Israeli Martial Arts and Deadly Mistakes in Gun Disarming

Avi Nardia Gun Defense

Gun disarming is one of the most important skills you want to obtain when training in a martial art that claims to be about self-defense. Now that reality based martial arts have become extremely popular, many so called reality based instructors have started to show knife/gun disarming techniques without realizing that they contain deadly mistakes that can get their students killed!

I asked my friend and teacher Avi Nardia to talk about the subject of gun disarming. Avi Nardia who serverd in an Israeli Police special Counter Terror unit as an intelligence team member with the rank of Staff Sergeant Major (NCO) and as its official defensive tactics/CQB instructor. Avi Nardia teaches and Israeli CQB system, also known as Kapap.

In his 24 years of experience, he earned the rank of major in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and trained armed forces all over the world, including SWAT, SRT, SERT teams, special forces, corrections officers, Army and Marine units and counter terror units. To this day, he is a CQB trainer in the IDF Reserves, as well as a Reserve Police Sniper.

As we met he smiled, took off his shoes and began to tell me about Israeli CQB and martial arts. He started with his basic principles:

  • Any weapon – one mind
  • Always a student, sometimes a teacher
  • Better to remain a student of reality than a master of illusion
  • Knives never run out of ammo or jam, that’s why edged weapon are the most dangerous

The Israeli CQB Art of Kapap has been written in special ink, called blood. The knowledge came from experience, many times by making tragic mistakes, then studying the results to understand what needs to be done the next time. Unfortunately, Israel is the most experienced nation in the world when it comes to Terror, and that is why it has developed one of the most valued CQB training systems in the world.

CQB is about evaluation and evolution. A few hundred years ago, archery was a combat tool, while today it has evolved into a traditional martial art (i.e. Kyudo, Zen and the Way of Archery). An arrow is an edged weapon, which is projected to a target, using a bow, allowing the fighter to attack his enemy from a distance. A bullet, while not exactly an edged weapon, is projected to the target, by means of gunpowder, allowing the fighter to attack his enemy from a distance. Guns are the archery of modern times and we see them as an integral part of modern Israeli martial arts. And let’s not forget that when you disarm a gun you must know how to retain it and use it later.

Israeli CQB training owes its development to many names. Though most are missing from any list you will find (and never declared them self as “Masters “), all have donated to the art, and no individual can claim sole ownership. To understand more, research names such as Hanna Senesh, Solomon Aruch (as shown in the film Triumph of the Spirit), Meir Har Tzion, 11 Olympic Athletes massacred in Munich, Daniel Pearl and Ron Arad. If you don’t understand the roots and culture you won’t get it.

In Kapap we don`t bow and don`t give belts, since this is the way of Japanese martial arts and culture, not Israeli. Actually, according to Jewish (and also Muslim) culture, we are not allowed to bow unless it is to God, whereas in Japanese culture bowing is a part of saying hello.

Official instructors in the army and police never awarded belts. Either you are the student or the instructor. If you are the student you don`t need a belt – you need to be empty to get it all, and if you think you are a black belt you missed the point of CQB. An army or police teacher will often find himself teaching one day and fighting alongside his students the next.

The most valued part of Israeli CQB is the fighting spirit, just as in traditional martial arts. Traditional and modern CQB such as Kapap are the same and work side by side.

Kapap was the first CQB training introduced in Israeli history and was based on stick fighting, knives, guns, and hand-to-hand and even stone throwing in the old days. The idea of any CQB is fight with what you have at hand…

One day I was asked what is the best gun? And I answered that it is the gun that you have in your hand when you need it. That is also the main idea behind Israeli CQB. Today, there are people claim to own it or be the sole representative, when they actually know very little and have never even set foot in Israeli Martial arts, and they are giving Israeli arts a bad image among serious martial artists.

Evaluation and evolution must be done for every technique to see if it fits our aims. Kapap is based on evaluating a technique to determine whether it can be done by any solider (for civilians, whether it can be done by the weakest man or woman). It needs to be easy to teach (there could be a better technique but if you don’t have years to train it, start with an easier one). You look for simple, fast techniques to study and remember. The importance of this point was emphasized to me recently when I had the pleasure of meeting one of the first Kapap instructors in Israel, Abe Drori, who lives in Los Angeles. At the age of 70, he suddenly found himself facing a 45 magnum in a downtown LA alley. He used an old Kapap technique and disarmed the assailant.

Another important consideration is liability. When teaching military CQB, you can stay in the killing zone, but for a civilian, after disarming a knife you don`t want to kill the guy and go to jail. When teaching police CQB, there are other considerations. Any police defensive tactics program must be approved legally, medically and politically. You don`t want to turn on your television and see a policeman kicking someone.

Two years ago I introduced the Kapap system to the American public, since I didn’t like the commercial way in which Israeli martial arts were being presented to civilians. More importantly, since the people claiming to teach it were never instructors in the Israeli army, police or secret service, the “Israeli” martial arts being taught were full of mistakes and many times were being taught as fitness. Israeli martial arts are not some kind of popular aerobic kickboxing, they are martial arts of self defense!!

