Saturday, December 31, 2016

Krav Maga for Firearm Management

Do you carry a firearm? Are you prepared to use physical skills to manage and employ that firearm?

Prior to last month I had not fired a weapon since Air Force basic training in 1990. Last month, however, my wife and I attended a four hour introduction to handguns class. This started my journey towards increased proficiency with firearms. The intersection with Krav Maga happened shortly afterwards!

I started December by taking a 4 1/2 hour seminar on Krav Maga for Concealed Carriers and Handgun Users. Pat Hards from First Defense Krav Maga was the lead instructor, and NoVA MMA hosted the class. The picture above shows our group, which was a mix of Krav Maga students and civilians simply interested in the material.

Pat emphasized three main skills. After warm-ups, Pat first drilled striking without a weapon, i.e., using empty hand techniques, along with kicking. Second, we practiced using a gun as a blunt object, for situations where we cannot use it as a firearm. Third, we trained firearm management, especially weapon retention. Over the course of many drills, we struggled as our partners sought to gain control over our weapon, whether holstered or drawn. This proved to be invaluable for all students!

The summary drill was my favorite part of the seminar. One of the other instructors, a big Australian named Richard, dressed in protective gear -- helmet included. Students were led one-by-one into the darkened studio with their eyes closed. When given a command, they opened their eyes and found themselves interacting with Richard.

I volunteered to go first. When I opened my eyes, I caught Richard using my peripheral vision. He was at my 4 o'clock, lunging at my practice gun, holstered at my right side roughly in the 3 o'clock position. I immediately thrust both of my hands onto the pistol grip, catching Richard's hands, and we struggled to control the practice firearm.

I managed to maneuver such that I could employ my only weapon, my free knees. I needed to keep my hands on the pistol until I won the struggle. I was too close to throw kicks. I could have tried a head butt, but Richard was wearing a helmet!

I threw several knees to Richard's midsection and he loosened his grip on my holstered weapon. I raced to put some space between us, and I drew the practice gun and ordered Richard to lay on the ground, face down.

I do not usually consider my military experience at the US Air Force Academy to be all that special, but in that training situation it helped immensely! I issued short and sharp commands with enough force and clarity that Richard complied. Shortly thereafter the lead instructors called "time" and we debriefed the scenario.

Within a minute or so I became aware of the effects of the adrenaline dump that had happened when I felt Richard lunge for my pistol. It took me a few minutes to really consider what had transpired. I learned that it may take a while to give a third party an accurate assessment of what happens in an altercation, so be wary when giving an official account to first responders. You don't want to say something that turns out to be wrong, or puts you in a bad light when facing a jury.

Each participant encountered a slightly different solo scenario. Some had no physical interaction. Some involved being tackled. One participant forgot to bring his practice firearm into the arena! One former law enforcement officer ordered his assailant to get on the ground, when Richard was already simulating unconsciousness on the ground. Several participants drew their weapons despite facing no obvious threat, and many could not remember how their scenario began or what was said.

I thoroughly enjoyed this training, and brought these lessons with me to another training opportunity.  A few hours ago I completed the Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) class at Silver Eagle Group in Ashburn, VA. This class offered a mix of range and class time. The goal was to teach candidates for Virginia concealed handgun permits the essentials of decision making when armed. I very much enjoyed this class as well, which I took with my wife Mrs B.

I wish every member of today's class could have joined our Krav Maga seminar as well. Today's instructor, David, emphasized that a concealed weapons carrier can be an asset or a liability. The armed citizen is a liability when he or she uses a weapon in a reckless or illegal manner. A carrier who loses control of his or her firearm during a confrontation is certainly a liability!

Krav Maga is the perfect complement to anyone carrying a weapon, whether as a civilian, soldier, or law enforcement officer. Without learning distance management, de-escalation, escape, evasion, striking, and other Krav Maga skills, a firearm carrier can be at a severe disadvantage, despite being armed.

I believe the two schools plan to conduct joint classes in the new year to address these issues. I look forward to reporting on those as well.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in 2017, and thank you for reading in 2016. Happy New Year!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How Does Online Video Change Martial Arts?

Have you considered the effect of online video on the martial arts?

