Learning Israel-Style Self-Defense and Practical Fighting Skills


I am re-reading the book Krav Maga: How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault as I went back to a private lesson last week. I took Krav Maga lessons about six years ago and decided that I needed a refresher course. For those of you who do not know what Krav Maga is, from the book I mentioned:

Krav Maga is today’s cutting edge self-defense and hand to hand combat system. Initially developed by Grandmaster Imi Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld) for the Israel Defense Forces and other national security services, Krav Maga has been thoroughly adapted to meet civilan needs. The method was designed so that ordinary citizens, young and old, men and women alike, can successfully use it, regardless of their physical strength. This is the first and only authorized comprehensive manual on the Krav Maga discipline, written by its founder, Imi Sde-Or, and his senior disciple and follower, Eyal Yanilove. This volume especially focuses on the various facets of dealing with an assailant armed with a sharp-edged weapon, a blunt object, or a firearm.

One of the tips the book mentions is to avoid injury. Apparently, I can’t follow that rule as I came home with a boxer’s contusion on my right hand. I remember when I took Taekwondo, I broke my fingers twice. I was in grad school at the time and decided it wasn’t worth risking not being able to write and left the classes after three years (the karate classes, not the grad school, though the risk of getting an expensive degree that wouldn’t pan out was certainly up for debate).

Krav Maga always seemed fascinating to me as it is supposed to be mainly for self-defense. However, Vox Day feels differently as he had a post I found from last June where he is quite skeptical of Krav Maga after reading an article about how women can floor an attacker:

I have no doubt that it is incredibly easy to learn. Which only confirms my impression that it is actually worse than useless, because it teaches women to expect to incapacitate an attacker.

There is a very big difference between training and the real thing. There is nearly as big a difference between drill and full-contact sparring. I’ve fought more than a few karate students, up to and including black belts, who had never engaged in any serious sparring. With NO EXCEPTIONS, they weren’t much better than a complete neophyte.

Drill-based theory is based on the concept of control, and how if you are capable of delivering a strike that stops just short of someone’s face, you could just as easily deliver one that actually hits them. This is true. However, people “fight” very differently when they are essentially shadowboxing and they know their opponent is not actually going to hit them. Furthermore, it deprives the shadowboxer of learning how to take a shot, how to exploit and follow-up openings created, and how to use combinations. Fighting isn’t just about what you can do to the other party, it’s also about what the other party can do to you.

It is very, very difficult to make a precision strike at someone’s eyes. It is even more difficult to successfully knee a man in the groin when he is in a conflict situation. And even if one makes contact, it is likely that it won’t slow him down much, as adrenaline significantly reduces the amount of pain one feels in the moment.

It’s fine to teach women how to defend themselves. But firearms, and where they are not legal, knives, should always be a part of the self-defense strategy, and women need to understand that the odds are severely against them in a physical struggle. Learning technique is fine, but doing fake routines on unresisting opponents is worse than pointless. It takes years to become an effective fighter, so it is risible to suggest that a class or two is going to accomplish anything but instill a false sense of self-confidence in a woman.

I’m also very curious to know how one puts one knee between someone else’s leg using their strength against them. A knee strike is a hard technique, not a soft one. This sounds like pure marketing babble to me.

Fair enough. If you have anything to add about Krav Maga or other martial arts you have taken that you found helpful (or not), let me know.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen