What is Krav Maga

Krav Maga - the world's most efficient self defense system

Krav Maga is a self defense system developed in Israel to handle modern violent situations. At the heart of the system is the idea that a street fight or any other violent situation doesn't have any rules. Therefore a person under attack must do anything necessary to prevent serious harm to themselves or others. In order to accomplish this, Krav Maga is suitable for anyone regardless of gender, size and strength.

The system was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld for the Haganah organization and later for the Israel Defense Forces, and following Imi's retirement from the military, Krav Maga was adapted to civilian self-defense needs. Imi's vision was to create a system that would teach universal principles of self-defense that each practitioner could adapt to their own needs. In contrast to combat sports such as wrestling and judo, Imi's system would have no rules that would impair practitioners' ability to defend themselves, as one could not expect any restraints from an attacker in a real violent situation. Imi believed one should "avoid violence if you can, but if there's no choice don't get hurt and strike weak points in the attacker's body".

Striking Weak Points – a system that can work for anyone

In situations of actual violence, a 16 year-old girl can find herself facing three large men. For this reason, Krav Maga advocates striking weak points, parts of the body that cause significant pain when struck and cannot be strengthened through training (i.e. groin, eyes etc.). Krav Maga teaches to neutralize threats and strike back as fast as possible. It is a constantly evolving system, simple and effective, to deal with street violence. Lack of rules encourages practitioners to improvise and adapt the style to their needs.

(It is told that Imi himself used to say that "even a baby's foot is stronger than Joe Lewis' groin.")

Training to handle real violent situations

Striking weak points prepares practitioners for real violent situations, where there are no set rules or a referee to stop things from getting out of hand. Real situations are often unfair: an assailant can be bigger, or a group of assailants can outnumber a defender.

In order to address such situations, Krav Maga adopted many techniques from other martial arts when these techniques fit in with Krav Maga's principle of practicality. Maneuvers and techniques were adapted from Judo, boxing, wrestling, aikido, muay Thai and includes original technique developed by Imi and his instructors.

Aside from the full contact sparring characteristic of many martial arts, Krav Maga practitioners learn self defense techniques against a variety of violent situations such as chokes, bear hugs, shirt and wrist grabs, knife attacks, stick attacks, handgun threats as well as dealing with multiple attackers, both armed and unarmed.

Don't get hurt

Despite the nature and intensity of training, Imi believed that the most important thing about practicing any sport was not to get hurt. Krav Maga instructors today follow this principle devoutly: practitioners are required to wear boxing gloves and protective gear prior to sparring and serious injuries are exceedingly rare. When pairing for sparring, instructors take care to match practitioners in terms of size and experience, and experienced practitioners know how to slow down their pace and adjust to newer students. In childrens' groups, full contact sparring takes place when the children are at appropriate age and rank and understand how to train without getting injured or injuring others.

Ranks and tests

Imi Lichtenfeld introduced the colored belt rank system common in Japanese martial arts to Krav Maga in the 1970s. New practitioners begin at a white belt and learn self defense techniques and combatives in preparation for their yellow belt test. Yellow belt is followed by orange, green, blue, brown and black, also called 1st dan. Each additional rank is called a dan (2nd dan, 3rd dan etc.) and they are indicated as additional stripes on a black belt. A test is required for every belt up to 5th dan, inclusive. Further ranks (6th dan to 10th dan) are awarded for contribution to Krav Maga as a system and for training many students over long periods of time.

Testing for each rank takes place at the instructor's discretion and after minimal time periods between ranks. To earn each belt, a student must demonstrate the new techniques learned for the new rank as well as all the major techniques of previous ranks. Each test also contains a sparring component, where a practitioner is expected to demonstrate proficiency and aggressiveness appropriate to their new rank. Tests for higher ranks include sparring against armed and/or several opponents.

Until blue belt, a practitioner is tested and awarded their new rank by their instructor. In order to maintain a high standard of professionalism, tests for brown belt and higher are conducted by members of the Professional  Committee, all of whom rank 2nd dan and up.

Values, physical fitness and self confidence

The values Imi instilled in his students are the complete opposite of the lack of rules that defines his system. Imi taught tolerance, respect for others and humility, the values that still dominate Krav Maga training today. Practitioners learn from day one that the knowledge that they acquire is meant to serve them for self-defense only and that they must never initiate violence to threaten others or to solve a conflict. The abilities students develop during training together with the discipline required during training instills in them self-confidence, self-control and the ability to act under pressure.

Anyone at any level of fitness can start learning Krav Maga, however training itself develops the practitioners physical fitness over time. Training emphasizes cardiovascular endurance, explosive force, muscle conditioning, flexibility and coordination. High-ranking students are considered athletes for all practical purposes.