What the Hell is Krav Maga?
I have watched it on Human Weapon, and on fight Science. I was intrigued. It appears to be very serious… very aggressive. Tailored to be effective against weapons, and to really disable an opponent. Definitely not sport.
But that’s what I have gleaned from TV. It left me unsure what the art was really about. It left me Krav curious, and wondering, “What the hell is Krav Maga really?”
Well, Paul Evans of Paul Evans Martial arts invited my son and I out to a six hour seminar with one of the top Krav Maga teachers in the country. I don’t intend to imply to be an expert. But this writeup is my opinion on Krav Maga after that experience.
Not just unarmed:
One of the first eye opening items during our training was that Krav Maga is not just about defense from weapons. Krav Maga incorporates the usage of weapons as well. In particular is the hand-gun. As we trained there were many times when most arts might refer to the “left hand” or the “right hand” or even “strong hand” or “dominant hand.” But in our training for Krav Maga the hands and feet were referred to as “gun hand side” and “non gun hand.” similarly we would address the “gun side leg” or “non gun side leg.”
Krav Maga has strong punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. Obviously taking many of its elements from a Muay Thai base. But we also spent time drilling on being able to draw and fire quickly and effectively, as well as using our kicks and strikes to gain enough distance to fend off a knife and go for our firearm.
The concept of Self Defense:
One of the other things that really struck me during our training is that it made me drastically rethink the concept of “Self Defense.” This term is so broad, and means so many different things to just as many people. But if you look at most Martial Arts, and what is meant by “self defense” I think you have to look at what is the realistic expectation of most of its practicers as to how and when they will actually be likely to use it.
Be it Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, or even MMA, most of these arts train people with an expectation that they will either use this in a sport setting, or that they will use it if they are bullied, picked on, or need to get into a bit of a scrap in a bar or parking lot. Yes, there are elements of knife or gun defense in most of these arts, but these are secondary. In Krav Maga they are at the forefront.
Based on what we saw, and did with our new friends that day, I would not refer to Krav Maga as “self defense.” I think that we already have to many ideas as to what that means. What we saw struck me much more as “Life Retention”. If you asked most of the people we were training with when they felt they would be likely to use their skills, I would guess that the huge majority would respond with something along the lines of, “When someone is trying to take my life.”
This was pervasive in the training. At one point I have to admit I was talking rather that listening. In most arts I would have been chastised with a “Be respectful and listen,” or something similar. The whispered message here was, “Be quiet. We’re trying to save your life here.”
Training is intense. We used Shock Knifes that would arc and pop like a taser to let you know they meant business, and would give you a good electrical bite if you let your attacker get too close. This is meant to train you to live when someone intends otherwise.
Where it fits:
I think that each martial art has its place. I have written recently on why I chose the art of Judo. There are other reasons to choose other arts. If you want to fight in a cage, Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu may be the best mix there is (although I would add in something with take-down skills.) So where does Krav Maga fit?
In my opinion, Krav Maga is an excellent design of “You are trying to take my life. I intend to very aggressively counter attack you such that I can eliminate your threat and escape or so that I can kill you instead.”
Thank you to Paul, and to our new friends for the great experience.