Darren Levine Talks about The Complete Krav Maga Guide

complete-krav-second-editionKrav Maga translated from the Hebrew means Contact Combat. A military martial arts style that was developed Imi Lichtenfeld, a Hungarian Jew who developed the style in the 1930s with other Jewish boxers and wrestlers to protect Jewish neighborhoods from racist gangs in Bratislava.

Eventually immigrating to Palestine in 1942 to escape Nazi persecution and after the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, Lichtenfeld was the founder of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The style was taught not only to the military but private citizens and school children in order to protect themselves from hostile neighbors.

One of Lichtenfeld’s top students and the man responsible for bringing Krav Maga to the United States, Darren Levine, is a 6th degree black belt and head instructor of Krav Maga Worldwide, located in Los Angeles, CA.

Levine, who is also a licensed attorney, trains not only law enforcement but also average citizens in the tested art form that will save your life.

We interviewed Levine about second edition to Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide:

R.C Samo (RCS): You have added roughly 20 new techniques to the Complete Krav Maga Second Edition. Where there any techniques that you removed or updated that seemed no longer applicable in how street fighting and even Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has evolved over the past two decades?

Not necessarily. For me, that’s the problem with writing books or creating videos. Often, there are many adjustments I’d like to make even a year later, if it’s not a minor adjustment to the technique itself, I feel there’s always a better way to deliver the lesson in terms of the way it is written–the descriptions of a given exercise or the angle from which the techniques are photographed. And that’s all on me…

Darren Levine (DL): I would say there is a substantial difference in how I explain movement now compared to a year ago. And that’s always been the case.
I hope that’s a sign of evolving as a teacher. I expect to continue to grow as long as I keep an open mind.

The second edition of Complete Krav Maga was not a rewrite of the original book–it was to add more advanced techniques in order to expose readers to additional, more high-risk threat scenarios. I’m so happy we did it! And in my travels teaching seminars, the students are so appreciative we made “Complete Krav Maga (2nd Edition)” even more complete!

RCS: There are a few critics from other Krav Maga organizations such as Krav Maga Global and Commando Krav Maga have said that your style has not changed since the late 1970s. What do you say to those of other organizations who question the authenticity of Krav Maga Worldwide and your techniques?  

DL: That’s nonsense. It’s an insult to Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi did not teach people to look at the system in a rigid way or do specific techniques in exactly one way, and only his specific way. And more significantly, to only keep it a certain way for the sake of ego. We were NEVER taught to parrot his lessons. He taught all of his top instructors how to think, how to problem solve. The problem solving we deal with is real-life danger that arises on the streets and on the battlefield.

I’ve taught the most battle tested forces and specialized military and law enforcement units in the world since 1985. I’ve worked as a criminal prosecutor for 27 years.

I have conducted direct and cross-examination in felony jury trials, mostly murder cases, of hundreds victim-witnesses, victims of the most horrific, violent crimes, percipient witnesses to those crimes. Preparing my cases thoroughly and by interviewing witnesses at crime scenes.

I don’t know if there’s another force instructor in the world who has prosecuted cop killers. Unfortunately, I’ve had to prosecute eight murders of police officer cases. And I’m proud I’ve won every case–and put many of those cop killers on death row.

In a way, I’m sorry that I’m even replying to the question, but I feel the scenarios articulated to me directly from the best anti-terrorist units in the world, victims of crime, autopsy surgeons, medical examiners, forensic psychologists, combat shooting experts, and studying murders and interviewing cold blooded killers, etc. has given me the best experience to carry the System forward to adapt to the threats dealt with at this point of time in the world.

Imi and Eyal (Yanilov) used to say that if Krav Maga were going to be big in the world, it would have to be exported from Los Angeles. Imi loved how we were developing the System. Teaching it. The way we organized a very disorganized System.

By the way, the best Thai boxing instructors in the world do NOT necessarily come from Thailand. The best Judo champions do NOT necessarily come from Japan. The best grapplers do not necessarily come from Brazil. And certainly the best teachers from each of those disciplines don’t come from the country of origin for those arts.

Their suggestions levied at me are absurd and childish. It is motivated out of some need to discredit my success, I’d assume for financial gain. They don’t have my real world experience. I don’t have their real world experience.

RCS: What are a few things that new Krav Maga practitioners would takeaway from the updated Ultimate Guide that was missing from the first edition?

DL: Complete Krav Maga now exposes the reader to more advanced threats involving an assailant using a handgun and edged weapons. Some of the techniques added are scenario based, where the defender finds themselves in very high-risk situations such as being abducted or being used as a shield at knife or gunpoint, and where the gunman has mounted the defender and is brandishing a handgun or edged weapon at the defender. Additional situations include serious problems in the environment…such as dealing with armed assailants who have the defender severely restricted and or pinned against a wall and when there is such tight quarters that there is minimal space to redirect and control the weapon.

