The importance of self-defence: an interview with Roy Elghanayan

Self-defence has become increasingly popularised over the years. A quick glance towards the headlines quickly makes evident the violence, conflict, and threats that entangle the modern world. Nowadays, various fighting and self-defence sports have become widespread, the most notable of which is Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a self-defence system developed for the Israeli military, first created by the Hungarian-Israeli martial artist, Imi Lichtenfeld. Today, Krava Maga is being pioneered by the likes of former Israeli soldier and military trainer, Roy Elghanayan, who currently runs his own training center in the United States. In this exclusive interview, Roy Elghanayan himself shares his thoughts and experiences on the importance of self-defence.

Ferdinand Goetzen: You have widely been credited with popularising Krav Maga. How were you first introduced to it?

Roy Elghanayan: I was about 7 years old and had just moved from New York to Israel. Because I had an American accent and my Hebrew wasn’t so great, I was getting bullied in school. I got into a lot of fights at school as a result, which was unnatural for me because I had never fought before. My mom wanted me to learn how to protect myself and how to have skills to control myself, and use self defence wherever it is needed and in an appropriate fashion. It became a way for me to channel my aggression. That was my first exposure to Krav Maga.

FG: What has made Krav Maga so popular and widespread in recent years?

RE: What makes Krav Maga so popular is the fact that it is a Self Defence Survival System that is based off real life attacks. Even the self-defence techniques we use are modern, and based off our natural instincts and movements of our body. It is an official defence tactic for the Israeli Defence Forces, which is a sign of its efficacy. It is researched and proven, and those techniques that might be out-dated, or aren’t as effective, are modified to ensure top quality training methods. I think people appreciate that in addition to the self-defence nature of it, it is a full body exercise, which is a bonus for those who want to get into shape.

FG: You have trained law-enforcement as well as military officials from around the world. What is it that distinguishes Krav Maga from other fighting sports?

RE: Krav Maga is based off of striking toward all the most vulnerable and lethal spots on the body (of the attacker). Here we use everything we have (elbows, head butts, knees), whatever will work to save my life. In addition, we train to use anything as a weapon (a glass bottle, silverware, chair, phone, etc.). There are certain methods to use these objects against an attacker. It’s not about simply gaining points, or getting a submission/armbar, it is about neutralizing any threat as quickly and as lethally as possible. We do this because we don’t want to take any chances. If someone is attacking me on the street, I want to quickly and effectively protect myself and my loved ones.

FG: Krav Maga is about more than just force. It is hugely reliant on technique and psychology. Is it for everyone?

RE: Krav Maga is literally for anyone/everyone. Even if you have a physical impediment (such as missing an arm/leg), we can teach you techniques to help protect yourself and save your life. That’s the beauty of Krav Maga; it’s a survival system, developed to help anyone survive an attack. Unlike other fighting sports, we train to use everything we have accessible to us, which means anyone can do it. It is a physical activity, and there are sometimes obstacles in the training that everyone will face, but that is part of the training. It is a training that teaches us to go beyond our perceived physical and mental limitations.

FG: Many view Krav Maga as the ultimate form of self-defence. How important do you think self-defence is in modern society?

RE: Specifically in today’s society, in which war and strife continue to occur on a national and international level, self-defence is a necessary component for everyone. It is not only the physical nature of our training, but also the mental training that we go through that is designed to help everyone in their daily lives.

FG: The Israeli military has quite a reputation for being tough and highly trained. How important is Krav Maga in Israeli military training?

RE: Krav Maga is probably in the top three skills one needs as a soldier. Other important components include tactical shooting and navigation, but definitely the Israeli Military must be highly trained in defensive tactics because many of our soldiers face close combat fighting situations where you can’t use a rifle, and you need to be able to fight back and survive. Krav Maga will save their life in these close range attacks.

FG: Krav Maga is unique in its sole focus on self-defence. Are there parallels to be drawn between the nature of Krav Maga and that of the Israeli military?

RE: The primary goal of the Israeli Military is self-defence and self-preservation, that is why we developed Krav Maga. Krav Maga is not to be used to attack an innocent individual, but rather its primary focus is defending oneself against any attacker (terrorist). Everyone has the right to defend themselves against a threat to their lives.

FG: What role does Krav Maga currently play in the Israeli military?

RE: Krav Maga is one of the primary ways in which the military handles close combat self-defence situations. It is a key component of the Israeli Military, and is used in combination with other survival techniques.

FG: What advice would you have for those wanting to know more about self-defence?

RE: Bruises and pain are part of the game. Don’t be afraid of the pain, but rather embrace it.