When I first started Krav Maga I did so because I wanted to get ahead of my training prior to joining the IDF. Little did I know I would barely be trained during my time in the Infantry. Either way, it was clear to me and apparently others I took to it like a fish in water and it was something I really understood. Its simplicity and its purpose where why I loved it in the first place. I am not a natural athlete and I always struggle to keep up physically with some of my more athletic friends so Krav for many reasons seemed like a right fit. Early on I was asked by some people to teach, back then I did not think I had what it took to be a teacher as I was too fresh. Eventually, I caved and started to teach and once again I found that I seemed to understand it better than I thought.
Inevitably in Krav, you start to get exposed to different organizations and the different ways they approach it. You also find that sometimes if an instructor had a background in another martial arts style for years prior to Krav they inevitably tried to incorporate it into there teaching. Some do this masterfully and some do not.
You see, Krav Maga is based on principles, and if you deviate too far from them are you even teaching Krav Maga anymore? It must be remembered, Krav Maga is meant to be simple and easy to learn. It is meant for the street and is meant for as many people as possible that can learn it.
What I noticed was that many Organizations had overcomplicated ranking, overcomplicated their technique lists or just didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I trained with Nir Maman of CT 707 that I realized that Krav Maga should be simple and the curriculum should not be too complicated.
So like many at the time, I simplified my curriculum and went back to the basics. This was the beginning of the UTKM curriculum. My self, other instructors and students really paired down just the basics. For a while, I was very rigid in sticking to teaching things simply and purely in a manner that was self-defense oriented.
Once I worked out the kinks in that aspect I really started to pay attention to how students were progressing. How students were learning and how students of all sizes were managing all the techniques.
A few things I noticed right away is that while you definitely need a core curriculum, there really is not one size fits all. In the end, everyone finds there style best suited for their capabilities. And so long as students stick to the principles I am never too strict if they start to fill in their own gaps.
This also shows that my emphasis on critical thinking really does matter.
However, there were certain areas I noticed my students were struggling in. Primarily developing their fluid striking skills and basic grappling skills. These two areas on their own can take years to master, so the problem was how do I train the students in these without straying too far from the Krav Maga principles.
Grappling can be difficult to incorporate into Krav Maga especially if the instructor has no background in grappling. Grappling is complicated and hard and has so many details it boggles the mind. Not to mention Krav Maga avoidance of the ground means many people dont see the need to learn it. The truth is you do because you never know when you might be overwhelmed and end up on the ground. While our goal on the ground is to get up as fast as possible it is a myth that this can always happen without some kind of real fight or struggle. Thus the better you are at grappling the better you are at getting up when you fall or get knocked down.
So we problem solved this in 2 ways:
- We introduced the fundamentals of grappling early on in our program yellow belt and up. However, it is a simple program talking about things like Base, posture, and structure. The different positions and basic ways to get out of them. We then add in strikes when needed and tell people to fight there way out. Keeping to the Krav Maga tradition we are keeping it simple at UTKM.
- For most this may be enough. But with the rise of grappling globally no matter the style you never know when you might run into someone really capable. Then you really need to know how to move. So how do you get good at grappling? Well, you train with grapplers of course. To get a UTKM black belt, which will take you a long time anyways you also need to get a BJJ blue belt or equivalent. For example, if you did high school wrestling competitively then that’s also fine. We essentially split it so as not to confuse the mentality. In our Krav groundwork it is simple and lots of repetition. Then you can also go train the sports variation separately so you can condition your brain to really know the difference and when to apply separately.
The other issue was the issue of fluid striking. This one is a little easier to solve in Krav Maga. Again, at the yellow belt and up the level we start to explore sports styles of striking and training. We separate it out of the white belt classes so as not to confuse new students. Once they get their heads around Krav Maga, then we introduce other aspects of combat.
I noticed that the students who also did kickboxing or Muay Thai in conjunction to their Krav Training rapidly improved in their striking skills in all aspect. Unfortunately for many people, they do not have the time to train multiple disciplines.
Now when we come to the stand-up modules we will both practice Krav striking combinations, ones that employ Retzef, explosive movements and closing the distance to control. And more traditional sports style combinations with retracting roundhouse kicks, and combinations that have a lot of head movement and footwork.
Since introducing this there has been even more improvement in students striking skills. I have found that the two in conjunction really improve people rapidly. I think this is because being able to do rapid fire Muay Thai style roundhouse kicks improves balance, speed, endurance and power which means their bodies are more capable of throwing more devastating Krav style kicks.
I do, however, always make the extra effort to verbal make the distinction in the type of combo we are training. I also ask the students to verbally explain the difference and when the appropriate application might be for either.
As UTKM grows, our curriculum which is based on principles more than techniques will also heavily be focused around teaching methodology to get the best results.
In Krav Maga is super important to stick to the principles. Otherwise, you are no longer teaching Krav Maga and maybe starting the slippery slide to the path of McDojo. However, if you care about your students progress you also need to keep an open mind and teach enough to develop your students as much as you can. The real trick is not to overcomplicate things.
Finally, if you as the instructor are not also diversifying your training outside of Krav Maga is will be difficult to prepare your students for potential conflicts with individuals in styles you are not familiar with.
So keep on training, always be adaptable and keep an open mind and of course, learn to walk in peace both mentally and physically even if its only day by day.