The definition, according to OxfordDictionaries.com, is:
Krav Maga (ˈkräv məˈgä): A form of self-defense and physical training, first developed by the Israeli army in the 1940s, based on the use of reflexive responses to threatening situations.
After a little over 6 months practicing Krav Maga, here is my definition:
Krav Maga: A self-defense system designed around natural reactions, efficient movements, and violent, overwhelming counter-attacks.
If you are not familiar with Krav Maga, here is a video that shows many of the techniques in real world conditions, including a home invasion and attempted carjacking:
As you can see from the video, Krav Maga is a powerful self-defense system. Sure, it’s not real but this particular video is one of the best examples of different situations you may find yourself in (but hope you never do). There are no forms or katas, just techniques and combinations. If you practice Krav Maga (or any other self-defense system), your movements and reactions become instinctual and automatic.
For a more realistic picture of Krav Maga, check out this video of a woman and her attempted attacker:
Here is a rundown of what happened in the video (defense against a rear choke):
- The attacker runs at the lady, attempting to grab her in a rear choke.
- As soon as she felt the attackers arm, she grabbed the arm (commonly called plucking the arm) to reduce the choking danger
- She delivered an elbow (elbow #3; there are 7 elbows in Krav Maga)
- She grabbed the attackers arm again while she stepped through, resulting in an arm bar.
- She delivers what looks like a possible groin kick and a kick to the face/head
- She evacuates the danger area and the attacker runs off in the opposite direction
No visible weapons were involved, just good technique and training.
Key aspects of Krav Maga
In all self-defense systems and martial arts, there are key concepts that are at the core. These key aspects explain and guide the actions, techniques, and choices in that particular system. Here are some key aspects to Krav Maga that you will hear over and over again:
As with any self defense situation, the only fight you win is the one you avoid. Stay aware of your surroundings (also called situational awarness). If you are walking around with your head buried in your phone, listening to blaring music, etc, you will become a target. Most criminals are looking for an easy victim. That is why you don’t hear about many football players being mugged; they are big, strong, and look intimidating. For those of us who are not 6’8″ tall and 250 pounds of pure muscle, we have to be aware and act confident. You would be surprised how far a confident attitude will get you in life.
When being attacked, survival should be the only thing on your mind. If you are surprised, you don’t have time to think about how to react. Your reaction to an unexpected attack will be sub-conscious and automatic. Some people panic. Some people freeze. This is the time where training and instinctive reactions take over. If you train and practice Krav Maga, you would violently counter attack until the threat is neutralized.
Defend yourself without stopping until there is no threat
Injuries happen in attacks. You may be cut, break your hand, get smacked in the face, cut your lip, etc. Until the threat is neutralized, you can’t stop. Remember, survival is the only thing now. The attacker won’t stop if you have a bloody nose, scrape your knee, or break a finger. They will only stop once they are neutralized.
To do that, you must stop their ability to physically fight and stop their psychological will to fight. If an attacker can’t stand, they can’t chase or attack you. If they are overcome with pain in a vulnerable area, they lose the will to attack. If they can’t see because your counter attack was directed to their eyes as a vulnerable target, they physically can’t hit you and psychologically want to avoid further pain. No matter what, you must continue your counter attack until the threat is neutralized.
As you can see from the first video, Krav Maga is violent but effective. The combatives and defensives techniques are efficient, utilizing your body’s natural movements and reactions. There are no rules in Krav Maga, only proper techniques.
All targets in Krav Maga are vulnerable parts of the body. To give you an idea, the groin kick is used so extensively that it is sometimes called the “Krav Maga handshake“. If you want to show how tough you are, punch someone in the stomach, ribs, top of the head, etc. If you want to defend yourself, attack the groin, nose, throat, ears, eyes, or any of the other “squishy” parts of the body. Remember, there are no rules, just survival.
What can Krav Maga do for you?
If you are looking to get into better shape physically, Krav Maga training can help, although there are most likely more efficient ways to get fit. If you are looking for more confidence, martial arts in general will help with that. If you want to be able to defend yourself, Krav Maga is fantastic. If you are looking for some cool looking moves to show off to friends, Krav Maga might not be what you are looking for.
It’s not for everyone; there is nothing in life that really is one size fits all. In Krav Maga training, you will get hit, bruises, scrapes and if you are not careful, a bloody or broken nose or worse. Personally, I’ve never been hit hard enough during Krav Maga training to break anything but I’ve heard about black eyes, broken toes, broken noses, etc.
Defending yourself is physically demanding
Depending on your instructor and the people you train with, Krav Maga can be very physical and rough. It can also be light contact but physically demanding. It is important to make your training as real as possible while still being safe. If someone is practicing the defense against a bear hug, there should be times when they have to work to get free. If your training partner lets go after a few weak, random hits, you may be learning, but you are not preparing for a real attack.
After enough training and practice, you will be able to defend yourself against an attack. Granted, you may have trouble fending off 5 guys with bats and chains but you will have a fighting chance. What is enough training and practice? That depends on a multitude of factors. I still need work on inside defense, outside defense, bobbing, weaving, etc. I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and have been training in Krav Maga for over 6 months. As with anything in life, it takes time, practice, and work to get good at anything. The more you practice and train, the better you get. There is no other way.
What to expect from Krav Maga training
If you put forth good effort toward your Krav Maga training, you can expect a number of benefits including fitness, confidence, and an increased ability to defend yourself. You can also expect faster reflexes, being more aware of your surroundings (situational awareness), bumps, bruises, better cardio, better flexibility, and a whole lot of fun. You will use muscles that you may have never used before, doing things you never thought you would (or could) do.
To get a better idea of some of the techniques and self defense situations that are often taught, check out the videos by Krav Maga Worldwide on YouTube. They are short, well done, funny, and very informative. Here are a few of my favorites:
(notice the video above is the same attack as the video with the lady being attacked)
There are a number of other great video channels that show Krav Maga techniques. Take some time and wander around YouTube and Google.
Thinking about getting into Krav Maga?
If you are thinking about trying Krav Maga, I say go for it. You may find out it’s not for you, that there is no where nearby that teaches Krav Maga, or the only place that teaches Krav Maga is unsuitable for any number of reasons. You may find out that Krav Maga is just what you needed, the best thing that ever happened to you. All you can do is give it a try and see for yourself.
Most schools will sell all of the equipment you need to get started with your training. The requirements for equipment will differ depending on the school, but most expect you to have:
- Gloves or handwraps (or both; most sporting goods stores and Walmart sell MMA gloves)
- Comfortable clothing (T-shirt, workout shorts, etc)
- Tennis shoes
In a future post, I’ll discuss different equipment and training aids that have helped me and others along our Krav Maga journey.
When looking for somewhere to learn Krav Maga, Google is your friend. You can also check out Groupon or Living Social (or any of the other coupon or local sites) for any specials. In addition, here are some additional resources:
- Krav Maga Worldwide (locations)
- Warrior Krav Maga (locations)
- Krav Maga Global USA (locations)
- Mobile Krav Maga
Get out, get fit, and go home safe. Give Krav Maga a try.