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Firefighters Learn Self-Defense for Potential Violent Calls


Every day firefighters put themselves in danger – and it’s not always a burning building or a brush fire. 

Last Monday, one firefighter was killed and another hurt after a gunman opened fire in Long Beach, and San Diego firefighters were caught in the crossfire of a police shooting with a suspect in Rolando on June 23.

Retired firefighter Dana Ben Kaplan teaches Krav Maga. “Generally speaking, firefighters are not hand-to-hand combat fighters. We rely on law enforcement for physical protection,” he told NBC 7.

Krav Maga is a military self-defense martial arts developed for the Israeli Defense Forces. It combines boxing, wrestling, aikido, judo, and karate among others.

Kaplan says he trains students to disarm weapons from an attacker with open empty hands.

“We train them to be aware of their surroundings so that if somebody walks into our scene especially if we don’t have law enforcement that we’re able to diffuse the situation,” he said.

Kaplan served as a Santee firefighter for more than 25 years, almost as long as he’s been teaching self-defense.

“Really hit home for me and I’ve been on many calls in my 27 years as a firefighter where fire arrives before law enforcement,” he said about the fatal Long Beach shooting. “And that just may be because we just get there first or it may be because the call came into dispatch for something other than what it was.” 

During a shooting at an apartment complex in Rolando, a firefighter had to hide to avoid being shot. Crews were initially called out for the smell of smoke or fire but were instead met with gunfire.

“You’re not in the mindset of someone shooting at you. It was an ambush, and it’s very difficult to prepare for something like that,” Kaplan explained.

That’s why he trains law enforcement, military, firefighters and first responders at Krav Maga San Diego to prepare them for the possibility of violence.

“Out mode in a violent situation is generally to back out and let law enforcement handle it, but there’s some situations where we don’t have a choice,” he added.

Photo Credit: Scott Baird
Source: NBC San Diego

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