Thursday, 18 February 2010

Krav maga is not the holy grail of self defense

Krav maga's popularity is exploding around the world as martial artists and those interested in self defense see the real value in its simplicity and its military credentials.

But no system is perfect or 100% reliable and there is a serious danger that krav maga's flaws are being overlooked. This leads to complacency and over-confidence, which will put Krav Maga students in real danger in a real self-defense situation.

Two important flaws in krav maga are:

1) a lack of attention to the importance of power in techniques

Krav maga was developed for commandos - elite special forces soldiers. These are strong, healthy, aggressive men who can deliver strength and power. Unfortunately many students are not so tough and no amount of new techniques learned will change that. There is no magic strike in the martial arts: you have to deliver significant force to do damage and the majority of krav maga students I see cannot do that, especially in striking techniques. Take a look at these typical examples of the style and focus your attention on the amount of force they are using - particularly in the striking techniques and above all punches, kicks and hammer-fist strikes. Ask yourself honestly - how much damage would that amount of power do?

The techniques are physically sound and simple - but against a strong, aggressive opponent they would lack the necessary stopping power. Like many of the traditional martial arts, in which sparring is practiced without contact, the krav maga student develops the dangerous habit of striking gently in training. And in the street it is all about habit - you don't have time to think and will go into autopilot. There is also the ancient problem of opponent compliance - and this applies more to holds and throws. If the opponent is not your friend it really isn't going to be as easy as it is in the gym. It's no use pretending that your techniques will develop additional power when you are tired and frightened and in pain - the opposite is true. If you have ever tried boxing or thai boxing then you will know the frustration you feel when your best techniques seem to have little effect on your opponent due to his skill and your fatigue. In the street this could mean death.

The solution to this problem is to practice full contact krav maga to expose and address these weaknesses. Alternatively students should develop power using a punch bag and with other full contact styles - ideally muay thai (thai boxing) which has always been full contact and is possibly the best single style for self defense in the world (although no system is perfect and muai thai lacks, for example, essential
self defense pressure points training).

2) The military-scenario hangover

In the extremely unlikely event that you're behind enemy lines and one guy points a gun at you and there are no other options then krav maga's disarming techniques might just work. They are physically efficient and simple. However you are far more likely to get shot if you try them. And in the real world attackers come in gangs of at least two. If they point a knife or a gun at you then they want something - give it to them! If they want you dead then you will never see the knife and you may not see the gun - you may never know what hit you. Krav maga's focus on disarming a single knifeman or gunman are dangerously unrealistic. This creates dangerous and mistaken overconfidence - and a mistaken impression that there are simple solutions or responses to being attacked with a knife or a gun. There are none and you can expect to get hurt if that is what the attacker really intends to achieve.

Your best option, I repeat, is to do what they ask or try to escape if possible. Do not fight with an armed man unless he is actively trying to kill you right now. It is almost infinitely likely that he will win the fight, no matter how good you may be. Ask your krav maga instructor - especially if he is ex-special forces. He will tell you the same thing and you need to maintain a keen awareness of the fact.

To summarise, my advice is to compliment your krav maga training with full contact training (ideally muay thai) and heavy bag work to develop maximum power and realism. Throughout your training you should maintain an awareness of pressure points and their effects because hitting where it counts will make all the difference. This information can be learned here:

Self Defense Pressure Points DVD


  1. is that a constructive criticism or an advert? it seems a bit difficult to spot the difference...

  2. Hi Simon

    It's a bit of both. It's definitely an advert for full contact Krav Maga, Muai Thai and of course the pressure points DVD at - it's no secret. Krav maga is fantastic - especially full contact Krav. But I speak to a lot of people who think it has all the answers. That's dangerous, especially when it is practiced without proper attention to the application of power - and this is often the case in my experience.

  3. Full contact Krav maga is very good.. I studied Muai Thai in Chiang Mai and I studied Krav Maga in Sydney/Singapore and will be starting in London soon.

