The proliferation of martial arts films in recent decades has meant that most people have a nodding acquaintance with the look and style of Eastern martial arts like karate and kung fu. The prevalence of martial arts in popular culture has made learning such disciplines fun and desirable for people from all walks of life. Through the study of these martial arts people are able to improve their physical condition and boost their self esteem.
Recently a newer martial art has been gaining popularity around the world. Krav Maga was first developed by a man named Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930’s. Lichtenfeld developed his fighting techniques on the streets and eventually refined them to the point that they became the official defense system used by the Israeli Defense Forces. For a time Krav Maga techniques remained largely unknown outside of Israel. That all began to change in the early 1980’s when a small band of Krav Maga instructors journeyed to the United States to give a demonstration. The FBI observed the demonstration and, intrigued, asked for instruction.
The rest is history, as Krav Maga techniques have been spread to nations throughout the world. Some people use the discipline to be prepared to defend themselves in any situation. Other people are professional fighters who are looking to learn some valuable new fighting methods. Still other people undergo Krav Maga training simply for the physical benefits. Krav Maga requires a strong, flexible body and a sharp mind. It’s a total body workout unlike any that can be found at a traditional gym or dojo.
Before beginning to study Krav Maga techniques it is important to understand that Krav Maga is not a sport. There is no central governing body that oversees the discipline and there are no widely accepted rules. In fact, because Krav Maga is essentially designed to teach people how to defend themselves in a potentially life threatening situation, the discipline has no real rules at all. Consequently, students of Krav Maga are encouraged to utilize techniques that would be considered dirty or illegal in other forms of fighting. The theory behind this stratagem is that the life of the individual under attack may be threatened. Their attacker cannot be expected to adhere to the rules of fair play. Hence, the Krav Maga practitioner must utilize any defensive and offensive approach that seems necessary to the situation.
Krav Maga techniques are designed to increase the individual’s awareness of the world around them. Because of this increased awareness, practitioners are said to be able to better anticipate an attack and are therefore more prepared to defend themselves and potentially a third party. Techniques focus mainly on hand strikes like punches, although practitioners also learn to throw elbow strikes when in close quarters with their attacker. Kicks are also used, but these are rarely the showy high kicks often seen in martial arts movies. Instead, Krav Maga focuses on lower kicks that are efficient and present less risk. Students will learn to use knee strikes, front kicks and back kicks. At a very advanced level the student may also be introduced to higher, more complicated kicks. However, most instructors discourage students from trying to use such high risk maneuvers in real life situations. Such techniques are taught mainly so that students will recognize when an opponent is preparing to use such a kick against them.
In Krav Maga the opponents are trained to remain on their feet as much as possible. This is considered advantageous as the discipline encourages the practitioner to look for escape routes and everyday objects that can be used as weapons while fighting. The Krav Maga approach is realistic enough, however, to recognize that remaining on one’s feet during a fight may not always be possible. To prepare the student for such an eventuality instructors introduce their class members to ground fighting techniques and grappling. At more advanced levels some students will also begin to grow familiar with throws and takedowns, but these are generally discouraged in Krav Maga.
Krav Maga techniques can also be used to defend against an attack with a weapon. Some course work focuses on how to defend against an opponent who is using a knife, gun or blunt object. Students also learn to fight with such weapons themselves and are trained to use everyday items as weapons if necessary.
Krav Maga is an excellent means of self defense as it stresses instinctive movements. The techniques are widely recognized as being easy to learn and a modest commitment of time can yield a great deal of knowledge and skill. Krav Maga can be used simply for fitness purposes, but most people find that sparring classes are also helpful for basic self defense. It is a discipline that promotes efficient defense and healthy self esteem.