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Fight Focused Mindset

The Mindset of Self-Defence

Right, I am going to get this out of the way before we start…

  • It does not matter about the system you train in.

  • It does not matter whom you train with.

  • It does not matter whom they were trained by.

  • The history of the system you train does not really matter.

  • The lineage of the system you train does not really matter.


This short page is not about bashing certain martial arts or specific systems. It is about getting you to critically think about what it is that you want to get out of your training and how to avoid the pitfalls and dangers of certain "self-defence" training.

The truth of it is this — if what you are learning, or more importantly HOW you are learning it is based on are in serious trouble should you ever need to use your chosen self-defence system or martial art for self-protection! 

One more thing I need to make clear…punching someone in the face is bad and you will be questioned by the authorities as to your reasons for smacking someone in the chops.

I am not saying that using violence is bad, sometimes you will need to escalate to de-escalate…what I’m saying is that if you do need to punch someone, make sure it is actually for self-defence (defence of yourself or others from physical harm) and not just because they called you a dick!

With that in mind...let's get started.





Lineage is one of the biggest issues when dealing with students, instructors and their “self-defence” systems.

People doggedly rely on a system's history as a hallmark of effectiveness for self-defence on the street.  Doing this tends to generate a system that has “this is what we have always done” mantras and techniques that end up being dusty and untested.

Instead of looking truthfully at the world around them and actively assessing the techniques, principles and training methodology to ensure that the stuff they are teaching/learning is truly fit for purpose, the organisation falls back to the line — “But this is [insert style here].”

Placing your faith solely in a “battle-proven, too dangerous for the ring” super system is not going to translate to effective self-defence skills when you are facing an attacker with a genuine desire to kill or seriously harm you!

By all means, be proud of your heritage — but don’t be afraid to update what you do and move the hell on!


Truth Hurts

A case in point is Krav Maga — the very thing that we teach as a club, so it’s fair game!

You will hear many people in the Krav Maga world say things like “That’s not Krav Maga!” or “We don’t do that in Krav Maga!”.

Well, I have (hard to hear) news for those people, Krav Maga is not a style, the name, Krav Maga, literally means contact combat.


There is not a “Krav Maga” way to hit someone…hitting someone in the face is simply a case of moving your hand/elbow/head, towards their head at speed and making contact. There is not a Krav Maga kick, there is not a Krav Maga block. We have many kicks, blocks, punches, elbows and a whole host of other strikes, counters, grappling and groundwork, none of which are unique to Krav.

Krav Maga is a self-defence system, it is a set of principles designed to give you the best chance at surviving a confrontation.

Principles used in Krav Maga

  1. Stop the threat.

  2. Immediate, aggressive counterattacks.

  3. Disengage.

  4. Scan for further threats.


True self-defence is a mindset change, it is the understanding that maybe shit is going to get real at some point in your life and you will get hurt, stabbed or god-forbid killed. It is the understanding that just knowing the techniques means shit when someone is really trying to hurt you. The truth of self-defence is understanding that you need to get uncomfortable when you train and that you simply need to learn how to f**king fight!

This truth (due to its “simplicity”) makes some instructors and associations feel weird. They need that shiny thing to bring people to the door and give them money…a more flashy way to hit someone in the face! A better technique, or a technique that is guaranteed to work every time…that fight-stopping technique that guarantees you can end a fight in 5 seconds!


There are three truths about self-defence…

  1. No technique, at all, is guaranteed to stop a fight!

  2. Self-defence is “simple”.

  3. The answer to every question regarding what to do, is “It depends”





The main problem with self-defence training, and the one that is going to cause you the most issues in the real world, is the age-old problem of set defences to set attacks. Performing a set series of moves that all work towards a set outcome. 

If you truly believe that a set "self-defence" drill — with its set attack, its pre-determined outcome and an attacker that just stands there — will work for you on the street...then I have very bad news for you.

Set Drills

So, what do I mean by a set-piece training drill?

A set-piece "self-defence" drill is the type of drill that would use a choreographed defence to a choreographed attack. 

This choreographed training drill would be used to acquire and pressure test the "self-defence" skill. The same attack/defence would be performed at a higher rate of speed to indicate a higher skill level and assumed ability to defend yourself on the street. 

The biggest problem with this type of "self-defence" training is this;

  • The moves are choreographed.

