“Think street, train sport”

This is a famous quotation from UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Like many fighters, McGreor was bullied as a kid and started training martial arts to fend off his bullies. Since we opened our BJJ program last October, we have been asking students to participate in sports fights like Conor McGregor. In addition, last month we launched UTKM Fight Camp, a prep course for anyone competing in kickboxing, MMA, BJJ, and other tournaments under our school.

Surprisingly, some of our most loyal and dedicated Krav Maga students were resistant to competition. Since full contact sparring is familiar to most students, and those at higher levels even practice throws and takedowns regularly, and many others cross train in other disciplines like kickboxing or MMA, we thought that sports fighting would be a compelling opportunity for them.

After asking the students why they hesitate, I found their reasons to be flawed and unsound. Thus, I am here to debunk some myths about Krav Maga and sports fighting. Here are three reasons why it is beneficial as a Krav Maga student to compete in tournaments.

1. Sport training can enhance your foundation skills

Sports fighting is different from Krav Maga because there are rules. Students often think that training in sports fighting would dilute their Krav Maga skills by limiting the moves they are allowed to use. However, it can actually help with mastering the fundamentals of Krav Maga. Since, sports martial arts focus on specific attacks, such as kicks in taekwondo or punches in boxing, you are forced to practice the basics over and over again. For hours, you would work solely on footwork, or a punch combo, or another single move.

Mastering simple movements is the foundation of a good fighter.

Like Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” If you have a solid grasp on how to apply the basics, you will enhance your overall Krav Maga skills.

2. Training for sports fights can make you better at real fights

Students often think that since Krav Maga is meant to prepare them for real fights, there is no reason to participate in sports fights. In the military, we often conduct field training exercises (FTX). These activities range from live fire courses to expensive army laser tag “games.” We put a lot of effort into making these simulations as realistic as possible. It is the only way to train soldiers to react and to handle stress calmly before sending them to a real battlefield.

Fighting in sports tournaments is akin to a military FTX.

You will have the chance to go all out and fight full force with an opponent who you have never met (like in real life). You will experience pain and may even get slightly injured. You will be able to go through the emotions of joy, anger, fear, sadness, stress that may arise before, during, and after the fight. You will feel real pressure. You may possibly experience a post-fight adrenaline dump.

The most important and best part of these experiences is that you are safe. The referee will stop the fight when needed, and first aid attendants are always ready to assist if needed.

3. Taking time to train for a competition can improve your Krav Maga

The benefit of sports martial arts is that they focus on an aspect of fighting — for example, Brazilian jiu-jitsu on grappling, boxing on punching, and judo on throwing. Students think that it would take time away from Krav Maga training. However, when you train for a tournament, it gives you the opportunity to take a break from Krav Maga and pay particular attention to specific aspects of fighting.

If you are weak in some areas, sports fight training will reveal it and improve it.

Ultimately, Krav Maga is not a martial art, but a tactical self-defense system made up of the best from every fighting style, and a little Israeli flair. So why not take the time to work on a specific building block (boxing, grappling, kicking, throwing), and test your ability to fight under real pressure? In the end, it only enhances your overall performance!

“Someone with only a year of training in boxing and wrestling could easily defeat a martial artist of twenty years experience.”

Ah, more wise words from Bruce Lee. Let’s leave you with some wise words from UTKM:

Someone with only one year of training in Krav Maga and experience in a single sports fight could overcome any attacker in a real self-defense situation.