Krav Maga for Self-Defense: Is It Good?

Krav Maga for Self-Defense: Is It Good?

Today, we are going to talk about Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defence technique that is growing more popular in recent years. Krav Maga is a very specific technique that is somewhere in between a self-defence technique and a combat sport. It is a modern discipline and it developed as a blend of several Oriental martial arts, with a distinctly Israeli touch. Because of its growing popularity, we’ve decided to analyse it for you and present to you everything you need to know about Krav Maga and how good it is for self-defense.

There is no combat sport or martial art that has a more complete approach to self-defense than Krav Maga. Krav Maga started off and developed as a self-defense technique and its whole concept is based on practical defense. It teaches you everything, it teaches you how to adapt, but also how to be quick and effective.

Below, we will walk you through everything you need to know about Krav Maga and how applicable it is to self-defense. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Krav Maga?

The term “Krav Maga” (Hebrew: קְרַב מַגָּע) literally means “contact combat”, so you cannot give points to the Israeli for originality there, but – the story of how it all began is both terrifying and commendable at the same time. Krav Maga was founded by Imre Lichtenfeld, a Hungarian-born Jew who grew up in Bratislava.

He was a sports enthusiast, but during his youth, he spent most of his time practicing combat sports, even becoming a local wrestling champion. When anti-Semitic riots began in Bratislava during the 1930s, Lichtenfeld joined a group of street fighters organised to protect their Jewish friends from the rioting idiots. 

Although successful, Lichtenfeld soon realised that street fighting was very much different than competitive fighting, which inspired him to create a specific style that would be better in street fights than in competitive fighting.

While developing his ideas, Lichtenfeld managed to escape Europe in 1940, finally arriving in Mandatory Palestine, the predecessor of the modern state of Israel. There, he joined a paramilitary organisation and started teaching his self-defence techniques to soldiers and fighters. 

In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded, Lichtenfeld became the official instructor of the newly-founded Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Although he had already developed a basic system, Lichtenfeld continued to improve and upgrade his techniques during the 20 years he was in charge of instructing Israeli soldiers. He developed Krav Maga, which taught the soldiers both self-defence and hand-to-hand combat. 

Krav Maga, of course, continued to develop and still continues to do so. During the years, more martial arts elements were added (like those from judo or aikido) and today – Krav Maga is the official combat sport of the State of Israel, but is simultaneously taught around the world by officially licenced instructors. 

Is It Worth Learning Krav Maga?

Like most martial arts and combat sports, Krav Maga encourages students to avoid actual fighting. If, on the other hand, you cannot do that – either because it’s impossible or unsafe for you – Krav Maga will teach you how to finish it as quickly and as aggressively as possible.

Krav Maga’s offensive techniques are focused on your opponent’s most vulnerable body parts (e.g. the groin era and genitals) and are seldom restrictive, i.e. they don’t teach you how to go easy on your opponent. On the contrary, they teach you to be strong and efficient, and there are a lot of moves that can seriously injure or even kill your opponent. 

Students learn to defend against all variety of attacks and are taught to counter in the quickest and most efficient way.

Some of the basic principles of Krav Maga are:

  • Simultaneous attack and defence;
  • Developing physical aggression (not to be confused with emotional aggression or anger), with the view that physical aggression is the most important component in a fight;
  • Continuing to strike the opponent until they are completely incapacitated; 
  • Attacking pre-emptively or counterattacking as soon as possible;
  • Using any objects at hand that could be used to hit an opponent; 
  • Targeting attacks to the body’s most vulnerable points, such as: the eyes, neck or throat, face, solar plexus, groin, ribs, knee, foot, fingers, liver, etc.;
  • Using simple and easily repeatable strikes; 
  • Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, or objects that could be used to strike an opponent;
  • Recognizing the importance of and expanding on instinctive response under stress. 

Training can also cover the study and development of situational awareness in order to ameliorate your understanding of your surroundings (so you can utilise them to your advantage), learning to understand the psychology of a street fight, and identifying potential threats before they actually occur.

It may also cover ways to deal with physical and verbal methods to avoid violence whenever possible. It also teaches mental toughness, using controlled scenarios to strengthen mental fortitude in order for students to control the impulse and not do something rash, but instead attack only when necessary and as a last resort.

Some of the techniques taught are:

  • Strikes – as per karate, and boxing;
  • Take-downs and throws – per judo, aikido and wrestling;
  • Ground work – per judo and wrestling;
  • Escapes from chokes and holds – per judo, aikido, wrestling;
  • Empty-hand weapon defences – per aikido.

Is Krav Maga Better Than MMA?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Krav Maga, let us see how it compares to another combat sports whose popularity is growing in recent years – MMA. 

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport that relies on combining different martial arts into one unique fighting style. It utilises a lot of techniques and is generally considered to be broader than other individual arts or sports. Since we’ve done a series of articles on MMA, if you want to know more, feel free to check out [our texts]. 

So, how does Krav Maga compare to MMA? These two disciplines are, actually, very different, although they might seem similar because of the fact that they both use a variety of different techniques, making them broader than their competition. But that’s practically the only relevant similarity.

Krav Maga is a defensive technique whose main purpose is to teach self-defence. Although it does teach offence, it’s not even close to its focus. Krav Maga will teach you how to react in a situation you cannot get out of. It will teach you how to defend yourself when you cannot just walk away from a conflict. And It will teach you how to utilise your opponent’s body against them. 

MMA, on the other hand, is a combat sport (we’re stressing this because it’s quite difficult to label Krav Maga as a sport; it’s, at best, a martial art, but the most precise term would be – technique) that is focused on combining several martial arts into one fighting style.

Although Krav Maga does combine arts as well, MMA focuses on the fighting aspect of these arts, not the defensive one. MMA will certainly teach you how to fight, it will also teach you how to react in a street fight, but it’s not nearly as efficient a self-defence style as is Krav Maga. 

As you can see, Krav Maga and MMA have very little in common, although they both have a very open approach to martial arts and combat sports. If you’re pondering between the two, the final decision should depend on the following question – do you want to improve your offence or defence? 

Is Krav Maga Good for Self-Defence?

We’ve already discussed the best self-defense disciplines and approached in a previous article, and – more specifically – how MMA does in that field. But, if you’re really interested in self-defence more than anything else, we’ll be brief – there’s no better thing than Krav Maga.

Krav Maga started off and developed as a self-defense technique and its whole concept is based on practical defense. It teaches you everything, it teaches you how to adapt, but also how to be quick and effective. There is no sport or art that offers a more complete approach to self-defense. 

So, if you’re really wondering what to take up for your self-defence – Krav Maga is the best choice you could make. It’s demanding and hard, but it’ll prepare you for what’s out there better than any other discipline. 

That’s it for today. Until next time! 

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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