Sunday, March 6, 2016

Is Krav Maga a Martial Art?

I've been studying Krav Maga for two months, so this post represents a beginner's point of view.

I'm a subscriber to the mailing list run by Mr .Eyal Yanilov, head of the Krav Maga organization in which I train. Last week he sent a message titled "Combining Krav Maga with other Martial Arts." It contained the following:

Krav Maga is not a martial art.. it is a reality based self defense system.. there is a huge difference between the two which people often misunderstand. Asking “ which is better “ is asking the wrong question. The correct question is  "what is your goal? and which one is better for achieving that specific goal?"

In addition.. combining the two has advantages and disadvantages which you should be aware of.

Watch my videos below on the difference between Krav Maga and traditional martial arts.. and the pros and cons of combing the two.

I thought this was an interesting perspective, especially since I just listened to episode 41 of the Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio podcast, which asked "Where is the Martial Arts in MMA?" Whistlekick founder Jeremy Lesniak proposed that mixed martial arts should be called "mixed martial combat" instead. A length comment by Erik argued otherwise, claiming there is martial art within MMA.

In this post, I'd like to share my thoughts about Krav Maga. I might address MMA later.

Having studied several traditional martial arts, I definitely see big differences between Krav Maga and, say, Kung Fu or Tae Kwon Do. When studying Tae Kwon Do, for example, there seemed to be three "phases" of training:

1. Techniques, like certain ways of standing, moving, striking, and the like.

2. Forms, which incorporate those techniques, but have a representation, purpose, and motion of their own.

3. Sparring, which in some cases abandons or replaces what students learn in phases 1 and 2. For example, few TKD fighters use the traditional blocks and stances learned in 1 and 2 while sparring. They do execute kicks learned in 1 and 2, however.

Some systems add a fourth, spiritual component, perhaps via meditation. You could even include a fifth element, explicit character development, whereby the instructor dedicates time to sharing stories or thoughts on how to live an honorable life, perhaps through the five tenets of TKD.

Krav Maga, speaking as a beginner, seems to focus more on techniques, fitness, and an exceptional attention to situational awareness, mental attitude, and performance under complicated and stressful self-defense situations.

The latter elements come alive in the drills we run in class, which I enjoy. In no other system have I had to regularly contend against multiple opponents, who try to impede executing techniques as part of the drill. Recently we ran an exercise where I started by striking a bag held by a second person. A third person entered my field of view from the side, pushing me, such that I had to turn to engage him at various ranges. Suddenly a fourth person choked me from behind, or put me in a headlock, from which I had to escape. After freeing myself, I returned to striking the pad held by the second person, and some variation of the multiple attacker scenario continued.

Krav Maga does not have forms, but my school does spar on Friday Fight Nights. We incorporate the essential striking techniques into sparring, but we do not attack the groin, eyes, or other vital areas as one might encounter in normal Krav Maga techniques. In that respect, sparring is more about learning timing, distance, and tactical awareness through engaging a live opponent in a controlled setting.

Does any of this matter? I think the answer appears in Mr. Yanilov's email, where he wrote:

Asking “which is better“ is asking the wrong question. The correct question is  "what is your goal? and which one is better for achieving that specific goal?"

My goals when joining my Krav Maga program included:

1. Becoming part of school with quality instructors, both in terms of skill and character.

2. Challenging myself physically, in a fitness setting, but more importantly, challenging myself mentally, by learning martial arts techniques.

3. Reconnecting with a lost part of myself, and with a global community who uses martial training as a means to improve themselves and thereby improve the world.

My Krav Maga program at First Defense meets all three goals.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I think there are a few things at work here:

    1) The key element of effective fighting systems is the presence of an opposing will. Without this, effectiveness is eroded by the absence of pressure testing.

    2) Competition evolves to the limits of the rule system. This leads to holes that attackers can exploit when the rule system changes, or is missing.

    3) Changes in the rule system favor the most athletic, pressure-tested practitioners.

    The presence of the opposing will in training is why MMA-related systems perform better. However, once practitioners with those tested skills are experienced and athletic enough, they can incorporate previously abandoned techniques to gain an advantage. This is why we're seeing a resurgence of traditional martial arts techniques at the highest levels in MMA: freak athletes with a mastery of the basics now have the freedom to do things that had previously lost much of their pressure-tested context.