Krav Maga is a practical approach to self-defense designed by the Israeli Defense Forces and now utilized by special forces and law enforcement around the world; learned by survival-minded civilians; and, more recently, adapted for gym strength and conditioning programs.
The recent rise in KM’s popularity is, in part, thanks to the school’s straight-forward teaching method, the fast learning curve, and because Krav Maga in not your traditional martial art– it does not concern students with ‘form’ or ‘honoring thy opponent’; there is no meditative component, no bowing or ceremony. KM, instead, emphasizes real-world responses to real-life situations.
Here is what you need to know about the art of fighting dirty, Krav Maga:
1. Krav Maga is a Self-Defense System That Teaches How to Survive Violent Situations
The first principle in Krav Maga is that the best way to survive a violent confrontation is to avoid it– situational awareness and conflict de-escalation are two of the basic tenets of the teachings.
But when the only choice left is to fight, Krav Maga throws the rules out the window. Eye-gouging, elbows to the face, and systematic attacks to the groin area are all part of the deadly repertoire employed to defend against attacks, disarm and neutralize an assailant, and escape a threatening situation.
Integrating the techniques of various martial arts with the dirty tactics of street fighting, Krav Maga training (which means ‘contact combat’ in Hebrew) emphasizes real life scenarios and prepares students to respond, in the most effective way possible, under the real stress and surprise of an attack.
Some Krav Maga schools even encourage their students to practice in regular street-clothes; because most people don’t walk around in karate robes.
Check out this video for a taste of Krav Maga:
2. Krav Maga is Also Great Fitness Exercise
Like boxing, Muay Thai, and other martial arts, Krav Maga has been adapted for strength and conditioning programs, and for the fitness class.
Many gyms and KM studios now offer Krav Maga-integrated CrossFit programs and cardio/strength classes that combine the punching, kicking, and elbowing techniques of KM with the kettlebells, medicine balls, and plyos of CF.
Although a Krav Maga exercise regimen alone won’t prepare you for street combat, these classes usually make for high-intensity workouts for people at any level of fitness.
This video from Los Angeles-based Krav Maga Worldwide; a serious, KM-dedicated studio which also offers a variety of KM/Crossfit hybrid classes; gives an idea of what the classes are like:
3. Size Doesn’t Matter in Krav Maga
Krav Maga is taught and practiced with the David and Goliath scenario in mind, which emphasizes speed and well-placed infliction over size, strength, age, or fitness.
“It’s all about quick movements designed to cause maximum impact; breaking an arm, perforating an eardrum, knocking someone out,” writes Dina Rickman in her article Krav Maga: How to floor a male attacker within minutes – and you don’t need brute strength. “It’s perfect for most women because it doesn’t rely on brute strength and, as I discover, it’s incredibly easy to learn.”
Will a little old lady be able to take down 6-foot 4-inch mugger with her Krav Maga? Probably not. But knowing a few simple techniques could slightly tilt the odds in your favor and make the difference between escaping a nasty situation….or not.
4. Many Celebrities Are Learning Krav Maga
Move over Kabbalah. There’s a new trend in Tinseltown. Daniel Craig, Jessica Chastain, Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer, and Hilary Swank are only some of the A-listers learning Krav Maga to stay in shape and to prepare for films.
“Directors are coming to us because they want realistic fight scenes,” says Darren Levine, founder of Krav Maga Worldwide, told Details. “We trained Leonardo DiCaprio for Blood Diamond. He was out of shape when he first came to us, and he left rock-solid.”
Tyler Perry credited his 30-pound weight loss in 2012 to his KM training: “’When I started doing the movie, I did Krav Maga, that’s kind of like UFC, I really got into it, dropping a lot of weight,’ he told DailyMail.com.
“What I like about Krav Maga is that it is a self-defense class that teaches practical self-defense, not the origins of the universe,” the late-James Gandolfini, actor and KM gym owner, told The Trentonian.
“Self defense is such an important thing for every woman to know. I wish I would have known about this earlier,” says devotee Anna Anka.“Not only is it an amazing workout but you learn something so important: to never be a victim.”
5. Where to Learn Krav Maga
Whether you’re interested in Krav Maga as a method of self-defense or as a way to get fit, there are hundreds of gyms and dedicated studios around the country now offering instruction and classes.
Look for an established practice with a dedicated clientele and track record. Avoid the McDojos, as they are often ‘belt factories,’ more concerned with the bottom line than with turning out proficient practitioners.
Finally, it is important to find a good fit between your goals and the offerings of a particular program. If you’re looking for intense, hands-on combat training, a Krav Maga fitness class at your local gym is probably not what you’re looking for. And vice versa, if you’re looking to throw a few punches and kicks, and work up a sweat, the White Knuckle KM Club in the nearby corporate park is not for you.
In New York City:
Krav Maga Academy has a location in Manhattan at 25 West 26 Street; and two in Brooklyn, at 230 Bogart Street in Williamsburg and 4930 20TH Avenue in Borough Park.
In Los Angeles:
Krav Maga Worldwide has a location in West L.A. at 11400 Olympic Blvd., Suite 100; and two in Sherman Oaks at 15250 Ventura Blvd, Suite 130 and 15060 Ventura Blvd.