Monday, November 22, 2010

What the Heck is Krav Maga

At some point or another, usually when I start commenting on what to do during a knife attack or when people ask about the bruises on my forearms (or face and neck and legs...), I mention I do Krav Maga.  Some people have heard of it, but for most people, the response is 'What the heck is Krav Maga?"
IKMF, one of a number of Krav Maga organizations worldwide

In a nutshell Krav Maga is a martial art / hand to hand defensive tactics program taught to the IDF, or Israeli Defense Force.  It originated in the 30's in former Czechoslovakia, largely created by a man named Imi Lichtenfeld, where Jewish townsfolk needed a practical way to defend themselves from encrouching Nazi brownshirts.  When Israel was founded in 1948, Imi became the head of military fitness and hand to hand training, and from then on Krav Maga began to develop as a formal system.  Its Israeli origins have earned it the joking nickname 'Jew Jitsu', but it's very serious and considered to be one of the most effective personal combat systems in the world.  This effectiveness stems from its overriding emphasis on practicality and adaptability in a combat situation.  This has made it a favorite of various military, law enforcement, and personal protection agencies.
This jogger should not have attacked the old guy who happened to have founded Krav Maga

What do I mean by practicality? The first rule of Krav Maga is don't get hurt.  What's the best way to not get hurt? Don't get in a fight! If someone with a gun asks for your wallet, give 'em your goddamn wallet.  There is 0 use getting shot trying to look cool.  There are so many unknowns in any violent confrontation that even highly trained individuals should do their beset to avoid fighting at all.  This is (and if it's not it should be) drilled in from Day One of any effective Krav instruction.

Conflict avoidance is great but it doesn't always succeed.  When it fails, Krav Maga comes in.  Like a wise man once said "don't hit first, but don't hit softly either".  Krav Maga is built around inflicting maximum damage in minimum time to an attacker, operating under the assumption that any attack is life or death.  People revert to gross motor functions when under great stress, so many defense techniques in Krav are intended to build on instinctive moves made to protect your face and body.  Additionally good training involves introducing disorienting factors such as loud noise, dizziness, and strobing lights to try to simulate environmental stress. 
They haven't taught me that one ... yet

Have I ever had to use this in real life? Not so far, though there've been some close calls.  Will I ever? Part of me hopes so to use what I've learned but the smarter part of me hopes not, especially given the extreme danger involved in some of the crazier techniques (handgun disarm while facedown with a guy sitting on you? No thanks).
LA based Krav Maga world wide, my current instructors

 However, it's a system that anyone can learn.  And better yet I've met some really great and well adjusted people doing it.  Fight on!

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