Daniela Lofaro is a Level 3 Krav Maga Systems Instructor with a G1 certificate. She has been practicing Krav Maga for over 5 years, and currently teaches at Krav Maga Systems, North Parramatta school.
Ada: I’ve got a few questions for you. First off, how do you train women in particular with no previous self defence training to safely and effectively protect themselves against attackers in scenarios where they are commonly attacked? Secondly, are there training options for students who want to gain skills and knowledge within a specific area of interest? (For example getting better at weapon defence, ground fighting, etc).
Daniela: When you begin self-defence training, I always start with context. I explain:
- How a situation may have escalated
- Things that could be done to avoid the situation escalating
- Which physical dangers you will face (i.e. If you are being choked, you have seconds to act before you lose consciousness).
We then work through drills that highlight ways to avoid and prevent the situation we will be focussing on. Then, I introduce the situation. I break down the movements involved in defensive techniques and demonstrate how to use them effectively. Then, once you are comfortable, I take you through drills that test your ability to react and use what you have learned. I think it is important to show that there is usually a lead up to the problem and to give you the power to make safer choices before a situation becomes dangerous.
The number one thing I would want all women to know about Krav Maga training is to not avoid doing it because it seems ‘too aggressive’ – if you find yourself in a situation where your safety is threatened, things will get aggressive, it will be scary. Krav Maga deals with aggressive and frightening situations, so feeling uncomfortable and unsure is normal, and something the rest of the class is also going through. We’re all going to feel silly, uncoordinated or judged to begin with. It is better to work through this in a supportive training environment rather than being unprepared in a frightening real-life situation.
In terms of being able to specifically focus your training on specific topics of self-defence, such as female-specific scenarios, it depends on who you train with. The easiest way to access very specific training would be personal training from your instructor. Another common option would be classes offered by various training centres on topics that interest you. Krav Maga Systems school in Parramatta has specific classes for weapon defence, scenario training and striking. A good Krav Maga program will focus on all the aspects of self-defence – you’ll learn how to defend against weapons, ground attacks, strikes, multiple attackers and all situations you might commonly encounter.
William: Something which I’ve been thinking about for a while now: Road rage. Does Krav Maga have any advice or ideas on this topic? And how do we train for this? It’s a very real and common thing. What do you do if you’re sitting in your car, window is down, and you are attacked? What if someone manages to unlock your door or somehow get into your car? What’s the best way to deal with someone who starts vandalising your car in anger while you’re in it? Get out and engage? Drive off and call the police? Stay in the car and run them over?
Daniela: 88% of Australians have experienced some form of road rage, ranging from passive-aggressive road behaviour to physical assaults. Krav Maga does deal with road rage and carjacking situations. Pretty much anything you learn standing up can be done in multitudes of environments, positions, and level of readiness. The principles are always the same: Avoid, Prevent, De-escalate, Defend and Escape. No instructor would condone running anyone over with a car.
Following these Krav Maga principles, the obvious things to do would be first, to always have your car doors locked, and second, to know where your car is in relation to you, other people and obstacles. If you notice someone on the road driving aggressively/impatiently, keep your distance from the car whenever possible. Never get out of your car if someone is yelling at you and trying to pick a fight.
If someone is damaging your car while you’re inside, it is safest to stay in the car. Ask them to stop and inform them you will call the police if they don’t. Getting out closes the distance between you and the attacker, leaving you vulnerable to concealed weapons or additional attackers. The safest course of action would be to find an opportunity to drive away (without risking running someone over) and then call the police once you are clearly away from the threat.
If you’re sitting in your car and the attacker is able to reach you through your window, you have to base your response on the context of the attack. Did they just come out of nowhere and punch you? Are they threatening you with a weapon? Regardless, the general idea is the same: Stop the attack.
- It there are people around, make lots of noise. Beep the car horn, yell for help, draw attention to the attack – this could make the attacker think twice about his actions or someone MAY intervene to help.
- If the keys are in the ignition, drive a safe distance away from the threat and get the police on the phone.
- If you can’t drive away, look for objects that are in your car that you could use to fend off the attack – or use your body to strike the attacker’s vulnerable points. Use the time it takes for the attacker to recover to wind the window back up, lock the door and drive away.
- Your only option may be to defend yourself, undo your seatbelt, get out of the other side of the car and run – this option really depends on the severity of the threat it may not be safe to get out at all. You may have children in the car, or there may be multiple attackers. If the person has gotten into your car (and you are the only person in it), then to get out of the car and run could be the best option for your safety. You may not want to leave you car behind, but you have to decide if it is worth your safety.
- If the attacker is in you car and you have family and/or friends in there, your best option could be to fight the attacker off and get them out of the car. This situation is very dangerous as it presents a real risk of kidnap. In training, my students work through this scenario against all sort of attacks with and without weapons. You have to be aggressive and determined, but you also need to be aware of how serious concealed weapons could be at this range.
Lo: Pre-emptive strikes. When the adrenaline hits you and you know your life may be in danger, do you wait to be attacked, or do you pre-empt and strike first? (Bear in mind that security cameras are around, how do you explain to the Courts for your striking out first?)
Daniela: In any case of self-defence, you need to be able to justify that your actions were appropriate to the level of threat you perceived. You never wait to be attacked. Though pre-emptive strikes may be appropriate if you can clearly see the situation is about to dangerously escalate, they are not your only option – it may be safer to run or do something else entirely.
If someone has decided to single you out aggressively – maybe you stared at them for too long – and you haven’t been able to create space or talk the situation down – you should try to take a defensive position. If you ask them to stop, but you sense you’re about to be punched at any moment, this is when you may make the choice to kick to the groin (if that is an option), or do an educational stop as a warning. It all depends on the context of the situation. If the person attacking you is about to go for a choke or about to strike your face, a pre-emptive kick or punch may be the best option. Regular training helps you recognise movement cues so you can assess the level of danger and therefore which actions are appropriate.
In terms of the law, it’s all about what is appropriate in the circumstances. Punching someone in the throat for tapping you on the shoulder is clearly not appropriate. Your goal should always be to de-escalate the situation, but there can be points where the only way you to do that is to make physical contact. If the situation is caught on camera and you know you’ve acted as appropriately as possible, then your response to it should speak for itself. Take a defensive position. An example of defensive behaviour could be putting your hands up and creating space. If the attacker keeps closing the space, it’s clear you’ve done all you can and a pre-emptive strike could be used to create the opportunity to get away.