January 2023 Book Survey Part 1


 Welcome to the January 2023 book survey, part one. I decided to break this month's survey into three posts. This is the first, and the others will follow shortly.


In January 2023, I (Richard) continued my reading plan. This month I surveyed the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, military combatives, and mixed martial arts. (I know, Krav people, "it's not a martial art.")

Fighting Fit, David Ben-Asher, translated by Miriam Schlesinger, 1983

I bought Fighting Fit because it may be the earliest English language book on Krav Maga. My copy is a 5 5/16 inches by 8 3/16 inches paperback with 220 black and white pages. You can borrow a copy for free from the Internet Archive.

The author was a colonel in the Israel Defense Force who was head of combat fitness. He acknowledges the work of "First Segeant Major Emi Lichtenfeld and Lt Col Shaike Barak for the Contact Combat (Krav Maga) section."

The book covers physical fitness on pages 15-72, "self defense - contact combat" on pages 73-196, "obstacles" -- like how to climb over devices in an obstacle course -- on pages 197-212, and "physiological aspects of physical effort" on pages 213-220.

The book offers a mix of crude silhouette figures and decent photos. Here are a few examples.

Always restomp the groin!

This is a great milestone for anyone researching Krav Maga history, especially with the digital edition available online.

Krav Maga: How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault, Imi Sde-Or, Eyal Yanilov, translated by Efrat Ashkenazi, 2001

I bought Krav Maga: How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault in December 2015 after signing up for an introduction to Krav Maga class that began in January 2016. I stayed with that school for three years and earned my G1 rank in the Krav Maga Global system created by a co-author of this book, Eyal Yanilov.

My copy is a paperback measuring 6 1/2 inches by 9 1/2 inches with 256 black and white pages. This title is also available on the Internet Archive. It may be the only English-language book written by Imi (1910-1998), proclaimed by many as founder of Krav Maga. 

The book appears to be an English version or update of a 1992 book titled How to Defend Against Knife Attacks, apparently only published in Hebrew. This 2001 title appears in many other languages, like German and Chinese. 

The front matter credits Darren R. Levine as "technical advisor and professional editor," and the authors thank Mr. Levine on page xv for his "voluntary efforts." Page 230 offers a full page biography of Mr. Levine as well. For anyone who knows the history between Mr. Yanilov and Mr. Levine, this material dates from happier times between the two, apparently. I will say more about this "editor" role when I talk about Combat Mindset below.

This book features short forewords (paragraphs really) by two former Israeli prime ministers, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, which is quite impressive. The authors also credit the International Krav Maga Federation, the Krav Maga Association of America, and the Israeli Krav Maga Association. Again, these were happier times as far as Krav politics is concerned.

Overall the presentation is good and the photographs are small but clear. Here are examples:

There is no mention of Moshe Feldenkrais or others as co-founders or predecessors for Krav Maga. This book fully leans into the "Imi as sole founder" narrative. The book mentions that this was supposed to be the first title in a "Krav Maga series," but that didn't happen. I expect that Imi's death and the fracturing of his fragile coalition killed it.

Overall this is another book that is useful as a snapshot of Krav Maga in the 1990s.

Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence, Gershon Ben Keren, 2014

I bought Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence just after I started training because it looked like one of the more modern takes on Krav Maga. My copy is a 6 inches by 9 inches color paperback with 192 pages. There is also a Kindle edition available. The author has written two other books on Krav Maga, one of which is available on the Internet Archive.

This book is almost all techniques, and I wish the print edition were larger. The pictures are clear but somewhat small. Note that the author's 2018 book on Extreme Survival appears in a 7 1/2 inches by 10 inches format, which is undoubtedly easier to read. Here are a few excerpts from each of the three titles (Real World, Tactical Survival, and Extreme Survival):

Tuttle has high production values overall, so it's worth checking out titles by this author.

Krav Maga: Use Your Body as a Weapon, Boaz Aviram, 2014

I also bought Krav Maga: Use Your Body as a Weapon when I first started training. My copy is a 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches color paperback with 315 pages. It's a heavy book, and I had high hopes for it. There's also a Kindle edition available.