    One of the 1st things you learn in KM is the following order of targets: Eyes, throat, groin.. now im not sure if you have ever poked yourself in the eye by accident (or throat if that floats your boat) and any guy who has received any kind of blow between the legs can vouch for this too.. THEY ALL HURT LIKE HELL, a decent eye strike will kill, a relatively hard throat strike will kill - the "lack of stopping power" of KM is not true.. throw your fingers into the eyes of an attacker (and remember - smaller/weaker women... have nails more often than not).. and you will get the message.. KM is a superb art, way more efficient than years of ichi ni ichi ni in a dojo wearing white pajamas.. those arts have their place, and teach amazing dedication discipline and underlying philosophy... for the white collar guy walking home with a laptop and the secretary walking through the underpass.. KM is second to none...

  4. Another thing I forgot to mention is that with ANY fighting system, you need to attend a class, do it for real with real people of different sizes, strengths, mindsets and levels of ability.. a dvd will teach you nothing.. I saw dvd's of KM before I went into a class BUT until I went in and realised how it is designed to create muscle memory and the psychology of staying in one piece (most people are adverse to throwing their fingers hands etc into peoples eyes and throats... ).. the mental side of what you practice is the hard part and NO dvd will ever teach you or prepare you for that...

  5. hi
    Realy liked your post,10 years ago i practiced mui thai and then joined the israeli army .in my service i trained a lot of krav mag and its the best martial art i ever trained

    Martial Art Training

  6. i have traned in krav for 10 month i have limited mobility but rather than me having to fit the art the art moldes and fits to me... i no this having had to use it 4 rael it aint pritty but it works im now a grade p2 not that that means any thing on the street... it has tort me more how to avoid a fight and to calm situstions down not just react with fist and feet.. all so all moves are first lernt slow to build memory then presure tested witch is har work... that to me is what its about..
    thanks mark

  7. I f you want to know ,krav maga was developed in israel at the 1920s by imi lichtenfeld

    Martial Art Training

  8. I agree that a self defense art like Krav Maga is best when supplemented with a striking art, but for different reasons. I have not practiced Krav Maga but I have seen classes, and they all have had full contact sparring and punching bag work. So from what I've seen I don't think that students are trained to strike with too little force. I agree that trying to take on an armed man (or several) is a bad idea, but it is still better to be trained for it. Both of these flaws are not really anything the art itself can fix. It depends on the dojo and the teachers, so I can see why you'd suggest pairing training with muay thai. I found that my Ninjutsu training was more complete when I started practicing muay thai and boxing alongside it. It's good that you brought this to peoples' attention because really the only ones who can fix these flaws are the students.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I'm a US Marine who studied MCMAP when I was on active duty. You're right about KM's design with military in mind. I train KM now in SoCal & on top of the unrealistic disarms and training, it's also anxiety producing. The drills where you close your eyes, get attacked, then respond were intended to condition a person's fight/flight response. However, when the student's eyes are closed, he/she is anticipating an attack. The intent was to go from a "normal" or rested state and then respond if attacked by surprise. Instead, the effect is someone expecting an attack.

    I also noticed that when I'm watching an advanced class or an instructor training class, some of the students will appear offended & begin staring at me aggressively. I get the feeling as though they didn't like to be watched. This only confirmed my ideas about KM conditioning anxiety into its practitioners. If a would be KM instructor is uncomfortable being watched, then why go for the cert? Moreover, the students simply repress anger and project their own insecurities onto someone else for irrational reasons. It's like the dog that barks at everything.

    I liked how you addressed that it's ok to comply with an armed attacker's request. In the US, someone who is armed & threatening violence usually only wants your money. TV & movies perpetuate isolated & rare cases where the victims are violently murdered or raped (on a side note, unfortunately, most rapes occur from someone the victim knows & in growing numbers of cases, the victims aren't always women).

