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Home > Reviews > Krav Maga: Extreme Survival

Krav Maga: Extreme Survival

Author Gershon Ben Keren

ISBN No 9780804850285

Review date 19/05/2019

No of pages 224

Publisher Tuttle Publishing

Publisher URL

Year of publication 19/11/2018


Our Review


£ $19.99

Should you judge a book by its cover? In the case of Krav Maga: Extreme Survival, by Gershon Ben Keren, absolutely.

For the cover has pictures of a surprised quartet of people at a dining table, faced by a man pointing a gun at them; a car-jacker with a knife; and two people in a toilet defending themselves against someone with a knife, with whatever is to hand, such a a fire extinguisher. All situations calling for 'Extreme Survival'.

Briefly, it's a martial art. Why learn about it when, as the author points out in his introduction, statistically and historically, crime is falling and at low levels? Because violent crime is on the rise, and thanks to the internet world, techniques are worldwide more or less at once. Consider that it might have taken years for a criminal method to spread, by word of mouth, whereas now instructional videos are online for all to watch, not only about cyber but for terrorism; and sad to say, massacres such as at Columbine in the United States serve as a 'model and blueprint'. "Extreme violence is on the increase, and we should be prepared to deal with it," whether a car-jacking, a 'home invasion', or an 'active shooter' in the workplace - maybe a disgruntled sacked worker - or in a school (in the public domain are UK, besides the well-known US, cases) or public place, by a suicide terrorist.

The author suggests responding in terms of context, rather than having a particular style or dogma. As he says, that can lead to situations that may appear 'counter-intuitive' - readers may think of other words, such as crazy: charge an active shooter?! Bearing in mind that it's best to read the book for the full story (the context, indeed), Ben Keren does say that at certain times and places, charging someone with a gun is indeed an effective survival tactic - if you feel that you have nothing to lose; stay low, and try to keep under the gun. In fact, the more that charge, from different directions, and 'swarm', the better. As Ben Keren says, it's not only about knowing how to do something, but when to. If, to take one of the examples on the cover, you are faced with a gun while you are seated at table, you cannot pull off the moves you learned while standing, in a training room where you had plenty of space - not a cramped restaurant, let alone car.

Readers may feel on reassuringly familiar ground when Ben Keren talks of risks and consequences; assets, threats and vulnerabilities. It's also reassuring that Ben Keren is not trying to convince us that we'll need to go to these extremes often; only when our very survival is threatened, whether your home is invaded in South Africa, or you're being mugged (in that case, reduce the risk by handing over the wallet). Ben Keren rightly urges you to do what you can, to avoid becoming a victim in the first place - such as, by doing situational awareness, to spot if your car is being followed.

The book has plenty of clear colour photos to take you through what to do - first, for example, how to fight off and disarm someone with a knife. Also reassuring is that the author draws on examples from around the world, from Europe and the United States and elsewhere, such as the vehicles used as terror weapons at Glasgow Airport and at Berlin's Christmas market; and the siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

This highly impressive book says many wise things; such as, there is a difference between running from danger and running to safety. As for the three options for reacting to an active shooter, Ben Keren lists them as run-hide-fight, rather than the British run-hide-tell. Is there safety in numbers? Maybe not; as Ben Keren puts it bluntly, 'the potential kill-rate would be much higher', making a crowd more attractive to the killer or killers.

As for school shootings, or indeed any extreme risk inside a building, Ben Keren considers the 'traditional' lock-down. Yes, it works for threats from outside, to turn off the lights and hide under the tables; except that for an active shooter, it may become 'dangerously flawed', and merely leave people in place for the shooter to kill, as in the case of Columbine. Hiding, and waiting, goes against our survival instincts, Ben Keren argues, and it isn't really hiding if the shooter knows you'll be there.

This important book is of use to just about anyone doing security - on campuses, and in any large building at all open to the public; people carrying out close protection; or anyone who wants to arm themselves with some thinking about 'what if'. Put your attacker under pressure; deny them time and distance.

Ben Keren ends with a plea for curiosity. That might sound (pardon the pun) curious. If you hear what sounds like a gun-shot, no matter how unlikely, that is what it is; because isn't what you could explain it away as, such as fireworks, or a car back-firing (if you're nowhere near a car park or road?!) even more unlikely?

If I have one slight quibble with Ben Keren's book, it is that I wish he would have made even more - or perhaps this is only a British characteristic - of how we must set aside the fear of not wanting to make a fuss or appear silly, if we hear sounds of violence. Ben Keren's appeal for us to be aware of what's occurring around us, and do something to avoid violence or take it on if we can't avoid it, requires us to question our surroundings, to be independent, to have the confidence to act, and not wait for the fire bell, or teacher or manager, to tell us what to do; regardless of context.

We need to think and we need to plan, Ben Keren concludes. We need to define our escape routes, ahead of time, and safe places where we can go, if we need to. "This should not lead us to become fearful or paranoid but instead allow us to relax because we know what we should start doing when threatened." For a book about such bad events, which could easily have been gloomy, instead I found Ben Keren's ending, like the whole book, empowering and uplifting.

Ben Keren is also the author of Krav Maga: Tactical Survival (Tuttle, 2017). Visit