Most Common Unarmed Street Attacks

by David Kahn


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David Kahn, U.S. Chief Instructor of the Israeli Krav Maga Association, is back again with Krav Maga Defense: How to Defend Yourself Against the 12 Most Common Street Attacks. Created by the Israeli army for self-defense, krav maga is gaining popularity around the world—especially here in the United States. Kahn is a self-defense expert, teacher, and served as a board member of the original Israeli Krav Maga Association.

Kahn will teach you how to gain the upper hand in the twelve most common unarmed street attacks the average person is likely to encounter. He’ll show you how to outmaneuver takedowns, rear chokes, ambush attacks, sucker punches while texting, knees to the groin, among other street safety skills.

Kahn has instructed everyone from members at the local Y to executives, celebrities, and all major federal U.S. law enforcement agencies, as well as all five branches of the U.S. military. His simple, no-nonsense approach to self-defense is perfect for men and women of all fitness levels. Don’t become tomorrow’s headline; Krav Maga Defense will teach you to protect yourself today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250090829
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 539,427
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

David Kahn, Israeli Krav Maga Association (Gidon System) United States Chief Instructor, is the only American to sit on the IKMA board of directors. David has formally trained all five branches of the U.S. military, the Royal Marines, in addition to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies including instructors from the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals, NJSP, and Philadelphia PD, along with celebrities, executives, and other clients. He is the author of Krav Maga, Advanced Krav Maga, Krav Maga Weapon Defenses, and Krav Maga Professional Tactics. David also created the DVD companion set Mastering Krav Maga: Defending the 12 Most Common Unarmed Attacks. David and his partners operate several Israeli krav maga training centers along with the IKMAP affiliate instructor program. A graduate of Princeton University, he lives in New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt

Krav Maga Defense

How to Defend Yourself Against the 12 Most Common Unarmed Street Attacks

By David Kahn, Mimi Rowland, Rinaldo Rossi

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 David Kahn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09083-6



Street violence is volatile, unpredictable, and often unannounced (though there may be previolence indicators a victim did not recognize). There are no certainties regarding the outcome of a potential life-and-death struggle. An attacker will likely seek every advantage. First and foremost, he will try to use the element of surprise. You may find yourself in a "-5" position or initially unprepared to fight for your life.


There are four general reasons for common types of violence:

1. APPREHENSION: You represent some sort of threat to another person (or animal).

* NONVIOLENT SOLUTION: De-escalate using a nonthreatening manner, including open palms and a slow, calm, conciliatory approach and voice. Note: One of the more common provocations can be invading someone's personal space.

2. EGO-DRIVEN: Someone wishes to exert social dominance or has perceived an affront from you creating an excuse to pull the violence trigger.

* NONVIOLENT SOLUTION: De-escalate by using a nonthreatening manner, including open palms, a slow, calm approach, along with a conciliatory voice, and, within reason, capitulating to the aggressor's demands or will.

3. RAGE OR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED: You become the target because the attacker is independently set off by something real or perceived that you did or you just happen to be in the attacker's sights.

* NONVIOLENT SOLUTION: Ignore the attacker. If you cannot avoid the attacker, establish a firm boundary clearly delineating that you will not be a victim. Your body language unequivocally establishes that you will meet any force with overwhelming countervailing force. Be aware that there are mentally anguished people spoiling for a fight no matter what the odds of success. There is no chance of reasoning or de-escalation. The only solution is avoidance or incapacitating these types of aggressors.

4. CRIMINAL: You have something the attacker wants.

* NONVIOLENT SOLUTION: Give the attacker what the attacker wants "within reason." Within reason must include not violating your body or going to a potential secondary crime scene. Your only other solution may be to immediately incapacitate the criminal aggressor.

Concerted, determined violence seldom lasts more than a few seconds. Adopting a simple survival mind-set is inadequate. You must believe you will physically win without sustaining any permanent physical damage. Regardless of an attacker's size, strength, training, or physical ability, you will prevail by delivering debilitating, overwhelming counterviolence. Essential to survival is your mental and psychological tenacity. Mental training envisions not just defending oneself (after all other precautions and de-escalation measures have failed), but, when necessary, also damaging another human or, in rare cases, an animal.

