When did “Krav Maga” become a code word for derp?

Today in “musings on self-defense” I want to talk about unarmed self-defense. Right now, the hotness for unarmed self-defense are techniques derived from MMA, because we have actually proved that all that stuff works really well to inflict violence on other people. BJJ, kickboxing, and traditional American boxing are the hotness and for good reason. Mixed Martial Arts has been the best thing to happen to the world of unarmed combatives in my lifetime, because it is absolutely no BS. Oh, you’re a super-ultimate fighter in 10 secret arts of ninja-dom? Saddle up, buttercup and get in the ring and prove it.

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To be honest, the unarmed self-defense community is still a bit of a clown-show, because there are plenty of derp-instructors who teach techniques that are “too dangerous for the ring” and “can’t be practiced on living people”. You know, like the Five-Finger Death Punch or whatever. These days, there seems to be no bigger perpetrator of unarmed derp than teachers of Krav Maga.

What is it with Krav that attracts derp like flies? Is it for the same reason that 50% of the neckbeards on Arfcom will buy something “because the Israelis use it?” Just as an example, here is an actual list of things that Krav Maga students and instructors have said to me over the years:

  • “It doesn’t matter if you have a gun, I could just take it away from you.”
  • “Oh sure, MMA is cool but that’s not real fighting. They’re all padded up, a good Krav student could take most MMA guys”
  • “Gun disarms are easy”
  • “I just need one shot and you’d be down”

And on and on and on. I do actually believe that there are plenty of legitimate KM instructors out there who are teaching valuable techniques in an intelligent way…I’ve just never met one. All of my encounters have been of the Derp Clownshoe variety, and I wonder when that started. It might have something to do with the fact that there’s no national sanctioning body for Krav, so anyone can take a couple of classes and then hang out their shingle as a “self-defense instructor trained in secret Israeli Death Arts” which is a problem mirrored in the firearms training community. Other martial arts like BJJ or taekwondo (not really self-defense but that’s not the point) have some level of national sanctioning with checks and balances. The American boxing community has all kinds of organizations in place.

All of that is why when someone tells me that they’re taking a “krav maga” class, my eyes immediately start to glaze over. I expect derp to follow, and maybe someday I’ll be surprised when it doesn’t.


    1. In 10 years of TKD and a black belt I learned basically nothing that was really applicable to hurting dudes other than “here’s how to throw a decent jab.”

      My former ability to throw a jump-spinning back kick wasn’t really useful in college bar fights.

    2. The way I’ve seen it, even more TKD instructors teach it more as a sport, not focusing on many of the things that would make it a fully-rounded self-defense technique. Defensive instruction, for example, it frequently taught to defend against other TKD practitioners. Of course it’s a generalization and I’m sure some teach enough variety to “take out most MMA guys”.

    3. I once took Kuk Soon Won from a guy. Blazing fast SOB. 2 things you never, ever wanted to mention, cause he’d start ranting in heavily Korean-accented English.

      Bruce Lee. Punk. Was pissed Lee had up and died before he could prove he was a no-talent clown. (Some of it was hyperbole. But this guy was _good_. I’da loved to see that fight – and Lee woulda given it to him.)

      TKD. Holy cow, don’t get him started on TKD as a worthless waste of time. “Have you ever been attacked by people who came at you in letters??! On a plan?”

      One day when I was changing in the back, his wife was putting up some pictures, including one where he got a medal in South Korean uniform by a lot of guys with lots of stuff. “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s when he won the Tae Kwon Do Army Championship.” 2 years. He was the _South Korean Army_ TKD champ. ….

      I paid more attention to his TKD rants after that, but sadly, got distracted before I really realized how kickass KSW was. (I was young, what can I say.)

      1. You might note that TKD is what they teach their draftees (basically their “Army Combatives” or “MCMAP”, but they got there first), and they teach all the serious people something else – quite often a mix based out of hapkido.

