Krav maga advocates, when possible, compassionate non-violent conflict resolution. In other words, founder Imi Lichtenfeld emphasized handling a threat with graceful non-violent tact whenever feasible. Imi stressed the need good for citizenship above all else—obey the law and adhere to the overall social contract of considerate behavior. This obeisance, the foundation of civilized behavior, unfortunately, breaks down all too often. Most violence, though, is of a social nature—the kind that you can avoid. Moreover, the ugly fact is that 62 percent of all violence is committed between two people who know one another [1].

Obviously, you cannot simply wish away a possible violent episode to avoid it. Silent hoping has little chance of removing the threat. This form of denial lands people in deep trouble when they are attacked and freeze, thereby absorbing the assault. Recognize there are violent people who will attempt to harm you. Sometimes, fortunately, you can change this dynamic by providing a non-violent solution.

A kravist recognizes how to influence or dictate an encounter to prevent violence. Taking control of an interaction means immediately hijacking the aggressor's script, stopping his machinations at their inception. Achieve this good outcome by presenting a composed, controlled, and engaged deportment that allows you to own the situation. Exhibiting poised conduct throws off an aggressor's targeting radar. If you are contending with a highly agitated individual, a calm demeanor can nudge an aggressor toward a calm emotional equilibrium more quickly.

Of course, when you cannot walk away or escape, as a last resort you must be prepared to inflict severe physical damage. According to the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA), there are two types of aggressors:

1. Reckless aggressors or hotheads.

2. Professional aggressors who are either bullies or predators, or both.

Thwarting a professional aggressor requires establishing a different set of rules the ones he seeks to impose. To be sure, aggressors and predators recognize that any failure to defend smaller boundaries presents an opportunity to encroach on larger ones. For example, a sexual offender will often touch a potential victim's arm to see how the victim will react: meekly or assertively. A meek response encourages him to pursue his goal; an assertive response can repel his advances.

Kravists don't shrink from defending their morally grounded positions. We strive to do it with confidence, dignity, and civility. Equally important, a Kravist should make the choice to walk in the path of peace even when preemptive counter-violence might be legally justified. In short, if you ransom your social or safety boundaries, self-deprecate, and assume a submissive posture, someone bent on testing your mettle will be all the more encouraged.

Your Warning Mechanism

Danger recognition often presents subconsciously. When you sense and feel danger signals, that is your intuition at work; it is part of your naturally embedded learning/logic system. Listen to this innate warning mechanism. Research suggests that when information remains at a subconscious level it is analyzed at a faster and more thorough pace than your consciousness can dissect and process. In sum, your intuition is your biological sub-consciousness that collectively harnesses all of your senses, including sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Therefore, mind it (forgive the pun) and certainly do not ignore it.

Keep in mind that awareness is not simply physically scanning for indicators of a potential problem, it is an appraisal by all of your senses including that sixth sense in your gut. That gut feeling should automatically make pause and analyze why you feel endangered. Awareness of your surroundings, of others, and of yourself must all work in concert to hone your defensive plan.

One of the best ways to diffuse a potentially violent situation is to find or establish common ground with an aggressor. Accordingly, while creating physical distance is always best to thwart violence, narrowing psychological distance can also help.

Remember, though, that what you say and what a person may decide to hear can be very different. Moreover, using a condescending tone with a potential aggressor is a sure-fire way further to draw his ire. You must earnestly demonstrate that you value a peaceful solution. Neutral eye contact underscores that you are listening and sincerely communicating with him. There is a vital distinction between assertive versus aggressive eye contact. Assertive eye contact maintains your boundaries while aggressive eye contact issues a challenge.

When signaling your ability to stand up to an aggressor, adopt a neutral but confident facial expression and punctuate your message with a de-escalation stance while speaking clearly and forcefully.

Conflict Avoidance

Common sense and a few street smarts are your optimum shields to avoid violence. Truly understanding the nature and consequences of injurious violence should eliminate it as a dispute resolution option. Mental conditioning and rehearsal allow you to de-escalate or walk away (always the best solution if possible) from a potentially violent situation. In short, avoidance is often about keeping your cool, but so is every other aspect of self-defense, including de-escalation, escape and evasion, and, lastly, fighting for your life.

Impending Violence Usually Has Overt or Covert Signals

Many people who suddenly become embroiled in a violent encounter have no idea why it happened. Often, there is a buildup they did not recognize or were party to without their knowledge.

A few commonsense suggestions:

* Be careful of other people's personal space.

* Do not return challenging stares.

* Be aware of kinesic indicators indicating an angry or hostile person.

* If in the wrong, apologize sincerely, but be subtly prepared for a potential attack.

* Leave any volatile or potentially hostile situation immediately.

* For women, social mores should readily be ignored (for example, leave an elevator if you feel threatened by someone; don't worry about the person's feelings).


Escape methods are a vital and major part of the krav maga curriculum. Wherever you are, you should have an escape plan for how you can best leave a bad situation. In other words, what is the most direct and expedited route to physically extricate yourself from harm's way? In an enclosed space, have you identified a primary, secondary, and perhaps tertiary exit?

Escape is your second choice when avoidance and de-escalation fail. Escape is different from avoidance as the aggressor has already begun his actions and you are actively fleeing. (Avoidance allows you to calmly remove yourself before a hostile situation begins.)

Your goal in escaping is to evade physical contact and preserve your ability to successfully flee. Your ultimate goal is to find safety through breaking contact and losing any pursuers by creating no sight line, including quickly hiding or finding safety among other people. Physically escaping requires you to recognize egresses and to successfully negotiate terrain and obstacles. For example, in a potential road-rage incident, consider your driving escape options. (You should always leave enough room in front of your vehicle to maneuver.)

Terrain can aid or hamper you. High ground such as a stairwell gives you the advantage of gravity and using your strongest long-range weapons: kicks. Conversely, when fleeing up a stairway, ascending it will slow you down as you take the first steps and pursuers can close the distance. Your footing, and hence your traction and balance, can be affected by liquids (including blood), gravel, wet grass, mud, snow, and ice. Therefore, you must consciously and instinctively pay attention to your movements, shifting your balance onto the balls of your feet and altering your stance and pace. If you disable an attacker through counterassault, the attacker may have accomplices. The accomplices may be momentarily shocked by your counter-violent actions, providing you with a head start.

When running away, as noted, seek the safety of other people, using concealment as available. (Note that professional escape and evasion requires preplanned evacuation routes, safe houses, and dedicated support, among other things.) When running, focus on the physical route ahead of you.

If you are part of a group, you must all act in concert: flee or fight together and act as a cohesive unit. If you decide to flee, you may also be able to turn around and ambush your pursuer. In a road-rage scenario, if you find yourself outside of your own vehicle (because you've made a tactical choice), you could momentarily escape an aggressor by running around the perimeter of your own car. In a run-around-a-stationary-car scenario, you can also use preemptive self-defense (a counter-ambush) against the aggressor by swiftly changing directions and catching the would-be assailant by surprise.

However, if there are multiple pursuers, fighting a group is obviously not the best option.


The above is an excerpt from Krav Maga Fundamental Strategies by David Kahn, publication date, June 1, 2021, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 978-1-59439-813-1.