Three highly recommended books to further explore the different strata, forms, and evolutions of violence are Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence, Facing Violence, and ConCom: Conflict Communications. You can often recognize verbal, behavioral, and physical manifestations indicating that violence is imminent. Recognized or not, there will be some indicator prior to an attack.

Obviously, social violence is more prevalent when people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when young men congregate. Importantly, young males often feel they have much to prove and do not fully understand violence's ramifications: physical, psychological, and legal. Introducing a weapon changes the stakes and indicates a possible willingness to maim or kill. When verbal reasoning ceases, if krav maga is your solution, there must be no other available choice.


Humans have subconscious rules governing social violence. The contest of teaching someone a lesson by asserting social dominance by either intimidation or physical force usually does not involve grave injuries or murderous intent. Yet, you should never underestimate the capability, determination, or cunning of an attacker. Generally, someone will only attack if the person thinks he can physically win. A criminal or sociopath may have little formal fight or martial arts training; however, the attacker compensates for this with a deeply embedded, unflappable resolve to injure you.

When facing the specter of social violence, if no body contact is made with you, as glib as it may sound, if there is "no harm, (then there is) no foul." Despite any indignation or effrontery you may experience, walk away from the situation. Perhaps, by adopting the mind-set that it was the aggressor's lucky day or that you would have "beat him down," you can more easily swallow your ego and disengage. The flip side is that you do not know what the aggressor's capabilities and intent are. So, in either case, use common sense, not inflamed emotions, to carry the day and walk away. Founder Imi Lichtenfeld emphasized, "The most necessary thing is to educate you — and that is the hardest thing — to be humble. You must be so humble that you don't want to show him that you're better than him. That is one of the most necessary things for pupils. If a pupil tells me, 'I fought him and beat him,' it's no good."

Scientists have noted that evolution wired our brains to generally avoid killing (a hardwired safety mechanism) when testing social dominance. With animals and humans alike, hierarchical conflict is rarely lethal, but males, in particular, often have difficulty backing down from status conflict. The reality is that some people will tolerate effrontery and abuse while others will not. Those who are intolerant of challenges may have a shorter or longer fuse, but eventually this fuse will ignite.

Amateur social violence occurs, for example, when Aggressor #1 (A1) is not entirely committed to injuring Aggressor #2 (A2). A1 hopes one combative will likely hurt or subdue, but, importantly, not truly injure A2 to deter him from continuing. In summary, the goal of amateur violence is to "put a hurt" on someone, but not to truly injure the attacker. The takeaway is that you should recognize impending social violence and not let it control or dictate your future.


When confronting possible criminal violence, it is axiomatic that your life and well-being are not worth trading for any possessions. A criminal uses violence as a physical tool to acquire valuables. If someone is threatening you, especially with a weapon or if you are clearly outnumbered, comply with the criminal's demands — if you can. If you cannot comply with the aggressor's demands, and reasoning with the aggressor has failed and there is no escape, take the fight to your assailant to neutralize him. As noted, maintaining an overall strategy to end your attacker's ability to harm you is paramount.

While criminal or sociopathic violence is less likely, these categories must be dealt with differently than social violence. There is no opt-out option. (Remember, there is an opt-out option when confronting social violence.) Generally, under these circumstances, an aggressor cannot be reasoned with or "talked down." There is no disengagement strategy available to you — other than to use superior counterviolence. If your actions require a forceful and debilitating counterviolent response, krav maga provides it.

Raw Criminal Violence

Raw criminal violence is more prevalent in isolated places, which provides privacy for predators. Criminology studies underscore that criminals usually rely more on intent rather than a specific (trained) method of violence. Criminals do not operate using the same set of accepted social beliefs as their victims, who respect the social contract and obey the law.

Professional military and law enforcement personnel use overwhelming violence of action and a preponderance of firepower. Criminals try to do the same. The predatory assault mind-set is ruthless. Some attackers view their targets as humans, while other sociopath attackers can "dehumanize" or make someone an outsider, thereby denying any social contract. "Dehumanizing" can pave the way for violence by distinguishing or rationalizing another person's humanity away. The attacker need not necessarily be physically skilled. If he succeeds in stunning the victim, he can compound the damage, requiring little ability other than targeting the victim's vulnerable anatomy.