        I had the privilege to train w/ someone similarly qualified – SKorean SF hand-to-hand instructor, used to train their Presidential Guard. Nice guy. Don’t get him going. 🙂

  1. I agree that Krav Maga is not a true combat art. It is more of an advanced punching bag art that quickly allowes one to mildly defend themselves against a minority of attackers. The training could also be considered a good sweat session.

    However, I also disagree that bjj is in any way a combat art. It is a sport art, developed from Judo (which was also derived from another art). Does it have some effective techniques? Yes. Do big muscular mma guys look intimidating and could probably defend themselves on the street in a majority of cases? Yes. But the typical bjj practitioner should understand the difference between combat and sport. Try a shooting leg takedown when your joints are being manipulated and eyes being gouged out finished with a strike to the neck. MMA is done under an unrealistic set of rules that dont apply in the street. Groundfighting is important but should not be the entire scope of an art. Yes a majority of fights end up on the ground but the majority of fights take place by people who have no formal training on self defense.

  2. “It doesn’t matter if you have a gun, I could just take it away from you.”

    I have had people from multiple martial-arts disciplines tell me this. And, I have always proven them wrong. I would use a toy gun that is capable of shooting semi-auto. I would tuck the toy in my waist band and have them stand across the room from me. I would then tell them to come take the gun from me. By the time they got to me, I had already shot at least 3-4 times.

    Hand-to-hand combat training only works if the person with the gun is dumb enough to let you get within reach of them.

  3. Oh, oh, oh. We want to learn how to defend ourselves against pointed sticks, do we? Getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you eh? Well I’ll tell you something my lad. When you’re walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of loganberries, don’t come crying to me! Now, the passion fruit. When your assailant lunges at you with a passion fruit…

    1. You sir, get all my praise. Anytime anyone starts to talk to me about self defense, my go-to solution is shoot the assailant and eat a banana.

  4. The biggest problem with krav maga, in my opinion, is a combination of popularity and lack of quality control. Its popularity makes being a krav maga instructor lucrative, which attracts people who think they know how to fight and want to make a quick buck.

    The lack of well-known oversight organizations make it difficult to verify an instructor’s credentials. In addition to that krav maga is a system that can’t be practiced full out against a noncompliant opponent. Martial arts such as MMA, BJJ, and judo can be vetted by either checking with oversight organizations that issue instructor credentials, checking the track record of a particular instructor or school in competitions, or both.

    Krav maga’s problems are a repeat of the problems that plagued karate back in its heyday (and still do today). Anybody can claim to be a karate instructor and, with the exception of a few styles like kyokushin, there are no effective ways to verify an instructor’s claims.

    With all of that said I’m sure krav maga is an effective fighting system when taught properly by qualified instructors. But the difficulty of finding a quality instructor is part of the reason I decided to pass on it when I was looking for a self-defense martial art.

  5. The whole “combat” art versus “sport” art argument is one that I really wish would die.

    Being put into a situation where I had to fight either a BJJ practitioner or a krav maga practitioner I’d choose the latter. The reason for this is that the BJJ practitioner has tested his skills on fully resistant opponents whereas the krav maga practitioner has never actually used his moves against somebody who was doing everything in his power to not allow him to execute said moves.

    That’s the real difference between “combat” arts and “sport” arts; “sport” arts have been testing time and time again against fully resisting opponents. Yes “sport” arts are practiced under a subset of rules but so are “combat” arts. The difference is that the rules for “sport” arts allow practitioners to actually practice their techniques whereas the rules for “combat” arts dictate that moves must be practiced either on dummies of cooperative opponents.

    Neither rule set applies on “the street” (as a side note I’d really like to know where this particularly dangerous street is located because everybody talks about it but nobody says where it is). If you’re in a real fight(TM) your opponent is going to cooperate to allow you to use your “combat” art nor are they going to abide by the rules for a “sport”. When the rules are off of the table you want to utilize moves that you’ve executed successfully time and time again against noncompliant opponents, not moves that theoretically will work if executed properly.

