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Krav Maga (Hebrew: ??? ????, Hebrew IPA: [‘kra?v ?ma’ga?], lit. contact combat) is a military hand-to-hand combat system developed in Israel, which assumes no quarter will be given, and emphasizes threat neutralization. Krav Maga originated in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. The primary founder, Imi Lichtenfeld, moved to the British Palestinean Mandate, now known as Israel, when circumstances for Jews in Europe took a turn for the worse. From Israel, Krav Maga spread to the rest of the world. There have since been splits and there are now several organisations teaching variations of Krav Maga. It came to prominence following its adoption by various Israeli Security Forces..
The name in Hebrew means “close combat.” The word maga (???) means “contact” or “touch” and the word krav (???) means “combat”. It refers to combat involving physical contact as opposed to combat using a weapon from afar (although Krav Maga does teach the use of modern day weapons such as rifles, pistols and common objects integrated with self defense techniques).
In Krav Maga, there are no hard-and-fast rules, and no distinction in training for men and women. It is not a sport, and there are no specific uniforms, attire or competitions, although some organizations recognise progress through training with rank badges and different levels. All the techniques focus on maximum efficiency in real-life conditions. Krav Maga generally assumes that the individual attacking will give no quarter; therefore, as a response the attacks and defenses are intended only for use in potentially lethal threat situations with the aim to neutralize and escape as rapidly and safely as possible. Crippling attacks to vulnerable body parts, including groin and eye strikes, headbutts, and other efficient and potentially brutal attacks, improvised use of any objects available, and maximizing personal safety in a fight, are emphasized. However, it must be stressed that instructors can and do demonstrate how to moderate the techniques to fit the circumstances. While no limits are placed on techniques to be used in life-threatening situations, the legal need to inflict the appropriate minimal damage in other circumstances is recognized and stressed.
The guiding principles for those performing Krav Maga techniques are as follows:
These premises were developed in the context of life-threatening situations. Krav Maga Instructors constantly stress the need to match the response to the danger or risk.
In general, Krav Maga requires the user to deal first with the immediate threat, prevent further attacks, and then neutralize the attacker. Actions are carried out in a methodical manner. Krav Maga emphasizes preventing further attack from the attacker. As such, some circumstances may require action in anticipation of being attacked, in order to avoid the development of dangerous situations.
Although Krav Maga shares many techniques with other martial arts and is itself a blend of boxing, Muay Thai, Aikido, Judo, and Jujutsu, the training is often quite different. It stresses fighting under worst-case conditions or from disadvantaged positions, for example: against several opponents, when protecting someone else, with one arm unusable, when dizzy or against armed opponents. Krav Maga emphasizes rapid learning and the retzev (pronounced ret-zef and meaning “continuous motion” presumably in combat), with the imperative being effectiveness, for either attack or defensive situations.
Most instructors emphasize two training rules: (1) there are no rules in a fight and (2) partner preservation – which means one must not injure oneself or one’s partner when training. Training is an intense mixed aerobic and anaerobic workout, relying heavily on the use of pads in order to experience both delivery and defense of strikes at full force. 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 the impact they would feel when they get hit. It can be almost as taxing to hold a pad as to practice against one. Students will also wear head guards, gum shields, groin protectors, shin and forearm guards, etc. during practice of attack/defense techniques, so that a realistic level of violence may be used without injury. Some schools incorporate “Strike and Fight,” which consists of full-contact sparring intended to familiarize the student with the stresses of a violent situation.
Training within extreme acoustic, visual, and verbal scenarios prepares students to ignore peripheral distractions and focus on the needs of the situation. Other training methods to increase realism might include exercising the student to near exhaustion before having to defend, training outdoors on a variety of surfaces and restrictive situations, wearing a blindfold before being attacked, etc. The emphasis is on attempting to simulate real fight/attack situations as realistically as possible within the safety limitations of training.
Training will usually also cover situational awareness, to develop an understanding of one’s surroundings and potentially threatening circumstances before an attack is launched. It may also cover “Self Protection”: ways to deal with situations which could end in fights, and physical and verbal methods to avoid violence whenever possible.
A typical session in a civilian school is about an hour long and mixes conditioning with self-defense teaching. As levels increase, the instructors focus a little more on complicated and less common types of attacks, such as knife attacks, hostage situations and defense under extreme duress. 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-defense techniques. In the beginning the techniques will either be combative (punches, hammer-fists, elbows, and knees) 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. Lastly, there is the final drill intended to burn out the students. Depending on the class, this drill may be at the very beginning or at the end of the class.