Emotionally Disturbed Violence

When dealing with an aggressor with an altered mind, rational rules of human behavior do not apply. One solution when dealing with a mentally impaired aggressive individual is to avoid direct eye contact while listening passively and disarmingly. Nevertheless, expect the unexpected and, accordingly, be prepared physically. A sociopath views asocial criminal violence as a useful tool. Pleading with a sociopath usually will not succeed. To counter asocial criminal violence where there may be no quarter given to you, you must break down the attacker's body.

Note: Rape can fall into both criminal and sociopathic categories.

Not coincidentally, krav maga's core method of using optimized counterviolence — retzev — may be compared to the type of professional or military assault discussed above. Accordingly, under the strict legal underpinnings of self-defense, if attacked, the kravist must become the more violently capable person, wielding greater counterforce to defeat the threat. Targeted counterviolence designed to injure an attacker leads to a conclusive result: the scale of physical power tilts in the kravist's favor.

Social Violence (Unspoken Rules) vs. Raw Violence (No Rules)

Social Violence * vestige of rules (mayhem/death is not the preferred outcome)

Raw Violence * no rules (resulting in mayhem/death)


Both men and women alike should try to achieve a paradoxical balance between: (1) living without fear and (2) paranoia. Constant vigilance drains energy and cannot be maintained. Therefore, your radar has to adapt to ping what generally seems to be out of the ordinary. Awareness provides you time to recognize threats and to act, rather than react. Awareness of what is behind you could be more important than what is in front of you. Obviously, the best way to catch someone by surprise is from the rear. First impressions or gut feelings are usually correct. Trust your intuition; don't dismiss it. If you recognize that something is amiss, beware. Your intuition is undergirded by your experience and accumulated knowledge. A highly recommended book focusing on the vital use of one's intuition is Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear.

When there is no other choice, you may be compelled to maim, cripple, and even use lethal force against an attacker — provided the respective circumstances are legally justifiable. Breaking bones and disabling ligaments, destroying an eyeball, etc., are optimized both tactically and strategically to end the attack. In the basest, animalistic sense, the kravist, when faced with a life-threatening situation, understands how to inflict terrible, debilitating wounds against an adversary. Once again, there is no pity or humanity in a visceral self-defense situation, provided the counterforce is legally justifiable. In general terms, the party who significantly damages the other party first usually prevails, provided he presses the counterattack home to neutralize the threat.

Ignoring unsolicited entreaties will serve you well. You need not be civil if your instincts tell you to behave otherwise. Be sure to understand the difference between an aggressive and assertive response when confronting a possible threat. Assertiveness is essential and one of the most effective strategies to preventing assault. If you lack assertiveness, you can develop this deterrence capability by modifying your body posture. Holding your head high, presenting a comfortable and confident demeanor, maintaining eye contact, clutching a weapon of opportunity, and moving with a purpose will help de-victimize you. Studies show that criminals often target people who do not walk with confidence, pay attention, or have coordinated gait. These people appeared to the criminal to be easy targets who are not likely to fight back.


Violence against women often involves men who seek status by targeting women to assert dominance. Many female victims know their attackers. Sexual predators and other attackers often approach their victims with innocuous behavior such as friendly conversation. Sometimes, a potential assailant will put his hand on a woman to gauge her initial reaction. If she is not assertive in warning him off, he may have found a potential victim in his mind. If she opposes him either verbally or physically or both, he has found someone who will actively resist, and, therefore, is likely a less successful target.

Generally, the male attacker believes he can assault a woman and come away unscathed physically. (This is true of most attackers regardless of the attacker or victim's respective genders.) According to Professor James Giannini of Ohio State University, female rape victims are often less attuned to interpreting nonverbal facial cues of an assailant. This situational awareness shortcoming may make them miss the all-important warning signs of aggressive criminal intent. The same research suggests that rapists are more capable than average to interpret facial cues in women who will not resist. Predatory men understand that social conditioning for women teaches placating or submission, as women are frequently conditioned to interact with men verbally rather than offer physical resistance.