When someone is going to kick you, your life is not at risk, only your ego…but when someone pulls a knife or gun on you, you need to know how, when and if to act.

Let’s get back to Gun Disarming. You have seven basic points basic for gun disarming.
First and foremost is Luck…sometimes you can do every thing right and you die…that’s because life is different than what we think we know. In reality, anything can happen and even if you don`t make a mistake something can surprise you. For example, in the September 11 report there was Israeli former Special Forces man named Daniel Levin (rest in peace )who was flying on a business trip on one of the flights. When the terrorists acted he jumped on one of them and start to fight with him, as most Israelis would do, since their mindset is to fight a terrorist and not to sit back and wait. Another terrorist that was sitting there as a sleeper stabbed him in his back and he became the first victim of September 11 and got his act mentioned in the September 11 official report. So even when you operate correctly, life can surprise you.

I have a friend who is a Lotar instructor at the Army who jumped on a suicide bomber and arrested him alive. When he told me how he did it I was amazed that he didn’t die in the attempt. So many times we talk about luck…and that’s the first point!!

The second point is the Field of Fire – that is understanding the direction and distance or point of fire of the weapon, as well as the distance or range in which the ammunition can cause harm, including ricochettes. You can’t disarm a shotgun as you would a handgun -the ammo is different. Many times I see “experts “ moving the shoot gun aside but they are still within the field of fire, and that’s the last place you want to be.

3. Understanding Gun Technology
Understanding the weapon and how it is utilized. Remember edged weapons never run out of ammo but guns do. Firearms can jam or malfunction. With proper instruction you can learn techniques to effectively cause a weapon’s malfunction while disarming an attacker. It is for this reason an understanding of a firearm’s mechanism is of paramount importance. You should be able to understand and identify the differences between a revolver and a semi automatic weapon; the difference between a Handgun and a Shotgun or rifle. Also don`t forget that after you disarm the gun it is in your hand now. Since you don`t want to start grappling with your enemy, who may be stronger than you, you need to know how to use it. You need to be very good with guns since the weapon you now have in your hand may not be the one you would choose to buy in a store…it’s the gun your enemy had. For this reason, all of my students, from a certain level, must have experience shooting with a variety of weapons. We hold special training sessions at a shooting range with different shooting scenarios. I teach them to clean any jam under stress and to make the gun function. I also teach liability issues when shooting – for example you don`t want to shoot an enemy if he is escaping ( as civilian ) .

4. Situation Evaluation
Evaluate in an attempt to control the psychological aspect of your situation. Focus and stay in control of your emotions. For most students, training is required to stay calm and focused internally in spite of your outward appearance. Your body language can easily escalate an already emotionally charged situation. The attacker’s body language can provide clues as to his intentions. You must train to begin an understanding of techniques in attempting to control the situation verbally and physically. You must evaluate the attacker. Is he a punk kid that is very excited and seemingly inexperienced or is he a professional criminal that is under control? Understand that if you see the weapon, it is probable the attacker does not have the intention to just shoot, the attacker wants something. This behavior on the part of the attacker can allow you valuable moments, giving you the time to make choices. To defend or not to defend. Also if he asks only for money never fight back – give him your money and stay alive!! You fight only if your life or your family’s is at risk. The graveyards are full of heroes….

5. Timing
Understand and train in the use of Timing. You must learn to utilize timing to your advantage. If your evaluated decision or only option is to attempt to disarm an attacker, you must move quickly, decisively and unsuspectingly to control and take the weapon away, like a magician that is trying to make a watch disappear off of someone’s wrist.

6. Situational Awareness
Possess awareness of your surrounding environment. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times. An attacker seeks the unaware and unsuspecting. In every surrounding, make mental notes of potential escape routes, items that can be used as weapons and other people that will be placed in harms way should a threat or conflict arise. In the case of an attacker with a firearm, you must pay attention to where the bullet will be discharged if fired. Either as a law enforcement officer with your partner or a civilian with a bystander or family member, you must know where others are located when moving the weapon.

7. Post Conflict Details and Preconflict
Be ready for the post conflict. It has been found that people who have been attacked often do not remember the face of the attacker even though they were looking right at it. Remain calm and remember to visualize and take mental notes of details. Try to take a mental photograph of the attacker’s face, clothes, weapon, and any distinguishing marks on the person’s body or vehicle.

In conclusion we need to point out the key elements essential to these points are awareness, timing, speed and understanding distance. You must pay very close attention to controlling the weapon before any additional strikes or action. Once the weapon is truly in your control then you can strike multiple targets as your style and situation delegates. You must practice the techniques with each hand as well as under different types of stress levels i.e. cardio intensive workouts. Also change lighting and environments to follow real world scenarios. Proper and continued training in these basic points of firearm defense may very well make the difference between life and death when faced with real world threats.

And remember, as all martial arts teach, the art of war is the preconflict stage. If you can, stay away from conflicts by avoiding the scene of conflict (e.g. girls, don`t go to up to Mike Tyson’s hotel room after midnight …). The best defense is to avoid the conflict!!!