Kapap: The Epoch of Israeli Martial Arts

© Copyright Sam Markey
January 28, 2018

Kapap was introduced to the public in 2002 by Avi Nardia, after he left the Israeli counter terror unit the Yamam. Avi realised that there was a need for the Kapap self defence system for civilians and bring a new approach to reality based martial arts. Kapap was modified slightly, to suit civilians who wished to train in Kapap, and reap the benefits of the Kapap self defence system.

KAPAP is an acronym that stands for Krav Panim el Panim. Literally translated, means Face-to-Face Combat. Since that introduction, Kapap has grown into the worldwide self-defence phenomenon that it is today.
I was training in America when I came across the name Avi Nardia who had come from Israel to teach this military close quarter combat system called Kapap. From then, I did more research on Avi, and Kapap, and found out that Avi was actually a major who hand been in the elite Israeli counter terror unit called the Yamam, where he had also been the trainer for this elite unit. In that first conversation I had with Avi Nardia, I remember thinking this guy knows what he is talking about, his wealth of knowledge on the subject of close quarter combat, firearms, edged weapons, and counter terrorism was an epoch moment for me. How many times have you gone to a seminar and been disappointed with what you have been shown or given, especially after giving over your hard-earned money. For me I knew then that Kapap was for me, I needed no further convincing, for me as a person always involved in impact sports, this was going to be a great personal challenge to learn all I could about this new system called Kapap or Krav Panim El Panim. (Face To Face Combat.)

Also from my discussions with Avi I found out a man called Maishel Horowitz was a major contributor to the development of KAPAP which slowly transformed into Krav Maga in the IDF during the 1950′s. In fact Maishel did not even know that such a thing as Krav Maga existed or that his stick fighting system was taught to soldiers as late as 1959. The Palmach museum in Israel calls him developer and chief instructor of KAPAP in the Hagana and Palmach.

Modern day Kapap is not a conventional self defence system. It is a self-defence system that is designed to encourage the individual to use what works for them. We are all different in our size, strength, speed, agility and perceptions. KAPAP self-defence is designed to help level the odds between you and your attacker, it teaches key survival skills and how to react when attacked, and it will rapidly develop an awareness of what self-defence works and what doesn’t.

The KAPAP self-defence system is a philosophy and a concept. It is a bridge between systems that unites the common martial arts self-defence principles under a single banner. It takes what works and make it work harder, through our evolution over millions of years we have been endowed with a set of automatic survival responses that take over in the event of an assault or attack. The KAPAP self defence system works with these natural responses to help ensure that your personal protection is second to none.

From those fledgling days, I would take every opportunity I got to train with Avi. Long hours of training ensued day and night, travelling thousands of miles just to gain more knowledge. It was not an easy journey, there were quite a few sacrifices along the way, as my wife will testify, but I was always fully supported by Marieca in those hard days.

There were times, Avi and I would sleep in cars waiting for aeroplanes in fog bound carparks, sleep on floors. There would be times we would miss a flight connection, then have to wait hours for the next flight to get to the next course or seminar. We both talk about those days and laugh now, but at the time it was difficult. There were many highs, and some really low points. Avi and I met a lot of great people along the way. Along with some who were not so great, but perseverance was key, if Kapap was to grow. If we look at Kapap today it is on 6 continents a truly remarkable achievement. 

Yes, it is a bold statement to make that Kapap is the new epoch in modern day Israeli based martial arts. If we look back before 2002 we found that a lot of the reality based martial arts were based on linear movement alone and were lacking in a lot of areas regarding self-defence. At Avi Nardia Kapap, the term “Our Weapon Is Our Brain” was introduced.

Over time our brains have evolved in a way to protect us from danger. As part of our self-protection system we have a selection of choices: fight, flight, and freeze. Our brain will trigger a response which involves the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. We are acutely aware if we don’t have a set of options in a dangerous situation, we may not find a way out of such a situation. This can be a double edged sword as on the other hand, our brains also know that if we have too many selections to make, we often get disorientated. If we are confused, we may make the wrong choice, which could put in us serious harm. This means that the brain likes to have a selection of choices, but not too many choices.

The Earth is the third space rock from the sun, and life as we know it came to be, because of this space rock being in the “circumstellar habitable zone” according to the scientists. This zone is also called the Goldilocks zone, which is a metaphor of the children’s fairy tale. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which Goldilocks the little girl in the story chooses from three lots of porridge, three chairs, and three beds, settling on which porridge, chair, and bed were the most comfortable. It will come as no surprise then, that number three is an important number from the development of the brain.
Goldilocks had three choices to enable her to avoid the ones that were too hot and too cold, too big and too small, and select the one that is just right. 
In Kapap we like to tap into this mechanism of three in the human brain. Those who study Kapap know that a triangle with three sides is the most stable shape, and in Kapap we talk about the three principles, relative position, two points of contact, and balance displacement. These three principles combined, is the foundation of effective self-defence. The same applies with the hubad in Kapap we create triangles when practicing this drill, it gives a strong defence combined with the principles. This is why in construction bridges and buildings that must carry a lot of load weight have structural elements based on triangles. In the army, they teach you to triangulate your position so you don’t get lost. You pick three points approximately 120 degrees apart to fix your position.

