Israeli Self-Defense: The Genesis of Kapap Techniques and Their Application Against Attackers (Part 1)
There’s a saying by Rabbi Nachman of Braslav: “Don’t let who you are destroy who you can be.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert John Machado always tells his students, “Don’t let your ego step onto the mat.”
Bruce Lee advised us to enjoy the way and not look only for the target.
My friend Ben told me that Israeli martial arts politics stink almost as bad as a rotten gefilte fish.
All that has persuaded those who teach kapap, or Krav Panim El Panim, that keeping an open mind is essential to progress in the martial arts. Unlike adherents of many traditional arts, followers of kapap embrace continuous change and ongoing efforts to upgrade their curriculum and teach kapap techniques to others.
Kapap Techniques’ Global Roots
Although modern kapap definitely has Israeli roots, it’s more of an international system because it includes numerous components that don’t exist in Israel. Its leaders know that to meet the needs of modern martial artists, kapap techniques must not be limited to the “Israeli way” of fighting. Doing so would be tantamount to throwing away all the strategies and self-defense moves that have arisen in other martial arts around the world.
Actually, appreciating the wisdom of other arts has a long history in Israel. Many of the nation’s martial arts pioneers learned their skills from immigrants. Some of the knowledge regarding self-defense moves from around the world was assimilated into what eventually became kapap techniques. Among the styles that played a pivotal role in the development of this Israeli self-defense system are boxing, judo and jiu-jitsu.
In the same way that original kapap adopted principles and self-defense moves from the best martial arts of the day, today’s kapap techniques are based on the continuing assimilation of teachings from the systems that are most relevant in the 21st century. That’s the source of the kapap saying, “Always a student, sometimes a teacher.”
Rather than continuing to use techniques and self-defense moves that are ineffective in combat but still taught in an army or police manual, instructors of kapap techniques have adopted a policy of evaluating and evolving — hence the recent incorporation of Brazilian jiu-jitsu into the curriculum of the Israeli self-defense system.
Enter Carlos Newton: How He Changed the Israeli Self-Defense System
In 1995 Carlos Newton, a young jiu-jitsu champ from Canada, visited Israel. Impressed by his ability and fluidity, I accompanied him to the top Israeli counterterrorism schools and was surprised at how he toyed with the instructors and the strongest students. Although he faced opponents who possessed extensive experience in a variety of arts, he outperformed them, playing with them on the mat as if they were children. Something was definitely wrong with our training.
As practitioners of kapap and implementers of kapap techniques, our mission was clear: Analyze what had happened, identify what we were missing and assimilate it into our system. We wound up bringing Carlos Newton to Israel many times, studying his training regimen and following his moves.
It seemed as if no matter where he was relative to his opponent, he could move into a better position from which he could easily apply a variety of techniques. In an effort to learn as much as possible from him, Lt. Col. (Res.) Chaim Peer, founder of the International Kapap Federation, and others in the group spent as much time as possible analyzing Carlos Newton’s methods.