So You Want to Train in Krav Maga? What You Need to Know
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Krav Maga is arguably one of the world’s deadliest martial arts disciplines. Dubbed as ‘The Art of Staying Alive’, this official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is a lethal method of survival.
As a well-trained Krav Maga practitioner can become a powerful ‘weapon’ in combat, this martial arts discipline that combines Boxing, Judo, Jiu-jitsu, and Aikido, has become an imperative part of various military and law enforcement agencies’ training programs in the US and beyond.
In recent decades, more and more Hollywood movies have incorporated Krav Maga moves into their fight scenes (Skyfall, Collateral, Blood Diamond, etc.), which resulted in its meteoric rise in popular culture and soaring demand for Krav Maga training across the globe.
If you are currently on the fence on whether you should train in Krav Maga too, you’re in for a treat! Here, we’re dishing out information and insights that may be useful for you to make a decision and get started!
Why You Should Be Training in Krav Maga
Translated as ‘Contact Combat’ (from Hebrew), to those who are unfamiliar with Krav Maga, it may appear complex and intense. However, Krav Maga is actually a self-defense system that anyone can use - regardless of size, strength or level of fitness.
The great thing about this martial arts discipline is that focuses on simple and practical techniques tailored for (possible) real-life scenarios and one needs no prior martial arts experience to become proficient.
If you’ve been interested in training in Krav Maga for a while now, you’ve probably done your fair share of ‘due diligence’ and gathered that those who practice it believe that it is as effective as it gets when it comes to self-defense. Other than gaining a set of powerful moves that’ll potentially save your life one day, Krav Maga also offers other awesome benefits including:
- It’s a great exercise – In Krav Maga, you get to use anything you have at your disposal as a weapon and this includes your body. In every class, you’ll go through a set of warm-up, power drills as well as a combination of interval cardio and strength exercises. These intense exercises will ultimately help you to utilize the techniques you learn more effectively and as an awesome bonus, it’ll get your heart pumping and help you be in your fittest shape yet!
Video credit: K.M.IL Krav Maga Israel YouTube account
- It boosts confidence – As you progress with your training and become more at ease with your self-defense skills, the more empowered you’ll feel. If you consistently stick to your practice, you’ll likely to feel that you’re able to take on just about anyone and anything that life throws at you!
- It increases awareness – Krav Maga practitioners are expected to adjust their techniques and rely on instinct when fending off violent attacks which require them to use their ‘head’ and their body simultaneously. The more they train, the better they become at ‘reading’ situations and adjust their plan of attack through improvisation.
Krav Maga 101: The History
Krav Maga’s story of origin began with a young Hungarian-Jewish athlete named Imi Lichtenfeld (Imi Sde-Or) in the1930s. A renowned boxer, wrestler, and gymnast in Bratislava, Slovakia, he created what thought to be the foundations of Krav Maga to help protect the country’s Jewish community from the threat of anti-semitic groups that rose to power in pre-World War II era.
By using his martial arts knowledge and skills, along with a group of young men he trained, he was able to effectively use martial arts to disable and neutralize many violent attacks directed towards Jewish citizens in his area.
Imi Lichtenfeld, the father of Krav Maga. Image credit: yourkravmagaexpert.com
Despite their best efforts, anti-semitic movements grew rampant. So, like many other Jews, Imi fled to Palestine where he joined Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine which became the core of the Israeli Defense Forces.
In 1948, Israel was granted its statehood by the United Nations. At this time, Imi was appointed as the Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness at the IDF and was tasked with creating a system of combat training for the recruits. As Imi was only given 3 weeks to train each batch of recruits, he developed a simple, efficient and effective self-defense system that could be applied to combat situations – a system we know today as Krav Maga.
Imi spent the next two decades training IDF’s soldiers and when he retired, he spent some time refining Krav Maga and adapting its moves so that it would be more suitable for civilian use. Once completed, he decided to open a Krav Maga training center for the public. A few years later (in 1973), Imi founded Krav Maga Association, a non-profit that promotes and teaches Krav Maga in Israel and beyond, which sparked the global spread of Krav Maga.
Krav maga 101: The Fundamentals
Now that you know how it all started, here are the main principles of Krav Maga that act as the foundation of its training:
- Neutralize the threat – This principle acts as the ‘umbrella’ principle for all of the other principles and it’s something that you will encounter time and time again throughout your practice. It’s crucial to note that Krav Maga’s main goal is to neutralize the threat/ attacker as fast as possible. Krav Maga is not a sport, hence there is no competition nor rules so pretty much anything goes. You are encouraged to control and neutralize your opponent with any means necessary to avoid any harm or injuries to yourself. This means that when push comes to shove, you must do whatever you can in order to survive - brutal efficiency is the only concern.
Image credit: returnofkings.com
- Keep it simple – Unlike many martial arts where there are strict structures or patterns of movements, Krav Maga focuses only three simple moves: strikes, holds, and blocks. Krav Maga also requires its practitioner to work from instinct rather than from a pre-set routine. It was created with effectiveness and efficiency in mind so you are allowed to use any move you think you would quickly ‘get the job done’.