  6. I eschew the nonsense about unarmed combat for a few reasons.
    Uno: It’s all become about “my kung fu is better than your kung fu.”
    Dos: It has never been about “I’m physically stronger, faster, and more resistant to pain than you are”
    Tres: None of the martial arts, BJJ excluded, really focus on becoming stronger, faster, or more resistant to pain.

    Just because you know kerotty doesn’t mean you can beat a guy who is 40lbs of solid muscle heavier than you. He’ll probably flatten you actually. Similarly, just because you can grapple doesn’t mean you won’t get flattened by the same guy who can bench press your body weight 12 times for 5 sets and can run a 40 meter just slightly slower than a linebacker.

    I believe boxing and a good solid grappling foundation (BJJ is pretty much the only way really) will give you competence to deal with most problems. But don’t think that just because you have decent skills that you are qualified to take on someone a good deal bigger.

  7. Krav Maga (in Hebrew Krav Maga means “contact combat”) has it’s origins from street fighting. It utilizes boxing, kicking, grappling, wrestling and any other means for self defense. It’s designed to go from the defensive to offensive, counterattacking almost simultaneously. There is a strong emphasis of staying off the ground, because in a multiple attacker situation, being on the ground is not good place to be. The system emphasizes situational awareness, and using your feet to get away before the attack happens, if possible. If you have to defend, then attack the body’s weak points, such as knees, groin, nose, eyes, ears, neck, fingers, throat, feet, and any other joint, and then get the heck out of dodge. Plus use any means possible in the attack, such as chairs, backpacks, etc. It also teaches self defense against weapons: Knives, sticks, baseball bats, long guns, pistols. In the US, there two primary organizations teaching Krav Maga. One is Krav Maga Worldwide (USA based), which is run by Darren Levine. The other is Krav Maga Global, which is run by Eyal Yanilov. Krav Maga Global is based in Israel, and Eyal was one of Imi Lictenfeld’s (the “founder” of Krav Maga) students who started his own organization. Eyal trained Darren Levine in the 80’s. In the few years I’ve been practicing KM, many things have changed with the techniques. The techniques get updated, often, based on real world experience.

    I guess some here question the validity of Krav Maga? Well, in my Krav Maga classes, we have plenty of refugees from BJJ, TKD, Karate, Kung Fu, Hapkido, and few other martial arts. We also have active and former military (most have been down range), who have gone through their respective combatives programs, and prefer Krav Maga. I have no idea what other martial arts teach, nor will I criticize them (because I have no experience in being a practitioner of any, except for boxing and some wresting). I am sure crappy KM instructors exist, luckily since I practitioner of the Krav Maga Global (KMG) organization, the instructors need to take I believe 4 week long instructor classes, plus teach a number of hours (not sure how many), in order to reach full instructor status. Their is a QA/QC system in place with KMG. Not sure how Krav Maga Worldwide does it, so I can’t comment.

  8. I don’t think that it’s Krav Maga that attracts derps. I think that it’s KM’s place in the public perception as The Next Big Thing. KM wasn’t generally known before a couple or three years ago. When people did start hearing about it, all they knew is that it was badass, and how could they not have heard of it before? If you were a badass, you’d know that KM is badass. (Yes, this line of thinking gets tedious.)

    We saw the same thing with Jiu Jitsu, and Tai Kwon Do, and Kung Fu (I’m too young to recall Karate being thought of that way, but old movies tell me that it was.)

    I’m quite sure that Bartitsu and Savate were the Billy Badass derp-magnets at the beginning of the century. Imagine some kid telling a young Ernie Hemingway about how you would never have a chance with him, if he could deploy his French fighting techniques. (Haw. In the early part of the 20th century, people thought that legit fighting techniques came from the French. Wow.)

