Confidence and Self-esteem

Confidence, self-esteem and self-image are closely related concepts controlled by our own minds. Some people have too much, some too little, but how do you tell?

It’s been generally said that men have too much confidence and women have too little self-esteem. But how did we get there? This begs the question of why. Is it a social thing? Very likely so.

We need to explore why one deserves a level of confidence and self-esteem. I think Lanny Bassham puts it very well in his book, ‘With Winning in Mind’. To Lanny, self-image is related to the skill set. True skill comes from training and practice in the conscious mind building those skills into the subconscious mind  where they can be performed readily, quickly, efficiently and smoothly.  The self-image then improves with one’s realization of the improving skills. Once one realizes the level they are, they can work towards further improvement by using the conscious mind to further better the subconscious.  The triangle of conscious, subconscious and self-image continues and feeds upon itself. If one piece is deficient, one must realize that in order to improve the whole triangle. Certainly you can imagine how one can extrapolate this into a whole life concept.

You might say that one who has lower self-esteem just doesn’t realize yet how good they actually are or how much good they do. I would say that one who has a strong self-image and no skill set is a fool.


The inevitability of injury

Injured myself a bit yesterday. Let me clarify. A bit more than usual. A bit more than all martial artists who have been in it for some time have to deal with on a regular basis. Probably anybody who does any kind of more vigorous activity.

It was my mistake. We were playing rather rough, trying to get closer to reality. Went down on the ground with one training partner and tried to pull off a proper arm bar.  One of my legs was stuck underneath and as I tried to pull it out my partner rolled towards it. Heard and felt two nasty pops in my hip and quite a bit of pain in the frontal muscles. Iliacus to be exact.  Pretty much couldn’t move that knée towards my chest for a while, but it got better and today I’m testing what I can do and stretching. Obviously there has been a lot of ice and heat involved in between. Naproxen.

Perfect 20/20 hindsight, I should have just sat up and smashed my training partner’s face with a hammer fist, or turned a bit to my side and completed the arm bar differently. Certainly either one of those is what I would want do on the street. Not take the time to try for a perfect set up: both legs over the body and face to do the arm bar.

Kind of points towards the inevitability of these things happening. Even training somewhat correctly.  There are going to be mistakes made and people moving in different directions or further then the partner anticipated and crack, boom, shit happens.

Be careful. Approach reality slowly and with complete mindfulness. Then at least when the inevitable happens you had your wits about you and can learn from the experience.  Instead of just being injured and not knowing why.

Clarifying the main principles

So as I said in the last post, the first set of principles (and probably the most important) are as follows:1) Stop, remove, or disable the immediate threat while giving simultaneous counterattack if possible. 2) Control the weapons and perform combatives as necessary. 3) Disengage and get away.

Let’s take apart and clarify each one. To stop, remove or disable the threat you have to first understand what a threat is. A punch is a threat. A knife is a threat. A very big angry person screaming at you in front of your face is a threat and a choke is a threat. Obviously there are others. The punch you might stop, deflect, or disable using a block, a small table to stop and disable the fist, or by getting out-of-the-way combined with a deflecting block. The simultaneous counterattack could come in the form of a punch with your non-blocking hand or the small table itself. Realize that the person breaking their hand on the table is also your simultaneous counter attack. If possible means just that. The counterattack may not be at the same time but every effort should be made to practice that way so that one will more likely deliver it that way. 

To control the weapon means you have to control whatever was thrown at you. You also have to realize that something else may be thrown at you at the same time that you are controlling and attacking. You have to block and control that also. You’ve seen examples in class where the strike you’re throwing blocks the threat (i.e. side or back hammer fist where your elbow is blocking your face before your hammer hits his face), but that may not always be the case. To give counterattack as necessary is to follow up with blows or objects so as to finish the attacker. Realize this may not mean to kill or maim. Your objective is only to go home safely. In the words of the law ‘you may use the minimum level of force you reasonably believe is necessary to safely resolve the situation’. Or something like that.

To disengage means to move away from your attacker or move him away from you. To stop your attack because he is not attacking you anymore. This should be done with a push or possibly another strike such as to the knee if he’s still a threat, and with you consciously looking around for any other threats while keeping an eye on your attacker. Then get away and if possible call 911 and report. This is important for several reasons. Just one of which is if you hurt somebody they may turn it around on you as if you were the original attacker. Bad people don’t think fair.

