What is the difference between a self defense oriented situation and a sports fighting situation? This is something that can be difficult to explain despite its simplicity as people often have a hard time mentally differentiating the two if they have never really been in either situations. The easiest way for me to describe the difference is that if an altercation lasts more than 30 seconds then it is no longer a self defense situation but now a fight. The difference between a fight and sports fighting is the rounds, the referee, and the gear.

A Real Self Defense Situation with an excellent response

Here is an excellent example of a self defense situation. Once she realized that the man was going to get aggressive with her after attempting to steal her cellphone she does what she needs to do and leaves. Was her technique perfect? No. Was it effective? Yes. At the end of the day for self defense that is what matters. This is why self defense and Krav Maga videos that are too polished technique-wise do not give a realistic idea of the realities of self defense. This is also why though having good aerobic and anaerobic cardio is helpful, in self defense, it is not vital. What is more important is your mental drive and aggressive response that gets you home at the end of the day.

I will be honest, if you asked me to go do five 5 minute rounds I will say that I would probably be puking by the end of the second round. Why? Simple, aside from the fact I am not a natural athlete, I started with Krav Maga. This means that my style is about coming in hard, coming in fast, and coming in effectively. When you take away my ability to go for vital areas of the body my skill decreases dramatically. I have been in numerous sparring situations in which the other person’s cardio is better, their speed is better, and they are simply kicking my ass. What happens, quite unintentionally, is that my reflexes kick in and my sparring partner is the one on the ground because I kicked them in the groin or poked them in the eye. I suppose this is why I do not really consider myself a fighter but rather a self defense practitioner.

You might ask yourself why then do we have our students spar. This is because if you can function at full speed in a sports situation, and you build your cardio and skills for this scenario, then so long as you remember your self defense application you are more likely to survive on the street. The second reason comes from Krav Maga’s lineage. In the Israeli Defense Forces, where Krav Maga was originally developed, the Hebrew word for combat soldiers is “Kraveem”. This literally translates to “warriors”. This is a fundamental concept of Krav Maga, that you have a warrior mentality. Meaning, you will do whatever it takes to survive or in more colloquial terms, how much heart do you have.. As such we like to build up our students not only as self defense practitioners but as fighters as well in order to give them a more well-rounded skill set.

Because both Krav Maga self defense training and sports style training are often heavily integrated I sometimes find it hard to explain the difference between one or the other to a new student. Usually they only start to understand after many months of training. Even after years of training however, one must never forget the difference between a self defense scenario and a fight whether for sports or not.

Written By: Jonathan Fader