Krav Maga is constantly gaining popularity right now as an effective self defense system that will save your life. This is exactly how most Krav Maga schools promote themselves and they have all the right to do so. Yep, it is true. Krav Maga can save your life but there are many buts that people should be aware of.
Why Am I Talking About This?
Recently, I got into an argument with some instructors at a Krav Maga schools because they posted a video of a technique to defend against a high kick (most likely also taught against round kicks to the head).
The video showed a huge problem with a technique that was incredibly bad. It works only against someone that cannot throw a kick. And for a system that is designed to deal with people in real life, people that are not trained, it is very problematic since the person that will throw a high kick on the street will always be someone that can actually execute at least a decent high kick.
Without further ado, the technique was this one:
Here’s the deal:
When a shin hits the bone of your arm, the arm never wins!
Just search clips on YouTube to see what happens when a good kick hits the arm. It is quite nasty.
Fortunately, in the video I saw, the technique was a little bit better-executed and the guy that did it was a student. Even so, his arms were at horrible 90 degree angles that would lead to so many problems and the guy that was kicking had a horrible kicking technique that was so bad it cannot even be questioned.
After me and others contested the way in which the kick was defended, the answer of the school was very arrogant, to the extent of something like “you are missing important things, the techniques need to be simultaneous and why don’t you come and throw a real kick and show why it is bad.”
Such an answer instantly raises red flags and makes me question whether or not the school just wants some money. Unfortunately, such schools are all around in practically all styles. Maybe this one is not and they actually believe that the technique is good, which is even more problematic because you are teaching something horrible to people.
Another thing. Anyone that can actually hit a good high kick and sees the video would not be bothered to go and prove that this is wrong because they are practically hurting someone on purpose. Why would you do that?
Back To The Main Topic
I feel like I absolutely need to write about this because if you want to learn how to fight and how to protect yourself, you need to build your own style and you need to challenge what the instructor tells you. If the instructor dismisses you with an attitude of “I know better than you”, without a clear, logical explanation and proof, leave the school and do not look back. You just met a bad instructor, a bad school and/or a money hungry system.
Is Krav Maga Good For Self Defense?
Absolutely! There is no way to deny that, but there are many buts.
I see that Krav Maga practitioners BLINDLY defend the system as if they hold the keys to the universe and everyone else is stupid. In many cases, the defense is more like what you would hear from a cult than what you would hear from someone that knows how to fight.
Krav Maga is not a system designed to teach you to fight correctly. It is mainly a system designed to give you a fighter’s mindset. Krav Maga gets you fit, teaches you how to be aware of what is around you and how to anticipate conflict. It teaches you to hit first, which is often the best solution and tries to remove mercy from your natural way of being to deal with life or death situations.
There are countless untrained people that win fights because of their attitude. This is very important. When compared to a combat sport where you just train for competition, Krav Maga can arguably have its clear advantages because they, in theory, teach you to hurt your opponents.
I say in theory because practice is so much different than real-world scenarios than what many Krav Maga schools tell you. I watched hours and hours of footage from Krav Maga schools and although some were great, with many I saw some clear problems:
- Completely Unrealistic Sparring
This is by far the biggest problem I saw. I showed some videos to a friend of mine that has no fighting training, just her life that was unfortunately filled with violence and her training as a gymnast. She laughed so hard that I started laughing because of it, although it was actually a sad realization.
She started pointing out so many things that were completely true and visible to someone that had no training. One of the things she said and that I also instantly saw as a huge problem was: “why are they wearing so much protective gear when they are training for real-world fights?” Yeah, why?
Yes, it is always better to protect yourself during sparring but if you always wear gloves, shin guards, knee protection, helmets and so on, do you really know how it feels like to get punched in the face? The difference between being punched by a boxing glove in a helmet and a bare punch in the face is huge for both the person that hits and the person that is hit.
Now, the idea of sparring with protective gear because of the notion that it protects you is kind of rubbish. Sure, use gloves because hands easily break but that is pretty much the only thing you really need. And use MMA gloves, not boxing gloves.
Sparring in martial arts is never actually 100%, unless both of the people involved agree to it. You can spar without the extra protective gear and you can get ready so much faster and BETTER for a real-world fight.
There is much that can be said but the majority of most sparring sessions I saw in Krav Maga were bad. And the associated lie is just hilarious, the excuse that “we teach deadly techniques that cannot be practiced without protective gear.” Like, come on. In sparring you do not go 100% and a person that would do this should not be taught anything anyway.