  • The attack is pre-determined in both nature and area.

  • The outcome of the altercation is set.


If any deviation from the "routine" occurs during the drill, it is normally met with the words "you did that wrong" or something to that effect.

If the rules of the attack are set up beforehand, the attack is predetermined, the defence is predetermined and the outcome (by way of a compliant attacker) is predetermined, then it’s just a dance, no matter how fast you train it. 

If no progression of your skill set happens, working your responses under active stress, in an environment as close to reality as is safely possible — any skills you think you have will rapidly disappear when you need them most.


The Problem

The problem with set-pieces is, that it is not how the real world works. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but set drills alone will not give you usable skills on the street!

There are however a few people out there who are almost religiously convinced otherwise.


The truth is, the moment an attacker engages with you, there is no set outcome. You cannot rely on getting the first part of your fancy “self-defence” combo out of the start gate...let alone getting to the end of it. 

Does your combo or training consider the following (a few of many, many variables)

  • Is the attacker armed?

  • Does he have friends?

  • Is the attack a surprise?

  • What is your state of mind at the time of the attack?


The problem in training set patterns as your primary self-defence training programme is that you are training that exact pattern of moves, over and over again. 


Training yourself to work A, B, C, and D falls apart when it starts at E

Possibly worst of all, this set pattern type of training relies on a cooperative “attacker”. The real problem with this is there is no such thing as a cooperative attacker, not until you have made them unwilling or unable to continue the attack! 

If you a serious about your self-defence training, you need to train any techniques or skill sets that you wish to use on the street against a resisting attacker, who actively wants to win and dominate the situation.




You need to start thinking differently about self-defence and the techniques or skill set that you need to have. A more generalised approach, rather than a specific response to a specific threat is the way forward.

By keeping the set response to a specific threat model of training self-defence, you would need to have an impractical level of techniques at your disposal.


The biggest problem with this "learn the pattern" style of self-defence training is that it is actually teaching you to fail! 




Stress - Psychologically induced stress, not physical stress, is the main problem you will face when you are training for self-protection. You need to train with it, but it is an uncomfortable place to be!

Complications of Stress

±115 Beat per Minute

  • Fine motor skills, dexterity and hand-eye coordination begin to decrease*.

*This is the exact reason why the “learn the pattern” self-defence training fails. Your heart rate could easily reach 115 beats per minute simply by being shouted at during a confrontation. You have already lost your ability to defend yourself with your fancy wrist locks before any physical assault even takes place!


±145 Beats per Minute

  • Complex motor skills begin to diminish, along with the ability to hear.


±175 Beats per Minute

  • Your visual field decreases by as much as 70 per cent.

  • You start to experience visual narrowing, your vision closes in and this can cause you to also start to miss further threats like a second attacker/s

  • Depth perception is lost. 

  • Short-term memory loss and/or critical-stress amnesia can also occur.  

  • Tracking things visually becomes difficult, which has a knock-on effect with multiple threats.


±185 Beats per Minute

  • The ability to think logically is negatively affected.

  • Most people will enter into a state of “hyper-vigilance*" and possibly freeze. 

*It is not uncommon for a person in this state of hyper-vigilance to continue to do things that are just not effective or to start to exhibit irrational behaviour. People in this “frozen” hyper-vigilant state have described being unable to move, shout or scream. Once a person reaches this state, the biggest issue is that it is often the start of a downward spiral that is very tough to break!

  • Potentially catastrophic failure of performance and the ability to defend yourself.



  1. Information that is being passed to the brain relating to the attack starts to reduce.

  2. This leads to an increase in reaction time.

  3. This increased reaction time increases the level of stress, increasing your Heart Rate.

  4. This high stress then worsens hyper-vigilance

  5. Freezing, irrational behaviour gets worse.

  6. Leading to less information being passed to the brain.

  7. << Loop back to Number 2 >>

If your system trains you to use highly complex movements to defend yourself, you are training, and potentially going to cause, a catastrophic failure of your skills when you actually need them. 

The Reason: You are in a highly stressful situation and you are relying on your ability to perform complex, fine motor skills to defend yourself. Your heart rate has increased because of the stress, and you will be unable to perform the skill because you have lost your fine motor skills — it is a downward spiral towards a complete mental and physical breakdown.

