Introducing Krav Maga

Introducing Krav Maga and how is it different from the Martial Arts ?

Krav Maga Bristol Instructor Paul Grey Introduces Krav Maga


New students at Krav Maga Bristol are often confused about the difference between martial arts and Krav Maga. Many have read that Krav Maga is not a martial art but don’t understand why it’s not or even why this is significant in their Krav Maga training.

Krav Maga is usually categorised with the martial arts for simplicity. Whether you are registering Krav Maga as an activity at a local sports centre, or explaining your regular disappearance 2 or 3 times a week to your family, a martial art is the easiest way to describe what you have been doing. Whilst there are superficial similarities with the martial arts, Krav Maga is not a martial art at all, in fact it’s a very different type of beast altogether.

In the UK, we have a huge range of martial arts taught across the country. These come in different shapes and forms but generally speaking are leisure activities focused around a system of recreational training and fitness. The health and fitness benefits of martial arts training are enormous and dedicated students may gain the opportunity to teach and even make a living from their love of martial arts. From kid’s classes, traditional martial arts classes, sporting events and competitions, martial arts have a lot to offer. However self defence training and martial arts training are profoundly different. Whilst nearly if not all martial arts schools claim to teach ‘self defence’,  standards are at best variable and in reality most martial arts instructors confuse  their ‘martial art’ with a system of self protection and self defence which they are not – in spite of their claims.

Sports based martial arts such as boxing or kickboxing, mma etc often fair a better on the street than martial arts generally – but again these systems are focused on training around a set of rules and circumstances that do not reflect real street violence.

1. The only objective is Survival
The objective of Krav Maga is to make it home safe. Street violence is dangerous, unpredictable and highly intense. There are no rules, no referees, no weight classes, no fouls; just the cold brutal reality of unrestrained violence. For this reason Krav Maga trains you to do whatever is necessary in order to survive. Techniques taught in Krav Maga such as using nearby objects as weapons, biting, eye gouges, head butting, groin strikes, and knee breaks are quite rightly banned in sports like Boxing or MMA. However if unavoidable, using techniques such as these against a bigger, stronger attacker can make the difference between getting away or getting trapped, knocked to the ground and seriously injured.  

As an essential part of Krav Maga, realistic striking and strategic thinking should be taught and practised from the outset until they can be applied instinctively from any angle with the maximum effectiveness.


2. Asymmetrical training

Training must reflect reality. Krav Maga focuses very much on fighting from a position of disadvantage in realistic situations. Real violence is generally asymmetrical. In other words unfair. Some one big against someone small, two or three against one, armed against unarmed and so on. As a result training must reflect this and must do so from the very beginning.  Kravists are soon taught there is no fair fight, there are no rules  in survival anything goes.


'There are no rules - in survival anything goes'

3. Simplicity is vital
The Kravist may be assaulted by a group, start out injured or be completely unaware of the attackers intentions until the assault.  In these situations you simply cannot afford to get involved in a lengthy, drawn out conflict.  The longer the confrontation lasts the less your odds are of survival.

The Kravist must react as quickly and aggressively as possible to eliminate the immediate threat. Because of this fundamental principle Krav Maga techniques are designed to be simple and instinctive. If you are assaulted your body will experience a heightened state of stress resulting in a release of adrenaline causing a number of physical side effects: faster heart rate, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills, impaired judgment, etc…

This is why Krav Maga is based upon a small number of techniques that solve a wide range of self defence situations. You simply won’t have time to process choices or apply complex skills. If you have to think about a technique – it’s too late, you’ve already lost.

If you have to think about a technique – it’s too late, you’ve already lost.

This principle dominates the entire curricula. This again is another fundamental difference between Krav Maga and the martial arts. The entire curricula is designed with the one single objective – survival.

By only teaching a fewer techniques that can be applied to a large variety of situations you will be able to react faster and thereby increase your odds of survival.

4. Efficient technique

Krav Maga techniques do not rely on strength, size or athletic ability; instead Krav Maga relies on economy of movement, the element of surprise, and the effective targeting of the weak points of the human body, thus teaching a smaller person how to prevail over larger attacker.

5. Based upon the Body’s Natural Reaction
Krav Maga is different from other martial arts since most other systems attempt to reprogram your natural reactions. This is why it takes so long to become combat proficient in the martial arts, you have to relearn everything – walking, blocking, and striking.

Krav Maga uses your own natural reactions to stress then build techniques and combinations from those reactions (remember teaching fewer techniques that work in a wide variety of situations). As a result Krav Maga feels more natural, more instinctive and students learn the movements faster.

6. Universal Effectiveness
In Israel every person must serve in the military. For this reason when Krav Maga was created the techniques had to be effective for everyone regardless of body size, shape or gender. Techniques that worked for the 250-pound male athlete had to also work for the 135-pound female. There wasn’t time in training to go around and modify the techniques for each person’s personal needs; instead the techniques had to be universally effective for everyone. Even today as Krav Maga evolves as a system this principle governs the direction of the system. Unlike other martial arts, Krav Maga is an effective system of self defence that is truly for everyone.

7. Simultaneously Defend and Counterattack
When attacked, timing is essential. In order to insure your survival you must gain the advantage as soon as possible. The fastest way to do this is by defending and counterattacking simultaneously. As a result Krav Maga techniques are faster and more explosive then other systems that teach you to block first and then punch second. By eliminating the time between defensive movements and counterattacks, Krav Maga is able to overwhelm the assailant and take back the initiative.

8. Reality Based Scenario Training
Krav Maga is a relatively modern system of self defence. Therefore, it deals with contemporary weapons and violent scenarios. The goal of Krav Maga is to focus on finding solutions to the types of violent attacks students are most likely to encounter in their day-to-day lives. So instead of training how to defend against a person attacking you with a samurai sword, Krav Maga focuses on training you how to defend against guns, knives, and sticks. In addition Krav Maga recognizes that in the modern age a person needs to also be aware of the legal ramifications of self defence. Krav Maga trains practitioners to use only the acceptable amount of force required to defend themselves, thus protecting them from criminal charges and lawsuits. In order for any system of self defence to be effective in today’s society, it must take into consideration both the application of force and the legal use of force.

9. Efficiency in Training
The primary objective of Krav Maga is to get practitioners to a high level of self defence proficiency in a relatively short period of time. In order to do this, training time is utilized to its optimal efficiency – every movement, every exercise, and every drill has been thoughtfully selected in order to accomplish the primary goal.

There is really nothing quite like Krav Maga in the world of self defence or fitness. Krav Maga training is designed to push you to your limits and beyond, while focusing everything you do on developing your ability to successfully deal with a violent encounter. In short, Krav Maga training is challenging, it’s intense, and it’s effective.

Paul Grey

Krav Maga Bristol



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