Is Krav Maga A Martial Art? – Most Asked Questions


Many people have heard of Krav Maga and are aware of the fact that it is a system that is great for self-defense. Some techniques that are taught in Krav Maga are taught to MMA fighters to incorporate into their repertoire to enhance their countering of an opponent’s attack. Krav Maga has a reputation as being an effective system, but is it a martial art?

Krav Maga is not classified as a martial art. It is a self-defense and fighting system that was developed for the Israeli Defense Force as a hand-to-hand combat style that was taught to their soldiers. Krav Maga incorporates techniques from many martial arts, such as Boxing, Wrestling, Karate, Aikido, and Judo.

Krav Maga is a respected self-defense and fighting system that incorporates techniques from other fighting styles and martial arts. It also has its own moves that were developed from the street-fighting experience of Imi Lichtenfeld, the Hungarian-born Israeli martial artist. Krav Maga is generally considered to be one of the most effective fighting systems, so why is it not considered a martial art?

Why Is Krav Maga Not A Martial Art?

Photo by David Kahn

If Krav Maga is recognized as an effective self-defense and fighting system, why is it not considered as a martial art? Surely the other martial art styles are also classified as self-defense and fighting systems?

Krav Maga is not intended to be a martial art and is not considered as such. It is not a style developed by itself, but it incorporates techniques from many other martial arts that already exist. A martial art is a codified system with rules and ceremony, but Krav Maga is intended for survival.

Krav Maga is not meant to score points or impress instructors or judges, win competitions, or teach students honor or discipline. It is intended to deal with real-world threats and to put your attacker down hard and fast so that you can make your escape and survive.

What Is Krav Maga Based On?

Krav Maga, which, when translated means contact combat, was developed by a Hungarian-born Israeli by the name of Imi Lichtenfeld. He was a martial artist that engaged in street fighting in defense of the Jewish community in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, against the fascist groups who were attacking them.

Krav Maga is a self-defense and fighting and survival system that was developed by incorporating part of other fighting styles, including Karate, Judo, Aikido, Boxing, and Wrestling. The techniques were refined in street-fighting situations and developed into a system of its own. 

Imi Lichtenfeld had training in Boxing and Wrestling as well as a variety of other martial arts. He incorporated techniques from Aikido, Judo, and Karate. He took the most effective techniques from each of these styles and developed Krav Maga, which he further developed in the street-fighting he was involved in.

Krav Maga was developed from the mid to latter half of the 1930s, and when Imi Lichtenfeld moved to the middle east in the 1940s, he started teaching his system to the soldiers who would become the Israeli Defense Force.

The other fighting arts that Krav Maga derives its techniques from are as follows.

  • Strike techniques. The strike techniques in Krav Maga are mostly derived from Karate and Boxing.
  • Throws and takedowns. These techniques are drawn from Aikido, Judo, and Wrestling.
  • Ground-work techniques. The techniques used for fighting on the ground were derived from Judo and Wrestling.
  • Escape techniques from holds and chokes. These tactics were developed from Aikido, Judo, and Wrestling.
  • Empty-hand weapon defense. The methods of defending against a weapon with nothing in your hands were developed from Aikido techniques.

Does Krav Maga Actually Work?

Many traditional martial arts and fighting styles and systems receive much negative publicity as not being effective in real-world circumstances or situations. This is often because of their philosophy of defense rather than aggression and some arts that do not concentrate on strikes. How does Krav Maga compare to these martial arts as an effective fighting style; does it actually work?

Krav Maga does actually work and is acclaimed as a real-world fighting style. It was developed for use in close quarters combat and was used in real life by the founder of the system. Krav Maga is widely acclaimed to be one of the most effective modern fighting systems for the real world.

Krav Maga takes the best techniques from many different martial arts and combines them into one highly effective fighting style. Many other armed forces use parts of martial arts techniques to incorporate into their unarmed combat training, but Krav Maga is one of the few that is taught as a complete system to soldiers and special forces.

The fact that Krav Maga is taught as a complete system to soldiers is a testament to the fact that the style is effective and works in a real-life situation. No army is going to waste their effort teaching their soldiers hand-to-hand combat techniques that don’t work out in the field.