The poor photography really ruins this book for me. In many photos, Mr. Aviram is wearing all black in front of dark trees. In other cases he's in an apartment, in front of windows. With the blinds open or shut, the photos are still bad. Here's a few examples.

I saw a few images from the Kindle edition, and they seem a bit easier to read. The print edition is worse than the photos above. 

This is a real shame, as there is a lot of content here. In an age of instant feedback via digital photography, I can't believe someone didn't look at these photos early and realize they were not going to work.

For what it's worth, my co-author Anna and I did a lot of preparation and worked with a knowledgeable photographer when we published our book Reach Your Goal. Here is an example of staging photographs so they are visible, in color or black and white:

I would skip this book by Mr. Aviram.

Complete Krav Maga, 2nd Ed: The Ultimate Guide to Over 250 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques, Darren Levine, John Whitman, 2016

I bought Complete Krav Maga, 2nd Ed: The Ultimate Guide to Over 250 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques in mid-2016 as I continued my Krav journey. The first edition arrived in 2007. My copy of this book is a 7 1/2 inches by 9 3/16 inches black and white paperback with 376 pages. It is also available in Kindle format.

This book notes that it is the official guide for Krav Maga Worldwide, which is probably the largest American Krav affiliation. It lists Ryan Hoover as a "contributing writer" and features a foreword written by Bas Rutten for the first edition.

The description is a bit confusing, as the back cover says that it has all moves "from beginner yellow to advanced black." The text on page 15 says it includes yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown only. However, pages 332 to 371 feature "bonus black belt techniques." These may be from the 2009 book Black Belt Krav Maga.

The photos are too small at times, with a lot of wasted space. They needed a better layout. Here is an example.

Instead of keeping the pictures the same size as page 196, these on page 197 should have expanded to use as much of the page as possible.

This book is probably mandatory if you are a KMW student, and it's got a lot of material for anyone who is just curious about this approach to the style.

Krav Maga - Combat Mindset & Fighting Stress, Eyal Yanilov, Ole Boe, 2020

Eyal Yanilov sent me two copies of Krav Maga - Combat Mindset & Fighting Stress because I was heavily involved in its creation. My copies are 6 5/8 inches by 9 3/8 inches black and white paperbacks with 287 pages. I am credited with "technical editing" and on page 261 the authors thank me for an "initial English language edit" and "streamlining." The Dekel company, which published Mr. Yanilov's 2001 book, also released this one.

I volunteered to copyedit this book after meeting Mr. Yanilov at the 2016 Martial Arts SuperShow. At the left in the photo below is my former Krav instructor Nick Masi. I'm in the middle, and Mr. Yanilov is at the right. Nick and I volunteered to man his Krav Maga show floor booth while Mr. Yanilov signed copies of his 2001 book.

I also graduated from Mr. Yanilov's combat mindset class in late 2016. It was quite a challenge and I was glad to have the opportunity.

I received a copy of the manuscript in early 2017. As a professional author I recognized that readers would have a really tough time making sense of the material. I volunteered to completely rewrite the book, which I did over the course of several months. I had just left my full time cybersecurity job, so I had plenty of time on my hands.

The published version is a mix of my rewrite, reversions to the previous text, and changes made by yet another editor. This makes me wonder if my experience was similar to that of Mr. Levine, who was also credited as "technical editor" for Mr. Yanilov's 2001 book? 

I have serious concerns about the so-called "stress" "science" material in part 1. It's based on flawed content by people like David Grossman, Loren Christensen, and Bruce K. Siddle. I captured many of the problems with this approach in my recently updated post Quit Playing Games with my Heart

TL;DR: There is little to no science behind the theory that increased heart rates degrade performance, at least to the degree emphasized by some martial arts instructors. Multiple other factors appear to be responsible. Read Vonk's paper for one other rebuttal.

I generally recommend skimming or ignoring part 1, or pages 1-97. This is frustrating, as I spent a lot of time trying to derive something useful from it during the rewrite process. I suggest focusing on part 2, which includes drills and techniques from the combat mindset course. These are genuinely useful and well-done. Incidentally, the pictures in this section are small but clear.


There are really no go-to books in this edition of the survey series. In the next post I will look at books on combatives.

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