    I believe that it's MORE than ok to train for a violent attack. It's like having the spare tire kit that came with your car. I've only changed a flat tire on my car once in my life, but I was glad I had the tools to do it. I didn't expect to have a flat tire... I didn't judge road conditions, or other drivers, or other cars based on the unlikely event I might have a flat tire. Or if a road looked like it wasn't safe, I would try to find an alternate route.

    The psychology of Krav Maga is dangerous & unsuitable for most developed countries like the US. The mentality & psychology for KM students in places like the US needs to change. Students need to know what the local law is for self-defense. Even in the event of a self-defense situation, things still need to be justified in the eyes of the court. You'll still have to go downtown, get booked (for a "street" fight, or sit down with a detective for an attempted robbery), and plead your case before a judge in the morning.

  10. You are so full of shit it's incredible. Krav Maga is useless unless it;s your krav maga ay..

    1. What the heck are you trying to say? And how the heck is it useless if the Israeli MILITARY uses it? Useless my butt.

    2. My point is that the author is saying only his Krav Maga is the right one. I've been a qualified KM instructor since 1996. I was the first qualified IKMF instructor in the UK, trained personally by Eyal Yanilov. So I know a bit about the subject. The author is saying KM don't work on power-strikes, untrue. He makes the comments KM is designed for big hairy strong commandos in Israel. Yet he doesn't seem to understand women serve in the fighting forces in Israel included in their two year mandatory military service. In my opinion the author is talking bollox. It's true now that any nob can call himself a Krav Maga instructor (or any other type of instructor) and it makes me irate when I think back to all the hard work and dedication it took to accomplish qualifying as an instructor. There's an outfit in Pattaya that advertise a 5 day instructor course FFS!!! I wasn't saying KM is useless, I was saying the author is talking bollox!

  11. For most people the choice to learn to protect themselves has arisen from an incident or just the fear of an attack. The eternal debate about which martial art is best for this purpose will no doubt remain eternal however perhaps the debate is missing the point. Often the purpose of training is to give the defender the confidence to defend themself. In many situations it's better to do something than nothing but in the case of an armed assailant any attempt at counter attack may leave you dead.

    Of course it will always be dangerous to attempt to fight an armed attacker and of course instructors should always teach their students to hand over cash etc.

    If your attacker is going to kill you regardless (as in the likely outcome when special forces soldiers are captured) surely at that point it is time to try to stop him/her by any means. KM was developed for special forces soldiers in that type of scenario, why else would there be so many disarms. It is the job of soldiers to kill the opposition and so the inevitable risk is being killed themselves so it is appropriate for them to learn lethal hand combat. Perhaps civilians should not be playing at KM?

    If facing imminent death then a dangerous mode of attack is what you need but if you want to play games with friend who willing fall over as directed etc. maybe it's best to stick to a sport martial art. Violence is ugly and in normal situations is unnacceptable and illegal.

    Civilians and anyone teaching civilians have a moral obligation not only to prepare their students for the reality of the consequences of doing or not doing when under attack but also to vet those who they accept into their classes.

  12. I am woman who has trained Krav Maga for 2 years, i started because i wanted to get fit and learning to protect myself is an added bonus. I train with men triple my size and sometimes the techniques do not work as i am not as physically strong - the great thing is there are always options; i can try other techniques that will work. As a woman i am aware a punch to the face may not do any damage to a huge guy but I have quite long nails which helps lol! My reaction and reflexes have drastically improved too. We do full contact sparring and a number of mental drills. Krav Maga teaches us to avoid the fight as much as possible i.e run away etc. I do not think it is unrealistic i am much more prepared for a confrontation my instructors make me aware of things that would not work due to my size and lack of strength and adjust my skills accordingly a DVD cannot teach this

  13. There are a lot of fake not true so called Krav Instructors out there too. If you want the real deal Krav Maga from Iseral go with IKMA Israeli Krav Maga Association Gidon System. This is real deal and is a complete system from stand up to ground work. Done bet your life on some techniques that the so called instructor says will work, when he claims to be a 5th Dan black belt, and you can look him up and see he promoted himself. Haim Gidon is real deal you tube him Imi the founder promoted him to 8th Dan and he is Imi chosen successor. David Kahn is the US Chief Instructor for IKMA. Dobt settle or bet your life or the life of a loved one on watered down not accurate krav Maga trainers. Train from the source. IKMA is the real deal after training with them you will be an all around excellent fighter!

