The Israeli Martial Art Like No Other

Training in the Israeli Martial Art Krav Maga

What makes this Israeli martial art unique?

Our readers with a martial arts background may be aware that the ‘this discipline is better than that’ argument has been going on for as long as people have been punching and kicking. Even if you have no interest in martial arts, you will undoubtedly have seen films where one person defends themselves against another. You may have been left with the impression that the fight was won by the superior fighting style.

What makes Krav Maga different and why has the world not seen a combative system like it before?

Krav Maga is a modern Israeli martial art that has become more popular over recent years. It is often promoted as ‘the most effective self-defence system in the world’. Which it absolutely is. But the question that has been foremost in my mind is, why? What makes Krav Maga different? Why has the world not seen a combative system like it before?

A personal journey through the martial arts

My own personal journey over the past 30 years has wound its way through various martial arts. These  can be variously categorised as sports, arts, competitive arts, health and wellbeing and self- defence. I am certainly not an expert in all of them.

However, over the course of that training and with additional study around the subject, I have developed an understanding of where the Israeli martial art Krav Maga fits relative to other combative arts. And more importantly, the fundamental differences between Krav Maga and all other combative systems.

I believe there are two related elements to consider; firstly, self- defence and secondly simplicity and efficiency.

The question of self-defence

Let’s look at the question of self-defence. The traditional martial arts – Karate’s, Kung Fu’s, Taekwondo, Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido and many others – all have one thing in common. The student starts as a novice and gradually learns elements of the martial art. Over a period of years, all of the elements come together and what they have been learning becomes effective in real-life situations.

Before I have to defend myself against readers saying ‘You’re wrong!’, I am not saying that you couldn’t use some of the things that you learn in your first Karate or Kung Fu session to better defend yourself. However, the fundamental element and the key to the whole question, in my opinion, is that that is not the point of each.

By contrast, when you start Krav Maga training, each session contains a specific self-defence scenario.  In a traditional martial art session, you will be developing a technique, building on a pattern, enhancing your flexibility, developing footwork and so on. The objective is a deeper understanding and increased level of ability at a future date. Krav Maga turns this process on its head.

In a traditional martial art session, you will be developing a technique, building on a pattern, enhancing your flexibility, developing footwork and so on. The objective is a deeper understanding and increased level of ability at a future date. Krav Maga turns this process on its head.

Right from the beginning when you start training in Krav Maga, each session contains a specific self-defence scenario and provides logical and effective ways of dealing with it. Krav Maga is first and foremost about making sure that at every session you walk away with an understanding of what you can do in a real situation. You may not be the strongest or the fastest or have the best technique when you do it, but these are not the skills that are stressed.

Krav Maga is based on principles and a focus on the end result – survival

Krav Maga technique is designed to be forgiving. The emphasis is on understanding the principle behind what you are doing and focussing on the end result (i.e. getting away). For example, one of the first scenarios that you may be taught is a two-handed grab to the throat from the front. The defence consists of a combination of three simultaneous actions, any one of which done perfectly would have the desired result of getting the persons hands off your throat. But here’s the important point – the three actions done together imperfectly would still have the desired result.

In Krav Maga all techniques relate to real-life self-defence scenarios, all of the time.

Krav Maga starts off as a scenario based self-defence system, answering the ‘What happens if?’ questions. Once you have been training for a couple of years it will then start to become a sport for you. Your focus will be on developing your fitness and flexibility, reducing response times and combining multiple techniques. Perhaps 4 or 5 years down the line Krav Maga will then become a martial art for you. Your focus will then become the development of excellence and control. But regardless of this, in Krav Maga all techniques relate to real-life self-defence scenarios, all of the time.

The dedication to simplicity and efficiency

Now let’s consider the question of simplicity and efficiency. This gets to the core of Krav Maga. I have often said that if you were to ask someone with no knowledge of martial arts – but perhaps a healthy understanding of human physiology and anatomy, physics and mathematics – to go away and develop, from scratch, a method to punch, kick and defend in various situations with the caveat that each defence or attack must be fast, simple and effective, you should end up with something that looks and functions very much like Krav Maga.

The Israeli martial art Krav Maga is self-defence first, martial art last. This is an important distinction.

It is this dedication to efficiency that makes Krav Maga so effective. With direct strikes, using the maximum application of bodyweight while maintaining balance and aiming for the weak areas of the human body. There is no wasted motion. It can be used by anyone of any size or strength because the principles apply in the same way for everyone.

Krav Maga as a modern, living combat system

Krav Maga is also a living system. Every year there is a conference where techniques are explored by the most experienced practitioners. Discussion focus on whether there are ways in which the simplicity and efficiency of a specific defence can be improved. It is always looking to improve, always aiming for simpler, more direct ways for students to assimilate the techniques and strategies for self-defence.

So, let’s answer our original question ‘What makes this Israeli martial art unique?’. I would say that what makes Krav Maga unique is

  • The constant reference to actual self-defence scenarios
  • Practising for the real world from day one
  • Always ensuring that techniques are simple to learn and simple to replicate
  • The focus on effectiveness

This Israeli martial art Krav Maga is self-defence first, martial art last. This is an important distinction. It certainly doesn’t look pretty, but it does the job better than anything else. Don’t take my word for it, come along to one of our training sessions and find out for yourself!

Simon Pither
Krav Maga Self Defence London
FEKM-UK