More than a martial art, Krav Maga is a reality-based fighting technique whose purpose is to survive and win a violent confrontation. The crux of it is to take rapid control of a situation, with full, brutal aggression and maximum efficiency. The enemy’s hard to shield soft points: eyes, nose, groin, knees, feet are immediate targets.
It all began with a young Hungarian named Emrich ‘Imi’ Lichtenfeld, a competitive boxer and gymnast. During anti-Semitic riots in the 1930s, he trained groups to help defend his Bratislava neighborhood against racists. Soon he realized that formal boxing was not going to cut it. He therefore developed practical self-defense techniques to be used in life threatening conditions. During World War II, he immigrated to Israel. Imi became the chief instructor for physical fitness and Krav Maga at the Israeli Defense Forces School of Combat Fitness where he served for some 20 years, refining his unique methods along with his pupil Eli Avikzar. Upon retirement, Imi began teaching Krav Maga to civilians.
Here is a video showing Krav Maga as it is used by IDF units in Israel:
Today, there are dozens of Krav Maga organizations representing hundreds of centers across the globe on every continent. The civilian grading system is relatively unchanged from the color belt system Imi devised based on judo, and is more or less the same for various international branches. There are three main categories: Practitioner, Graduate and Expert and each category has five ranks.
The Krav Maga taught outside of Israel emphasizes fitness and self-defense in attack situations. In Israel, its purpose is purely tactical. Soldiers and law enforcement learn to use Krav Maga in the context of their specific security roles and the kind of weapons they employ. Whether they carry a long weapon or hand gun they learn a version of Krav Maga that adapts to the specific requirements. If an officer is too close to a threatening person, they might use Krav Maga to create the distance needed to then be able to use their weapon. Magazine empty? They learn how to use their weapon in conjunction with Krav Maga techniques.
Use of lethal force is always an issue. It is critical to have both intent and means in combination in order to legally justify its use. Often these days we see in the news law enforcement incidents gone awry. Krav Maga has concrete application for subduing criminals and terrorists while conforming to legal restraints.
In VIP protection, Krav Maga is useful where using a weapon to respond to a threatening situation is ill advised. Simply being able to physically if subtly maneuver the threat away from the VIP using ones hands is always better than pulling out a gun. This is all the more true when a crowd is involved.
In the case of suicide bombers, security and law enforcement cannot just shoot someone who looks a bit thick in the midsection. In a crowded transit terminal or on a campus, how can security know if someone is a suicide bomber? One method is to “accidentally” bump into them using hands – not a gun – to determine if they are wearing a vest. Many a would-be attacker, be they knife wielding or suicide bombers, have been taken down physically rather than by a bullet.
In a terrorist or active shooter event, current guidelines are to: Run. Hide. Fight. If it comes to fighting, it isn’t clean or nice. Use of improvised weapons, an aggressive attitude and knowledge of grappling techniques is the kind of training Krav Maga provides.