Focusing On The Mission

by Johnny Waterschoot, KMG Belgium

In Krav Maga classes, we regularly tell our students to “focus on the mission”. Not only because it sounds cool, or because it comes from Krav Maga’s history in the military, but because it is important for student to focus on the outcome in various situations.

You need to focus on your final objective, and make decisions in the light of that objective, i.e. your mission. This mission is the overarching goal, and you need to make sure that decisions you make before, during and after the fight are supporting your mission. 

Let’s say that your basic mission in self-defense is to keep yourself safe and return home to your family in one piece at the end of the day. If this means running away, so be it. Mission 100% achieved. Staying after the initial self-defense situation and “teaching him a lesson” can derail your mission. Not only does this bring your ego in play (always a dangerous thing), it is a deviation from the main mission, and can even put you in more danger.

For example, the attacker can come to his senses and your self-defense situation deters into a brawl; his friend, which you probably didn’t see, comes into play and now it is 2 on 1 all of a sudden; or in today’s networked world, your “teaching a lesson” get filmed, pulled out of context and you find yourself on YouTube and possibly charged with use of excessive force.

All these things might occur if you lose sight of the mission. In Krav Maga classes, we ask for students to work on different “finishing modes”, from running away to defending oneself, to evacuating a loved one. If we see that a student is stuck in one finishing mode (like constantly going to an arm lock due to his/her security background) it is important to work with them and remind them that it’s not always the best finishing mode to support the mission they’re on.

As Eyal Yanilov referred to in his blog post on the principles of Krav Maga, there are different missions at play. In self defence, the first and most important principles is that you must strive to “win”, so that the aggressor won’t be able to continue. Secondly, aim to avoid, prevent or deescalate the situation you are facing. In fighting and in combat – inflict maximum damage to your enemy, with minimum time spent, while sustaining minimum harm to yourself. In 3rd party protection – protect your loved ones at all costs. And of course, always act according to the law of the country you are in. By the way, for those that have been at the seminar with Eyal, his mission is to protect you if you haven’t paid attention yet. 🙂


The Mission Can (And Will Change)

I remember the time when we were taking the law enforcement instructor course with Ilya Dunsky. 5 minutes into the first day we were doing knife attack defenses. 1 minute into the drill, Ilya stopped the class, asking what we were doing. We were all so focused on the standard “knife defense and leave” that we didn’t stop to think that the mission was for law enforcement, and we were supposed to stay and neutralize the aggressor. However, we are not police officers nor a father with his daughter, and surely not hanging around in unsafe neighborhoods. In essence, your mission depends on your role at that moment. 

Over the course of the day, your mission can change from pure self-defense to VIP protection, and back. You may wake up in the morning and go to work, and your only concern is to be safe yourself on the road and in the office. If you are a police officer, your mission may be to apprehend someone with minimal harm to them. When you come home in the evening and take your significant other to dinner or your kids to the movies, your mission changes to VIP protection, and keeping them safe. Over time you will have different missions. There are also other factors that can have an influence on your mission.

In the combat instructor and the mental training course, Eyal mentions 3 factors that influence our mental state, and can also impact our mission: who is in front of you, where you are and the situation. Your mission to be safe can have different implications whether there is a 2 metre angry muscled man right in front of you or a 10 year old kid shouting insults. An example of same person, same place, different situation, can be when you are in your friends’s house watching tv or in that same friend’s house when he is attacking you for he suspected you did. Or even scarier, what happened on the beach in Tunesia in 2015, where from one moment to the next, a relaxing holiday moment changed into a terrorist attack scene

Conflicting Missions

This is a tough one. Before I talked about how your mission can change over time, but what if you get into a situation where your new mission comes into immediate conflict with your main mission? Let me give you an example: You are out in the town and your basic mission is self-preservation. You run into a friend, go on to party with him, but he gets drunk and ends up in a fight with 3 people. Do you stick with your original mission and get out of there abandoning your friend to get back to your family (main mission), or do you switch missions to VIP protection and stick it out with him, risking harm to yourself? 

Another example: you are a trained police officer, but are out and about with your wife and kids on a public event when a fight erupts and a bystander gets attacked with a knife. Will you try and take down the attacker and protect someone you don’t know, or stay with your original mission and take your wife and kids out of there?

Hint: Most people did nothing.  It’s a difficult choice for most. I suggest you think about what is most important to yourself, and make a decision tree of priorities for you that can help you make these tough decisions, and live with yourself afterwards. 

A good resource for this is the appendix on how far you are willing to go in The Little Black Book of Violence, and Rory Miller’s Meditation on Violence, where he talks about the “go” button. Quoting the book: “If you are ever faced with extreme violence, you will have to make the decision to act. Make it now. You must decide what is worth fighting for, never forgetting that the question involves the risk of both dying and killing. You must decide now. Taking damage in the middle of a shitstorm of fists and boots is the wrong time to agonize over the moral dimension of conflict. There are things worth fighting for. List what they are. Once you have made the list, these are your “Go” buttons. You must commit that if one of the happens you will act ruthlessly and decisively. You cannot second-guess yourself in the moment“.