Principles of Krav Maga

In Krav Maga, there are no hard-and-fast rules. It is not a sport, and there are no competitions. All the techniques focus on maximum efficiency in real-life conditions. Krav Maga generally assumes a no quarter situation; the attacks and defenses are intended to inflict the most pain possible on the opponent. Groin strikes, headbutts, and other efficient and potentially brutal attacks are emphasized. The guiding principles for those performing Krav Maga techniques are:

  • neutralize the threat
  • avoid injury
  • go from defending to attacking as quickly as possible
  • use the body’s natural reflexes
  • strike at any vulnerable point
  • use any tool or object nearby

The basic idea is to first deal with the immediate threat (being choked, for example), prevent the attacker from re-attacking, and then neutralize the attacker, proceeding through all steps in a straightforward manner, despite the rush of adrenaline that occurs in such an attack. The emphasis is put on taking the initiative from the attacker as soon as possible.

Krav Maga Techniques

Although Krav Maga shares many techniques with other martial arts, such as Boxing, Savate and Muay Thai (for the punches, kicks, elbows and knees) or Ju-Jitsu, Judo and Wrestling (for the grappling and disarming techniques), the training is often quite different. It stresses fighting under worst-case conditions (for example, against several opponents, when protecting someone else, with one arm unusable, when dizzy, or against armed opponents).

Training in Krav Maga is an aerobic workout, and relies heavily on pads. Students take turns holding pads and doing combative against the pads. This is important because it allows the student to practice the technique at full strength, and the student holding the pad learns a little of what it feels like to get hit. It can be almost as taxing to hold a pad as to practice against one. Some schools incorporate “Strike and Fight,” which consists of full-contact sparring intended to familiarise the student with the stresses of a violent situation.

Training may employ a speaker system blasting loud music, stroboscope and/or fog machine meant to train the student to ignore peripheral distractions and focus on causing as much damage as possible. It may also contain ways to deal with situations which could end in fights. Physical and verbal methods to avoid violence whenever possible are taught.

A typical Krav Maga session in a civilian school is about an hour long and mixes aerobic training with self-defence teaching. As levels increase, the instructors focus a little less on aerobic training and slightly more on combative. First, the instructor will run a very intense drill to get the class’s heart rates up. Then, after stretching, the instructor will teach two or three self-defence techniques. In the beginning the techniques will either be combative (punches, hammer-fists, elbows, knees and roundhouse kicks, for example) or grappling (breaking out of chokes or wrist-grabs, getting out from under an opponent while on one’s back). After that, the class usually moves to a drill that combines the techniques just taught with an aerobic technique. Finally, there is the final drill intended to burn out the students. Depending on the class – and on the instructor’s mood – this drill may be at the very beginning or at the end of the class.