Doubling Your Odds: Krav Maga and the 200% Defense

When talking about probability and human behavior, a 100% probability translates into the fact that a specific action is guaranteed to produce a known outcome every single time. Krav Maga, DSD, and most martial arts consist of a variety of hand defenses; using one’s hands and/or arms to deflect or block a strike.

In the case of a static person (feet planted, upper body still, neck locked into place) using a hand defense against a strike to the face, the probability that the strike will succeed in hitting the person’s face depends upon a variety of factors: hand speed of both the attacker and defender, time of attack recognition, body position, and proximity to the attacker.

In the case of a slow defender or a late attack recognition, a defender will at worst get hit by an unobstructed strike and at best get grazed by the strike; he or she will get hit, but will reduce the strike’s damage.

Now what if the defender were to both use his or her hand to deflect the strike and at the same time reposition his or her face and/or body? The defender forces the attacker to deal with two variables: the attributes of the hand defense itself and the movement of the target (in this case, the head). This is a 200% defense.

The 200% Defense

Krav Maga 200% DefenseIn Krav Maga, a 200% defense consists of two components: a hand/leg defense to deflect or block the strike and a body defense, in which the targeted part of the body is moved off the line of attack.

In an overhand knife attack, where the attacker’s target is the head or upper body, Krav students are trained to block with the arm and at the same time move their head and body slightly forward, almost short of a head-butt (of note, they are also trained to strike at the same time).

The logic is that if the blade is long, the hand defense might stop the trajectory of the blade, but the blade will still be long enough to pierce the head. Furthermore, if the arm is slow to defend the attack, then at the very least, a vital target like the head will be out of the knife’s path.

The same principle applies to underhand knife attacks. The arm halts the knife’s movement, while leaning forward creates distance between the defender’s midsection and the blade. Defending with the hand or leg in combination with the repositioning of the body is referred to as a 200% defense.

While a statistician would argue that a “200%” defense is mathematically non-existent (100% being the maximum), the term is used in Krav Maga to indicate that the defender is utilizing two types of defenses at the same time.

In the case that one defense fails, the other type of defense will either successfully protect the person or reduce the damage that would otherwise be the consequence of single, failed defense. In fact, it is deemed so critical, that a student can actually fail a technique during a Krav Maga test for failing to exhibit proper body defense.

This principle is also adapted for Krav Maga or Israeli third-party protection tactics. A protection agent is trained to defend a third-party as if he or she is the lone agent assigned to the party (or principal). When defending the principal from an attack, the agent’s recognition of the attack might occur late, particularly in environments with large crowds or lots of cover.

From the Krav Maga perspective, an attack happens in such a short amount of time (2 seconds or less) that a protection agent (body guard) cannot shield the principal, control the principal, and neutralize the attacker with his or her own firearm all prior to the attacker’s strike. Furthermore, the protection agent cannot effectively and successfully perform all those tasks at once. Even worse, if an agent in a single-person detail is neutralized by the first attack, as a result making him or herself into a human shield, the attacker will proceed to harm or abduct the defenseless principal.

One solution is for the agent to literally shove the principal out of the line of attack and then draw his or her weapon. In other words, we are moving the attacker’s target as we defend (or in this case, counterstrike). This forces the attacker to adjust his or her aim and extend the time of the attack. Even if it lends the agent an extra sliver of time, it may be sufficient for the agent to strike the attacker before the attacker’s weapon is fired or re-aimed at the principal.

Similar to the basic one-on-one situation, we are doubling our chances of success by simultaneously using two types of defense that, most importantly, can both be accomplished effectively prior to the moment of impact.


About Brian Lieberman

Brian Lieberman is an active Krav Maga practitioner and has been practicing for many years. He is an assistant instructor at one of the largest Krav Maga schools in the North East, the Krav Maga Institute in NYC.

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