Ep 8: Why Navy Seal Jocko Willink is Wrong

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Hello everyone!

It’s been awhile since our last podcast and I apologize for that. But come on… How can you beat that last Podcast with Eyal Yanilov. It was just too good.

Today I’m going to fight a navy seal. Not physically, or in person, but verbally, and far away.

Jocko Willink is a Navy Seal, author, speaker, and an all around badass. He’s written amazing books such as Extreme Ownership and Discipline Equals Freedom. As a business owner, I must say Exteme Ownership was a game changer for me. I LOVED IT and I use many of its principals today.

When promoting his book he did an awesome interview on the Tim Ferriss Show Podcast. After that, he did a follow-up video that answered questions from fans. One of the questions asked which self-defense training he recommended, even with limited time, for men and women.

I must say I was let down by his response.

He started off by saying that he thinks you should learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu first, that it will teach you how to handle yourself when the combative situation turns into a grappling situation. You’ll be taught how to fight on the ground and get up.

Next he says that Western Boxing will show you how to punch people in the face.

Then Muay Thai so you can learn how to clinch.

Then wrestling to learn takedowns.

THEN if you want to get involved with sticks and knifes… to find martial arts that specialize in it.

Lastly he said that there is no magical system that will teach you how to fight multiple opponents, or an instructor that can solve all the problems, but that Krav Maga deals with these extreme situations more closely.

And to use Krav Maga as an augmentation of Muay Thai and other practices.

Afterwards, he goes on to say that you have time and that you won’t be attacked tomorrow or next week. You have your whole life to train to prepare for an attack.

While I will be providing some arguments on why he is wrong about this, I do want to say that his assessment is correct if you aren’t planning on getting attacked for a few years.

AS if any of us PLAN to be attacked…

Here’s the deal… I have a really strong suspicion that Jocko has very limited or poor Krav Maga experience. Otherwise, I think his answers would have been a little different.

Ok, here we go!

#1. Starting off with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: BJJ is a great system! I train it as well. However, I would argue a few things about using it as your first system. #1 – it’s a sport. It has rules. By learning a system based on rules first, you will teach your body to abide by those rules. Even in a real fight. Teaching people to fight on the ground and use submissions is in no way something I would recommend to any beginner. In the cage, you are matched up by weight and size. In the street, you are not matched up at all. Your opponent will most likely be larger than you, and taking him to the ground may not be your best move, especially for women or smaller men. I have a student who is a Black Belt BJJ. He got into a bar fight… and took his opponent to the ground with an arm lock. Good for him! Until the opponent’s friends came to help. They started kicking him, breaking multiple ribs, his eye socket and jaw. All while he was stuck on the ground holding someone in an submission.

#2 Western Boxing – Love it! I train this as well. Boxing teaches you how to effectively punch with gloves on, but punching with a boxing technique and without gloves can be problematic and you need to adjust. Another issue with being a beginner and learning boxing is that your opponent is only giving you a single problem… punches. No kicks, knives, chairs, ground, multiple attackers, etc. So it does teach you striking but lacks in a lot of other areas. Again… it’s a sport… with lots of rules.

#3 I’ve combined Muay Thai and wrestling. Both are awesome. See, I wasn’t lying when I said I partially agreed with him. All these systems are awesome. I just disagree with the order of learning he suggests. Muay Thai is the art of 8 limbs and teaches you huge strength and how to use all your entire body to break an opponent. Awesome. But it’s still a sport, with rules, with weight classes, and with a single unarmed opponent. Wrestling is also an amazing “sport.” However, like in the story I told earlier… Are takedowns the most practical thing to teach beginner self-defense students? I’m not sure I’d agree.

He later goes on to say that after you learn these systems, you can branch out to learn stick and weapon defenses. He also claims that there’s no system that teaches everything, including techniques for fighting multiple opponents. Except that Krav Maga delves into all of the above and would be a good system to train on the side.

I’m obviously very biased… But in my experience, from the thousands of students I have taught, you don’t get to choose when you are attacked. You also don’t get to choose your opponent. With that said, I would argue that yes, maybe you will be attacked tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. We have no idea! So train like it will happen. In my school, Krav Maga XD, we tell our instructors to teach every class as if one student in that class will be attacked on their way home. That way we keep on top of everyone and make them the best they can be.

I would argue that Jocko’s recommended list is not an adequate system for self defense; it’s better used for sports, fitness, hobby, and mental training.

But instead, learn Krav Maga first. It’ll teach you how to hit with all limbs; it’ll teach you dirty fighting and how to survive standing up, or on the ground. It’ll teach you how to face multiple opponents or armed opponents. It’ll teach you how to survive violence. It will educate you on how to avoid and prevent fights (which you don’t get any of that in these other systems).

I want to say this again in case you are fuming at my response. I really do enjoy these other systems; they are critical to one’s long-term growth as a self-defense fighter. However,I firmly believe that you should learn a self-defense system like Krav Maga and not a system based on a sport.

I do believe that he would have had a different answer had he been exposed to good Krav Maga.

Unfortunately, 80% of the Krav Maga schools out there are simply offshoots of real Krav with poor instructors. Or, sometimes, they have good instructors teaching a poor krav maga system. So find a good system. like Krav Maga Global, and start training right away. Then when you feel ready – start cross-training. In a future episode, we will talk more about that: When it’s a good time to start cross-training with other fighting systems.

Well, there you have it.

I hope you enjoyed my response to Navy Seal Jocko Willink.

Hopefully he doesn’t snipe me in my sleep…