There are some critics of Krav Maga that believe it is not a suitable system to teach civilians as a self-defense system as it will not be effective for everyone. Their reasoning behind this is that it is a system that is taught to fit strong soldiers, and many of the defense techniques require speed, aggression, and strength, which is beyond the ability of the average civilian.

Is Learning Krav Maga Hard?

Learning any martial art is difficult and requires patience, persistence, and above all, practice and discipline. If you consider Krav Maga not to be a martial art, is it any easier to learn than the other traditional martial arts?

Krav Maga is not hard to learn. It is easier to learn than other martial arts because it was developed to teach to soldiers who did not have years for training and learning to master the fighting system. The moves needed to be easy to learn and attain proficiency in months rather than a lifetime.

This does not mean that Krav Maga is easy and does not require dedication and discipline. The soldiers that are taught this fighting system train every day, so you cannot expect to pick up the moves in a couple of months, only training a couple of times a week.

However, if you attend Krav Maga classes more than once a week, it is entirely feasible to have attained useable skills that will be a good foundation for self-defense in the space of about 6 months. These skills will, however, be the basics, and it will take further time to learn the more advanced and more difficult techniques.

Most students who first start out learning Krav Maga without any prior martial arts training will be trained in repetitive base techniques to gain muscle memory and speed. Most students will progress from these basics to more advanced techniques after 4 months of training 2 to 3 times a week.

Does Krav Maga Use Weapons  

There are many fighting styles and martial arts that do not include training with or the use of weapons as part of the fighting style. Other martial arts include weapons that are specific to that style of martial art. Since Krav Maga is a modern, real-world fighting and self-defense system, does it include training with weapons?

Krav Maga does not have weapons that are specific to the fighting system, but as part of the training, you are taught how to use everyday objects as effective weapons against an attacker. Training with a weapon means you need to have the weapon with you at all times to use it when the need arises.

The theory is that learning to use a specific weapon means that you need to carry it with you at all times in order to have it available when a self-defense situation arises. The philosophy of Krav Maga being a real-world self-defense and fighting style means that it takes into account real-life situations where you may not have a weapon available.

In these circumstances, Krav Maga teaches you to turn everyday objects into weapons that you can use to defend yourself. The system is also heavily weighted with effective techniques for disarming an armed assailant quickly to remove the threat of the weapon, which then levels the playing field.

Does Krav Maga Teach Knife Fighting?

Krav Maga is not only a self-defense system, but it is also a fighting system. Considering that it is a system intended for soldiers, knife fighting would surely be considered to fall within the scope of the training?

Krav Maga teaches techniques for defending against a knife attack and using a knife to defend yourself. Because Krav Maga is a real-world fighting system, it needs to include training with weapons that could potentially be used against you in an attack, how to disarm an attacker and use the weapon.

Krav Maga was developed for military personnel, and a knife would be a common weapon used in military combat. Thus, the fighting system needs to teach defense against a knife attack and how to use a knife to defend yourself.

In the civilian world, a knife is often a weapon of choice by assailants because it is easy to carry unobtrusively on their person and then bring it out to perpetrate a crime. Training how to deal with a knife attack, disarm the attacker and, if necessary, use the knife to defend yourself would be training included as part of the Krav Maga system.

Does Krav Maga Teach Grappling?

If an attacker catches you by surprise, you could find yourself on the ground fighting for your life. If all the techniques that you have learned are from a standing perspective, you may find yourself at a disadvantage when you are on the ground with your attacker on top of you. 

Krav Maga does teach grappling techniques. The groundwork or grappling techniques that are taught as part of Krav Maga have their roots in techniques from Judo and Wrestling. These two martial arts specialize in grappling methods, which is why their techniques are used in Krav Maga.

Krav Maga teaches many techniques for groundwork, including grappling techniques from other martial arts that specialize in these methods. However, Krav Maga includes techniques, such as kicks to the groin, which would be considered illegal moves in sport martial arts. This means that many of the defenses taught in this fighting system are adaptations of techniques from other fighting styles to make them relevant to real-life situations.

Does Krav Maga Have Belts?