- Retzev (continuous motion) – Retzev, the Hebrew word for ‘continuous motion’, in this case, translates to ‘explosion of violence’. The goal is to win over the attacker with a continuous series of aggressive and offensive movements, allowing the practitioner to use any sequence of moves depending on the situation and/or attack made. Here’s a clip of a Retvez drill:
Video credit: Kevin Mack Krav Maga YouTube account (kmxbox)
- Simultaneous defense and offense – Though many disciplines perceive defensive and offensive moments as separate actions, Krav Maga requires combinations of simultaneous defensive and offensive attack. By using defense and offense moves together, one can neutralize the attacker more effectively. Practitioners are also encouraged to ‘listen’ to and use the body’s natural reflexes. This freedom to improvise allows for fast adaptation to any given situation.
- Focus on striking the body’s vulnerable points – It’s crucial for a Krav Maga practitioner to master the location of vulnerable soft tissue and pressure points. This is because when these points are stricken, it can quickly render the attacker helpless in real-life life situations, Krav Maga stresses that there’s no need for etiquettes when your life is at stake. Hence, incorporating ‘crass’ or ‘gory’ moves such as eye gouging, groin attacks and strikes to the throat are well-accepted moves in Krav Maga.
- Take advantage of weapons or any objects nearby – In addition to physical moves, Krav Maga students are taught to properly use weapons (guns and knives) to defend themselves from an attacker. Krav Maga also teaches its practitioners to use any object within their reach as a weapon during a fight. This means that sticks, keys, or basically anything you can get your hands on that can harm the attacker, should be taken advantage of.
Image credit: kravmaga-defcon.com
Krav Maga 101: The Moves
Although Krav Maga incorporates moves found in other martial arts such as Boxing, Savate, and Muay Thai (punches and kicks) or Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Wrestling (grappling and disarming techniques), its training is severely different. This is because Krav Maga stresses self-defense during worst case scenarios that may happen in real life (e.g: against armed or multiple opponents). Below are some examples of potentially life-saving moves that you’ll master and have at your disposal when you train in Krav Maga.
Notes: Please do not attempt to emulate these moves without the guidance and supervision of an experienced practitioner.
1. Upper Cut Punch
Though this move looks simple, when done correctly, it can neutralize an attacker quickly so can get away or go on the offense with another move. Similar to boxing, you would use your fist as a ‘weapon’ where the power comes from the bending of knees and a hip twist – targeting the chin of the opponent.
Here’s a demonstration of how it’s done when executed properly:
Video credit: KMW Krav Maga YouTube Account
2. Stepping Side Kick
If your attacker happens to be beside you, this is a great move to distance yourself from the attacker. Begin by crossing your leg to the direction of the opponent while shifting your weight to your leg. Slightly twist your hips and end with a kick using your heel. This move is most effective when targeted to the abdomen, knee or shin.
3. The Palm Strike
Unlike the first move we shared, instead of punching with a clenched fist, the palm strike requires you to use the ‘meaty’ portion at the bottom of your hand – located by your wrist. Believe it or not, this part of your hand is particularly strong and won’t get easily injured when striking the skull or bones of the attacker. This move can be effective when used to target the opponent’s head and neck.
How You Can Get Started
As Krav Maga was developed to be used in real-life situations, it is as practical it is in the streets to prevent or act upon violent confrontations as it is in the battlefields. Should you feel that it’s time to take the first steps to your own Krav Maga journey, here are some ways you can get started:
- Books – In order to truly appreciate Krav Maga, it is advisable to read up a book or two on its history and basics. If you were to only pick up a single book on Krav Maga, we highly recommend Krav Maga: How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault. Written by the father of Krav Maga and his senior disciple, Eyal Yanilov, other than its origin story, it focuses on the various techniques for reacting quickly and efficiently against violent confrontations.
- DVDs – If you are unsatisfied with learning through books but don’t have access to reputable Krav Maga classes, DVDs are a good way to get the basic understanding of Krav Maga and a way to learn its techniques. That said, make sure that you at least seek the advice of professionals before emulating any of the moves as you may hurt yourself and/or those you are practicing with! Mastering Krav Maga by David Kahn, who has taught Krav Maga to various US military and law enforcement agencies, comes highly recommended by Krav Maga enthusiasts.
- Sign up for a Krav Maga class or course – Like any other martial arts disciplines, the best way to learn Krav Maga effectively is to sign yourself up for a legitimate Krav Maga class or course. With the guidance of experts and support of teammates, you’re more likely to get the most out of what Krav Maga has to offer. Since Krav Maga is designed to prepare you for real life attacks, it can be brutal and you’ll need people who are equipped with the skills and knowledge to properly show you how to deal with real-world confrontations in a safe environment. This is definitely something that you won’t get when practicing with a DVD or learning through books. Due to Krav Maga’s growing popularity, be aware that there are numerous gyms that advertise their Krav Maga training as authentic even though they do not have the necessary (legitimate) formal training to do so. Do your homework and take your time when it comes to selecting a Krav Maga course – do not be fooled and sign up for any gym that claims to offer authentic Krav Maga training. It’s always better to be ‘safe than sorry’ so make sure you train somewhere with certified, experienced instructors.
- Go on a Krav Maga training camp - If you are looking for the ultimate way to get started in Krav Maga, there’s simply no better way than to join a Krav Maga training camp in Israel. Not only will you learn all the principles and techniques of Krav Maga, but you’ll also get to ‘live and breathe’ Krav Maga in its birthplace!
Training in the Israeli desert is an adventure of a lifetime. Image credit: Krav Maga Global - KMG
Ready to begin your very own exciting Krav Maga journey? Start by browsing through the Krav Maga training camps at BookMartialArts.com!