When your heart rate hits approximately 115 beats per minute, your fine motor skills become less effective. 

So if your survival or the survival of your loved ones is determined by your ability to perform a complex move or, even worse, a complex set of moves, you have a real issue.  

Train how you wish to fight! 




The issue of multiple answers to single attacks and the accompanying syllabus of hundreds of techniques to learn is a serious one when it relates to self-defence training. The better way is to have a “toolbox” of defences and principles that can be applied dynamically to the changing events of the attack. As an example, I will use the haymaker-style punch (a big, swinging punch) to highlight the problems surrounding the desire to have “an answer to everything!

In response to having this haymaker punch thrown at you, your syllabus might look something like this;

  • Use this block if they are in this range.

  • If the punch goes here, then this block should be used. 

  • But if the punch goes there, then this block should be used.

  • If the punch is thrown from this angle, then this hand should be used.

  • But if the punch is thrown from that angle, then that hand should be used.

  • If they use the other hand, then do this.


This style of training to gain skills that you can use in a truly violent altercation comes up against a major problem.  That problem is this, your ability to use fine motor skills has potentially left you during a verbal confrontation — remember the previous chapter on stress?

Those blocks and responses above would need to be applied dynamically and 100% correctly to random, unknown punches at a time when you would have trouble tying your own shoelaces!

A study in 1952 by W.E. Hicks found that increasing the potential responses from 1 to 2, slowed down reaction time by 58%.

There are SIX potential responses in the above list!


On the street, we want to DECREASE reaction time, not increase it.




That desire to reduce the student's reaction time is the exact reason that Krav Maga is based on principles and not a huge list of techniques — or should be!


Principles — instead of a list of techniques — are the simplest and fastest way of providing a framework for the student to apply their skillset. Our principles are simple, they can be applied on the fly in a dynamic environment and can also be applied to an infinite number of attacks. 


The combat principles of Krav Maga

1 - Stop the threat

You need to stop/solve the immediate threat that poses the biggest risk to life in your current situation. If you have been grabbed, but the attacker is also stabbing you, trying to remove the attacker's hand from your clothing is redundant when they are plunging a knife into your stomach!

2 - Aggressive Counter Attack

Once the threat is stopped/controlled you need to immediately counter with all the violence you can possibly muster. The intention behind the violence is simply to escalate to be able to de-escalate by making the attacker unable, or unwilling to continue.

3 - Disengage

If an opportunity to remove yourself safely from the situation presents itself, then you take it. Hanging around in a fight for longer than you need to increases your chance of physical injury and/or death. Fighting hurts, so the less of it we can do the better!

4 - Look For the Next Threat

Once you have disengaged, you need to look around (scan) for any threats that may pose a risk.  If a further threat is present, we work through the principles again. We repeat the principles (1 to 4) until we are safe.



Because it is a modern system, that has been designed to work under stress and when you need it the most.  The system has been tested and refined during use by the Israeli Military and it does work.

Contrary to what you may have read online when you search for Krav Maga…it is not a super system that is too dangerous to be used in the ring, that’s just silly.

It does work and it does give you the skills that you need to defend yourself and your loved ones much faster than you would think. Classes are fast-paced, you will get one hell of a workout and you will learn some serious skills in the process.


Will you like it?   

“It depends…”


To see if you would like it, why not book your trial lesson here




Fight Focused Krav Maga is proud to be different, a fresh approach in an increasingly stagnant self-defence industry.  We are a committed and engaged local community of martial artists who place training, fitness and realism as the foundations of their self-defence training.  As your local Krav Maga club, we pride ourselves on being inclusive, ego-free, constantly learning and always striving to be better!


We stand by principles over techniques, meaning that any techniques we use are there because they align with the combat principles of Krav Maga and self-defence. We will never have techniques running the show.

Our aim is to provide the best environment for anyone wanting to learn a true self-defence system.


  • Small classes to ensure high-quality coaching

  • Principle-Based Self Defence System

  • Qualified British Krav Maga Instructor

  • Professional British Martial Arts & Boxing Association Instructor

  • Enhanced DBS Clear

  • Safeguarding Qualified

  • MMA Conditioning Coach

  • First Aid Qualified

  • Level 3 PTLLS Teaching Qualification

  • Fully Insured and Registered with British Martial Arts & Boxing Association