- No Training Against Trained Attackers
Unfortunately, more and more people train these days and learn how to fight, at different levels, of course. Krav Maga is created to train you against an untrained attacker. There are few effective approaches to help you deal with attackers that are trained. This is a huge disadvantage that should not be taken lightly.
In the high kick example above, a person that trains Muay Thai would break someone’s arm with ease or would at least create a lot of damage if that horrible technique would be used. Nowadays, you can expect people that try to hit you with a high kick to actually know how to do it at least pretty-well. A kick to the head is not easy to do and difficult to do well.
Similarly, when you meet someone that has boxing training and you try some of the punches in Krav Maga taught to deal with untrained opponents, you will most likely go to sleep really fast and not know why that happened. In addition, if the fight ever goes to the ground, you are practically [email protected]#$#@. And most real fights go to the ground pretty fast.
- Unrealistic Defense Against Weapons
This will really annoy Krav Maga enthusiasts since a huge part of the system is designed around fighting armed opponents. Well, the problem is that what I see in training sessions for most schools is just dumb. The knives that they use are not great and they stick to some exact scenarios that simply cannot be controlled in real life.
Here is a great example of how knife defense should be taught. While it is not for everyone and you might not like the guy’s style, it is so much more real than in Krav Maga:
Someone that understands self defense, from Krav Maga or any other style, knows that there is a huge possibility of being stabbed when they fight someone with a knife. He/she is actually ready to be stabbed. People do not use knives as in Krav Maga training. They literally try to get as close to you as possible and stab you wherever they can hit. You can have all the training in the world and still get cut or stabbed.
Training against guns is usually even worse.
All real experts agree that the best self defense against a knife is to use another weapon or run away. Something as simple as the shirt on your back works if you cannot do anything else but even then you might get cut or stabbed.
Can Krav Maga Save Your Life?
Once again, absolutely!
One thing that a surprisingly low number of people know is that Krav Maga was originally a system designed to quickly train soldiers. This was done to train those that had bad motor skills and simple fighting skills. The goal was to create an aggression that would cover technical deficiencies when faced with combat situations and extreme stress.
In a similar way, Krav Maga taught in most schools aim to help regular people to learn principle-based, really simple fighting skills that helps them to fight untrained attackers. Against an untrained attacker, aggression can easily cover up most technical gaps, especially when there is a lot of stress involved.
Krav Maga is mainly a mindset and a system for untrained people.
The huge problem is this belief that Krav Maga is the best system for self defense. This is incorrect. The best system for self defense is what works best for you and it should always be a combination of styles. Krav Maga alone is not actually enough. However, people that do Krav Maga end up feeling that they are completely safe and they come up with such unrealistic reasons for it that only proves that they were never involved in a real fight.
On Reddit or Quora (I forgot where), on a topic of MMA vs Krav Maga, 1 v 1 fight, a Krav Maga enthusiast said this:
“I’m sure MMA guys will do just fine in a 1-on-1 or even 2-on-1 fight. But put them in a situation where it’s a gang mentality (many-on-1) fight, with weapons. I’m pretty sure going “through” the gang head on will end in serious harm or death. Whereas in Krav, we’re continuously taught to get off the “line” or “channel”, avoid the direct aggression and go around – “heads in a line” – this way we have the advantage of both striking and defending simultaneously AND leave the space around us open to GET AWAY!”
This comment is a clear of example of a person that does not have martial arts experience because in practically all martial arts that I trained to some extent (boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Shotokan, Aikido and a couple more), you are taught the same thing when it comes to multiple opponents. You are taught to run away whenever possible and always go towards the side to have space. This is NOT a Krav Maga thing. You even see it in Aikido.
Another dangerous way of thinking is that those training in fighting sports, like thai boxers, boxers and wrestlers, cannot fight properly in the streets since they learn how to fight “by the rules”. Well, tell Mike Tyson that. If you truly think that a BOXER would not be good in a street fight, you are just delusional and I hope life will never put you up against a boxer on the streets.
For the third time, Krav Maga can be great for self defense. It is actually one of the best styles to learn to protect yourself if you are a regular person and you just want to learn basic self defense. It will get you fit and will give you the mentality needed to be involved in a real fight. However, the real fight scenario depends on who you will be fighting. If by unluck you meet someone with training in boxing or muay thai and you do not have real-life experience without protective gear and with actual strong hits, you are going down.
Fortunately, there are Krav Maga schools that are different. They do evolve the style, invite good fighters and actually care about teaching you to fully defend yourself. These are the schools you want to join.
YouTube is a wonderful source of information. Document yourself. Learn all that you can and be informed. See as many videos as you can and always challenge your trainers. If something seems weird, ask for more information and please use your common sense.