Krav Maga

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Krav Maga
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Krav Maga Philosophy:

Krav Maga groin kickKrav Maga, which translates to “Contact Combat”, is a form of martial arts focused on self-defense. Although it originated in Israel, it has become popular throughout several countries over the past few decades. There are many different organizations dedicated to Krav Maga and the system differs slightly among the organizations. Nonetheless, they all have the similar goals.

With a focus on avoiding confrontations, Krav Maga teaches students how to defend themselves in real-world scenarios. Students are taught to never do more harm than necessary and to avoid conflict as much as possible. Krav Maga is also used by some for an aerobic work-out, while others like the practicality of the techniques. As a combat-tested martial art, Krav Maga has many uses.

History of Krav Maga:

In 1948, the Israeli army was revamped and the Israeli Defensive Forces created. Imi Lichtenfeld joined the army as an instructor, teaching his own fighting techniques. This form of fighting, which became known as Krav Maga, included a combination of wrestling, boxing, gymnastics and military training. Lichtenfeld continued to teach Krav Maga to soldiers until 1963, the whole time refining the program so it could serve as an optimal self-defense and combat system.

Krav Maga Israeli fightingAlthough Lichtenfeld retired from the military in 1963, his dedication to Krav Maga persisted. He altered the system so it could be taught to civilians and opened two centers dedicated to the program. By 1972, a world-famous training center in Israel started offering Krav Maga classes. In addition to being the official martial art of the Israeli Defense Force and the Military Police, Krav Maga became part of elementary and high school education. To standardize the program, the Federation for Krav Maga and Self-Defense was created in 1978. One of the main goals of the organization was to be non-political and to help the sport develop on its own. The name of the organization changed to the Israeli Krav Maga Association in 1980, but the mission remained the same.

In the 1980’s, Krav Maga began to pop up in the US. However, this version of Krav Maga differed from the Israeli version. Most of the instructors had not trained in the art for longer than a few months, and the instruction was not as thorough. There was more of an emphasis on getting a good work-out than on self-defense. Eventually, more qualified instructors brought a more pure version of Krav Maga to the US. There are now several branches of the system, including Commando Krav Maga, Special Forces Krav Maga and Tactical Krav Maga.

Training and Techniques:

Krav Maga for personal protectionKrav Maga focuses more on self-defense and hand-to-hand combat than on forms. All of the training focuses on real-life scenarios and can be applied to a street fight. With no forms or katas, the training is purely practical.

Students are taught how to stop an attacker and how to remove themselves from bad situations. In order to defend themselves, students are taught to use crippling strikes to the eyes, groin, fingers and neck of opponents. These attacks can be used preemptively or as counter-attacks, but speed is important in either case. The strikes can be very damaging to an opponent. Because the strikes use more technique and speed than power, strength is not required to issue a damaging blow. This means that people of any size or age can excel at Krav Maga and use it to defend themselves against an opponent of a larger size.

Practitioners of Krav Maga are taught to use objects in their surroundings as weapons. However, there are also several punching and kicking techniques taken from other styles of martial arts. Karate, Boxing and Muay Thai all have influenced the striking techniques in Krav Maga. Spinning heel kicks, axe kicks and palm heel strikes are only a few of the striking methods. When training in striking, most students hit the heavy bag or hit pads.

Krav Maga fightingGround fighting is another critical aspect of Krav Maga training. First, students are taught how to minimize damage when they fall. Breaking a fall may involve rolling forwards or backwards, or simply falling back with proper technique. To take an opponent to the ground, single-leg takedowns, double-leg takedowns and throws are practiced. Grappling techniques are a major focus of Krav Maga practitioners, with students learning submissions and submission defenses. Popular techniques include the Guillotine Choke and the Triangle Choke. Basics of jiu-jitsu, like escaping a full-mount, keep students safe on the ground.

Some Krav Maga gyms offer even more specialized self-defense training. They teach techniques to get out of hair grabs and bear hugs. There are methods for fighting multiple opponents at once as well as preparations for fighting back in a carjacking and hijacking situation.

Krav Maga Israeli self defenseOnce basic Krav Maga techniques are learned, sparring becomes a major part of training. To avoid injury, sparring is usually done lightly at first. In some organizations, sparring is not allowed at all until a high level of training has occurred. This varies among organizations, and some encourage sparring early on. As a student becomes more experienced, sparring becomes more realistic and is done harder. Protective gear is often worn during sparring sessions, although some organizations use very minimal gear to make the scenario as realistic as possible.

Uniforms and Rankings:

Krav Maga childrens competitionsWhen Lichtenfeld created Krav Maga, he embraced the idea of a colored belt ranking system similar to that of Judo. Several of the Israel Krav Maga organizations use this same system, as do some American institutions. The ranking system is the following order: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and black. Black belts can increase their ranks from 1st dan to 9th dan.

Lichtenfeld also developed a system of patches, and some schools in Israel and in other countries have adopted this system. The system is broken down into three levels, each with 5 ranks. Practitioner, labeled “P”, is the first rank. A “P1” written on a patch marks a novice, and a “P5” is the highest ranking a Practitioner can earn. The next level is Graduate, and the number system is the same. Being a Graduate does not mean that the individual is an instructor, although most instructors have a Graduate ranking. In order to become an instructor, the student needs to complete instructor training classes. An “E”, or Expert rating, means that the student has underwent advanced skill training. Many individuals with an Expert ranking teach Krav Maga to military personnel and law enforcement. Once an E5 ranking has been achieved, the individual can move on to the final rank of Master. Very few people have reached this point, as it takes almost a lifetime of training to be considered a Master.

There are no uniforms in Krav Maga, although some schools may issue uniforms to their students. Students usually wear comfortable pants and t-shirts. While sparring, some students are required to wear shinguards, cups, moutguards and headgear.

Organizations dedicated to the Style:

Krav Maga Global – This is one of the major Krav Maga Organizations. There are links to events and information about the sport.
Israeli Krav Maga Association – An organization dedicated to teaching Krav Maga
Israeli Krav Maga Foundation USA – A website and organization dedicated to educating people about Krav Maga in the US

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