I'm aware of the belt system and patch system used. The only problem is that so far I have not found a school that specifically lists Imi Lichtenfeld's colored belt system or Eyal Yanilov's patch system.

I know a lot of the programs are just conditioning classes along the lines of Tae Bo.

How might I distinguish between a school offering self defense vs fitness classes?

  • As a quibble, I expect Krav Maga practitioners do not call it a dojo.
    – mattm
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 17:57
  • As a quibble, I'm afraid the word dojo is used in many other contexts besides its original karate dojo. For example: programming dojo, learning dojo... Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 22:26
  • Just a synonym for a martial arts school.They probably use a different term depending on how involved with the mixed martial arts history passed down from the east.
    – ZeroPhase
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


Attend a class

As inconvenient as it may be, your best bet is to show up and observe or participate in a class. Almost every legitimate martial arts school I've visited has allowed new students to try out at least one class for free, and all of them allow you to observe general sessions with very little hassle. We are not in the era of "secret dojo techniques" anymore, and you should be wary of any school that claims the same. Observing a class will let you know what the focus of the school is, and what you might expect.

Caveats to that statement

Some schools do not allow you to jump into a general class for liability or safety reasons. If you show up on the day that the class is practicing neck cranks, the instructor probably will not want to risk a new student injuring themselves, or someone else, by reacting the wrong way to a technique. If it is a weapons class, they may not want to put a blade or chain weapon in the hands of someone who may injure themselves or others. Many schools will give you a one-on-one training of basics instead.

Individual instruction is different from group instruction

Having an instructor show you the techniques one-on-one can make things seem really easy, and engenders a feeling that the teacher truly cares for you as an individual. In actuality, you will likely be one among many, which is why you will want to insist on at least viewing a group class.

Watch the instructors, not the techniques

I know you probably want to see all of the whiz-bang things that you'll be learning, but more important for now is to see how the instructors comport themselves. Are they noticing when a student has trouble? How do they go about correcting an error? Are the students treated with dignity? Is training by instructors or by senior students? And, for your case, does it look like they're teaching practical self-defense? Is it fanciful movements that only work with a willing partner, or just calisthenics?

Above all, ask questions

This applies whether you see things you like or you don't like. Maybe you walked in on the day when they're doing conditioning for the upcoming tournament (as Sardathrion notes, conditioning is important for general health). Maybe the parent organization just changed syllabi, and that's why the instructor seemed uncertain of what technique came next. Maybe some other red flag came up for you and you want to ask a student or instructor whether this was a typical class. If people are wary to answer questions, be wary of them.

Good luck!

  • Yeah, that's really the best way. This is the school I believe meets my needs. From the website does it look legitimate? kmfchicago.com/civilian-force
    – ZeroPhase
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 20:57
  • @ZeroPhase: I really can't say. I've never done Krav Maga. :) I was speaking more of a general case for martial arts schools. Are they close enough to you to visit? Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 21:00
  • Yeah, I'll sign up for a trial, and see. Thanks.
    – ZeroPhase
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 21:03

Fitness is self defence.

Rule one: CARDIO is relevant even outside of a Zombie Apocalypse.

By being unfit, you are lowering your survival rates. Your chances of surviving a fight are much lower. You will feel worst mentally. You will be more prone to diseases. You will get fat and gain associated health problems. Taking good care of your body will serve you much more than a hypothetical "self defence" fantasy of someone attacking you in a dark alley.

What are your risks of being a victim of crime in the UK.

No nonsense self defense should dispel many of your misconceptions about self defence -- I use the UK spelling in preference. Learning krav maga (or any other martial art whatsoever) will not make you proficient at defending yourself although it will help as part of your arsenal.

This answer about Aikido dojo remains relevant, so I encourage you to read it.

  • 1
    I second the recommendation of the No Nonsense Self Defense site - a ton of great information that takes a while to assimilate. Sardathrion, I love your phrasing of "fantasy" of defending yourself in a dark alley :). NNSD points out and explains things like "The number one predictor of you getting in a fight is... 'You're being an arsehole' ". [British English phrasing there... :) ) Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 13:59
  • @AmorphousBlob Pretty much yeah. Too many people live with a fantasy of self defence myths perpetuated by urban myths and uneducated opinions. Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 14:14
  • Oh conditioning is definitely important. From me doing some research it just sounds like may of the Krav Maga schools in the US are fitness classes with there being a disconnect between what is taught to the IDF and foreigners attending a school. Since I'm looking for this for self defense (I already have a conditioning regime) I'm basically looking for a school that spars?
    – ZeroPhase
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 20:56

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