    1. Savate is surprisingly harcore, in spite of the weird outfits. The key to understanding/arm chair ranking any “fighting” or “Sport” system is when, where, why was it created/evolved into its current form? Savate originated as seamen fighting on ships, and morphed into a kickboxing sport. Krav was created to keep from getting jumped by brownshirts in the ghettos of Eastern Europe during WW2, and has been modified for use by Israeli conscripts (yes, conscripts, not HSLD super tactical tier 1 downrange sandbox operators). Sambo & Systema were designed for Russian Army use. There are martial arts in Hong Kong which are designed for urban in house or street fighting where you practice in your teacher’s living room and he beats you if you break his TV. Tae Kwon Do/ Tang Soo Do were originally combat arts, but Tae Kwon Do wanted to become an olympic sport and changed the focus, causing the schism. MMA is a fusion of styles optimized for the rule systems of MMA competition. Those guys are REALLY tough, but they also aren’t allowed to pop each other’s eyeballs out or go full Mike Tyson and bite each other.

      There’s LOTS of derp in proponents of any of these systems depending on popularity, hype, and how retarded the current batch of marketing and teachers of them is. It’s just like Caleb’s recent “some guns are better than others, but don’t be that idiot that says the Glock 19 is the only right answer”.

  9. Wow, that’s a grand statement about KM. I does shed light on your knowledge of self-defense & that you where beat up as a kid a lot. I would say gun handling, some forum of handling ones self in hand to hand, awareness & being physically fit all play a part in being ready for what might come your way. But if your saying that having a CCW & carrying a gun is 100% of taking care of your self then your an idiot. Also now that you’ve call most people who know how to through a punch or kick dumb I’d at lest keep a 30 foot distance from everyone.

    1. We’ve got a new leader in the “dumbest comment” contest on this post, everyone! I didn’t think anyone could pull the title away from Dp_thinker, but you sure did! It was close, but in the end your grammatical errors really sealed the deal. Good job!

      1. Im curious how my comment was dumb seeing as though I have experience in both of these martial arts nor did you come back with any rebuttal other than an ad hominem attack?

  10. Krav Maga is the Crossfit of martial arts. Having met guys from the IDF and having talked to them about it what people learn here in the states is the same watered down civilian version they teach in Israel to civilians and non-infantry. The actual military version is very different, and more akin to Army Combatives and Marine Corps LINE training.

    Krav is taught to make money off of people and make them feel good about themselves. Having trained in it, I’m partial to LINE myself, but the premise of it was to be able to go from 0-100mph, and kill people in 3-4 piece moves. No fancy counters or set piece moves… no hesitation or thinking. Just pure adrenaline and aggression with the ultimate goal of putting your opponent on the ground for a heel strike to the face.

    1. Here’s the problem: in your original comment, you said exactly the things about Krav and MMA that I’ve had Krav people say to me about MMA. It’s just nonsense. A serious MMA competitor would quite likely destroy a serious Krav guy for one reason: the MMA fighter has tested his techniques on someone trying to oppose his will.

      1. I never disagreed with you.. I agree krav is crap, but mma is not the cream of the crop either… Did you even read my post? I said km is not a true combat art but either is bjj. Bjj was developed to be able to compete with champion judo practitioners, not to survive. If you thought I meant krav is a combat art I apologize for not articulating well. The part about someone defeating a typical bjj student was not in reference to a krav guy but more along the lines of more combat oriented arts. The only thing ill add is that yes bjj students get to practice a lot, but on opponents that have to abide by a fixed set of rules and are limited as to what thry can do..

        1. Opting to do MMA is a filter for fighting spirit. Nobody is going to take up MMA without a certain mindset. I know I wouldn’t do it, for many reasons. With KM, the central idea is to train a fighting mindset into someone who doesn’t have it instinctively. Statistically speaking, then, if you take an MMA fighter at random you’re likely to get someone with a do or die mentality. (80% of fighting is mental. The other half is in your head.)

