How to produce best selling books? When I started to write my blog, I did so looking to share my experiences working in the security industry, and my academic knowledge, in order to help those who train, better understand the context and situational components of real-world violence e.g. how, and why do fights starts, how can violent incidents be predicted and avoided, what are the processes that different violent criminals use/employ etc.

Its goal was not to be a “technical” blog detailing techniques, but a much broader blog that looked at what real-life violence was, and how it could be identified and prevented. In the security, industry we categorize this type of training as “self-protection”, to make it distinct from self-defense, which involves the physical component of dealing with violence – and the one that most of us who train martial arts and self-defense focus on.

This is why I was caught off guard, when Tuttle Press approached me to write a book specifically on Krav Maga (the system I practice and teach), based off of my blog. I had never planned to write a technical manual on the system, but here was an opportunity being presented to me, by one of the world’s most respected and experienced martial arts publishing houses, and one that when it came down to it, I didn’t want to turn down.

How To Produce Best Selling Books?

best selling books
This is what you hope for: that your book will reach the top position in the Amazon Best Sellers Martial Arts Category. It may not be the New York Times Best Sellers List, but getting to number one, makes all the hard work and the bruises worthwhile.

Different martial arts books have different goals; most are technical reference manuals that describe and list techniques – and there is nothing wrong with this. My own library is full of great books cataloging different techniques and how to perform them, along with descriptions and details that enhance their execution, etc.

However, what most self-defense books don’t talk about are the different contexts in which violence happens, how various situations develop – and can possibly be avoided – and how violence is actually experienced; the stress and duress that is experienced, the decision-making process that people go through, the doubts and questions that people have, etc.

These were issues and areas that I wanted to address, and this changed the focus of the book(s) from being about techniques to being about solutions – the title of that first book was, “Krav Maga – Real World Solutions to Real World Violence”. A technique may be part of a solution, but it isn’t in itself the solution to a situation e.g. there are many great techniques that show you how to escape from a side headlock, but once you’ve escaped, what do you do? How did you get caught in a side headlock in the first place, and could it have been prevented, or avoided?

Knowing what to do when caught in such a hold is important, but knowing how to prevent this happening, and the types of situations which can lead to such an attack, are also important. As well as detailing techniques, I wanted my books to describe and explain the contexts in which such attacks and threats were experienced.

The Visuals of the Book Have to be Based in Reality

best selling books
When you photograph things in real time and at real speed you catch genuine emotions and responses. Although the groin strike wasn’t applied fully, there was enough contact to create an authentic reaction and response.

It was clear from the outset that the visuals of the book would also have to be based in reality. This meant shooting the photographs not in my studio/dojo, but in the real-life locations in which the types of assaults we were depicting, occur. I am indebted to the business owners who opened up their businesses and locations for us to film in. We took photographs in bars/pubs, in restaurants and fast-food joints, at ATMs, in parks, on streets, etc. – locations where violent assaults could take place. If the context of violence was to be described/explained, then it should be done in realistic locations.

This took a lot of work, but I believe it was – and is – worth it. I’m a big believer in the use of visualization as a training tool. If you are only able to train once or twice a week, visualization is a great way to add a few more training sessions to your schedule, without having to compromise on other aspects of your life – closing your eyes and imagining an assault where you perform techniques, and exit the situation successfully, is an invaluable way of improving your performance and increasing your survival chances.

Reading about techniques/solutions performed in real-life locations, with other people present, etc., helps to achieve the same thing. Viewing a knife attack and defense set in a bar is much more valuable and beneficial than looking at photographs of the same defense being performed in a martial arts studio/dojo. When these photographs are taken in full color (the way we see the world) and not just in grainy black and white, then the reality of violence is much more easily communicated.

Life Reflects the Martial Arts

best selling books
Although this kick wasn’t delivered at full power it still had a lot of force behind it. We found that if we “pulled” punches, kicks and other strikes, they just didn’t look realistic. Our philosophy was that we were only taking these photographs for a number of sequences, and it was worth putting up with a bit of pain and discomfort.

Life reflects the martial arts, in that timing is everything. One of my students at the time I was approached to write the book, was an extremely experienced photojournalist, who knew how to tell and communicate a story – and although we may experience violence in a moment, it is part of a larger story/picture; having someone on the team that understood this and knew the importance of communicating it was invaluable.

When we talked about how we’d take the photographs, he immediately suggested that we should run the scenarios through in real-time, rather than stage the different phases of the techniques. From my understanding, this was a fairly unique approach to detailing techniques, though since other books have taken a similar approach. Most Martial Arts books would statically “stage” the photographs, to make sure that each frame/photograph captured the distinct parts of a technique. Our approach was to run the attack/threat at full speed – and sometimes full force – so that we’d capture the dynamic nature of violence; it’s also a great way to work out what does and doesn’t work – discarding that which doesn’t.

This is why in the photographs you will see the blur of a knife, because the attack being made is “real”. It’s why you’ll see the gun being blurred, because an assailant tries to maintain and retain it, as a disarm is being made. The number of times we shot a scene was ridiculous – and often painful (I lost the use of an arm for a day, after shooting repeated forearm strikes to the neck) – as we wanted to make sure we captured everything. We would then take different photographs from the different sequences, and cobble together those which best illustrated the solution.

My Best Selling Books

best selling books
In “Krav Maga – Tactical Survival” we included some pretty serious and potentially damaging throws. This was the first one we photographed, and prompted us film the final execution of most of these throws in the studio, as the risk of injury was too great (you can get a better idea of the height of the throw from the shadow).

I have written two books for Tuttle (“Krav Maga – Real World Solutions to Real World Violence” 2014, and “Krav Maga – Tactical Survival” 2017), using this same process (the third, currently in production, is likely to come out next year).

The process we use is both tedious, involved and takes an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment from all involved, however through doing it we are better able to capture what real-life violence actually looks like (I use real-life experiences to create the scenarios we shoot and describe). This should be the goal of any book that tries to describe and prescribe solutions to real world violence.

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