The publication of the newest Krav Maga Global technique Review of the Week and a recent thread on the /taekwondo Reddit reminded me of how interesting this topic can be.

Consider the training environment 400 years ago, when martial arts in China, Okinawa, Japan, and the Philippines were developing into forms we might recognize today. If that is too distant for you to imagine, going back even 100 years is sufficient.

In those days, one could not capture motion, or even sound, using anything like a movie camera as easily as we do now. Perhaps 100 years ago one could use an imaging camera to take still pictures, but they would have been largely staged scenes.

In such an environment, how could one make a record of the movements, tactics, and philosophies that comprise a martial art?

One method was the creation of forms, or patterns. These sets of movements might capture the essence of a martial arts style. Iain Abernethy argues that individual karate kata, in fact, represent complete fighting systems, or at least the kata creator's presentation of his or her fighting system.

Another school of thought regarding patterns, especially with respect to Chinese forms, is that they were developed to represent a fighting style for demonstration purposes. Peter Lorge's excellent book Chinese Martial Arts offers many historical examples. Sometimes martial artists used forms to demonstrate fighting excellence before the emperor or visiting officials. Chinese schools also performed in public squares to attract business (such as protecting trade caravans or towns) and students.

In either case, a powerful tool to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next was required. Fighting styles were physically embodied in martial arts forms. Books were another option, and many survive to this day. They show foot patterns, hand gestures, and the like. These methods made the best use of available resources and technology.

Now return to the modern environment. If you wanted to transmit martial arts knowledge to others, how could you do it?

Forms and books are still options. Both are still in use. However, modern technology offers two powerful supplements.

First, consider the jet airplane. In 2014, Bloomberg magazine wrote that "No Invention of the Past 85 Years Had a Greater Impact on the World." The head instructor of Krav Maga Global, Eyal Yanilov, spends hundreds of days per year (I believe over 250?) outside Israel, training students worldwide.

Alternatively, students from anywhere in the world can visit him in his own school. My instructor, Nick Masi, just returned from another trip to Israel, joining the KMG Global Instructors Team to work on curriculum issues for the new year. (The group, from all over the world, is shown at right.)

Thanks to the jet airplane, you can even visit other schools for seminars, camps, or grading opportunities. Without the airplane, my visit to Las Vegas for the annual KMG camp would have required a 36 hour car drive -- and that is only one-way!

What amazing opportunities the jet airplane provides us, delays and all.

As incredible as international flight may be, it doesn't scale as well as the second invention: the Internet and online video. One example is the latest Technique Review of the Week, published at This is one in a series of videos that Eyal has been publishing this year. Each video is over 10 minutes long, and it focuses on various aspects of a specific Krav Maga technique.

Beyond the Technique Reviews of the Week, offers videos for the entire KMG curriculum from P1 to G5. There are also videos of seminars and other topics, like Combat Mindset, Fitness and Stretching, Anti-Car Jacking, and so on. This is not meant to be an advertisement for the site, but I have found it indispensable. I am constantly reviewing the videos, and I pay even closer attention as my next grading approaches!

The bottom line is that online video gives students and instructors anywhere in the world access to the teaching resources of a system's head instructor. The learning mechanism is one-way, which is why it is necessary to have in-person training as a primary instructional method. Without guidance from the instructor, one cannot close the educational loop. However, online video creates an opportunity for the transmission of martial arts knowledge more or less exactly as intended by the leader of a system. This is revolutionary, and in my opinion a welcome development.

One final note: the advent of online video does not mean that a martial arts style must become frozen, locked into the technique and approaches depicted in video form.

The proper use of date/time sequencing can differentiate between older and newer videos. Instructors can incorporate changes into new videos and tell students that they have adapted techniques to meet evolved understanding or new environmental conditions. Krav Maga Global is constantly evolving, and Eyal's videos sometimes mention changes from older versions of techniques.

How does your martial arts practice use online video to transmit knowledge?

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Friday, December 9, 2016

How Bruce Lee Affected My Career in Cybersecurity

Would you believe Bruce Lee affected my career in cybersecurity?

For several weeks I've been listening to the Bruce Lee Podcast. The "Bruce Lee Moment" is a segment where a listener explains how Bruce Lee's life and/or philosophy affected him or her.