          As for the derp from many KM instructors, yeah, seems to be a thing. Caveat emptor. Stay away from the nonsense peddlers, pee-pul.

  11. IMHO the problem with martial arts instruction is the same problem plaguing firearms instruction, money. Too many unqualified “instructors”, too many “instructors” coming up with their own unproven tactics just to be different than the competition, which leads away from working hard to perfect the basics which is where fights on the street and on the range are won.

  12. “Derp Clownshoe” ….. I almost spewed my coffee on the laptop when I read that! Thanks for a good one.

  13. Four weeks of instruction to be an instructor, eh? Thai boxing, FMA, BJJ school I train at hasn’t minted a black belt in less than 5 years and you pretty much need one to teach all but basic stuff. Gun store I teach out of wanted me to pick up Krav creds; two weeks worth of training for basic accreditation. Uhm, I don’t think so.

    Indeed, had a Krav place set up in my little town. Checked ’em out and got an hour private, at the end of which I was invited to instruct at the school. Showed me a lot of “grab me by the collar and I’ll show you how to get out stuff,” in situations where I’d just headbutt the snot out of people. Again, I don’t think so.

    As mentioned, if you can’t pressure test it in a live environment then my sense is it’s snake oil. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me they’ve got some gee whiz art or move, I’ll put on gloves and shin pads (I don’t care what they wear, but do suggest head gear) and tell them to bring it. Soon thereafter they are usually telling me why my low kick, crash into standing grapple, takedown, or whatever wouldn’t work in the street, dojo, moon base, clown college, etc. Again, I don’t think so.

  14. MMA is responsible for much, that is certain. But to say that it is the hallmark of self defense training is untrue, and is an opinion many people possess, unfortunately. Street violence (not the idiotic drunken male hierarchical circus on Friday nights), real street violence as in criminal assault, is characterized by multiple adversaries, the presence of weapons (guns, knives, baseball bats, etc), and is rarely favorable or consensual in terms of initiative to the “defender”. Please explain how MMA deals with these conditions.

    1. Unlike the “reality based self-defense” people, serious MMA provides you the chance to test your skills against an opponent who wants to hurt you. This is very much in contrast to the demonstration based “you attacked me wrong” gentle contact “self-defense” schools.

  15. I would argue that Krav Maga is a name a product just like MMA. There are good KM instructors out there and bad KM instructors out there and the same for MMA. Every second martial arts gym claims to teach MMA these days but very few of the instructors are quality MMA coaches and the same applies to KM.

    Also most students are not prepared to train as hard as they need to in order to be ready for real world violence. I run an organisation in Australia and our numbers are small because we train just like in the military and to be honest most people cant handle being dragged out of their comfort zone.

    My oposition on the other hand has 3 times the numbers because it has been watered down for the general populace and therefore is far more attractive to the vast majority of people.

    Conclusion the majority want the destination but not the journey of sweat and pain for either MMA or KM. I guess thats why I will always be poor and infamous and not rich and famous like my oposition.

  16. Caleb, I appreciate your point, but what makes you think that serious KM instructors don’t train like serious MMA competitors and don’t test their skills and techniques?

    During all my years of training Urban Krav Maga, I have seen many MMA guys talking loud and bragging about their performance, and typically they did not fare well at all during pressure test/sparring (and they usually don’t come back).

    Admittedly, there are too many clowns in the industry (equally true for KM and MMA as Carl Halley rightly puts it), but there are also very serious, professional and honest people too. I would not generalize.

  17. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced the issues with Krav that you have. MMA never prepared me for some of the things I needed to be able to handle where Krav and previous martial art training really did…and is good reason as to why I’m still here today. That’s just me though. I don’t think Krav is an answer as much as it’s a tool, like MMA or anything else. No end all be all. You either survive or you don’t.

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