Lines of Attack

Lines of Attack

For Success in Sparring and Self-Defense, It Pays to Think Outside the Box!
by S.D. Seong

“Shapes are important in the martial arts,” Avi Nardia says somewhat matter-of-factly. “Karate, fencing and Hsing-I, for example, are very linear arts. Wing Chun Kung Fu is also linear, as you can see when a practitioner tries to take the centerline of his opponent’s body.”

The Israeli martial arts expert mentions the predominantly linear nature of most styles to point out a self-imposed limitation in the average martial artist’s fighting mindset. “Whether they’re sparring in the dojo or defending themselves on the street, people tend to think only of moving forward to attack and backward to avoid an attack,” he says. “They don’t immediately think about moving from side to side.

“We can move from side to side in any kind of fight—and we must move that way in self-defense.”

Unfair Advantage
“If I’m fighting you, I’ll always take a 45-degree angle to attack you,” says Nardia, who recently relocated to Israel after spending several years teaching in Rochester, New York. “The Japanese named it Tai Sabaki. Once you start using Tai Sabaki, you’ll find it much easier to defeat your opponent.”

In fact, using angles of attack can make it so much easier to get the upper hand that organizers of many martial arts competitions long ago decided to remove this X-factor from their events. “They keep things linear to make it harder for both sides,” Nardia says. “That’s why in fencing tournaments, they use a very narrow strip for their matches. It forces the competitors to get really good with their timing so they can ‘steal the linear’ of their opponent.

“In Kumite, it’s the same thing. Being forced to attack always along the linear path makes you develop your speed. That’s fine if you have the ability to become faster than all your opponents, but if you’re a slower fighter, you must master angles. That will help you defeat fighters who rely only on speed.”

Traditional Approach
“In Kapap, we divide training into sections,” Nardia says. “In addition to linear training, we do circle training and triangle training.”

When he and his students engage in linear training, it’s with the understanding that it’s basically force against force and speed against speed. “When you want to take the linear, you maneuver forward or backward with your legs,” he says. “Or you can manipulate your opponent’s hands to the side to open a path to his centerline—like they do in Wing Chun. However, if you use your legs, it can give you more opportunities.”

Studying a linear art like fencing or Kendo offers numerous benefits, he says. “Perhaps most important, it makes you fast. When I do boxing, people say my hands are fast—it’s because of all the Kendo I’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a jab with your fist or a jab with a sword — a fast move is a fast move.”

When Nardia and his students partake in circle training, it’s always with the understanding that they’re sacrificing certain advantages. “Linear attacks are the fastest and give you the longest reach, which means that when you go in a circle, you often lose time and the ability to cover distance,” he says. “However, you gain the ability to attack and retreat off-angle, which your opponent probably isn’t expecting. That gives you the element of surprise — it’s a give and take.”

Another benefit of using circle techniques, he says, is increased power. “We’ve analyzed the types of attacks used in arts like Pa Kua and Hapkido, and their spinning kicks and circular hand strikes are incredible with respect to the generation of force.”

Modern Addition
The other option when it comes to lines of attack is the triangle. “I learned this from the Machado family,” Nardia says. “Training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with John and his brothers really changed my life and the way I think about combat.”

Among the triangle-based lessons Nardia picked up was the ubiquitous triangle choke. It takes advantage of the structural integrity of the triangle by positioning one body part on each side of the neck to squeeze the carotid arteries while the third body part prevents the opponent from retreating. The body triangle uses the same approach to apply pressure on the torso.

The inherent stability of the triangle also bolsters balance, Nardia says. Picture a grappler on his knees. Because he essentially has only two points of contact, he can be off-balanced with a push or a pull. If said grappler is in a position that has both knees on the ground—in addition to his head, he’s much more stable. In ground fighting, this basic lesson in balance has many applications, Nardia says.

The main message Nardia hopes to get across is that success often hinges on thinking outside the box. If you’re used to fighting in a straight line, occasionally go circular. If you always spar with spin kicks, occasionally insert a linear leg technique. If you’re used to applying direct force while grappling, occasionally invoke the triangle. It’s a geometry lesson that can benefit all martial artists.

