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Useful Notes / Krav Maga

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"Karate? The Dane Cook of martial arts? No; ISIS agents use Krav Maga."

Krav Magá‘Hebrew  is a Hebrew phrase meaning 'contact combat.' In other words, it is a form of Close Quarters Combat.

The story of Krav Maga dates back to 1930s Bratislava and one Imi Lichtenfeld (also known as Imi Sde-or). Imi's father ran a gym, and young Imi was interested in a number of athletic disciplines including boxing and wrestling.

Imi was also Jewish, which proved to be somewhat problematic when Those Wacky Nazis occupied, as traditionally Nazis and Jews tend not to get on. In order to protect the Jewish community from antisemitic assaults, Imi utilised his knowledge of fighting disciplines to come up with a simplified but effective form of self-defence that could be adopted by the Jewish population. In order to be effective, the techniques had to be simple, easy to learn and usable by as wide a range of people as possible.

Imi's activities made him even more unpopular with the Nazis and so he had to leave the country. After a while he managed to find himself in what was then British Mandated Palestine. There he became involved with the Haganah, one of the main Jewish La Résistance groups, whose main raison d'etre was giving the British a hard time. The British administration restricted Jewish access to weaponry and so Imi adapted his fighting style to incorporate such weapons as were available (sticks, knives, improvised weapons, etc) for use against better armed opponents.

In 1948 the British waved goodbye, the Haganah became the Israel Defense Forces, and Imi was tasked with designing Krav Maga training that could be used by all members of the IDF. As, since its founding, women have served in the IDF, even in combat roles, the fact that IMI's system could be used by as wide a variety of people as possible proved useful.

A key philosophy of Krav Maga is "Adopt what is useful, abandon what is not" (which may sound familiar to Jeet Kun Do practitioners) and so KM evolved and is still the official self defence system of the IDF (and other Israeli security/police organisations) today. Krav Maga has since been adopted by military and security forces around the world and has a strong civilian base as well. This may be as much to do with its popularity amongst celebrities; especially those in Action Girl roles, where it is promoted as a fitness and body shaping exercise as much as a combative system.

Krav Maga adopts the philosophy of most military combative systems (such as those taught by WE Fairbairn or Rex Applegate during WW2), in advocating a simple easy-to-learn system that can be applied in life-or-death scenarios. To that end it emphasizes gross motor movement that can be applied under high stress. It focuses on simple strikes (heel of hand, elbows, knees, headbutts etc.) against vulnerable targets (throat, neck, eyes, joints), and has a bit of a reputation for Groin Attacks. It also focuses on unarmed defence against a variety of weapons including edged weapons, firearms and micro explosives (seriously!), as well as the use of such weapons.

Training operates on the basis that one should always train from a disadvantage. Krav Maga training usually involves a highly demanding workout session until a person is both physically and mentally exhausted. It is at that stage that the techniques are taught; the theory being that training under such conditions means that a person will be able to act instinctively when under threat without having to consciously think about how to fight.

Krav Maga is famed for the brutality of its approach to combat. This is seen in the use of 'rétzef'Hebrew  (lit. ‘sequence, continuum’) which is the application of a non-stop flurry of strikes until the attacker(s) are completely neutralised. It is common in Krav Maga training for practitioners to be made to defend themselves against multiple attackers with no Mook Chivalry allowed.

Krav Maga is a combat system which relies on a no-rules 'dirty fighting' approach. With its emphasis on combat pragmatism it does not lend itself to sporting applications: the objective is quite explicitly to hurt the opponent as much as possible, and that is difficult to tone down or simulate. That said, one or two organisations do run competitions in specific areas: At least one European-based organisation runs annual knife fighting tournaments.

Despite this reputation, or rather because, Krav Maga is a soundly controversial style among martial artists. Its name value alone and the de-militarization of its teachings caused a very difficult quality control during its popularization, meaning a large number of civilian-oriented KM gyms out there have questionable credentials and training methods that don't necessarily follow what should compose the art, all in name of accessibility and/or money. Also, ironically like many martial arts Krav Maga sought to distance itself from, there is an ongoing time debate about how wide is the gap between its theory and its application in real life. It goes without saying that Krav Maga is also pretty controversial in East Asian countries with traditional martial arts, like those from the Sinosphere (Japan, China, both Koreas, etc), and more often than not, when a Krav Maga fighter is depicted in East Asian media, is mostly used by either a foreigner willing to fight dirty, or a local fighter not having any qualms to use any methods to win.

In the media expect any Badass Israeli to be proficient in Krav.

Tropes associated with Krav Maga

  • Combat Pragmatist: The core tenet of Krav is that it assumes an opponent will disregard any accepted rules in a fight, so a practitioner should too. To this end, Groin Attacks, eye gouges, and the like are highly encouraged. Mobility and use of the environment are also taught.
  • Groin Attack: Its reputation for going straight to kicking someone in the balls is somewhat exaggerated, though many techniques do involve this.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Fan Works 

  • Enough sees Slim learn Krav through a Training Montage late into the film. To augment her punches, she wears heavy rings under handwraps.

    Video Games 
  • Sam Fisher makes use of Krav in Splinter Cell: Conviction, using brutal combos and smashing people being interrogated into different objects. He's stated to be a Krav practitioner before this, but it comes across as an Informed Ability, seeing as most of his melee attacks in the first four games consist of a Tap on the Head.
  • Cataclysm allows one to learn Krav Maga as part of the game's Stance System. Unusually for most depictions, it also includes weapons - knives, batons, and automatic rifles and handguns (whether with a bayonet or by itself).

    Western Animation 
  • As per the page quote, Archer uses Krav and it's apparently the combative of choice for ISIS agents.
  • The Simpsons: In "The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed", the family goes on a tour in Jerusalem, but Bart tries to run away and is chased down by the tour guide's niece. He tries to fight her off with "KARATE!" but she subdues him with Krav Maga, which she describes as "Israeli Karate" that's less shout-y, and a lot of groin attacks.
    Bart: Quit going for my groin!
    Dorit: No groin, no Krav Maga!