Not entirely a myth...

Vox has some rather amusing, quite unkind, and (mostly) accurate things to say about women learning the art of Krav Maga:
There is a very big difference between training and the real thing. There is nearly as big a difference between drill and full-contact sparring. I've fought more than a few karate students, up to and including black belts, who had never engaged in any serious sparring. With NO EXCEPTIONS, they weren't much better than a complete neophyte. 
[...]
It is very, very difficult to make a precision strike at someone's eyes. [Didact: Amen to that one, Vox.] It is even more difficult to successfully knee a man in the groin when he is in a conflict situation. And even if one makes contact, it is likely that it won't slow him down much, as adrenaline significantly reduces the amount of pain one feels in the moment. [Didact: Ain't it the truth... My knee could tell you all about that right now...]
It's fine to teach women how to defend themselves. But firearms, and where they are not legal, knives, should always be a part of the self-defense strategy, and women need to understand that the odds are severely against them in a physical struggle. Learning technique is fine, but doing fake routines on unresisting opponents is worse than pointless. It takes years to become an effective fighter, so it is risible to suggest that a class or two is going to accomplish anything but instill a false sense of self-confidence in a woman.
Seeing as I just got back an hour ago from a Krav Maga sparring class, where full contact is allowed with both hands and feet- up to and including takedowns for some of the more advanced belts- I figured I might as well get in my $0.02 on this one.

First, let's be very clear on what Krav Maga is, and more importantly, what it is not. The art, as it was originally conceived in both its military and civilian forms by its founder, Imi Lichtenfeld, is built from three simple concepts:

  1. It should, theoretically, be an art that everyone can learn. There is no point in taking an 18-year-old farmboy fresh from the kibbutz and teaching him self-defence moves that take years to master, when all he really needs to know is how to survive in war. Similarly, there is no point in creating an art that only the fittest, most balletic, most athletic individuals can possibly even begin to master, if the goal of that art is to allow people to survive in a street fight.
  2. Every defence comes with a simultaneous attack. There is no such thing as passive defence in the art. Every defensive technique is paired with an offensive movement designed specifically to stun, injure, or incapacitate an opponent.
  3. NEVER fight power against power. When taught correctly, the art focuses on dealing with opponents who are bigger, stronger, faster, and in a dominant position over you. The art therefore focuses on speed, accuracy, and surprise to deal with and remove a threat.
Once you understand what Krav Maga is, you will quickly understand that it is an art with universal applications. This concept of "street" or "urban" Krav Maga is nonsense. There is no such thing, which is why I'm quite irritated by the article that Vox references in his little sally there. Anyone who tries to teach you "urban" Krav Maga by claiming that it's a magic blend of a bunch of different martial arts is just selling BS. Krav Maga is what it is- a martial art that takes the best ideas and elements of other arts and combines them into a coherent system united by those three fundamental principles.

Krav Maga can be as generic or as specialised as you want it to be; it literally translates as "contact combat", after all. The basic principles of the art are applicable in any environment- street, jungle warfare, urban assault, paratrooper landing, crowd pacification, whatever.

With these basic principles in mind, is it possible that a woman could, in fact, floor a male attacker without resorting to pure strength, as the Telly article claims? Well... yes and no.

Yes, in that if the woman had sufficient training, and if she attacked the right spots, and if she had the element of surprise, and if she had experience in sparring, then she could very conceivably mount an attack that would indeed take down her assailant. In this, I part ways, albeit quite minimally, with Vox.

Problem is, that's a lot of "ifs".

At the yellow belt level in Krav Maga, you learn defences against various chokes, headlocks, and attacks that are very similar to what you can expect to encounter in a street fight. Do you know roughly how long it would take for a woman of average size, height, and fitness to achieve a yellow belt in the art- and I'm talking a really good yellow belt? Roughly four to six months. I've seen women take as long as a year to do it- and some never even manage it at all, because they lack the aggression and the stamina and the speed needed to achieve the rank. And that's just the beginner level.

If, after reading that, you're a woman and you think that you'll be able to stab eyes and take down guys my size (I'm just shy of 5'11") and my strength (I deadlift 455lbs for fun) after just a couple of lessons, you're delusional. If you want to test me on that claim, come along to the White & Yellow classes at my school sometime, and I'll show you exactly what you're up against.

By the way, you see a lot of girls taking the art at beginner levels, when it's all fun and games and you're basically executing static techniques against static opponents. For example, here's what you do to defend against a choke from the front with a push:
  • Take your back foot 90 degrees to the rear so that your shoulders are in a line orthogonal to the path of your attacker.
  • With your right hand up near your face for protection, sweep your left hand with your arm held straight up over the top of his head, as if you're knocking a hat off his head. This is what breaks the choke, since it attacks the weakest part of the attacker's grip.
  • Take that left arm, bend it at the elbow in order to turn your arm into a blade.
  • Drive that blade straight into his face while using your right hand to trap his hands against your chest.
This is unquestionably great fun to do. It's also easy when your opponent is standing relatively still waiting for you to simulate the strike. In real life, that's not how it works. Your opponent will unquestionably already be trying to move away, and will immediately try to find another way to hurt you.

These are things most women simply don't understand. The White and to some extent Yellow belt classes are full of girls- it gives them a feeling of empowerment, the classes are enjoyable, and they get to socialise with other women in between techniques. But then, as things get tougher and sparring becomes part of every class, the girls start dropping out. They can't take the pace, the contact, the rough-and-tumble, and the physical demands- and they get injured far more easily than men do. By the time you get to the highest levels- Green, Blue, and Brown- there are maybe fifteen women out of a total group of about a hundred at those levels, and those are NOT the kinds of women you want to date.

This is where Vox's points about training, speed, power, and accuracy all come to play. Stabbing eyes is actually really hard to do with moving targets- which, in a street fight, is every target. If you've never sparred before- and I'm talking full-contact sparring- with someone with longer reach than you, you'll never understand just what a huge disadvantage you have against someone with longer arms or legs than you. And if you've never really taken impact- if you've never been punched in the face or kicked in the head- you have no idea how brutal and painful the shock is of taking that kind of impact.

Self-defence is just a pretty way of saying that you know how to hurt other individuals- that's all it is, and women are by definition at a severe physical disadvantage right out of the gate, because of their lack of strength, mass, and speed. Very few women understand this. Fewer still have the speed, the stamina, the skill, or the sheer willpower to keep up with men in this regard.

Case in point: in the last three months of taking sparring classes, I have seen exactly one instance in which a woman joined us- it was last week, in fact. She was a green belt- I was actually present to watch the day she tested for her belt. She and I did spar for a bit. You would think that a lowly yellow belt should have had his ass kicked by a green belt, right? Wrong. I actually dialled my punches back in power by about 50% to give her a chance to keep up- and she still got nailed a couple of times by my right crosses. Later, when we moved to sparring with both punches and kicks, she lasted all of about two minutes against an orange belt before she injured her foot and had to call time. Meanwhile, I've been kicked in the face, hurt both knees, injured my toes, bruised my shins, been given a bloody nose- and not once have I ever had to walk out of a class or leave early.

There is indeed nothing wrong with women learning self-defence. Just understand that if you are a woman, you are extremely unlikely to be a match for a man in a street environment. You would be far better off learning how to use a gun at range or a knife at close quarters- these are weapons that immediately negate a man's size and strength and give you the upper hand. You'd be an idiot to think otherwise.

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