The essence of Krav Maga

For me, the essence of Krav Maga is very simple and boils down to just a few concepts. One should always keep in mind these principles when practicing Krav Maga, and should progress from closed skills to more a open skill set. This means that one should progress from practicing the techniques and the combination of those techniques to practicing the application of those techniques in reality scenarios concentrating on the principles. 

There are three sets of guiding principles for me. The big picture, if you will. The first set has to do more with the way you fight and the second two sets have more to do with the design of the techniques.

First set: there are basically three stages of a fight. 1) stop, remove, or disable the immediate threat while giving simultaneous counterattack if possible. This most likely is the hardest part of Krav Maga to learn. 2) Control the weapons and perform combatives as necessary. 3) disengage and get away.

Second set: there is nothing all that complex about the techniques in Krav Maga. Krav Maga takes what is usually a natural movement and tries to make it better. This is key. It is also a very efficient fighting system. Many times you will see blocks built into the strike and simple one step movements. You don’t see a lot of complex movements.

Third set: in Krav, one always tries to blend two defenses in order to lessen the likelihood of receiving damage. A common technique involves the application of a block and a slight movement of the body, such that each defense will stand on its own but putting the two of them together offers redundant protection. This is not a sport. In a ring there are gloves and rules. On the street there are not and even getting hit once can mean a very bad day.

Next up: taking apart and clarifying some of the principles….

Block without a strike?

In most cases, the block without the strike is useless. Don’t get me wrong, if a little kid tries to hit you, don’t block it and strike him back. Wife trying to hit you? Same thing. Maybe you even deserved it.

But in most cases, if someone is trying to hit you they mean to hurt you and they will likely try again immediately. So the block should have a simultaneous counter attack attached. At the very least it should be followed by a flurry of counterattacks. Rory Miller says that the block and the counterattack should be the same. That you should block, hurt the threat, improve your position and worsen the threats, all at the same time. I like the way Rory thinks. (See and

A true block in many cases should deliver some hurt by itself. Some strikes are also very good at blocking. Take for instance the cross hammerfest where the elbow is up in front of the face before the bottom of the hand strikes. The elbow and forearm are blocking the face during the first part of the strike.

So when we practice Krav Maga, we should make a point to start from many different positions and think of and practice the block with the simultaneous or near simultaneous counter, normally a flurry of combatives, and then of course the disengage. To put it within the framework: 1. stop the threat with a simultaneous counterattack if possible; 2. Control any weapons and deliver combatives as necessary; 3. disengage from the threat and look for more while exiting to get out safely.


To do the best you can at anything you have to have some measure of relaxation within that. To punch as quickly as you can, there needs to be relaxation in much of the movement. But it has to be measured and precise in which muscles are relaxed and which are not. The fist itself, for instance, needs to be very tight before it hits the target. Pretty obvious, right? Otherwise you’ll break your hand. All the muscles must be relaxed before the explosion of movement that pushes the fist towards the target. But the explosion itself is not relaxed. By definition it’s a very forceful explosion of movement. Most of the arm cannot be tight within the movement going out to the target. It has to be relaxed. So you see there is a certain timing to tightening up the muscles and certain muscles are tight at certain times.

Relaxation becomes even more important in stretching. Stretching is very important. Do not sacrifice your stretching. Sports physiologists that I have been most impressed with describe it as relaxing into the stretch. There is a very good book by that name. On your way into the deepest stretch you have to strive to relax the muscles. Yes it is uncomfortable and yes they will want to fight back. But to get the most out of the stretch you have to relax. In getting out of the stretch, you do not use the stretched muscles to force yourself out of the stretched position. You have to release those stressed muscles out of their stretched position first with some other part of the body and then you can use them to get yourself back into a normal position. Otherwise you risk tearing a muscle. You can build strength and power in the stretch position but I’ll leave that topic for another discussion. 

The other day a student was working on a balancing exercise. The student remarked how easy it became to balance when the student relaxed. This is partly because the body can then move in subtle ways quickly to be able to compensate for any imbalance.
So there you have it. If you want to improve your movement, your balance, and your stretch – relax.