Krav Maga is a martial art developed in the late 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld and used by the Israeli Defense Forces. The name is Hebrew and translates roughly to 'hand-to-hand combat'. It focuses on real-world self-defense.
Krav Maga is a noncompetitive self-defense system developed in Israel that involves striking techniques, wrestling and grappling. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient, brutal counter-attacks. It was derived from street-fighting skills developed by Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler, as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava in the mid-to-late 1930s. In the late-1940s, following his immigration to Israel, he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the IDF, who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga. It has since been refined for civilian, police and military applications.
Krav Maga has a philosophy emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers, and aggression. Krav Maga is used by Israeli Defense Forces, both regular and special forces, and several closely related variations have been developed and adopted by law enforcement and intelligence organizations, Mossad and Shin Bet. There are several organizations teaching variations of Krav Maga internationally.
A key principle of Krav Maga is finishing a fight as quickly as possible and therefore all attacks are aimed towards the most vulnerable parts of the body (e.g., face, neck, groin, knee, etc.). Because there are no sporting rules, individuals trained in Krav Maga are not limited to techniques that avoid severely injuring their opponents, but training and sparring drills provide maximum safety to the students by the use of protective equipment and the use of reasonable force. For example, kicks to the groin during sparring is commonplace, but groin protection must be worn and students should demonstrate due diligence with regards for their partners' safety.
Students learn to defend against all variety of attacks before engaging in full-contact sparring. Students are taught to respond to attacks in the quickest and most efficient way; a common lesson taught is 'always use the nearest tool for the job'. This basically means use whichever limb is closest to your attacker at the time and whichever feels most natural. Men and women generally undergo the same drills. It has no sporting federation and there are no official uniforms (such as a gi). Usual training attire consists of a t-shirt and loose fitting trousers. Krav Maga is also one of the few martial arts in which footwear is habitually worn, due to it being 'reality-based training'. Most organizations recognize progress through training with rank badges, different levels, and belts.
General principles include:
- Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking preemptively).
- Targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points such as the eyes, jaw, throat, groin, knee, etc.
- Neutralizing the opponent as quickly as possible by responding with an unbroken stream of counter attacks and if necessary a take down/joint break.
- Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack and so on.
Basic training entails a warm-up, learning essential pressure points, and learning how to approach and control an opponent using force. Students learn how to execute strikes and kicks including punches, hammer fists, elbows, and various kicks. Students learn defenses against take-downs, chokes, bear-hugs, arm bars, and other possible attacks. Training also includes learning to defend against various weapons, such as knives, bats, guns, etc. Pressure drills, in which students engage with multiple attackers, are also common. Other tests include students closing their eyes and reacting to a variety of potential threats. Fitness and endurance training is also incorporated into regular classes.
Training can also cover situational awareness to develop an understanding of one's surroundings and potentially threatening circumstances before an attack occurs. It may also cover ways to deal with potentially violent situations, and physical and verbal methods to avoid violence whenever possible.
Organizations and forces using Krav Maga:
- Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
- Regular Forces
- Shin Bet
- United States
- United States Air Force