Krav Maga is a Self-Defense System best known for it’s “no nonsense” approach to reality-based Self-Defense and that ideology is exemplified in it’s approach to weapons defenses. It’s why I was initially fascinated with KM, watching demonstrations of people defending themselves from guns, knives, sticks/bats etc with relative ease, maximum aggression and extreme effectiveness. They were able to defend themselves from virtually any attack from any angle in a variety of different scenarios. It seemed so easy and approachable that anyone could do it, even me. And after training for some time I’ve found it really is!
Krav Maga has, in my opinion some of the best techniques for unarmed responses to armed threats that I’ve seen. Sure there’s other arts that do weapons defenses, some might even make more sense scientifically because they’re based on joint manipulations or may involve some pretty cool throws or takedowns. However, when it comes to defending yourself against an armed adversary under stress, fatigue, exhaustion, and in a highly adrenalized state, you’re not going to be able to do those joint locks or those cool throws. You will however, be able to stop the weapon from hurting you and hit like your life depends on it, because it does! If a technique involves several intricate steps, fine motor skills and requires the assailant positioned to be in a certain way for it to work, it will be too complex to perform under the kind of stress a violent attack elicits. That is why in Krav Maga we have just 4 steps for every weapons defense.
The goal of KM weapons defenses is to minimize injury from that weapon, to control the weapon, and to strike as hard and fast as you can to cause maximum damage to your attacker until either they release the weapon or you have an opportunity to disarm them. That is accomplished through an acronym called “R.C.A.T.”
R.C.A.T. stands for “Redirect, Control, Attack, Takeaway” and it refers to the steps, in order, of how to successfully defend yourself against someone with a weapon. It applies to most, maybe 95% of armed adversary encounters and how to defend yourself. There are a few techniques in which RCAT is not followed in order, but for the most part it is. Let’s briefly break down each step and see how they pertain to weapons defenses.
Redirect refers to getting the weapon offline from you. This means getting the weapon positioned away from you, or turning your body in such a way that you are minimally exposed. It can be achieved through a block (360/Inside Defense) typically for knife/stick defenses or for guns it can be physically redirecting the barrel of the gun to one side so you are not in the line of fire. Once you Redirect yourself offline you never want to let that weapon go back online to you.
Once you Redirect the weapon, you’re temporarily safe, but it won’t stay that way for long. Next you need to control the weapon/weapon hand of the attacker. This is usually accomplished by grabbing or pinning the weapon hand of the attacker to prevent them from continuing to attack you or getting the weapon back online with your body. Controlling, like redirecting is only temporary. Even with a good positioning and locking of joints, it won’t take much for the attacker to relinquish your control over their weapon. That’s why the “A” in “R.C.A.T.” is so vital.
Notice how similar the “Control” looks in the 3 images above against 3 different types of weapons. That’s the key to Krav Maga, one solution for multiple problems. It increases reaction time and allows you to respond quicker.
Seems pretty self-explanatory. Attack is the most vital part of RCAT. More vital than the takeaway. Redirects can fail, Control can be lost. When in doubt, strike it out!!! Attacking disrupts OODA Loops, attacking potentially can in and of itself cause the weapon to dislodge from your assailants grip. “R.C.A.T” should actually be represented as “R.C.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.A.T.” essentially, striking and hitting as fast, hard and often as possible, just like with any other defense in Krav Maga is more important than any fancy looking disarm. Speed and aggression is what will help you prevail, overwhelming your attacker’s thought process and causing maximum damage and disruption is more important than getting the weapon away from them.
Takeaways (or disarms) are of importance in regards to RCAT in that they are the 4th most important step. Unfortunately, maybe due to TV and movies, new practioners of Self-Defense especially become fixated on the takeaway as the most important aspect of a weapon defense. Watch a new student attempting a gun defense, many times they’ll yank and yank frivirously for the takeaway and won’t even realize the barrel is back pointing at them leaving them exposed! Takeaways vary by weapon (gun vs knife vs stick) and by angle or type of attack (gun from behind vs gun from the front) and as such will elicit different responses and different takeaways. Still, as with most defenses in Krav Maga the takeaways are based on what the logical natural reaction would be to get that weapon out of their hands and they are relatively easy to learn even for brand new practitioners.
Being attacked by an armed adversary can sound like a terrifying ordeal, and it is not to be taken lightly. Nothing is guaranteed in defensive encounters, and there is always a risk of bodily injury or even death, this is especially true when weapons get involved. But remember, doing nothing at all still leaves you at risk of bodily injury or death. If you decide to fight, you utilize every ounce of speed, aggression and overwhelming physical force that you can muster to put yourself in a more advantageous position. Be smart about it, your wallet isn’t worth your life, your phone isn’t worth your life, your car isn’t worth your life. Your life however is worth your life, if they want to remove you to a secondary location, if they want to bound your hands, if they haven’t left after being given your material possessions, you do what you need to do. If there is a weapon involved, remember your training, and remember “R.C.A.T.”
BE SAFE EVERYBODY! KIDA!