There are times that we are faced with dangerous situations that require us to stand our ground and defend ourselves. In such circumstances, it is either we protect ourselves, or we face the danger of annihilation. In such scenarios, the only way of self-defense is by physical means. If you’re looking to learn exceptional, close-quarter, hand-to-hand, self-defense skills―and also get in shape in the process―look no further than Krav Maga.
Krav Maga? I hear you say in surprise. What on God’s green earth is Krav Maga?
Well, that’s precisely what this article is all about.
Krav Maga translated ‘Contact Combat,’ or קְרַב מַגָּע in Hebrew is a powerful, dynamic, and efficient contemporary self-defense and fighting system, with realistic fight training. Krav Maga incorporates fighting techniques from martial arts, such as boxing, judo, karate, ju-jitsu, wing Chun, wrestling, Muay Thai, and aikido.
The origin of Krav Maga is rooted in the street-fighting experience of Imi Lichtenfeld, an Israeli boxing and wrestling champion, who lived in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, and who used his martial arts skills of boxing and wrestling to defend Jewish-occupied neighborhoods against anti-Semitic gangs.
Although Imi Lichtenfeld was skilled in both martial arts fields (i.e., boxing and wrestling), he soon learned they weren’t quite enough when he came face-to-face with the violent nature of street fighting. This harsh reality not only compelled him to rethink his entire perception of combat, but it also prompted him to start developing a series of fighting skills and techniques that later earned global recognition as Krav Maga.
After Israel’s nation was founded in 1948, and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was created, Imi Lichtenfeld was appointed Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF School of Combat and Fitness. During his 20-year service to the IDF and other Israeli security forces, he continued to develop and improve his techniques of Krav Maga. It should be pointed out that Krav Maga isn’t exactly a type of sport; it is essentially a vicious self-defense fighting system.
The Grading System
Most organizations teach Krav Maga to use a color belt grading system derived from the judo ranking system. The color belts for Krav Maga are ranked in the following order: Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown, and Black. This was Imi’s idea to bring Krav Maga into the martial arts and combat sports family.
The grading system is further divided into three major categories: Practitioner (P), Graduate (G), and Expert (E). Each class consists of 5 ranks and is usually abbreviated thus: P1-P5, G1-G5, and E1-E5. This system was developed by Eyal Yanilov, the current Chief Instructor of Krav Maga Global. He was a direct apprentice of Eli Avikzar (i.e., a top instructor of Krav Maga in the early days of the sport) and Grand Master Imi-Sde or (Lichtenfeld), founder of the Krav Maga system.
The Practitioner (P) Levels (P1 to P5) are typically student levels and, consequently, form the bulk of people learning Krav Maga. They are known as “Operators.” They are greenhorns learning each Krav Maga methodology (i.e., strikes, defenses, basic 3PP (Third Party Protection), and proper decision making) from scratch.
The Graduate (G) Levels (G1 to G5) is when the students transition into the “Fighter” stage of Krav Maga. To advance to these levels, students must demonstrate a clear adeptness in all practitioner level techniques. Here, they are introduced to more complicated scenarios, where they learn various advanced strikes and defenses. At this stage, they start learning to deal with escalating problems and warding off multiple attack situations.
The Expert (E) Levels (E1 to E5) is when the graduate students transition into the “Warrior” stage of Krav Maga. The expert levels training cover advanced military fighting techniques. As a result, they are strictly for experts that have mastered both the Practitioner and Graduate Levels techniques; people with outstanding fighting skills. At this stage, the students are nimble and agile―able to transition from one defense formation to the next without pause during variable threats they may face.
Anyone who advances beyond E5 is regarded as a Master. But only a small and select group of people are privileged to wear this rank of honor. Apart from Grand Master Imi-Sde Or (Lichtenfeld) (RIP), founder of the Krav Maga system, the few masters so far according to Krav Maga Global are Eyal Yanilov (Master Level 3), Ze’ev Cohen (Master Level 2), and Tommy Blom (Master Level 1). Masters are people who have spent a lifetime of dedication to learning and teaching Krav Maga.
