This style of Krav Maga may actually be the most common nowadays. With numerous LARGE organizations, like IKMF and KMG, running massive programs all over the world, with schools in 200+ countries. What a civilian program looks like will vary WILDY from organization to organization and country to country. It is a topic of much contention as many, many Krav Maga schools, for the sake of money, have become more akin to “belt factories” or “McDojos,” which in some cases have given Krav Maga a black eye and in others have increased it’s popularity.
Civilian Krav Maga
A major difference between civilian and other styles of Krav Maga is that often you are often starting with people with no experience; people of all ages and physical capabilities. Some students are attracted to the system because they heard Krav is the best, or they want to prepare themselves for police or military careers, others start on account of an unfortunate encounter, like bullying or assault, and they want the power to better defend themselves in the future.
Another difference is the use of ranking is commonplace, as compared to styles or organizations that focus more on police and military. I think ranking is a MUST in a civilian program, this is because humans need goals, and a sense of progress. Especially in a world full of distractions. While many military and police Krav Maga experts turn their noses up at belts, I think it is a mistake. In particular as an organization grows, people need structure and ranking. It’s just a reality, just like aggression is needed for Krav Maga to be Krav Maga; it is just a reality. The reality of people is what it is, so if you like reality then ranking is a must in a civilian program. There must be measurable progress and you must be able to build people from nothing to something, or, as I like to say, from everyday citizens to everyday warriors.
If Krav Maga is so anyone can learn to defend themselves and learn to walk in peace, any program must be developed with the widest possible audience in mind. You will get people who are less physically skilled, people of all ages and sizes, so the program must be designed to build people up. This does not mean you cant do balls-to-the-walls periodically, as without this experience it is not Krav Maga. Unfortunately, the reality is that in many countries people can’t or won’t train like the military will. Thus you must build people up physically, mentally, and technically, so they can better handle the more traditional Krav Maga training as they progress.
As mentioned ranking is a must, because people need a sense of achievement. If you, as an instructor, want to develop a larger group of people you will need to give this sense of place and progress to your students. The problem arises if you water it down and make it too easy. I have ranking, but my tests are so hard most people quit after earning their first belt. While this is bad for business, I take pride in knowing I am probably doing something right.
Once you have built people up in the various aspects you can then work on pushing them mentally and physically. Often in modern times people do not face as much adversity as they think they do, particularly in the Western world. Driving people to feel what it means to be pushed to their limits is super important to better prepare people, but they must be convinced to do so. Unlike military or police where it is assumed they will do it, the average civilian needs to be gently massaged through smaller periods of intensity until you can safely put them through an hour long class that is non-stop.
In my opinion this is an area many instructors struggle with, they do not know how to balance their class based on it’s composition. How you teach a full class of all new people is very different from how you teach a mixed class of skills or a class full of more experienced individuals.
One big advantage of civilians is the amount of time on average you have to work with them to develop all of their skills, including technical accuracy. While, yes, most people won’t stay more than 3 months, the core of people you will probably have for years even if they only train one day a week. This means that a general skill development becomes more viable and more important, as for most people the use of lethal force, while sometimes needed, is generally not on the table (though cannot be neglected.) This is why those who train in civilian schools (assuming it’s a proper school) often are better overall practitioners than those who were in military units. Though the military individual will often have the advantage in the physical and mental, a civilian may be able to quickly pick apart the technical holes of the military-only practitioner.
For civilians it really needs to be a lifestyle, just like a military one, albeit a different one; the goals are different initially, but in the long run someone trained as a civilian will eventually learn all aspects of police/security and military application. That is, of course, dependent on the organization and the instructors available to them.
This is simple. While in a military setting I can simply run an aggressive combat focused boot camp, and police I can set up scenario and job-specific training, a good civilian program needs a simple, well-structured, easy to follow, ON PAPER, curriculum that develops people from nothing to Something.
How this is done and what techniques are included can vary wildly. In the UTKM curriculum, white belt (beginner) is the intro and basic techniques. Yellow and Orange (novice) continues development of more combative skills, such as wrestling, and further improves the basic skill. Finally, Green-Black belt (advanced) focuses on police and military application.
Many organizations will hold basic techniques, like a roundhouse kick, at a much higher level, but the reality is if the kick cannot be quickly learned, early on, as a foundational skill, then it’s probably not a very practical technique for most people.
Another consideration in any civilian program is that it MUST be principle-based, as originally intended, and not technique-based. Too many organizations focus too heavily on techniques at the expense of the other important things like aggression and strategy. Others simply teach as they were taught and don’t actually understand beyond “this is how you do the technique.” A deep understanding of the how and why is super important for any instructor in the civilian world, and this includes the other aspects or styles of Krav Maga.
For the civilian program an emphasis on consistency is important. While in the military it is not a choice, you receive the training your receive, and with police some training is mandatory, but for civilians there are many distractions and a student may wane from the path that they had originally set out on. An emphasis on development takes time, it becomes a constant message, in particular for the average person who isn’t naturally talented.
Lastly, a civilian program must be balanced and go hard or soft, fast or slow, depending on who’s in the class and what the average stage of development is. Because people may train for years you cannot always go balls-to-the-walls, military style aggression, or you will destroy yourself. But you also cannot always go “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” drill work, which is common in traditional martial arts styles. There must be a balance, bringing up all aspects of development from mental, physical, technical, and, of course, building aggression. Many programs fail to do this and only focus on one area over the others, based on the skillset and knowledge of the instructor.
Most of you reading this probably fall into the civilian category. Even if you do not, you may have limited experience with Krav Maga, whether it was taught to you in the military or elsewhere. A good program MUST develop aggression and be hard sometimes, MUST develop technical proficiency, and MUST, at some point, teach all aspects of Krav Maga application, from military to police/security, as well as day-to-day general self-defence.
As a civilian looking to train Krav Maga, I advise that you don’t just go to the first school you Googled. Look into the instructor, their background and training, and the philosophy driving their curriculum. Is it wide and diverse or is it only from one source? Do they know other styles of martial arts? How long have they been around? Did they have other experiences, such as police and military backgrounds (though not required)? Do they have a structured program and how is it laid out?
Something to watch out for is a structred program that is actually based off of another style. If they don’t have a patch system or a belt ranking system, it is likely they are integrating other styles into their teachings, which may violate the principles of Krav Maga.
Another thing to be wary of is if they are selling it as “military Krav Maga.” They may have an awesome pedigree, but there is a good chance they will fail to develop you technically and will only ever run a boot camp style class; which for long term growth really isn’t appropriate. Unless you are training for professional application (and even then) you don’t always need to go hard, though if it’s not in the program at all then you have a different problem.
There are a lot, and I mean a lot of garbage schools out there, and even more garbage instructors. Remember, just because someone can do doesn’t mean they can teach. And just because someone isn’t the best themselves doesn’t mean they cannot help develop you.
The goal of Krav Maga is to learn to walk in peace, so make sure you research and find what you are looking for. Krav Maga for the civilian however, cannot be casual. Though it is easy to learn to be good enough to defend yourself most of the time, true proficiency will require constant training over years. Though it can be argued that slow, consistent training will produce better results overall than hard condensed training, since if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Written by: Jonathan Fader