Cupping Disarm Whether our hands are up or down — in reality, usually up – (1A) this first move must be made with no motion except for the hand going to the weapon. No big body motions, foot shuffle, bend at the waist, etc. We take our right hand directly to the weapon via the shortest route possible. We are not grabbing the handgun. If we attempt to grab, we don’t have much miss room.
Krav Maga has been developed over the past 60 years by and for the Israeli military. Krav Maga is not a martial art. It does not do anything for the sake of tradition or because “that’s how the founder did it.” Krav Maga is an open and evolving system and, in my opinion, there is no system as battle tested in the real world. Defenses must use natural body motions, be easy to learn and remember so that a lot of practice time isn’t needed. They must also be effective under stress and exhaustion. In other words, perfect for the average person.At the U.S. Krav Maga Association, when we teach handgun disarms, we basically teach one defense and then practice the different scenarios that the defense works for. Learning one defense for many problems cuts practice time, gives us only one defense for our muscle memory to learn, and allows this defense to come out of us under stress without having to think about it. As Hick’s Law states, If we have more than one option to choose from, it will take time to make that choice. There are variables to this law that aren’t discussed much, but for our purposes, if one technique covers a lot of dangers, we are going to lean toward that technique.We have seen and tried pretty much every handgun disarm there is. The main handgun defense that we teach and believe in is called the Cupping Technique. We like this technique for many reasons. After the initial pulling back and hands up startle reaction, it is a natural reaction to reach for the handgun that is pointed at us to get it off line. We redirect and “clap” at basically the same time. We’ve been clapping since we were toddlers, so nothing new to learn there. We end up with both hands on the handgun with one wrapping the hammer, so we have the leverage to keep it redirected no matter how big and strong the assailant is. This is especially important for females and smaller males.Another thought behind the two-handed grip is that we do not want a technique that relies on certain criteria being met (e.g., a dry, easy-to-grab handgun). If there is a handgun involved, we could well be doing this technique after it has fired. If there’s blood (a very slippery substance), we would much rather have two hands wrapped around the entire gun than one hand wrapped around the barrel.We also like this technique because we don’t have to show people how to effectively strike with fists or palms, which are skills that take time to develop, as we use our legs to knee or kick the groin. Legs are stronger, and the “punting” motion for kicks and “stepping over a log” motion for knees are movements that we already know. These all work together to make this defense “come out” of us as it incorporates natural reactions and known motions. We don’t know of any handgun defense that is as effective or easier to learn and remember.Let’s look at some Krav Maga handgun disarms step by step.
We use an open hand, aiming the webbing of our thumb to the trigger guard (2A). This gives us about a seven-inch surface to redirect the weapon off with. As soon as we touch the weapon, we redirect it off our body and wrap our hand around the barrel to control it. As we are redirecting, we keep the handgun on the same plane to ensure we are taking the weapon off our body in a straight line and with the shortest route possible. In other words, if the handgun is at neck level when aimed at us, it is still at neck level after it has been redirected. We are doing a slight body turn at the same time. We don’t stay squared up but let our right shoulder turn toward the attacker. This blades our body a bit, making the torso a smaller target and getting the weapon off us quicker.
Next, we send our left hand to the hammer of the weapon and wrap the hammer (3A) as we step in with our left foot to deliver a knee or front kick to the groin with our right leg (4A). As we are putting the kicking leg down forward, we snap the handgun to our waist.
Our right forearm is pressed tightly against our stomach, our left forearm is pressed against our side, and we snap and twist the barrel of the handgun up and toward the attacker (5A).
Once his grip is broken, pull the handgun away with force. We use our whole body (not just arms) to strike the barrel of the weapon to the attacker’s face or head (6A) and back off at an angle from the attacker. If he rushes us after the takeaway, we push off of our back leg and, using our whole body, strike to his face with the barrel. For law enforcement officers and CCW permit holders, we teach keeping the handgun that we just took away in our off hand as we access and fire (if needed) our own handgun with our strong hand.
In our training, we often see that if the officer/CCW permit holder puts the handgun they took away into their armpit or drops it to access their own handgun, they will use their two-handed grip to fire at the attacker. This is a problem, because if the assailant rushes the officer/permit holder with a knife, s/he will take stab wounds as s/he fires the handgun with the grip s/he has trained hundreds of hours on, instead of letting go of the weapon with one hand to block the knife attack while firing one-handed. If we keep the handgun we took from the assailant in one hand, we are much more likely to use that hand to block with.
If the handgun didn’t come out of the attacker’s hand when we snapped and twisted, we still have two hands on the weapon to his one, and we have leverage. We take the handgun using our entire body and strike his head and face over and over while going forward and pushing him back. He will eventually let go of the weapon.
After spending time to learn this defense, the next five take very little practice time, because they are all the same defense, just different scenarios.