In this post I'd like to share my submission to the podcast.

Hello Shannon and Sharon,

I love your podcast. I want to share how Bruce Lee's philosophy affected my career in cybersecurity.

In 2000 I was an officer in an Air Force cybersecurity unit. The previous year my wife and I enjoyed a three-week honeymoon in China, and I was a practicing martial artist. A top-tier book publisher saw me speak at a conference and asked if I would write a book on detecting and stopping hackers. I considered this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I declined. I distinctly remember saying that I wasn't ready to write a book yet. I did not feel that I was prepared to authentically express myself in written form.

I spent several years refining my thoughts, and in 2003 I sent a detailed outline to the publisher. They accepted it, and in 2004 "The Tao of Network Security Monitoring" arrived in book stores. I named it after Bruce Lee's most famous book because I felt that I was expressing myself through my philosophy and practice of network defense. My first book was 832 pages, and I wrote a 416-page sequel the following year because I still had more to say about the topic.

The first book featured a praying mantis on the cover, and the second showed a tiger. I selected these to represent two of the five animals of kung fu.

I've written and contributed to other books since then (, but my first book is the one people most often ask me about. They say that it changed the way they thought about and performed computer security. I believe I achieved my goal of authentic expression by aligning my energy with my work, and I channeled both into my writing. My book has helped me find rewarding jobs and communicate my philosophy to colleagues, students, and policy makers worldwide.

Today I am done with writing security books, and my interests largely lie elsewhere. However, after a 15 year break due to health and family issues, I've resumed my martial arts training. Thank you for sharing Bruce Lee's philosophy on a regular basis. As I work to transition into a new life phase, I find his words and your thoughts enlightening and inspiring.


Richard Bejtlich ("bate-lik")

Has Bruce Lee's philosophy affected your life outside the martial arts?

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Is Fighting Inner Demons the Way to Greatness?

Is fighting inner demons the way to greatness?

This is a question that has bothered me for years. Steve Jobs is one person who may have achieved greatness by battling inner demons. A review of a Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs notes "[f]rom his childhood, Jobs suffered from the emotional wounds inflicted by his unmarried biological parents, who put him up for adoption." Would Jobs have been so successful creating, and then saving, Apple, without inner demons from his childhood?

I was reminded of this question when I listened to another great edition of the Whistlekick podcast, featuring Jose Dimacali. In the episode, Kyoshi Dimacali describes how winning tournaments was a way to seek approval from his father. When he won a local tournament, his father didn't say anything. When he won a state tournament, his father didn't say anything. Even when he won a national tournament, his father remained silent. Kyoshi Dimacali went so far as to win a world title, but at that point his father had passed away.

Listening to his heartfelt and sad story, it occurred to me that Kyoshi Dimacali achieved greatness by battling inner demons. He admitted as much, saying that if his father had praised him after winning his first tournament, he would not have been driven to higher levels in search of approval.

This seemed like a rough way to progress through life. Could there be another way?

The photo of Bruce Lee's statue in Hong Kong hints at my answer.

I also listen to the wonderful Bruce Lee podcast. The message I have been absorbing through hosts Shannon and Sharon Lee is that there is another path to greatness. Bruce Lee provides the example. He achieved greatness by aligning his personal energy with the direction of his life and the activities he pursued. While he battled many challenges during his short life, I sensed that he succeeded because of his ability to authentically express himself in all situations. He channeled his energy towards those tasks that fit his life goals and best represented his interests and ambitions.

As Shannon and Sharon Lee make clear in their podcast, aligning one's energy and tasks will not guarantee becoming an exceptional martial artist or movie star. However, it is the best choice when a person wants to make the most of their talents and realize their goals and dreams. The alternative, whereby one's energy is wasted on tasks that do not align with their authentic self, will never be as productive or enjoyable as an "aligned life."

This realization gives me hope that one does not need to have suffered demoralizing hardships as a child in order to produce confrontation-ready demons. It is a more uplifting message to identify one's interests, skills, and abilities, and make life changes that best fit them, in order to maximize a person's potential life energy.

Are you living an aligned life?

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