A little while ago on the Joe Rogan Podcast, he did a wonderful thing. He further legitimized Krav Maga. He also brought up a great point. That Krav Maga will vary from place to place depending on the background of the instructor. Some focusing on kickboxing or boxing more. Some on wrestling or general grappling more. This is a good thing and this is a bad thing.
It means that yes, Krav Maga is Legitimate, but it really depends on whos teaching because it really can vary from place to place and organization to organization. There are many different philosophies, both in teaching and curriculum in the Krav Maga world. To the uninitiated, it is all the same but in many ways, it is not. This has lead to confusion for the average person as they have often decided what Krav Maga is before even attending a school or looking for one that suits them.
Sometimes, potential students come in and have come in with these pre-determined ideas. Some come in looking to get a good sweat in thinking it will be all action and no talk. Others come in thinking it’s going to be the most intense thing they have ever done, every time. Some come in expecting general self-defense and find it is to many contacts and too hard. It’s not entirely their fault as it can be difficult to do accurately research it online, and often many in the industry put a massive bias on what they think it should be. What we would put on them, is the idea that they have come in with expectations, or rather their cup is full. Thus preventing them from gaining the skills or knowledge they thought they saught out.
What is Krav Maga?
So what is Krav Maga to us? First and for most, Krav Maga is the Israeli approach to Self defense that when done correctly has proven its self to be very effective for the street.
No matter there are a few things that definitively makes Krav Maga:
- It should be simple and easy to learn (It will still take a lifetime to master)
- It should teach you above all else to be situationally aware and use critical thinking first for all self-defense scenarios (Without this, techniques and aggression may be useless if you don’t know how to use it.)
- It should use Aggression when techniques fail (Which they will)
- It should choose the most effective techniques for the majority of people the majority of the time (There is no one size fits all but majority is good enough)
- Techniques and strategies should change or be abandon as things change and are shown to be ineffective)
- It should not be a fitness class but should push you mentally and physically at least part of the time.
- It should focus on avoiding the ground, but teach you how to deal with it should you require it.
These are just some basic core ideas (for more see our Self Defense and Krav Maga Principles here) but are ones that are very universal in the Krav Maga world.
Types of Schools
There are many types of schools out there and no matter what our opinion of them you should find one that suits your needs and wants because something is better than nothing. Just remember, you may not be getting the best version or the most complete version of Krav Maga.
- Military oriented – Often this is what people think of when they think of Krav Maga because this is often what is all over youtube. Hardcore, BOOT CAMP style works out just like in the military. Yes, Krav started in the Military and is used by the military but here’s the thing. Military application is different than civilians. For one, their primary weapon is often firearms and hand to hand combat is their last resort. For civilians, it is their first. These schools are awesome at building mental and physical toughness and grit which is a component of Krav Maga. But they often fail to develop good technique as they rely far too much on aggression. They are also often run by individuals who fail to understand that in the military you are working with physically capable individuals, while the average civilian may need to build their way up. While crazy often beats big, in the modern world there are cameras, courts, and judges in the eyes of the public. Good clean technique will be the difference between obvious self-defense and an assault charge.
- Martial Arts oriented – These schools are started by individuals who have often spent years in a particular martial arts style. They then learn Krav Maga sometimes extensively and sometimes just a little. While traditional martial artists can do a phenomenal job running a Krav School often run them to much like a traditional style and fail to understand the fundamentals of Krav Maga. They may have a great technique in their students but often fail to develop their aggression and ability to function under duress. Krav Maga traditionally is not a martial art it is a self-defense system. Don’t get me wrong there are many great aspects of traditional martial arts that do well in Krav maga such as respect, discipline, Drilling and body conditioning. But there is often a lack of full-contact sparring or pressure drills which makes these no different than a regular martial arts school that fails to understand the difference between dojo and street. They also struggle to understand police or military application unless they are also in those fields.
- Fitness Oriented – These schools often know how to market. A lot of people want to take self-defense to feel good about themselves. Which is a great thing and we are all for it. The thing is if all you ever do is hit pads and get a good sweat on then you may not actually be learning krav maga but rather something closer to the fad of tae bo. I have worked with students from these schools from time to time and very rarely have they sparred or actually been pushed mentally beyond their comfort zones. While you can certainly get in shape doing krav maga and you will, if that is the selling point of a school then it is a fitness class with a self-defense spin and nothing more.
- Hybrid – In a modern world, this is what a good school should look like. A mix of developing people like a traditional martial arts school but while keeping to the principles and ideologies of Krav Maga. There should be a mix of explanation, and hard practice. Aggression training and theory. It should, like the originators of Krav Maga intended to adapt, change and be flexible teaching all aspects of Self Defense like MMA but with a street orientation. It should also include weapons training at an appropriate level as required for self-defense.
Ranking in Krav Maga
Ranking in a Krav Maga is often a highly contested area of Krav Maga. Some argue it is needed for developmental reasons, others argue there is no belts in the street so it shouldn’t matter. Some even choose to abandon belts and use a patch system but still have ranked. Either way, these are the three general types of ranking in Krav Maga. Either way, a concept that is hard for some to understand is that a belt or rank does not equal skill and is merely a measurement of achievement according to a certain set of standards.
Belts- This is the standard ranking in martial arts and was the original under Krav Maga. That is at least the Judo system. White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown, Black. From novice to expert. This system originally developed by Kano the created of modern Judo. Recognizing that in the civilian world far from the warrior cultures of old, a progressive structure was needed. Sometimes Krav schools use belt systems other than this, and it is usually because they were an already established school that did not want to change the system they already have.
Patches – Born out of the great Krav Maga split when in the 90s and oriented towards the military they are used by a few organizations such as KMG and IKMF. Like the belt system they have a structure and requirements, though it seems like there may be many more ranks than we think are necessary, but hey to each their own.
No Ranking – Other organizations have no ranking. They often recognize that belts and ranks do not equal skill and on the street, a black belt cannot stop a bullet. They are of course correct. However, sometimes they fail to understand that the average person requires rank and structure. Something about being human. Sometimes we wonder if they don’t like ranks because running a ranking system that maintains standards globally is very difficult.
While we may not agree with the approach or strategy of many other organizations or school what does matter is if you are getting what you want out if it. But more importantly, do you think you are gaining the skills, physically, mentally and technically to truly be able to defend yourself. If you have never trained with other Krav maga organizations then you may never know. Not all Krav Maga is made the same. What we do ask, is that you be respectful and go on with no expectations. We ourselves have trained with people or schools that just didn’t work for us. We have also had students that just were not the right fit for our school. This is normal but if you find a place that works for you then you may find out what Krav Maga really is and what it can do for you.