About the author: S.D. Seong is a freelance writer based in Southern California. For more information about Avi Nardia and Kapap, visit

[sidebar 1]

Random Thoughts
One of the joys of sitting down with a martial artist who’s not a native English speaker is listening as he or she extols bits of wisdom and philosophy in ways that might be described as quaint. The following came from the mouth of Avi Nardia during the interview:

• In martial arts, people always say, “Train as you fight.” You cannot train as you fight. If you did, you’d have to kill your opponent. Training is training, and fighting is fighting. Once you start to mix them, you don’t understand the art of coaching.

• People also say you do not want to fight on the ground. That’s nonsense. You cannot choose where you fight. If you could, you would choose not to fight at all.

• Teaching techniques like the front kick is more important than teaching techniques like the flying armbar. Even today, if I have to teach the military, I don’t see myself doing a flying armbar. You can live a very good life without it.

• A lot of people have a fear of losing. I tell my students: “Once you go to a competition, you’ve already won. You’re not making excuses anymore.”

• Martial arts don’t come from God. They’re not a religion. They’re something we can change.

• After you learn technique, you have to drill. You get to the position and back. It builds muscle memory. If you have to think about what to do in a fight, you’ve already lost. Sometimes people ask, “What would you do against this hold?” I say: “I don’t know. You’d have to put it on me, and then I’d know. I have no idea right now whether the best action would be a punch or kick or throw.”

• Martial arts is more than street fighting. It’s about health and well-being and happiness and relationships — it brings it all together for a better life.

[sidebar 2]

Essential Reading and Watching
For more from Avi Nardia, check out Kapap Combat Concepts: Martial Arts of the Israeli Special Forces. The 120-page full-color book outlines his fighting philosophy and techniques. If you’d rather watch than read, consider the Kapap Combat Concepts DVD set. Volume 1 is titled Principles and Conditioning, Volume 2 is Holds and Third-Party Protection, Volume 3 is Weapons Skills and Defenses and Volume 4 is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Applications.

Originally Published in Black Belt Magazine, © Copyright 2012

How to Stay Safe in the Age of Terrorism: Lone Wolf

Israeli Martial Artist and Former Military CQC Instructor on How to Stay Safe in the Age of Terrorism  » Black Belt 2/7/15, 9:25 AM – []

Posted By Robert W. Young on February 2, 2015 @ 5:07 pm In Self Defense Training

For the cover story of the February/March 2015 issue of Black Belt, the editors sent a list of questions to six self-defense and security experts from different backgrounds. Due to deadlines and space limitations, however, replies from only five of them could be included in the print edition of the magazine.

Because we thought it was important to present the point of view of an Israeli martial artist — a person who actually spent a good portion of his life living with terrorism — we saved his advice for our website.

Below are the responses from Maj. Avi Nardia, a former hand-to-hand combat instructor for the Israel Defense Forces Reserve, the Israeli counterterrorism unit YAMAM and the Israeli Operational Police Academy. He now teaches the martial art of kapap, as well as judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and krav maga, in the United States. Kapap is also being spread around the world through Nardia’s network of affiliated schools and through his book Kapap Combat Concepts and its companion kapap DVD series.


Should the average person be worried about lone-wolf terrorist attacks?
Terror cells like the Boston Marathon bombers that are not connected by anything other than ideology will become increasingly common. In some ways, lone cells are more dangerous than organized terrorism because lone cells are difficult to monitor and control. The more we go after the big terror organizations, the more they will split into smaller cells, just as occurred with the drug cartels

Do you think the Internet is becoming the prime tool for terrorist organizations to recruit lone wolves in any part of the world?
The Internet is a major tool today for recruiting, teaching and spreading terrorist ideologies around the globe. The Internet can be used to traffic information and gather intelligence, and as a meeting place for finding others with the same ideas.

Are there any parallels between how terrorists recruit lone wolves and how gangs recruit members?
Terror groups share the same mentality as gangs — exploiting hate, spreading anger and practicing brutality. Terrorists also practice the same indoctrination techniques as gangs.