Right Side of Head
If the handgun is not pressed against our head, we turn our head to look at it. We cannot judge distance using peripheral vision. We then swipe palm out at the handgun as if swatting at a fly buzzing our ear (1B). As we wrap the muzzle, we snap our head back to get the handgun offline as quickly as possible (2B). We shoot our off hand to the hammer to cup as we pivot our feet to orient toward the assailant (3B). The rest of the defense is identical to our regular cupping defense: step with the left leg to kick with the right, etc.
This is the “execution” position (1C). We redirect with the webbing of our strong hand as we do a slight body turn (2C). As we send our other hand to the hammer, we raise our left knee to place our left foot on the ground in front of us (3C). The cup helps us to have control over the weapon and, when the assailant pulls on the handgun, he is actually helping us to pop up. With or without this help, we spring up with the left leg and kick to the groin with our right leg. The rest of the defense is identical to the regular cupping defense.
We are on our back with the assailant sitting on our chest pointing the handgun at our head. We redirect the handgun off us with our right hand (1D) and send our left to cup the hammer (2D). We pull sharply down toward the ground at about our eye level, 12 inches or so to the left side of our head as we attempt to bury the muzzle straight into the ground and slightly turned away so ricochets go away from us (3D).
As we are pulling, we do a basic ground-fighting “buck and roll” (4D). We dig our feet into the ground and shoot our hips as hard as we can toward the shoulder that we are rolling them over. While rolling, we maintain weight on the handgun to keep it buried into the ground.
As we finish this roll, we end up on top of the assailant in the “guard” position with the weapon still pushed into the ground (5D).
We scrape the muzzle along the ground with great force toward the assailant’s hip (6D). We’re using two hands and body weight, and this will snap the handgun out of his hand easily. If it doesn’t, we use the muzzle to strike the assailant (again, he will let go or take a beating) and can take the sight into his throat and rip it across his skin to the navel for a disarm. Both of these give us leverage to pop the handgun out of his hand.
After taking the handgun, we strike with it to the face (7D) and/or groin (8D) until it’s safe to back off on our knees to get up safely.
We recommend “walking” back on our knees and slowly attempting to stand (9D). If there is any dizziness, we get back and remain on our knees. This is important, because we have seen people on video jump right to their feet only to become light headed and hit the ground again.
In the Guard
We use our right hand to redirect the weapon (1E) and then send the offhand to wrap and finish the cupping (2E).
It is very important to lock the right elbow and keep the right arm straight to prevent the handgun from being turned back on us. We put our left foot on the assailant’s hip and push off to create some distance (3E).
We then “angrily ride the bike,” sending stomp kick after stomp kick to the assailant’s body and face (4E).
He will either let go or be kicked into unconsciousness (5E).
This is the highest risk disarm because it involves the biggest motion. We get the handgun offline with our right hand (1F) and finish the cupping with the left (2F).
As with In the Guard, we keep the right arm straight throughout. As we do this, we pivot to get our legs between our head and the attacker (3F)
We then “angrily ride the bike,” kicking at the assailant’s knees, body and face (4F). The only choices he has are to get kicked into oblivion, let go or dive on us. We keep our knees up and feet pointed at his belly button or higher to keep him from diving on top of us.
For Instructors and Students
Instructors, it’s critical to remember that teaching only technique is a sin! To save a life (your own or someone else’s), technique is maybe 40% of what the student needs. The most important thing is attitude, and that attitude must be, “I am going home today no matter what.” We must instill an aggressive, never-say-die spirit in our students.
We cannot just teach techniques but must practice the techniques under stress and while exhausted, and we must put everything we do into realistic scenarios. For example, if we always train with the partner standing like a statue and pointing a handgun at us, it will be an entirely different feeling on the street when an attacker punches us with the gun and slaps us while cussing and screaming. If we’ve never had an attacker come at us like this in training, we won’t be prepared for it, won’t have a plan, and an effective defense won’t come out of us when we need it. If we train when exhausted and stressed, we will have the “been there, done that” feeling when facing a real threat.
Excellent article. Valuable information. Not being critical, just want to point out that the photo (1A) at the beginning of the article does not comport with the description under Cupping Disarm. It is actually a duplicate of photo (3D) from the mounted disarm.
I have concerns about your article on Hand Gun Disarms. Overall, I agree that most martial arts dojos are not adept in hand gun disarms or handling violent encounters in general. I further agree that learning about the subject of guns is essential to the disarm. I would further agree that the cupping hand position is excellent.However, in each photo series the defender is moving to the attackers “live side”, can it be done, sure but the dangers should be obvious. Secondly, there is a lack of body defense, 100% hand plus 100% body is the credo of Krav Maga. I usually do not comment because I am training to save my life and my families from the Animals you spoke about in another article. I do like your newsletter and I think it is well thought out and timely. I would ask you to take a fresh look at the pictures in light of my comment.