People often talk about styles and say, “Krav Maga is just Krav Maga and has its limits.” This is not strictly true, as, originally, it was based on boxing, wrestling, and being generally fit. Right there, in it’s foundation, the potential for multiple styles is evident. Not to mention that, if your school is being honest, it will ensure that it has instructors whom are capable of teaching multiple styles. You should be learning aspects of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, submissions grappling, and judo, as well as police, military, and security applications. A good Krav Maga school is actually making you a jack-of-all-trades, ranging from okay to good in any and all of these styles so that you are better prepared to deal with any and all attacks. Of course, all these styles also need to be taught in a way that maintains a common conceptual thread and incorporates basic Krav Maga principles. Which means how solid your Krav Maga is really depends on the design of your curriculum and the character of your instructors.
So let’s discuss.
Krav Maga is primarily known as a “stand up” style, targeting anything that is effective with minimal effort, which includes strikes that are normally considered illegal when there is a given rule set (eg. in sport). It’s this disdain for rules, which limit the chance of success, combined with strategy and aggression, that has made Krav Maga so effective.
Still, a lot of people do not know about Krav Maga or only see it as a pure self-defence system. Which it is, but contained within it are many secrets. You will actually be learning boxing, kickboxing, judo, wrestling, and anything in between that adds to the style or fills gaps. This is because you must be prepared for any given situation, and that requires skills and abilities found across various styles.
A good thing to remember is that, while a Kravist will usually have a specialty (eg. I am a much better grappler than striker), you must be a generalist, overall, to be able to deal with the most situations most of the time.
Something to be aware of is that which style you will learn more of, and when, will largely depend on your instructor and the curriculum you are learning from. Traditionally, or in the last 30-40 years anyway, most Kravists are boxing or kickboxing specialists, but when it comes to the ground they are often fish-out-of-water. That is because the philosophy of “stay off the ground!” has been drilled into us, and consequently many choose not to develop those skills. But with the global rise of grappling sports, from a self-defence perspective, ground fighting skills are now essential. You just need to remember to apply the Krav Maga mindset and strategies when teaching groundwork. If you are an instructor with no grappling or wrestling skills then you should hire someone else to teach it.
The same geos if you have a traditional grappling background and are not that great at striking; though Krav Maga punches and kicks are fairly straightforward and can be learned fairly quickly compared to many other styles with fancier ways or more specialized ways of doing things. However, remember the Krav Maga principles; if it takes too long to learn or master then it really should not be taught in Krav Maga at all.
Perspective students often ask, “should I do Krav Maga or boxing or grappling?” To which I respond, “what is your goal?”
This is an important question to think about. If they just want to get a sweat on, Krav Maga may not be for them. If they want to be competitive in a sport setting, then it also may not be for them. But, if their primary concern is general self-defence, and they want to learn a little bit of everything, then Krav Maga is definitely for them.
If you have limited time and can only train one system, then a good Krav Maga program will teach you that little bit of everything. You will even learn to understand and wield weapons (modern ones, no sword and three-section staff), though this should be reserved for the higher levels. If you only want to learn boxing, then weapons will never factor in. Or if you don’t like striking styles, leaning toward grappling instead, then know that while one-on-one grappling can dominate a fight, but in the grander scheme it is not always an option.
At UTKM, while you will start with striking and stand up, you quickly work your way to learning Judo, Wrestling, and some BJJ components, along with proper, controlled takedowns that are more applicable for security or law enforcement scenarios; due to the intensity and psychological differences that occur in the real world, the world outside of the ring. Continue long enough and you will learn pistol, shotgun, and rifle skills, as well as the basics for working in teams to take down any assailant.
This is because in a self-defence system you should learn the basics of everything to deal with any possible self-defence scenario, no matter how unlikely. While you probably won’t be the level of a Special Forces operator or John Wick, you will be far better trained physically, mentally, and technically then the average citizen, and in most cases far more capable than the would-be assailant who just bit off more than they could chew.
So, just because the system is called by one name, Krav Maga, it doesn’t make it one specific style. The system is about being prepared for anything, and this means learning a little bit of everything; to be well rounded, to be ready, so that you too may walk in peace, knowing that you are prepared for what the future may hold for you.
Written by: Jonathan Fader