Krav Maga Self Defense vs. The Knockout Game

Most Krav Maga students in Los Angeles have heard of the “Knockout Game” popping up around the country. If you haven’t, it involves thugs randomly selecting a victim on the street and sucker punching them, trying to knock them out with one blow. You can watch a report on the phenomenon here.

First of all, it’s not a game, so screw that term. Let’s call them Knockout assaults. I’d like to call the perpetrators pathetic, maladjusted cowards, but that takes up too much space, so I’ll stick with “thugs.”

Anyway, like most self defense instructors, I’ve been asked about it. First off, let’s acknowledge that even if this is a “widespread” or “growing” trend, you are still far more likely not to be attacked by a “Knockout” thug then you are likely to be a target. So don’t panic. Just train.

And by “train,” of course, I mean “train in Krav Maga,” because this is what we train for. There are two practical solutions to the Knockout trend: situational awareness and reaction drills from positions of disadvantage.

(Please, please don’t tell me you would just shoot the bad guy. I am all for you carrying concealed, but that gun is most likely going to be under your jacket or in your purse when the sucker punch comes.)

Start with situational awareness: be aware not just of who is near you, but how they are behaving. Pay more attention to strangers and less attention to your smart phone. If you’re not beginning to shift from Yellow to Orange (or at least from Green to Yellow) when you walk by a group of teenage boys on the street, then you are making yourself a victim. I’m not saying you have to be paranoid. Just be aware.

Next, train against punches from positions of disadvantage. Krav Maga calls these “outside defenses,” and they work well with even minimal time to react. Also, they are instinct-based, so they are close to your natural reactions, provided your situational awareness has given you any time to react at all. We can’t guarantee that these defenses will work, because the skill, speed, and power of the attacker are variables we can’t control. However, they are designed to work against the attacks that you see in the video.

The trend is disturbing. But the solution, while not guaranteed, is simple: keep aware of your surroundings and train from disadvantaged positions. Use drills that incorporate as much unpredictability as is possible to create in a training environment. Start slowly, and build to higher and higher speeds. And maybe, just maybe, someone will be able to show one of these thugs who the sucker really is.

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