Every once in a while I see some “Krav Maga practitioners” post videos about Kung Fu, Systema or MMA, and then mock these systems about how they do not work on the street or their drills are ridiculous. The worst is when someone is trying to tell their experience of encountering real life dangers and how their experience shows these other systems do not work. These kinds of actions are both alarming and sad. It is alarming because these so called Krav Maga practitioners are investing too much of their ego in the system in which they train. In this case Krav Maga. There should be no room for ego in fighting. It is sad because they forget the essence of Krav Maga – always learn from others.
First of all, never judge other systems by merely watching videos. The videos do not show the full picture – Youtube is a double edged sword. It shows the surface information but it does not show the detailed technique, the fine touches, the pressures and psychological states of the users. Those are the key points and true essence of a system. Judging others with so little information is not a sign of intelligence or a sound tactical choice.
Here is my story. I had always been skeptical on the practical usage of a soft style martial art like Tai Chi until I met an MMA sparring partner of mine in Taiwan. Mr. Wong is both a Wing Chung and Tai Chi master. We trained together in a local MMA dojo called Evolution Combat Club. Many of the toughest MMA fighters came from this gym. Mr. Wong had competed in three pro-MMA fights when we met each other. Although I had a lack of striking skills back then, coming from a Judo background, I was confident in my grappling ability. I handled myself well against other students at the club until Mr. Wong and I sparred. Every single time we got into the clinch position I would end up on the ground without knowing what happened. The next thing I would get was a nice ground and pound MMA beat down. I was truly puzzled because I had dealt with Sambo, Judo and Wrestling fighters and there was no way in hell someone could take me down without even knowing what had happened. Mr. Wong explained to me that he was using Tai Chi techniques. This was my experience with Chinese Kung Fu and no video research in the world could tell me how Tai Chi works.
Secondly, we have to consider the historical and cultural reference of the system when we encounter it. Videos that spark the most controversy are mostly related to knife defense techniques. On and on I have heard people mock other style’s knife defense techniques. We have to put these systems in historical context. Many of these systems come from a period of time when battles were waged with long and deadly swords and knives. I do not think a small knife would cause much panic in people back in those times. In addition, some of these techniques were based upon sword or knife dueling, not against a knife attack, and we see how some of these old systems influence Krav Maga. Mocking the older systems is like mocking one’s own heritage. (1)
Culturally, it is vital to understand that unlike North America, most cultures and countries retain their bladed culture of the past and knife fighting on the street is not that uncommon, even today. In fact, in the famed documentary Escrimadors , it says that the reason Escrima was not as popular and well spread as it should be, until recently, is because most Escrima masters killed each other in duels in the 70s. (2)
In today’s battles, famed Gurkha soldiers still carry their kukri into battle and used it on many occasions; sometimes, even use it to behead their enemies. (3) Now when we put both history and culture into context we might understand why certain systems do the defense the way they do. In that period of time or that region, edged weapon attacks were more common and more socially acceptable than in North America. People’s reactions are certainly different from those of North Americans. I often tell my students that Krav Maga is a system born out of a post-bladed culture and that it is fantastic for dealing with strong and brutal attacks, but not so much against complex knife attacks. Personally, no Krav Maga instructor has shown me a way of dealing against long edged weapons with which I would trust my life. In fact, only one advice was ever given about dealing against long edged weapons.
In some places dueling with knife is still part of culture
Finally, Israeli mentality – we can solve all problems. Jonathan Fader is another lead instructor and ex-IDF soldier from UTKM and we had a discussion on why some Krav Maga instructors constantly produce new ways to solve far-fetched scenarios. We think it is because the pressure of living up to the reputation of being the most innovative nation on Earth makes them believe they can solve any problem. While I was with certain organizations in the past, we were told that as an instructor we should always have an answer for students. Why do we need to have an answer for every situation and problem? The last time I checked, being a Krav Maga instructor does not equate to me being a prophet. For those who have competed in the past, we often find that a fight does not goes step 1 and step 2 but is fluid and dynamic, as a fight has a life of its own and you can rarely predict its outcome. Sometimes you end up in a position you never thought was possible. I often tell my students, here are the Krav Maga principles and techniques and the movement now is to FIGHT. Your body will tell you what needs to be done as time progresses.
In conclusion, we should always learn from others. For those who know the meaning of the original Krav Maga logo (designed by Imi) there is a round circle. It is meant to incorporate new techniques, information, research, etc. For those who are not familiar with Krav Maga history, Krav Maga is a hybrid system that takes the best parts of other systems and incorporates them. Imi himself was an accomplished boxer, wrestler, and gymnast and had trained in many other martial arts and probably British Army hand to hand combat methods. Whenever we watch a video on anything, we do not have the full perspective of the full picture. Perhaps the techniques or training methods do not look practical, however, it does not mean that they will not work once it is put into real life. Who are we to be the judge of a system based on a 2 minute video clip?
At the same time, I will occasionally see other systems mocking people who practice Krav Maga and ridicule how Krav Maga does not work, etc. In essence, that does not bother me. “ Deeds not words “ I often tell students with a background in other martial arts or systems. In sparring, do whatever you want to do (within the limits of safety), use what you have learned in the past or use Krav Maga techniques – you are the only one who can say what works for you and what does not work for you. After all, my job is to arrange others to beat the snot out of you so you can find out as how I learned it in the past. Now that’s Krav Maga!
Written by : Borhan Jiang
Edited by: Warren C, Josh Hensman