The Denial Process: Krav Maga and the Concept of Choice

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In his book The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker writes, “Of course, if it is in their heads now, so was it then. What they mean is that they only now accept the significance. This has taught me that the intuitive process works, though often not as well as its principal competitor, the denial process.” De Becker is referring to people he interviewed, who were a witness to or victim of a violent encounter. In retrospect, they realized that their intuition had correctly warned them of an impending danger in the minutes prior to that very event, but they had ignored their brain’s warning system. He concludes that our gut instincts are not acts of chance, but instead our brain and our body’s subconscious reaction to a collection of abnormal stimuli in our environment. He goes on to explore the experience of those who, unlike the others, did follow their “sixth sense.” One person narrowly avoided a robbery at a convenience store, deciding to suddenly exit the shop just minutes prior to the attack. While our body senses danger afoot, often times we tend to dismiss these feelings as paranoia because the threat is not staring us in the face. Regardless of what we read in the news or hear from others, we often accept the reality that bad things happen to others and reject the possibility that it can happen to us.

Krav Maga is, in every way, the exact opposite of denial; it is the embrace of the innate intuition that De Becker describes. What is quite amazing about Krav Maga’s philosophy is that the self-defense process does not begin with the physical counter to an attack. Instead, it begins with the recognition of a potential attack. The training very much conditions one’s body to proactively respond to a dangerous situation. Thus, the most ideal situation is a confrontation that can be avoided entirely. By its very nature, the training forces us to accept the possibility that we are in danger and to thereafter begin planning, or in some cases executing, a response. In the case that we fail to recognize the threat early on, we must react immediately to an attack already upon us.

KMI New York’s recent practitioner test in October (see video above) was the most physically grueling exam of the three tests that I have experienced. At the halfway point, all the Krav Maga students were kneeling in a circle around instructor Danny Zelig, looking at each other with almost an unspoken, shared confusion as to why we had been physically exhausted with aggression drills before being tested on our technique. Then Danny said, “This isn’t to test if you can fight when you’re fresh.” He asked us what would happen if we were tired and had to fight a fourth or fifth opponent, what choice did we have? His answer, “None.”

Again, we do not allow one to deny the reality that he or she might be gravely harmed or even killed, nor does it allow the student to rely on the mercy of the attacker. Survival and self-defense by any means is not viewed as a choice, but instead an obligation. It is the embrace of the threat before us and both the will and necessity to overcome it. The choice is yours.

By Brian Lieberman

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