At Kapap we always refer to these principles when teaching about defence from assault, whether from a single attacker or multiple attackers with edged weapons, or firearms. 

In those early days, everyone was into the new buzz word Krav Maga, especially after the film ‘ENOUGH’ with Jennifer Lopez was released in 2002.

Krav Maga was in the ascendancy, people were not interested in Kapap, and some of the Krav Maga community were prepared to go to any lengths to try and discredit Avi Nardia and Kapap, all of which is well documented. Yes Krav Maga did put the Israeli martial arts on the map, but it also remained linear in its approach to self-defence, as the DVD’s of the time will testify, it was based on linear movement only. Yes I can hear some quarters say the some defence is better than no defence, yes, that it is true in some respects, but not at the expense of getting into a deeper trouble or getting yourself killed.

It was to be early 2004 for the first Kapap level 1 course in Wakefield, West Yorkshire UK. It was a great course all the guys who attended had a great time, even though it was a very physical course. The biggest thing that stood out, was the approach to the training, and the techniques. The guys were amazed at the simplicity and effectiveness of applications and the techniques and how quickly a threat, would become compliant.

Yes that first course back then was a real eye opener, it was not long before Avi was back to do another course, and the same response was given great course, can’t believe the content, and how everything was so simple to apply. A few more courses were completed and we thought yes people are starting to see the light, and how this new revolutionary self defence system would change the way instructors learn, and teach especially after learning about two points of contact, relative position and balance displacement.
Those courses in Wakefield were the spring board for Kapap. Many prospective instructors travelled from Holland, Italy, France, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Mauritius and many other countries. In turn those new instructors went back to their countries, to start their own clubs.

In those early days we were coming up against some very hostile organisations and individuals at that time, who said we were frauds and a separate off shoot of Krav Maga, which were wild statements to make from people and organisations who had never met Avi Nardia or me. Avi was in shock that people were so quick to judge and question his credentials.
Sadly over time we realised that was not the beginning of instructors learning or teaching the new revolutionary self-defence. Instead what we found was a litany of individuals coming to incorporate the new ways of Kapap’s thinking and ethos into their own martial arts or system, giving no credit or any credit where credit was due. For those who have met Avi or myself you will soon realise that we have tenacity and staying power. It was a shame that a lot of instructors who came could not live up to the core values of Kapap UK and Avi Nardia’s Academy of loyalty, honesty, integrity and respect for people. Me personally I do not think that is a lot to ask. We still have the original instructors like Andy Strong, Brett Redneck Richards, Gary Kennedy Higham, and Malcolm Ladley who were instrumental in helping Kapap progress with those core values.

When I now look back, and see how Kapap has grown over the last 15 years from its humble beginnings it has been truly an achievement for all involved with Kapap. In those early days if you had typed Kapap into Google search you would have got a handful of results. Now when you type Kapap into Google you get ½ million results. From its early days of 2002 the one thing that we can see is the massive influence of Avi Nardia Kapap along with my contribution and support throughout the UK, Europe and Australia. Kapap’s approach has led the way in reality based martial arts. So much so that other reality based systems have changed in its approach to self-defence. This also includes the other Israeli based martial arts trying to move away from the linear approach. We know this through the DVD’s and articles that were produced by Avi Nardia, I and Budo magazine and how slowly but surely that they were adopted by other instructors and organisations. The advent of social media, helped speed up the process 10 fold.

We are now seeing a lot of Israeli styles are now changing their titles to Krav Maga Kapap. Which is in itself the validation of how important Kapap changed the way for a lot of Israeli arts as well as the reality based arts. As they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

For me it has been a great journey so far. I have made some great friends along the way, and had the privilege of teaching and training in a variety of situations, and look forward to the next fifteen years.

The Avi Nardia KAPAP Self Defence System offers intensive courses that are designed for security companies, security departments, law enforcement agencies, military or civilians interested in upgrading their knowledge and capabilities in this field.

Our training system includes a well-established curriculum mainly based on live exercises and simulations. We believe that only a wise combination of strategy and tactical learning, with extensive and realistic training, can offer professional and practical solutions in modern high stress situations.

Sam Markey