10 Facts About Krav Maga
As we have seen in the preceding paragraphs, Krav Maga is more of a fighting system and a self-defense mechanism. However, it is most times lumped into the martial arts genre of sports. Now, what are some facts about Krav Maga that we can add to our knowledge block? They are as follows:
- Krav Maga is purely a self-defense fighting system that does not encourage its students to engage in confrontation. It is deployed only in extreme situations where your life is clearly in grave danger.
- Krav Maga is designed to keep you safe when you find yourself in life-threatening situations. And it does this by helping you develop a high sense of situational awareness to the point of swiftly disarming an attacker and ending any confrontation as rapidly and even brutally as possible.3
- Since the core objective is to de-escalate a violent attack, Krav Maga fighting skills are targeted at the most vulnerable parts of the human body to do so, such as gouging out the eyes, kick in the groin, head butts, etc.
- Krav Maga was first offered as a training course for civilians in 1972. Before this time, it had been restricted to the military and other related security agencies. It was first taught at the School for Trainers, situated at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education in Israel.2
- Krav Maga can be learned by just about anyone, irrespective of your body size. Even if you are a small person, Krav Maga fighting techniques are structured to help you out in any threatening situation by increasing your chances of fighting off a bigger attacker.3
- Krav Maga is not regarded as a martial art because a martial art is competition-focused since it is practiced as a sport and usually follows a set of rules. Furthermore, unlike traditional martial arts, where it takes years to achieve proficiency, Krav Maga is easier to learn but can pose its challenges. The core denominator for gaining this proficiency is discipline. Hence, with consistency and discipline, mastery could be reached within a relatively short time, ceteris paribus.
- As an aggressive self-defense fighting skill, Krav Maga is always evolving to suit dramatic changes in our day-to-day real-world experiences with violence. It is an organic self-defense mechanism.
- Krav Maga also functions as a fitness exercise that helps you develop physically. It consists of various combative fitness exercises and other related challenging workout activities; it helps build and strengthen your core muscles, which invariably improves your balance and posture.
- Krav Maga also enhances mental development. It increases your range of focus and sharpens your mental alertness. It induces sound sleep and has a unique way of synchronizing mind and body, blending them and enabling them to function as a strong unit.1
- In 1972, an Israeli organization, known as Federation for Krav Maga and Self Defense―with a strict focus on Imi Lichtenfeld’s method―was formed to protect and promote Krav Maga in its purest form. However, in 1974, the organization was renamed the Israeli Krav Maga Association.2
Self-defense is the act of defending one’s person when physically attacked. If you are clueless about what to do in such a scenario, you are pretty much a sitting duck and bear the lethal attack’s brunt, which could be fatal. However, you are justified to defend yourself in response to an immediate threat. In such precarious situations, we need to make every attempt to escape the danger (i.e., “duty to retreat”). If this fails and we are under attack by the aggressor, we need to defend ourselves. Krav Maga can help slow down a lethal attack to give us room to escape from the situation.
Imi Lichtenfeld once said that we should “Krav Maga, so that one may walk in peace.” By having such knowledge, you are at peace knowing that you have a standing chance to fight and live should you ever fall into a precarious situation. He also said that “Krav Maga heightens perception and transforms fear into something more productive.” If you are in a perilous position, you come under the pangs of fear. Via Krav Maga, your fear now becomes your opportunity to live―a fighting chance to keep existing.
- Eitan: Krav Maga (2017, January 29). What are the Benefits of Krav Maga Training? Retrieved from https://eitankravmaga.com/krav-maga-for-beginners/benefits-of-krav-maga-training/
- Raley-Lusk, S. (2015, November 9). Israel Self Defense: 5 Facts about the History of Krav Maga. Retrieved from https://www.newsmax.com/fastfeatures/israel-self-defense-krav-maga-history/2015/11/09/id/701356/
- Westchester, S. (2016, 29 September). 3 Facts you should know about Krav Maga Training. Retrieved from https://nearsay.com/c/182582/141967/3-facts-you-should-know-about-krav-maga-training.