Violence against women often involves close proximity or "infighting," especially during a sexual assault. It is often ingrained that resistance will trigger a more severe onslaught. Yet, according to the National Institute of Justice, "Most self-protective actions significantly reduce the risk that a rape will be completed. In particular, certain actions reduce the risk of rape more than 80 percent compared to nonresistance. The most effective actions, according to victims, are attacking or struggling against their attacker, running away, and verbally warning the attacker." Please note that this book focuses on street-oriented violence rather then domestic violence. Hence, this important topic is not examined here.


One of the most effective tactics krav maga teaches you is not to be taken by surprise in the first place. The Israeli krav maga curriculum places heavy emphasis on the ability to recognize, avoid, and/or preempt physical conflicts. Developing recognition of previolence indicators along with impending attacks is instrumental to krav maga. The obvious and best solution is to remove yourself from the situation before an impending attack can take place. Situational awareness regarding whom to keenly observe is all-important, and common sense should prevail. Recognize who or what might constitute a danger or threat.

Generally, human behavior is overwhelmingly predictable. Therefore, you must identify what are normal human behavior patterns and what are anomalous behavior displays. For example, someone, constantly looking over his shoulder should merit enhanced scrutiny. Or, as another example, an unknown person trying to subtly get close to you warrants immediate attention. Further, you need to distinguish what is crucial information versus what is noncrucial.

Subtle cues, "tells," or "precipitators" observed in a potential assailant's behavior, especially when such indicators are assessed collectively, provide an early warning indicator. In other words, recognizing someone's preparation to perpetrate an assault, such as the attacker's (un)conscious body language (including autonomic nervous system reactions), proximity and overall behavior pattern, produces clues you can discern. Body markings, such as tattoos, can also suggest someone's background, affiliation, values, attitude, and behavioral proclivities. Understanding these clues allows you to become proactive or what the U.S. Marines describe as having a "bias for action" leading to, if necessary, krav maga "violence of action."

Being proactive overcomes victimization. If you perceive a potential threat, take preemptive action and extricate yourself. Clearly, the best defense against any attack is avoiding or removing yourself from the precarious situation. Once again, common sense should succeed. If an environment suggests an overall negative feeling or "vibe," heed your internal warning and take appropriate safety measures. Only environmental and situational awareness, along with recognition training, can help you do that.

In an unfamiliar environment, scan for threats, paying particular attention to potential adversaries' proximity and hand movements. Make use of your peripheral vision and constantly assess your surroundings. For example, if a man is in a bathroom using a urinal, he should use the chrome flushing mechanism as a modified mirror to scan behind him or keep his head tilted to look over his shoulder.

As previously noted, situational awareness is a compromise between being carefree and paranoid. Most people have this innate capability. As a general example, take a pedestrian crosswalk across a road: as you prepare to cross the street, the car approaching slows down, but you still watch for it to come to a complete stop. You assume the car will do so, but do not bind your fate entirely to your presumption.

Humans usually can only successfully perform one task or function at a time. With your innate danger-detection capability in mind, if someone is going through the motions of some act but displays an odd interest in you, obviously, your defenses correctly go on high alert. Be sure to trust this well-placed intuition. Simply put, if someone acts nervous, secretive, or unnatural and the person is within attack range of you, beware; take the appropriate defensive precautions.


Excerpted from Krav Maga Defense by David Kahn, Mimi Rowland, Rinaldo Rossi. Copyright © 2016 David Kahn. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xiii

Introduction: The Israeli Krav Maga Advantage 1

1 Violence, Self-Defense, Effects, and Consequences 12

2 Push Defenses 43

3 Defending Grabs and Chokes 60

4 Defending Hook/Haymaker Punches 73

5 Straight Punch Defenses 109

6 Defending Against Straight Kicks and Knees 131

7 Defenses Against Headbutts 147

8 Choke and HeadLock Releases 157

9 Defending Tackle-Type Takedowns 179

10 Bear Hug Defenses 200

11 Taken Down on Your Back 216

12 Defenses Against a Mount 223

13 Defending the Guard 229

Resources 236

Notable Bibliographies 237

About the Author 239

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