The Krav Maga Approach to Trials

For several years now I have been a practitioner of Krav Maga, the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Force. In the Krav Maga system, students are taught to react to realistic threats with one or more simple and direct movements that hopefully will quickly end the encounter. The Krav Maga mantra: “No rules; no rituals; no nonsense; no excuses.”

Just after World War II, the fledgling Israeli nation asked Krav Maga founder Imi Licthenfeld to develop a system of self defense for its armed forces. Not satisfied with ancient forms of karate, still taught through centuries-old memorized rituals known as “katas,” Licthenfeld instead developed a simple and effective system of hand-to-hand combat that emphasizes instinctive movements, practical techniques and realistic training scenarios.

I love the intensity of the workout I receive in Krav Maga training, which has kept me in a physical condition not enjoyed by many post-fifty lawyers. I have also found that the Krav Maga system has other applications: its mantra of simplicity and effectiveness translates well as an approach to preparing for and trying cases.

Too often cases are handled through the litigation equivalent of katas, exercises repeated in rote fashion because they are the way things have always been done. There is always another witness to depose, another set of discovery to serve, another document to demand and another motion to file. This method may be thorough and mitigate the risk of leaving a detail unnoticed; however, too often this approach results in a bloated preparation process and tedious and unfocused trial presentation.

Every case ends, unless settled, in a trial, a compressed span of time in which a largely unwilling captive audience, a jury, wants the trial lawyers to strike their theme, make their points and rest, so that they can reach a verdict and return to their lives. While most jurors take their jobs seriously, only a few points one can make will be memorable. If those points are not made at the outset of the trial, they may not be made at all. In our era of sound bites and YouTube, the points must be delivered succinctly, ideally both orally and with a corresponding simple graphic. See, “The Ten Commandments of Demonstrative Evidence in Litigation,”

I prefer that my adversary try to ask every question, show every email and post charts with details that cannot be easily seen or digested; they will lose the jury and fail to make their point. In a business trial, a simple, direct and effective blow can bring a swift and victorious conclusion, just as application of Krav Maga techniques can quickly end a physical trial. Direct. Memorable. No nonsense. No excuses.

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