David & Goliath: 5 Self Defense Lessons

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
— Marcus Aurellus


In his recent book David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants, Malcolm Gladwell takes the legend of David and Goliath and turns it on its head. Gladwell disproves the central theme of the Biblical tale, which to most people is about an underdog’s triumph against seemingly impossible odds. Not so much, says Gladwell. His argument, which forms the basis of his book of the same name, is that David is able to beat Goliath because of — not despite — his smaller size and choice of an unorthodox weapon. In doing so, Gladwell identifies important life and self defense lessons for us all. Gladwell argues that David is not actually the underdog that we have all imagined him to be. In fact, he has many advantages over his opponent; they’re just not obvious.

Firstly, Gladwell points out, David is small, fast, and agile. Goliath is bulky, lumbering, and weighed down by armor. Secondly, David’s weapon, the sling, is much deadlier than one might think. It shoots a stone that’s comparable in stopping power to a bullet from a .45-caliber pistol, according to the author. Then there’s Goliath’s speculated medical condition, acromegaly, which causes one to grow to an inordinate size, but also hinders your vision. When you consider these factors, it’s no miracle that David beat Goliath. The young shepherd clearly had the upper hand.

But most people prefer the more climactic version, the one where David is the underdog and his victory over the giant is viewed as a miracle, something to marvel. People love underdog stories because they’re inspiring, and there are countless modern-day David and Goliath stories that happen every day on the streets — tales of scrawny office workers overcoming a dangerous criminals in order to protect their girlfriends and suddenly embodying survival and heroism. From the surface, these stories seem extraordinary, because these victories are such rare anomalies that go against the typical warrior spirit. The problem with this logic, and the assumptions that go along with it, is that it’s simply not true.

Why does someone of a smaller stature, or, with a meek personality, have to fall into the stereotype of the underdog? And why are bigger and aggressive types automatically labeled the dominant one? Just like Gladwell did, maybe society should re-examine the stereotypes. That’s where Krav Maga comes in.

Krav Maga prepares the Davids of the world for the day they meet their own Goliath. The training process helps the Davids how to see the advantages they never thought they had. to understand how to play to these advantages, to exploit the opponent’s disadvantage, and, most crucially, to use their opponent’s disadvantages against them.

Here are five self-defense lessons we can learn from David and Goliath.

“Underdogs” can break the rules 

In his book, Gladwell uses the example of an all-girl ragtag team of inexperienced basketball players from Redwood City, California, who go up against players who are much more experienced. To everyone’s surprise, Redwood City starts crushing much more established, experienced and talented teams because their coach thinks outside the box, defying the usual conventions of basketball tactics to throw the stronger team off guard. Some saw this as cheating but the didn’t break any rules. However, despite their lack of height and talent, and the fact that they have a coach was a in software engineer from India that had never played basketball. Gladwell argues that the team’s success because they chose to use a full-court press (a strategy that favors effort over skill that forces your opponent into making a mistake).

In Krav Maga, all conventions are meant to be defied. When fighting someone much stronger than you, an attacker who may think he or she has the upper hand, surprise them by thinking outside the box. Don’t box a boxer, wrestle a wrestler, go to the ground with a BJJ fighter or outrun a runner. Gouge their eyes, bite their flesh, kick them in the groin, or — as Patrick once told us — you can stick your thumb where the sun doesn’t shine.

Things that are in your heart, soul, or imagination are just as important as physical attributes

David may have been small and young, but his spirit and courage helped him fight like a warrior. Having that spirit is half the battle.

While physical strength and conditioning are a component to Krav Maga training, so is conditioning one’s spirit. Classes will often utilize stress drills that test your mental and physical limits, with the crucial message of “don’t give up.” If you routinely push yourself to withstand more and more stress and pain in class, then you’ll have a significant advantage over your opponent. Your survival not only lies in how well you can defeat someone, but in how difficult you are to defeat.

The strong are also often weak, if looked at from the right angle. People who seem weak can turn out to be surprisingly strong

We’ve been taught our whole lives to never judge a book by its cover. However, there is one scenario in which people almost always do: in a fight. If you look small, thin, or are of a certain gender, your opponent will most likely perceive you as weak. This is one case in which you want them to judge you by your cover. Let them think you’re weak, so that when you defend yourself with unexpected vigor, they’ll be taken aback. Their surprise and sudden loss of confidence will open up a weak point for you to attack.

Past a certain point, extra-strength becomes self-defeating because it is too crude and inflexible

It might not be as graceful as dance or as strategic as sport, but fighting requires great agility just the same. Brute strength might appear to be the most crucial trait on the surface, but it’s rendered useless if the opponent is faster and more agile. There’s nothing for him to impose his strength on if he can’t even catch you.

Choose your weapons carefully

A smart fighter will take advantage of any weapon he can get his hands on, even if it’s a completely, seemingly innocuous object. In self-defense, everything around you should be viewed as a possible weapon — household objects, purses, shoes, rocks on the ground, etc.

But while choosing a weapon is half the battle, the lesson here is choosing it carefully. Don’t pick up a heavy iron rod to combat an opponent twice as strong. He’ll take that unwieldy weapon from you and use it against you. Think like David — choose your own sling and hit where he’d least expect.

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