The Best Self-Defense System for Travelers

All photos courtesy of Spartans Academy of Krav Maga

The world is an amazing place! It’s full of natural splendor, unique cultures, delicious foods, awe-inspiring scenery, spectacular architecture, and the list goes on! All of these things inspire so many people to pack their bags and go out and travel. However, the world also has a dark side, one that comes in the form of evil. Evil that quickly garners the attention of mainstream media outlets, as well as social media. And this can make many people afraid to go out and travel.

It’s hard to see so many people who want to travel the world but are afraid to. Some of my greatest personal growth came from my travels. And I would love to have more people do it, so they too can experience these benefits just like how I have. So for this article I want to talk about how you can make your travels more safe. And it begins with preparing your greatest asset… yourself. Which can be greatly enhanced through proper self-defense training.

So what do I mean by “proper” self-defense training? Well I’ve dabbled in several different martial arts styles throughout the years. Ranging from traditional martial arts, combat sports, and military hand-to-hand combat. Each has greatly benefited me in many ways. But when it came to preparing to adequately defend myself in real-life. There was one style that I’ve come across that I felt did it better than any of the others. And that style was Krav Maga. I first started training Krav Maga at Spartans Academy of Krav Maga while I was living in England. And it was a total game-changer for me.

This is of course no disrespect to any other styles of martial arts or their practitioners. I’m a traditional martial artist myself, and hold a black belt in Tang Soo Do Karate. I started in my early teens and it really helped with my discipline, focus, and confidence. I also have one amateur fight as a mixed martial artist, and my training in that also helped me in many aspects of my life; including my work ethic, physical fitness, and mental discipline. Though when it comes to self-defense, there were a few things about each of these disciplines where I feel that they fall short.

Traditional martial arts focuses heavily on movement patterns like katas and point sparring. And I remember very little practice in practical self-defense. Mixed martial arts was a step in the right direction. And I can see how many of the techniques would be very useful in self-defense. However, mixed martial arts is a sport, so it has rules. Which in a self-defense scenario there are none, and that was one thing that my Krav Maga instructors made very clear to me right off the bat.

Along with not restricting practitioners to rules, there are many other benefits that can be gained from training in Krav Maga. In this article I will highlight a few of them and explain why you should seek out training in Krav Maga in order to protect yourself, whether you’re at home or while traveling.

Shadow boxing warm-up.

Hard Target

If I was a bad guy and I saw some of the people I trained Krav Maga with walking down the street. There’s a good chance that I probably wouldn’t want to mess with them. Not because they have a super imposing physique or anything like that. I can obviously tell that they’re fit and in shape. However, most of my training partners, as well as my instructors, look (for lack of better terms) normal. So why would I not want to mess with them if I was a bad guy? Well it’s simple… because of how they carry themselves.

They walk upright and move with a sense of confidence, instead of being hunched over looking down at the ground and appearing timid. They also maintain situational awareness and have their heads on a swivel and are mindful of their surrounds. And they’re not impairing their senses by looking down at their phones or by wearing headphones. All of these behaviors act as deterrents for would-be criminals. And they are greatly emphasized during Krav Maga training.

Criminals don’t want a fight, they want an easy target. So they’re going to choose potential victims that they think they can get the drop on and quickly commit a crime towards. However, from what I’ve observed from Krav Maga practitioners while they’re out and about. I’d say that they’re not someone who would make committing a crime easy for any would-be criminal.

Stress Inoculation

There’s a very clear distinction between the self-defense training that I’ve had in Krav Maga and the self-defense that I’ve had in traditional settings. Now some might have had different experiences than me. However, looking back on my self-defense training in traditional martial arts, there were certain things that stood out to me. For instance, I remember that my training partners (attackers) were very cooperative. And they would execute the attack in a way that would allow me to easily apply the defense. They would also stop if I made a mistake and let me start over and try again. Basically, it was a comfortable and low stress environment.

However, I’ve come to learn that a real attack would be the exact opposite. A real attack would be brutal, violent, terrifying, stressful, and just a whole shlew of other awful things. There’s a saying that I’ve heard in the military, “You don’t rise up to the occasion, you fall back on your highest level of training.” So I realized that traditional self-defense was not going to adequately prepare me to deal with such an event if it were to arise.

Krav Maga on the other hand induces stress during practice. I remember when I first started training at Spartans Academy, I was faced with quite a bit of shock and awe. Defensive techniques were taught first and practiced slowly, so the students can understand the mechanics behind them. But it didn’t take very long until my instructor turned up the heat and made things stressful. I remember practicing gun disarms and having my training partner force a practice gun right in my face and started yelling and screaming. Then taking his free hand and slapping me right across the face! Now to be a man and get slapped in the face by another man was a huge blow to the ego.

Practicing gun disarms in low light and confined spaces.

Another intense practice I remember was when my instructor taught us knife disarms. As we were practicing with our training partners, he went around to each individual student to execute an attack and have them try to defend. However, he didn’t use a typical rubber training knife like everyone else had. He used a shock knife! Which is exactly how it sounds, a stun gun shaped like a knife. And he didn’t nonchalantly go through the attack and give us a surefire way to defend. He went full force as if he was a real attacker and trying to kill us. This got my adrenaline surging, and even though the whole attack and disarm lasted only a few seconds, I found myself gasping for air afterwards.

If this kind of practice sounds scary to you, then that’s a good indication that you should be doing it. All of the things that I just mentioned, as scary as they are, are meant to prepare you for the high stress that would come during an attack. There’s that saying, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”. That very much applies to self-defense training, and Krav Maga does it well.

Killer Mindset

In my opinion, this is the greatest asset that I’ve gained from Krav Maga. Having the proper tools and techniques to defend yourself is great. Though they mean nothing if you don’t have the right mindset to implement them. Many, if not most, people will say that they don’t like violence, and don’t want anything to do with it. Fair enough, however there just may come a time in your life, whether you’re close to home or traveling far away, when violence may be the ONLY answer. And if you come across someone who actively tries to instill violence upon you in any way. The ONLY way to stop them is to be better at violence than them.

And this is done by having a killer mindset, and one that is controlled. What I mean by that is much of the training done in Krav Maga involves trying to diffuse certain situations before they get out of hand. And only resorting to violence as a last resort. But if push comes to shove and it means saving your own life or the lives of anyone with you. Then you must be prepared to go from a peaceful wanderer to complete and utter destruction in an instant. There’s also having the ability to recognize when you’ve ended the threat and being able to disengage and escape. So that way you don’t go to far and end up being viewed as an attacker, instead of a defender.

To Sum Up

Let’s be real here, what are the chances that you’ll actually find yourself in a situation where you’ll need to defend yourself? Honest answer, very low. I’d say the average chance based on what I’ve learned is about 2%. So if the chances are that low, why bother learning self-defense at all? The answer is simple, because the possibility still exists, and it always will. For people who have become victims of crime, their chances were the same as yours. Yet it still happened to them. You may come to think that it’ll never happen to you, it’ll happen to someone else. But bear in mind, you could be that someone else to a person who thought the same thing.

It’s my hope that you never find yourself in such a situation where you’ll have to defend yourself. And that you have a lifetime of living and traveling in peace. However, there will always be risk. That’s why I continue to train myself, and share what I’ve learned through this blog. So that you also will have the means to adequately prepare yourself to walk away from such a situation as a victor, not a victim.