Many of us have heard of Krav Maga. It is a system designed to take the most inexperienced of people and turn them into trained fighters in a relatively short amount of time. It was specifically designed to train soldiers by taking the basics of a plethora of martial arts (e.g. Judo and Sambo) and is also used by the Israeli Defense Forces. I believe that the training methods of Krav Maga, can be beneficial to many other martial arts.
I have trained in Krav Maga myself, and what struck me first, was the complete lack of sparring. I found this quite peculiar, as I’ve have noticed the trend online where any martial art that doesn’t involve sparring, is instantly shamed and deemed as useless by keyboard warriors on internet forums. The overwhelming majority of these martial arts tend to be very traditional such as some styles of Kung Fu.
Sparring is an option for combat sports, but Krav Maga utilizes vehemently brutal tactics such as eye gouging and groin kicks as the brunt of its attacks. Nevertheless, Krav Maga introduced training exercises that, in my opinion, many martial arts could benefit from. The exercises involved simulating real life scenarios in an extremely realistic way, without any of the actual danger. This was done by following simple rules when practicing the techniques:
Note: Strikes don't actually make contact with the attacker - they are just feigned.
One of the advantages seen in this system of self-defence when compared to combat sports, is the lack of a rule set or a strict curriculum to follow. It completely revolves around survival and adaptation. Many combat sports are recommended for self-defence, and rightfully so, but the students end up adhering to rules such as “no kicks below the belt”. This completely eliminates dozens of techniques from being used in real and dangerous situations as the practitioner is not used to fighting in a setting where there are no rules.
Many combat sports also follow inflexible curriculums with forms, and techniques for different strikes. In contrast, Krav Maga only requires that you know how to handle yourself in different situations, and is not strict in the method you use to do so.
Krav Maga also eliminates a specific problem caused by adherence to such stern curriculums. When practicing a new technique in traditional styles, the person you practice with usually shows little to no resistance. This is only useful for demonstration purposes. A clear example in my past experiences was when practicing techniques in my classes for Shorinji Kempo and traditional, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. It felt natural to have my partner slow down their movements and provide no resistance to my locks when I was a beginner, but this seemed to be a trope with the more experienced students as well.
This results in, especially with traditional martial arts that only train by repetition, overconfident students who rely on techniques that they have only ever applied to willing and consenting partners. Some will certainly exclaim – “but some of these martial arts have randori!”. But randori is a questionable method. Aikido is a soft-style, Japanese martial art known for its randori, but its efficacy is questionable by many in a real-life scenario. This is because, without fail, randori always leads to the attacker attacking in ways that are extremely unrealistic and purposely meant to assist the defender in applying their techniques. In demonstrations of randori, it almost makes the martial art look like one of those no-touch McDojo styles. For those who don’t know, randori is an exercise which involves defending a series of random attacks from multiple attackers. I’ve embedded an example of this below:
The approach of constant repetition and randori may have worked in feudal Japan, where the practitioners were mostly warriors and Samurai. They dedicated their entire lives to training and fighting, as evidenced by the many pieces of literature provided from the era, e.g. The Book of Five Rings. If you dedicate years to learning Aikido, and other such arts in this manner and follow it up by training speed and aggression, then it would most certainly work. But in this day and age, people have jobs, they mostly avoid fights, and their lives don’t revolve around war and death (like the lives of the Samurai did). We simply don’t have the time to dedicate ourselves to such extreme training, which is perhaps why many traditional martial arts don’t hold up in the modern world.
But this is where Krav Maga shakes things up. It utilizes reactions that the human body naturally has as an advantage. Blocking is based on the intuition to cover your face with your hands when you see something coming - in contrast, blocks in Karate have to be drilled constantly until they replace your natural reflexes. This shortens the amount of time one has to spend on their training before becoming an effective fighter. Another thing that was stressed by my coach was maximum aggression, by both the attacker and the defender applying the technique. We were also encouraged to think in the moment; if we failed to use the technique, we would try to keep it going, and escape the situation we were in, using the previous lessons we had been taught.
Many of you will have caught on by now, that this vastly contrasts with the approach by most martial arts. I know that in all the styles that I have trained that are based on the same type of self-defence grapples, would simply have me go back to the beginning and repeat the motion consistently.
Krav Maga also comes with a good variety of supplementary drills, such as pad work, to help perfect your strikes and work your cardiovascular ability at the same time. Traditional martial arts (at least in my experience) are bereft of such exercises too.
The mentality that Krav Maga instills in its practitioners, the one of adaptation, is crucial, yet lacking, in traditional martial arts. Thus, its training methods are better adapted to the people of today. Curriculums based on repetition (found in every traditional style) are bound to fail in the modern world as the majority of us simply cannot dedicate enough time to learn in this manner.