When you take a look at the martial arts community’s views on Krav Maga, it is pretty common to find that they fall into two basic camps. Either they find the Krav folks a little whacko and scoff at the art, or they tend to be a little intrigued. But more often than not, neither of these camps seem to really know all that much about Krav, and the fundamental mindsets behind it.
Krav Maga gained a lot of additional exposure after being hi-lighted on both Human Weapon and Fight Science. In both programs the style appears to be very serious… very aggressive. Tailored to be effective against weapons, and to really disable an opponent. Definitely not a sport art.
Unfortunately, simply watching about a martial art on movies or TV doesn’t really give a true view of its capabilities or values (as can be attested to by anyone who is still working on mastering tree-running ala Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.) So… What really makes Krav Maga tick, and how is it similar or different from more traditional martial arts or even MMA?
When looking to answer this question, the good news is that Krav Maga has established a respectable footprint here in the valley. Paul Evans, of Paul Evans Martial Arts boasts the largest Krav Maga student body in Utah. He often puts on weekend events where the serious and the curious alike can get a serious taste of what Krav really is all about.
Not just unarmed:
One of the cornerstones of Krav Maga is its training for in defense against weapons. Like many more traditional arts, Krav Maga also incorporates the usage of weapons as well. Where things get a bit different is in the weapon of choice: In particular is the hand-gun.
During training most martial arts might refer to the “left hand” or the “right hand” or even “strong hand” or “dominant hand.” The importance of the firearm because quickly evident in Krav Maga training however, as the hands and feet tend to be referred to as “gun hand side” and “non gun hand.” Similarly, attacks may be directed at or from the “gun side leg” or “non gun side leg.”
Krav Maga has strong punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. Obviously taking many of its elements from a Muay Thai base. But it also spends significant time drilling on being able to draw and fire quickly and effectively, as well as using kicks and strikes to gain sufficient distance to fend off a knife and let you draw your own firearm.
The concept of Self Defense:
Within a short time of beginning your training, Krav Maga will make you drastically rethink the concept of “Self Defense.” This term is so broad, and means so many different things to just as many people. But if you look at most Martial Arts, and want to understand what is meant by “self defense” within them, it is important to look at what is the realistic expectation of most of its practicers as to how and when they will actually be likely to use it.
Be it Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, or even MMA, most of these arts train people with an expectation that they will either use their skills in a sport setting, or that they will use it if they are bullied, picked on, or need to get into a bit of a scrap in a bar or parking lot. Yes, there are elements of knife or gun defense in most of these arts, but these are secondary. In Krav Maga they are at the forefront.
After spending a day with Paul and his team, it almost no longer feels appropriate to refer to Krav Maga as “self defense.” So many people already have too many false notions of what that means. Perhaps the intention of Krav can be more appropriately referred to as “Life Retention”. When looking at the skills learned in these seminars and classes, and where they might be used, the mindsets of the students is far less about sporting events or bar fights. A more common response to expectations of Krav usage is, “When someone is trying to take my life.”
Paul outlined why people turn to Krav, “It appeals to anyone who wants a self defense system, not a sport. Just like MMA fighters test themselves in the ring, we test ourselves in an elevator, in a car, in your home with someone onto of you with a knife in bed, we make you mad, afraid, spray lemon juice in your eyes. All of this is to create the stress and unknown of a real attack. You have to fight off all of this crap and have a strong drive to live.”
The seriousness of this message is pervasive in the training. If someone doesn’t pay attention in a traditional Dojo during instruction thy may well be chastised with a “Be respectful and listen,” or something similar. The whispered message here was, “Be quiet. We’re trying to save your life here.”
Also, as Paul states, the training is intense. Some of Paul’s weekend sessions include Shock Knives that arc and pop like a taser to let you know they meant business, as well as giving you a good electrical bite if you let your attacker get too close. This is all meant to train you to live when someone intends otherwise.
Where it fits:
Each martial art has its place. There are other reasons to choose other arts. If you want to fight in a cage, Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu may be the best mix there is. To simply get attackers off of you, a case can be made for Judo or Aikido. So where does Krav Maga fit?
Krav Maga appears to be an excellent design for, “You are trying to take my life. I intend to very aggressively counter attack you such that I can eliminate your threat and escape or so that I can kill you instead.”