  14. No matter what Style or techniques you learn and how many hours you learn it, the question is when you are under attack,threatened and there is a little fear or anger in you, will you still remember them?...

    Rather than learning the techniques, know the Achilles heel of your enemy and where it is, how it can be reached and taken good care of.

    Know your tools and how to use them and the appropriate places where you can use them.

    It doesn't matter if a person has a black belt in any art or how well trained he/she is... if he makes a wrong move in combat or if a vulnerable area of his body is hit, he is gone.

    Unpredictability is your best ally.

    I am not a master or a combat instructor but just a normal citizen

  15. Being able to use Krav Maga in the street is better than not knowing anything about self defence at all. The primary goal of KM is to survive an attack. It doesn't have to be fancy, you don't have to be strong : a kick in the nuts, even not hard, will stop most attacker and give some room to the defender to run away

  16. I feel this is one of the so much vital information for me.
    Santa Monica Karate

  17. I would like to add, as a Krav Maga practitioner, that the author has a valud point.
    I too find that the system has its flaws but I find it more applicable in my line of work compared to the previous style that I used to practice which was Jiu-Jitsu.

    I think that one aspect that needs to be addressed also is tgat KM is a fighting system and NOT a martial art.
    Martial arts serve a different purpose to a fighting system, even though they share some similarities.

    I like Krav Maga but it should be noted that its simplicity does still take a long time to become effective and efficient with it.
    And as the author says.
    sometimes its much better to hand over what an armed man/woman might be demanding from than it is to play the Hollywood hero and fight it out.

  18. If you look at KMWW instructor requirements you will find that any of the striking arts is. Boxing or MT are recommended. Ground work like BJJ wrestling are suggested. The question is efficiency. Krav will NOT makeyou efficient. It will give you scenarios, stress tests, and transitions that MMA won't. Verbals, posturing, precursors, multiple opponenents, is in Krav & many RSBD systems. So the decision is yours how you want to hone your skills. Its a personal decision governed by what is available, who is available, and how deep your pockets are. I would rather be coached by a ranked boxer for a few sessions than a year free of Krav by a no name instructor.

  19. lets be honest any martial art has a weakness
    karate lacks aggressive a attack (as far as Ive seen)
    muay thai lacks holds
    bjj lacks any attack (i dont beleive it stands in fights on streets where people use weapons)
    and so on the only way it works is by mixing styls and commng up
    with the most efficient fighting style for each person

  20. None of the people here realized one thing. Any type of Self Defense system or Martial Arts system that is practiced here in the United States is not the real thing! People here in the United States at least 99% of them don't take these things seriously. They come and take these classes for fun. I am sure if you would go to Japan, China or even go to Israel you will see a complete difference in how they practice and take their arts seriously. Don't get me wrong there are a few people who take martial arts seriously who are from the United States but they are in the few. The real Krav Maga practiced in Israel is the most deadly in the world! The Krav Maga here in the U.S. is built upon making a profit nothing else.

  21. I believe Krav Maga is an evolving martial arts and have incorporated techniques previously not integrated yet to the system.

    Also honestly, all striking arts needs power to execute. Only ground skills can make a small guy have a chance. But ground skills on a street fight? That's another topic

  22. Ask Darren Levine... KM has real world utility. Imi developed it for IDF & it's used by U.S. forces today. I've used the rifle disarm at close range & it saved my life. It definitely works!

  23. to it.
    ok you lost me.