I just returned teaching seminars in Houston, San Francisco and New York. Dozens of students, many of them in law enforcement and the military, have purchased the second Edition of Complete Krav Maga book and are thrilled to have such realistic, high risk scenarios, along with the original text, in one source.

RCS: Would you recommend cross training Krav Maga with any grappling Martial Arts like wrestling, judo or jiu-jitsu? If so why or why not?

DL: Absolutely. Teaching, touring, and spending time for many years with Bas Rutten, Amir Perets and others made the importance of cross training of critical importance to me. Learning how to fight and handle grapplers and other fight methods that can be encountered on the street is a must and improving yourself has no downside.

When I teach fight tactics to soldiers, peace officers and civilians, I really take the time to emphasize that during a violent street fight, it’s more important to learn how to avoid being taken down, and if you are taken to the ground, know how to get up quickly. Yes. Wrestling and BJJ skills must be honed and trained on extensively. But officers working in a crowd or in the presence of multiple sources of threats, multiple attackers, cannot be working for a submission if other subjects can walk up to them and kick them in the head. Time and time again, in every single instructors’ course we teach to our military and allied operators, we stress the importance of cross training so that they are not vulnerable to be defeated.

(RCS): As an attorney, you are always assessing every situation possible, depending on the case. How has your work in the legal field mentally prepared you for Krav Maga in your younger years and how has that changed as you matured?

DL: Wow, that’s a great question. Krav Maga is truly a very logical system that deals with very violent encounters. The system constantly breaks down acts of violence, analyzes force from physical, physiological, emotional and spiritual standpoints. The System progressively builds people to defend themselves with techniques that have been battle tested all over the world.

The way Imi taught me to think, has helped me to be a better prosecutor—not just because I have a better understanding of violence, but because I can break down the stages of a violent encounter and demonstrate what occurred by having the insight to ask witnesses, for the jury’s benefit, why a defendant did certain things for a specific goal in mind. In other words, I can question witnesses and get more detail about what happened and what was the evidence the mindset of the defendant—the defendant’s specific intent to kill.

How has it made me change? Well, my work prosecuting serious and violent felonies, has served to constantly renew my dedication to give truly realistic, life-saving methods of Krav Maga to offer our military, law enforcement and civilians. The adverse and perverse affects of violence last generations. Families are destroyed when good people are incapacitated or killed by evildoers. I want to keep it real. I want good people to have the ability to defend themselves against people who would do them harm.

RCS: Krav Maga was originally designed for the Israeli military. How would something like Systema that was redesigned for the Soviet military fair against Krav Maga?

DL: I really don’t know how to answer that question…other than to say that it would depend on the individuals involved and so many other factors. Simply stated, I think our approach builds people to be more effective in a shorter period of time.

RCS: As tensions rise throughout the world, whether terrorist threats in the Middle East and Europe or racial issues in the United States, how does practicing a Martial Art like Krav Maga, not only prepare the individual for these unfortunate situations, but also help deescalate them?

DL: Practical, no-nonsense, aggressive self-defense techniques and strategies to fight extreme and senseless violence in today’s world cannot be indiscriminate. Krav Maga addresses the paradox of how Krav Maga is designed to defeat modern day threats…such as active shooters.

The background section on “What is Krav Maga” identifies a key point that one must be trained and psychologically prepared to inflict serious damage on your attacker. Overcoming this socially instilled obstacle to self-preservation is a huge hurdle for many, even when faced with the realization that an attack is not “fair.” These concepts of using high levels of force is tempered and further reinforced by teaching Use of Force law. We never want to do more than what is necessary. We want to be able to truthfully articulate the application of force in an intelligent manner. That is part of the training curriculum we have implemented.

RCS: What are a couple of key components that civilians need to understand in learning a military art like Krav Maga?

DL: Keep things simple. Develop a mindset that allows you to engage when you have to do so. Some situations call for “kill or be killed” responses and many do not. We intelligently address danger and threats of harm to the defender so that they may deal with virtually all types of threats by applying common principles. We’ve developed a system of building self-defense skills so that one is able to deal with armed and unarmed assailants.

RCS: What is the ultimate takeaway for anyone who picks up the second edition for anyone who is either interested in learning Krav Maga or for someone who has been practicing for several years?

DL: Simply, I would say that it is learning how to identify danger at its earliest stages of development. You can’t defend against a threat when you don’t have the experience to recognize it as such.

RCS: On the official Krav Maga website, is there a list of schools affiliated with your governing body where they can attend a class to see what Krav Maga is really about?

DL: Absolutely. I believe their experience in training with a qualified instructor will be truly empowering and the benefits derived from learning from a Krav Maga Worldwide instructor is life changing on so many levels. To find a school, they can access our website at www.kravmaga.com.

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