Krav Maga is the self-defence system used by the Israeli Defence Force. Therefore, it is not a sport, a martial art or a fitness class. Krav Maga was created by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1940s for army purposes. He later adapted the system for civilian populations.
There is a grading system that works like most martial arts: with a belt system that reflects the practitioner’s level. This is mainly to determine which techniques are taught to which people. More advanced practitioners, for example, learn third-party protection (i.e. how to defend others).
Training topics include holds (e.g. chokes – including head locks, wrist grabs, shirt grabs, bear hugs, takedowns, etc.), weapons (knife attacks, knife threats, stick attacks, gun threats), ground (chokes from different positions, grappling, kick defence) and combatives (strikes, kicks, sparring). All these techniques are designed to prepare the practitioner for the worst case scenario with the expectation of never having to use them. De-escalation of violent situations is always the preferred option.
There is a fair bit of conditioning included in training sessions (e.g. push ups, sit ups, squats, burpees, etc.) for two main reasons: 1) if you do have to fight, it helps to be fit, 2) you should be able to react to an attack even if you’re fatigued. Also, techniques are repeated over and over again with the purpose of making them second nature.
I suggest you read the following article: Why Krav Maga is different from martial arts and/or check out the video below for a brief glimpse of how we train.
My Krav Maga story
I have always had an interest for martial arts/combat sports. I was too self-conscious when I was a kid so I started late – at age 27 with taekwondo. I trained for approximately 3 years and eventually stopped for a number of reasons. Then I trained for a while with my husband’s kung fu teacher until we moved to Australia.
I heard about Krav Maga in 2015 from a Polish friend who was living Sydney at the time. I Googled the gym he recommended – Krav Maga Defence Institute (KMDI) and emailed to find out more information. I got a reply from Jarrod, one of the senior instructors, but I did not take action then.
One year later, Alvaro decided to do an induction class at KMDI Surry Hills and joined straight away. He then invited me to a couple of weeks of free classes. I did some She Fights Back sessions (designed for women) and some generic classes. I found training challenging due to the conditioning component, but overall enjoyed the experience and found the environment very welcoming and friendly.
I had to negotiate with the part of me who wanted to lift exclusively (see my previous post) and the part of me who didn’t want to spend extra money in training. Alvaro quickly fixed that last issue by asking “what else are we going to spend our money in?”
Regarding my weightlifting/Krav Maga ambivalence, I initially solved it by convincing myself that Krav served as conditioning for my lifting. However, the more I got into training, the more I understood this was not conditioning. This was not just cardio and striking. It finally hit me in my first grading when Ron Engelman, KMDI’s chief instructor told us: up to your first grading you learn how to defend yourself, after that you learn how to protect others.
Why I like Krav Maga
The philosophy of learning how to defend oneself in order to protect others aligns perfectly with my motivation as a Buddhist.
Krav Maga also forces me to step out of my comfort zone, in part because I’m never confident of my level of fitness/skill and in part because, as an introvert, I find it hard to partner up with someone – even if I know them. I face up the challenge every time remembering one of my favourite quotes from my lama: “real development occurs outside one’s comfort zone”.
Last but not least, Krav Maga, like weightlifting, forces me to be 100% in the moment and take my mind away from everything else.
Benefits of Krav Maga
Side effects of practising Krav Maga include increased fitness, strength, energy levels and confidence. On top of that, you’ll make friends with an awesome bunch of like-minded people.
You will learn how to be more aware of your surroundings, assess a potentially dangerous situation and defend yourself and others if needed.
Should you do Krav Maga?
You know what I’m going to say: it depends! I’d suggest you book an induction class and see how you feel about it. For that and more information, please head to KMDI’s website or visit a nearby training centre.