is krav maga effective?

October 13, 2021

The king is dead, long live the king.

Throughout history people saw the need for change, they would look at the old establishment and say this is no good, we need to tear it down and build something new, and so they did. But soon what they built was the same, or even worse, than what had existed before. People resisted the traditional "Our Crowd", an exclusive group that kept out others, so they created a new society, but soon enough that too was "Our Crowd", and nothing changes. 

Violent passionate revolutions took place, kings and queens were hung or put to the guillotine, but then a new dictatorships arose. The examples throughout history are too numerous and too obvious to begin to recount them now. Change takes a long time. 

In politics it is the same; the group that sits in the Opposition is full of criticism for the ruling party. However when they come to power they become as complacent and as status que as the previous administration, exceptions are rare. (The Trump administration in the USA was one of those truly rare transformations, but sadly it is not last). 

Down with the king, long live the king. 

Growing up, my mother always said, if you don't like the way someone else is doing it, and you think you can do better, than do it!

The message here was; don't sit and criticize others, do it better now! and this became part of my personality. I would join an organization and soon be one of the leaders. If there was no newsletter, I would create one. Do, don't criticize; improve!

And this explains my approach to Krav Maga. 

I did not begin with Krav Maga, I began with many other martial arts. I made a point of studying and reviewing many martial arts. But I did not just "dabble". I devoted 18 years to training several times per week with my instructor in Israel, Itay Gil, and supplemented that with training around the world. However I only made my study of other martial arts after I had a solid grounding in Karate, Kickboxing, Judo etc. As such my Krav Maga has the depth of many martial arts, from the very traditional to the more "Street wise". 

I first encountered "traditional Israeli Krav Maga" at a seminar in the USA. I was confused by the techniques that I saw because they were not the same as we had learned in Israel. I learned the techniques well, I took photographs, and then I came home and presented them to Itay. He was familiar with these techniques, and had rejected them. We went through them one by one, and he explained and demonstarted the inherit faults in the system. For the most part they were actually very similar to the systems that they cricitzied, they were overly complicated, they depended upon too much skill, they required too much precision and they demanded that the practitioner be fit, strong and very aggressive. None of this added up to a realistic street defense for the average human being. 

We dropped it. 

So to the question; is Krav Maga effective, my honest answer is No, it is not. 

So why am I teaching Krav Maga?

In Israel the term Krav Maga can be applied to almost any form of martial art or self-defense. I know a Judo instructor who to increase his business decided to add Krav Maga. He put in a few clumsy gun and knife defenses, and voila, he was advertising Krav Maga. No course, no new training, no new certification was required by Israeli law. Many of the "Krav Maga" instructors I see around the world are actually teaching Jujitsu, perhaps it is Jew-Jitsu, but it is all the same stuff. 

I find this unacceptable. 

I worked for the ministry of education in Israel, as a Krav Maga instructor, and as a contributor to the High School Krav Maga program. I am certified on the highest levels. However, our style, IKI Krav Maga, is not your standard Krav Maga. That is why I prefer that our schools use this term. Just as Gracie Jujitsu is different from standard jujitsu and they have every right to expect their students to respect this. 

What is the basic difference between our style and standard Krav Maga?

Before I reply to this questions, which I am asked often, I want to offer a disclaimer of sorts. I know many Krav Maga instructors in other systems. Many of them are very find individuals. They are sincere in their desire to help others, they are sincere in their desire to protect others, but I feel that they have fallen into the same blind acceptance that I once suffered from. If I may I will use an analogy. 

I am no longer a young man. At a certain point I found it difficult to see the print on the page. Visiting friends in New York I was asked if I was interested in watching a certain movie. I held up the video box, stretched my arm as far as I could and tried my best to read what was written. My dear friend Amy said, "Would you like me to hold it for you in the next room?"". "Moshe, what you need is either a longer arm or a pair of reading glasses."

I became a convert to reading glasses and tried to spread the good word to others. I had seen the light, I could know see the print clearly. but other friends and family of my age remained resistant, I guess it is as admitting that we have aged and our  youth is behind us. So I encouraged others to try a pair of reading glasses and see the difference for themselves. I was once one of you, but I have seen the light, now I sing a different song. The same is true with Krav Maga. I did not like what I saw, so I worked hard and created something different, and I believe, something much better. 

I see five major differences that separate our style from others:

1. Technique - the Krav Maga styles I have seen have techniques that defy our rule, which is, every technique must be easy to learn, easy to apply in diverse situations, and easy to remember. What I see are techniques that take a long time to learn, that have two many steps, that require strength to make them work, that require precision action. All this amounts to a system that will not work under realistic stressful situations. 

2. Technique - I see techniques. i.e. you need to learn each technique as a response to a specific situation.  There is a technique for a wrist grab, there is a technique for an opposite hand wrist grab, there is a technique for a front choke, for a back choke etc. Who has the time for all this? Who has the memory capacity for all this?

We have a different approach. We learn body concepts, and we use those and apply them to all our situations. We have one thread that runs through all our techniques. To fully understand this you will of course have to train with us, or at least watch a few videos. We have simplified the method to something people can actually learn and retain. 

3. Body Movement - Most style of martial arts rely upon the hands for knife and gun threats or attacks. The idea is to train your hands to respond quickly, grab the gun, or grab the knife, move faster than your opponent. We find this totally unrealistic and do not rely upon Rapid Hand Movement. We rely upon the Gross Motor Body Movements, these are simpler and more powerful. Again, you will have to try us out to understand what is involved. 

4. Aggression - We too believe that in self-defense we must become aggressive, we teach this, however our techniques do not depend upon this. I shall explain. Of course we teach our elbow strikes, knee kicks, front kick, etc. I have seen other schools. The instructors become monster-like. Filled with aggression and anger they teach their classes. The techniques depend upon aggression. Without the element of aggression they will not succeed. But what if you are not so aggressive? Well perhaps you have no place in a Krav Maga class, perhaps this is not for you. But we believe that Krav Maga is for everyone. 

This is a complex situation and involves the psychology of self defense, another topic for another blog, becoming aggressive in training is not the solution to overcoming the paralyzing effects of fear in a real life violent encounter. 

We are not trying to change you, we are not trying to transform you into a Lean Mean Fighting machine. When I see the videos of these aggressive Krav Maga training sessions I have to wonder what they are thinking. They seem to forget teaching how to do a technique correctly, the emphasis is all on aggression. Technique and proper form is often lost. Aggression seems to become the goal.  The training is all about aggression, about being Top Dog, not about actually defending yourself and getting out of the situation as soon as possible.

5. Mental Imaging - From a study of numerous real life violent encounters, and interviewing those involved, it is clear to me that perhaps them most important, and most neglected, aspect of self defense training is mental imaging. This goes far beyond mere Situational Awareness, (that many preach but few understand). It involves seeing the situation before it emerges, running through it in your head so that it becomes real, so that when it happens it is "Been there, done that, my brain knows how to respond". 

We go beyond the physical. The physical will attract students. Seeing everyone in their cool Krav outfits, with their perfect bodies, will draw in customers, but the physical will not be enough to save your life. As in war, the bravery of soldiers, their heroism, is praiseworthy but it will not overcome strategic blunders of commanders. Success lies in the intelligent conduct of war. 

Our Krav Maga training is our Survival training. The goal is the bottom line, to get you home safely, the details of our success are less important. Later on you can make a "tall tale" out of it and tell everyone how you "Bruce Leed" everyone. 

We teach solid concepts that can be applied by anyone for self defense. Our training does not depend upon your physical abilities, strength, or natural talent. We keep it simple and intelligent. Your survival is our only goal. 

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