My instructor Raz Chen educated me on the principle of a strong foundation. He taught me to think of Krav Maga as a pyramid. If you have a good base, you can build a very big pyramid. If you have a very weak base, your entire structure falls apart.
When people think of the foundation of Krav Maga, they think of the P1 and P2 curriculum, focusing on clean footwork, accurate strikes, and good stance. That is very true, but there’s one more level that is just as important. P0.
P0 is the mental training that goes along with the physical training. There are many aspects of it, such as courage, situational awareness, and determination, and one aspect I recently thought about when I recently had to fight on steps. It’s so much easier to fight when you are on the top step above your opponent.
That’s very true in the physical sense, but it’s also true in the mental sense. It’s much easier to fight when you have the moral high ground and don’t let your ego get in the way.
Our ego is defined as our self-worth and self-esteem. Now, obviously, we need to have an ego in our lives. If not, we become victims and doormats, unable to defend ourselves. However, too much ego and we become arrogant and foolish, unable to thrive.
The Krav Maga approach is to embrace duality and balance, keeping things in proportion. I think about it the way I think about a good fight stance. It’s important to have a well-rooted fight stance that is stable and strong, but it is just as important to have a stance that is light and mobile. The two aspects separately leave us open to attack, but balanced together, make us strong enough to defend.
In the same way, you should not be a victim or a doormat, but you should also not allow ego to make you into an aggressor or a foolish risk-taker.
Many times, we want to lash out when we feel we are wronged. Our ego tells us that we have been wounded and we need to strike back. I have a long fuse, but a terrible temper, and when I feel wronged, I want to bring Hellfire upon those who wronged me.
However, that only prolongs the fight. In Krav Maga, we always choose to de-escalate if it is possible. While we are prepared to defend ourselves, we should never actually want to get into a fight. This means we need to be willing to apologize even if we don’t think we’re wrong and to seek peace.
We always de-escalate, because we know the only fight we win is one we avoid. Even if it looks like we have the advantage, we know once a fight happens, things can go to pieces quickly, so we should never be cocky about our abilities.
I saw this lesson demonstrated graphically. Pre-Covid 19 Raz once had the biggest student in class take him down to the floor. He let that student have the dominant position so that Raz was pinned down and they had their full weight on top of him.
“He won, right?” Raz asked. Before anyone could agree, Raz removed the training knife he had hidden in my pocket and marked some stabs to the ribs. “No, he is dead.” Despite being taller and having the dominant position, by engaging in a fight, the student “lost.” So why risk it when you can make peace?
Sometimes, that effort will fail and you will find your attempt at peace slapped back in your face. That can really make you angry. However, if you have a chance to walk away safely, do it. Leave aside your hurt feelings and stay on your moral high ground.
I always loved this beautiful line from the Talmud. “Hillel says, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving all creation.” The word used for pursuing is the same word used to pursue someone to hurt them.
When we feel that anger rising in us that we want to pursue negatively, we should use that energy to de-escalate and seek peace instead, with that same energy and desire.
In the same way, we thirsted for vengeance, we should thirst for reconciliation. If we must preserve the peace by fighting, so be it, but our overall goal must always be peace.
It’s the foundation of being a Krav Maga Practioner.