As high-profile targets get extra security, is there an increased likelihood that soft targets — and civilians — will be attacked by lone wolves?
Nowadays, we are seeing sick people understand that the more brutal their methods, the more their names pop up in the media. As governments and sensitive targets continue to invest in more security, we will begin to see more and more independent terror attacks on soft targets such as bus stations, schools and any place that will instill fear into the public.

In light of all this, what measures can people take to stay safe?
We the citizens first need to push for the government to be less tolerant of terrorist ideologies. We also need to educate the public and law enforcement on terrorists and terror culture. It seems to me that people have too much tolerance for terror — sometimes even the police are more strict on normal civilian criminals than on terrorists who walk free among us. One must study and understand what terrorism is before we decide how to fight it. People must understand how terror feeds from the media.

Is increased awareness the most important precaution a person can take
Awareness of who lives and walks around us is important, but it is also important that we protect our freedom from pervasive surveillance and a society wherein anyone could frivolously call the police and have a person arrested. Security and surveillance must be approached in a measured manner.

We should demand more security in schools for our kids. In and around the home, people need to take it upon themselves to study and train in counterterrorism. You are the first responder, not anyone else, and if you always rely on someone else to arrive, they might be too late.

Do you recommend that people consider lawfully carrying a firearm — assuming they have an interest and have had the proper training?
It’s easier to carry a gun in a bag than to carry a police officer. If most normal civilians carry
firearms, it will reduce crime as well as terrorism. Switzerland is an example of a country where most civilians own guns, and it’s one of the safest places.

In Israel, firearm owners must complete 50 hours of training every year to hold a permit. We have seen many situations wherein the first responders were normal civilians who defended and stopped terrorists before any police cars showed up. We also have civilian police volunteers who get training by the police and carry police identification cards. These volunteers patrol sensitive areas and help prevent crime and terrorism. In my system of kapap, we teach firearms, CPR, surveillance and counter-surveillance as part of martial arts. This training develops awareness and the ability to effectively respond in emergency situations.

How useful could a knife be in the hands of a trained martial artist who’s facing a lone wolf terrorist?
Knives are effective weapons and very important to study. The only problem is that it’s hard for a person to use a knife in a real situation. The knife is not a simple weapon unless you are well trained, and overcoming the psychological barrier of fighting with a knife is difficult for most people.

I would recommend learning the gun before the knife. Nonetheless, knives are great weapons and are readily available — such as in the kitchen. Improvised edged weapons [14], such as a broken bottle, are also great for self-defense.

How is fighting a person who’s willing to give his life for a cause different from fighting a mugger, a gangbanger or a rapist?
Most criminals are not ready to die. That simple fact makes self-defense easier because even rapists and other criminals are just looking for easy victims. Terrorists look for any victim, and therefore anyone is a potential target. Terrorists may fight to the death, which makes the fight very difficult to finish. This is why guns are better to carry than knives. A knife will also require one to be close to the threat, whereas a gun allows one to fight from behind cover.

Realistically, what chance does an unarmed martial artist stand against an armed terrorist?
The first rule is to never give up — regardless of whether you are unarmed and whether the attacker has a weapon. You should always maintain your awareness and carry your hand-to-hand skills, as well as your gun-disarm skills. Assuming that an attacker does not have a gun can be a deadly mistake.


To read the potentially life-saving advice that five experts —

• Mike Gillette []
(former counterterrorism consultant for the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration, tactical trainer, executive bodyguard)

• John Riddle []
(law-enforcement officer for 28 years, SWAT defensive-tactics trainer, jeet
kune do full instructor)

• Tom Gresham []
(firearms trainer, former editor of several firearms magazines, host of the Gun Talk syndicated radio show)

• Michael Janich  []
(former employee of the National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, Filipino martial arts expert, edged-weapon instructor)

• and Kelly McCann  []
(retired Marine Corps counterterrorist trainer, CNN consultant, weapons expert, combatives instructor)

— gave when Black Belt asked them these same questions, pick up a copy of the February/March 2015 issue, on sale now at a bookstore or newsstand near you.
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Maj. Avi Nardia