When Krav Maga was taught as a purely military discipline, there were no gradings or belts. There were levels of difficulty, starting at a basic level and moving up the levels to more advanced techniques. When the system was adapted for civilian use, a grading system was introduced, which included colored belts to designate progress in the style.

Krav Maga does have belts; the belts start at white and then progress to yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black. Once the black belt level has been attained, there are various Dan levels within the level. The black belt Dan qualifications start at 1st Dan and increase up to 5th Dan.

Krav Maga is not and makes no claims to be a traditional martial art, so it does not conform to the many ceremonial-type traditions of these ancient arts. The belt system was introduced for students to be easily identified as to which level they have attained in the fighting system.

The Krav Maga system is divided up into 5 different levels, with increasing levels of difficulty in the techniques from level 1 through to level 5. There are six belts that fall within these levels, the black belt being the sixth belt that you can achieve.

In most training facilities, you start with a white belt and undergo 4 months of training, and after undergoing an examination of your techniques, you qualify for a yellow belt. At some training facilities, trainees start off with a yellow belt and wear this belt throughout their level 1 training, not only once they complete the training.

With diligent training of 2 to 3 times a week, you can achieve an orange belt after 6 months of training level 2 techniques, green belt after 9 months training at level 3, blue belt after 12 months training at level 4, and brown belt after training at level 5 for 12 months.

After this, a black belt can be achieved, and different training is undertaken to reach the various Dan degrees. Taking all this training into account, it can take about 3.5 years of training to get to the black belt level in Krav Maga.

Is Krav Maga Worth The Money?

The costs of learning a self-defense and fighting system are not cheap, but they are also generally no more expensive than attending a good gym. A Krav Maga training session is usually high intensity, and you will burn a lot more calories than going to the gym, and you will be learning a valuable skill.

Krav Maga is definitely worth the money that you will spend on getting this training. The costs can range from $80 per month to $200 per month, depending on the demand for the classes in your area, the availability of instructors, and the size of the class. But you will learn a valuable life skill.

Considering that once you have paid your monthly membership, you can train 10 to 15 hours a week, the cost per training session actually works out to be fairly cost-effective. Krav Maga training is usually more expensive than learning a martial art because there are fewer instructors available who are available for offering classes.

Is Krav Maga Good For Beginners?

A beginner who knows very little about defending themselves would do well to start learning the skills taught in Krav Maga. The techniques do not take a lifetime to master like some of the traditional martial arts require. You will quickly learn skills that you can apply in real-world situations to take care of yourself.

Krav Maga is a great system for beginners to learn. People who want to learn how to defend themselves effectively will benefit from this training. Because the Israeli Defense Force included women, the system is designed to be able to teach both men and women these techniques for self-defense.

Krav Maga can be taught to men and women, both tall and small because it is a real-world system that takes all these variables into consideration. The benefit for beginners is that you would progress quickly in your learning of the system, as long as you put in the dedicated time and commitment to learning the techniques.

Can I Learn Krav Maga At Home?

In our modern age, we are fortunate to have high-quality video recording capability and even video streaming capability. This gives many of us the opportunity to access training material that would otherwise be beyond our reach. Can Krav Maga be a skill that you can learn at home, making use of modern technology?

You can learn Krav Maga at home. There are several online Krav Maga training centers that offer instruction via online videos. These centers allow you to even complete your belt testing via video with a partner, which will allow you to earn belts and progress in the system all while training at home.

Of course, training in-person at a training facility where you can get one-on-one training from an instructor and spar with fellow trainees can be an invaluable experience. However, if circumstances prevent you from in-person training, you can certainly learn Krav Maga at home.

Learning this type of system at home will require personal discipline to put in the right amount of training each week and to watch the training videos over and over to make sure you are getting the techniques right.

Conclusion

While Krav Maga is not considered a martial art, it is certainly an effective self-defense and fighting system that teaches real-world techniques. The methods that are taught come from other fighting styles and martial arts that specialize in certain types of defense.

These styles are incorporated and adapted in Krav Maga to create a completely different self-defense system that can be learned in a much shorter time frame than traditional martial arts.

If self-defense is your reasoning behind looking into fight training, Krav Maga is definitely an option worth considering and looking into as a serious contender!

Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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