The Battle for Krav Maga Supremacy: An open letter to the Krav Maga Community

Posted: December 23, 2013 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Philosophy
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this is krav maga

”My system is better than his system! No, mine is the best! He does not know what he is talking about. I wouldn’t be caught dead teaching it like that” Don’t even get me started on (Insert system or instructor).

Does any of this sound familiar? I think so.

It doesn’t matter where I have learned krav maga, I hear the same things from every different branch of krav maga that I have trained with.

While yes, there are certain well known krav maga fraudsters out there and countless numbers of belt factories that are more akin to cardio kick boxing than krav maga, the majority of the major krav maga organizations all have something good to offer.

When I say major,I am talking about the larger more established organizations: ISFKM, IKI, IKMA, IKMF, KMG, KMF, KMWW, KMA. Some which I have trained with, some which I have not.

But first let’s backtrack a little. Often, Bruce Lee is credited with being the father of mixed martial arts. I hate to tell you, but a Mr. Imi Lichtenfield pre -dated him by 20-30 years. Imi recognized that there were serious flaws in any one system and used his background in boxing and wrestling to begin formulating krav maga. When he started however, and probably for the first 20 years of development it wasn’t even called krav maga, it was just what the army used for close combat. It wasn’t until after he left the army and started the civilian branch IKMA that it really became known as krav maga.

Why are there so many discrepancies in the krav maga community? I suspect in order to understand this, you will need to understand Israeli politics. Currently there are 12 political parties with seats in the Israeli parliament as well as at least another 15 parties without seats.

Have you ever heard the one that says ”If you have 2 Jews there will be 4 opinions.” Maybe now you have some idea why there is so much infighting amongst the legitimate krav maga organizations.

So let’s think about this for a second. No ONE system has all the answers nor is it perfect, that is why krav maga is meant to be an evolving system rather than something rigid with preformed Katas that never changed.

Let’s take this one step further. What is krav maga? While literally, it means close combat, what it really means is self defense. This means that you will do whatever it takes to survive so that you can go home safely to your friends and family.

With that said, How many of you have actually seen Israeli special forces and regular forces train krav maga?

Not only have I seen it, but I have personally spent time at an Israeli Counter Terrorist base. The fact is that the majority of their training focuses on physical and mental toughness. Krav maga is not meant to be a technique based system. It is meant to develop people’s mental and physical capabilities so that they can fight and survive any situation that is thrown at them.

Techniques help an individual survive as they offer tools to solve specific problems. However, if a person goes to a “self defense” seminar or even a Krav Maga class and learns some techniques, Does this mean they will be at defending themselves?

The answer: Maybe, maybe not. I couldn’t tell you without assessing the individual’s capabilities.

Techniques do not win a fight but speed, aggression and will to act do.In the end it’s all about balance.

A krav maga organization or school that focuses only on techniques is not doing it’s students justice as there students most likely will not have the physical and mental strength to apply the techniques.

Of course, the other end of the spectrum is no good either. A school that only focuses on aggression without explaining a strategy and proper applications of technique will also leave its students doomed to fail.

It also does not help students when certain legitimate krav maga organizations routinely produce instructors after only a few months of learning krav maga. I can’t think of any other system where a person can teach after only a few months.

I suspect this belt/instructor factory model that many of the organizations have chosen is why many schools such as we are at Urban Tactics have chosen to be independent as we wish to maintain our standards without being questioned by a bloated bureaucracy that has lost its way.

There is a rule called the 10000 hour rule that was thought up by Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers. That is, to achieve true mastery of anything one must commit that many hours to learning the specific topic or skill.

Think about it, 10000 hours is a lot. That’s approximately 5.2 years of 12 months a year of 40 hours a week. How many of you actually work that much? Not many, I’d guess. So if you are practicing something 2-3 times a week for 3 or 4 months how can you possibly understand everything to be capable of teaching.

So what does this all mean? Most of the major krav maga organizations all have a solution to a problem yet they all say theirs is more effective than the other. In the end of the day, if the technique works in a real life application and the individuals survived to go home then it works regardless of your opinion.

This does not of course include the fraudsters out there who clearly are teaching things that not only are not krav maga but can easily be proven not to work.

So does it matter which major organization you side with? Perhaps, perhaps not. Each one of them has numerous stories of students who successfully applied their knowledge to defend themselves on the street. So is it the system or organization that matters, I think, not as much as each thinks it is.

While they all have something good to offer, I still think some are better than others. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which ones they are. What I think matters more, is not so much the organization but the instructor and the specific school.

If your instructor did three months of krav maga and then got his instructor’s certification and has no police or military experience, chances are they really do not understand what they are teaching. However, if your instructor has a wealth of knowledge in martial arts but no military experience and understands self defense then they may be a good instructor or may not be. Same goes for someone who has military experience but limited martial arts background they may or may not be a good instructor. I would say for any 10 instructors in any discipline maybe only 1 or 2 of them are truly great. I wish this was more but it seems to just be the way it is.

It is far better to find a truly great instructor no matter what the system than to go with an organization that is well established and be taught by a mediocre or poor instructor.

In krav maga at least, a good instructor should know that krav maga is more than just how to disarm a gun or a knife or how to throw a punch. They should know that krav maga is a mentality and way of thinking that is oriented to survival.

I forgot who originally said it but it’s a great quote. “You win 100% of fights you are not in.”

So at the end of the day, do the specific techniques matter as much as having the right kind of mentality? I don’t think so.

Agree or disagree it’s up to you. But I personally am tired of all the infighting. Our goal as krav maga instructors should be to insure that all of our students make it home safely at the end of the day.

By: Jonathan Fader

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Comments
  1. Gus Bottazzi says:

    Great article and summation of the politics in Krav Maga. As I like to joke, “How many kravists does it take to change a lightbulb?”

    Answer: “One, but every other kravist in the room will tell him his technique will get him killed!”

    Peace