*This is a re-edited version of a previous article, however it is important to understand that the first stage of Krav Maga/self defense no matter the style is Awareness. Not punching, Not kicking, not aggression. If you cannot see the fight about to come you have failed in some aspect.
Someone: What is Krav Maga?
Me: So back in the mid-to-late 1930s…
Krav Maga has been around for decades, yet it’s still fairly novel to people, especially in North America. People often ask me, “What is Krav Maga?” Unfortunately for them, this usually spurs me into a long winded tale about its complicated history. However, I think there is a way to simplify the answer.
In essence, Krav Maga can be defined as the art of awareness. During one sports psychology class I took in university, our discussion delved into the the importance of awareness in physical performance. For me, the first thing that came to mind was Krav Maga. As most Krav Maga practitioners should know, the man who developed Krav Maga, Imi Lichtenfeld famously said that Krav Maga was created “so one may walk in peace.” On top of that, Nir Maman has also said that “you win 100% of fights you are not in.” To walk in peace is to know how to avoid the fight, and the only way to do this is by being aware. Thus, in order to practice Krav Maga, it’s crucial to first practice awareness.
Wait, what is awareness?
The first thing you should learn from any good Krav Maga school is to develop situational and environmental awareness. If you are only learning a set of moves, or only losing weight, you should probably start looking for a new instructor or school.
Now, it’s important to differentiate situational awareness from paranoia. It is really not the same thing. Paranoia is a state of anxiety or fear that is usually unrealistic and irrational. Situational awareness is a mindset in which an individual is attentive of his or her surroundings.
Jeff Cooper, former firearms instructor for the US Marines, formulated the awareness colour code which illustrates 4 mental states, increasing in danger and stress: white, yellow, orange, and red. Later, condition black was added (not by Jeff Cooper) to signify complete psychological shutdown. Someone who is paranoid generally spends time at the orange level, which easily leads to burnout for most people.On the other hand, someone who is situationally aware is generally at the yellow level, like a sleeping animal who is relaxed yet alert.
Being aware simply means paying attention to what is going on around you. However, in today’s modern world, largely due to the smartphone and other mobile devices, most people spend their time looking down. This means that this generation is losing that spatial and situational awareness that is crucial to human survival. Yes, we are not in the wilderness anymore, but the world is getting very violent once again. Situational awareness could literally be the difference between life and death. If your Krav Maga training has made you aware of what’s going on around you, then it is doing its job.
I’d like to think that at Urban Tactics Krav Maga, we have put together a good program to get situational awareness drilled into our students’ psyches. I mean, I regularly have students telling me that they are now paying attention to things they never used to notice. As an instructor, I’m contented to know that my students are truly learning to be aware so that they may walk in peace.
So now, when someone asks me what is Krav Maga, I can give a simpler answer. Ultimately, Krav Maga is awareness. Although, I will most likely still end up giving a long Krav Maga history lesson, since it’s my passion, I think it’s a good place to start.
Written by: Jonathan Fader
Edited by: Zerlinda Chau