Women should do whatever they want,*(note at bottom) but because you’ve clicked on this blog post, let’s talk about Krav Maga!
What is Krav Maga? Unlike Taekwondo and other codified systems of martial arts, Krav Maga is “practical.” Developed by the Israel Defense Force in the late 1940s, Krav Maga is a fighting and self-defense system where practitioners learn a number of moves and techniques to efficiently extricate themselves from violent or escalating situations.
In Taekwondo and other martial arts, students learn how to reproduce certain punches, kicks, and blocks in different patterns. Although Taekwondo can be used as a self-defense, the goal is mastery of the sport. Krav Maga is different in that it is continuously changing. While students of Taekwondo learn routines to perform at competitions, students of Krav Maga learn moves to quickly evade attacks — showmanship is not an aspect.
I took a Krav Maga beginner’s course last weekend and found it to be a worthwhile experience! While I feel ZERO percent prepared to effectively use what I learned, the course was a good intro into the foundational concepts and it certainly can give students a feel for what continued Krav Maga training can look like.
At the beginning of the course, the instructor quickly explained the history of Krav Maga and his background in the practice. The instructor was very friendly and personable, belying his decades of experience in martial arts, Krav Maga, and work in private security breaking up bar fights. The instructor recounted stories from his past work to illustrate the lessons. One important point to understand is that “defending oneself” in the common sense of the term and in the legal sense of the term are completely different. If you feel threatened by someone, you cannot (easily) claim self-defense if you attack the other person first or if you attack them while their back is turned. With personal experience providing witness testimony in court, the instructor emphasized the importance of first attempting to deescalate or extricate yourself (by taking steps back, for example) from a dangerous situation before resorting to Krav Maga techniques.
When the attack is life threatening (like when someone comes up behind you and puts you in a chokehold), then you “attack the attacker.” When the attack is not life threatening (like if someone grabs your wrist), then you “attack the attack.” The difference is important. A court may not see a headbutt as an appropriate self-defense tactic if someone has only grabbed you by the elbow. Regardless of whether the attack is life-threatening, the first step is to “disrupt” the attack. In the chokehold (life-threatening scenario), this could mean digging your fingers between the attacker’s arms and your neck to limit the effects of strangulation. In this case, as the attack is life threatening, doing damage to the attacker (with some sort of strike), to facilitate your escape is “justified” to prevent loss of life. In the wrist-grab scenario, there are effective moves to disrupt the attack and extricate oneself without dealing any blows. Again, as an “efficient” system of defense — Krav Maga’s focus on quick effective moves is helpful to disrupt and evade the conflict before it gets out of hand.
Krav Maga gets the reputation for being a good form of physical fitness. The instructor discussed this point with halfhearted enthusiasm, because — yes, on the one hand, it can be physically demanding, but, no, on the other hand, physical fitness is not the point of Krav Maga (it’s just the natural result of punching and kicking at intervals for a period of time). We did a lot of partner work in the lesson (simulating attacks and performing the moves to disengage from them), and yes, there was some cardio involved. However, at the same time, there was a lot of standing around, learning techniques, and watching demonstrations.
Near the end of the class, in my opinion, this is where Krav Maga differed most from Taekwondo. We were briefly introduced to tactics that can help one escape from knife and gun attacks. To facilitate these lessons, we used bright blue plastic guns and knives in our partner work to simulate these scenarios. If anything, it felt kind of like musical theater (rather than an actually life-threatening situation), to hold up a fake knife to someone’s throat or a gun to someone’s head, and run through the choreography of disarming and damaging the attacker and disengaging from the attack. It was cool to see the instructor quickly relieve the attacker of his gun, however—let’s be honest—most people probably wouldn’t attempt this in real life (your adrenaline response may not allow it). Additionally, the instructor warned that stopping knife attacks in his experience in bar security sometimes meant two, three, or even four people disarming the attacker (so you may not want to intervene alone!). So, even though there are moves you can use to evade such attacks, it does not mean that they will always be effective in real life.
Overall, Krav Maga was AWESOME. If I had more time and more money (both scarce commodities in my life at present), I would totally sign up for a Krav Maga course. Learning and practicing these tactics is not only a very interesting reservoir of knowledge to possess but it can also be useful (if you’re in bar security or live a Jason-Bourne style existence, for example).
Finally, as a reminder, Krav Maga techniques should be used for self-defense only. Additionally, if one can flee from a potentially dangerous conflict without Krav Maga — that is absolutely the best option!
If you’re curious and located in the greater Boston area, consider taking a beginner’s course at Krav Maga Yashir!
*Women should do whatever they want— with exceptions including but not limited to attempt to: inflict grievous bodily harm, conspire to defraud individuals or organizations, launch “fake news” campaigns, commit acts of espionage and/or high treason, unlawfully confiscate high-sugar confections from infants, among other offenses.