A Guide to Krav Maga for Beginners

Today I’m walking like John Wayne after having his prostate examined with a ladle. A fucking big ladle. So would you be, if you rode your falling-apart bike 90 miles across Surrey and Central London in the dark and done four hours of Krav Maga, all in the space of about 30 hours.  The question that naturally follows is this: what the hell is Krav Maga? (Unless your mind works like mine, in which case the question that naturally follows would be this: I wonder what a fucking big ladle would feel like up my bum?)

This is the great man himself. He killed mushrooms by jumping on them.

Krav Maga is quite a big part of my life, and I’ve never really talked about it before. So that’s what I’m going to do today. If you stick Krav Maga in Google, you’ll eventually discover that it’s the fighting style of the Israeli Defence Force, begun in Bratislava in the 30s by a dude who bears more than a passing resemblance Luigi’s plumber mate, Mario.

I’m not going to talk about that historical stuff very much. Instead I’m going to tell you what it’s really like. So we better get started; I’m writing this on my lunch break and I’ve already used up 24 minutes trying to chew my way through some shitty Tandoori Chicken Salad. Quick note: always by suspicious of salads that come in see-through plastic boxes and have plastic forks that are floppier than my penis after three bottles of wine. The salads tend to be soggy, yet somehow too dry to digest at the same time. Like tar. Or a Rivita, cunningly covered in lard.

Anyway, Krav Maga is a FUCKING MENTAL martial art* that dresses itself up as a self-defence system, but essentially trains you to be the bad guy in a fight. Instead of styles like aikido and ju jitsu, which train you to use your opponent’s strength to tie them up in knots, krav maga often encourages you to strike first in aggressive situations.

It’s pretty simple. In other martial arts like the two i just mentioned, you have to wait for your opponent to throw a punch, dodge it, catch it, control it, then climb up their body, insert their arms into their ears up to the elbows, then tuck your knees under their armpits and do a spinning backflip, slamming them into the ground on their head, forcing it into their body, like a cartoon. Then you stand up, strike a hero-pose and wait for all the adoring women who saw you do it come running in flocks, already stripping their clothes off in moist anticipation of the sex they’re about to have with you.

Basically, you’re no good at these styles unless you’re amazing at them. Otherwise, you’re just cannon-fodder on your local highstreet.

Krav Maga is very, very different. You can walk out of your first lesson and kick a little bit of ass. My first lesson ever included detailed instructions on how to break a bouncer’s fingers. You try as hard as possible never to let anyone get close enough to throw a punch at you. If you think things are about to get a bit rough, Krav Maga teaches you to break your opponent in half using everything around you until they’re a bloody, dazed heap on the floor and the area around you looks like a tornado just tore through a trailer park. Then you go after his mates.

It even teaches you stand in such a way that you look defensive and non-threatening in case there’s a CCTV camera over your shoulder, so you can plead your case in court. It ticks all the boxes for me.

I’ve been doing it around two years now. Before that, I tried Muay Thai kickboxing (which is great if the person you’re fighting is patient enough to wait for you to get in a striking stance before he thumps you in the eye), jiu jitsu (which is only useful if the other person you’re fighting also knows ju jitsu but isn’t quite as good as you), MMA (which is nothing more than a combination of the last two things), and a couple of other things. If you want to look after yourself in the real world, nothing, NOTHING, is better than krav. (Excuse the capitals there. Just wanted to express my sincerity.)

Let’s look at a couple of the more fun principles and tactics in krav maga.

Scenario #1:

You’re at a cashpoint. You feel something in your back and a sinister voice tells you to give them your money. You worked for that money, you’re hungry, and you want to keep it.

Krav-less Resolution:

You drain your fluids into your trousers and give him the £20 you just withdrew. Then you stand trembling about it for half an hour before going to the pub and telling your mates how you nearly just battered about 15 guys, but they got the better of you in the end.

Krav Resolution:

You glance over your shoulder to make sure it’s not one of your mates whose face you’re about ruin. You dip your shoulder and turn away, wrap their arm up and hold it tight against your chest so their stabs won’t be too lethal, then spend about twenty minutes delivering alternating headbutts to the face and knees to the groin, until their groin and their face have both been reduced to a fine puree. Then, if you want, wrench the knife from their twitching hand and keep it as a souvenir. Then leave.

Scenario #2:

You’re in a kebab shop at 3am. You’re stood at the counter next to your girlfriend. A small group of wobbly drunks wander in for their fix of doner meat and chips (which will inevitably get dropped in the gutter the moment they step outside), and one of them pinches your girlfriend’s ass.

Krav-less Resolution:

You grin nervously, and mutter “yeah she loves it. Do it again. Why don’t you all take turns?” without making eye-contact. Your girlfriend leaves you and you spend your nights with a pot noodle in one hand, your dick in the other, and then crying yourself to sleep.

Krav Resolution:

You step forward towards the pincher with your hands up slightly, so you look defensive. You ask him not to do it again, and tell him you don’t want trouble. Then before he has the chance to apologise, you fake a right-straight and when he raises his hands to block the punch you kick his balls up his throat. When he bends forward, take him by the back of the neck and use him as a shield from his friends, picking them off one by one (with various bollock-kicks) and giving him the occasional knee in the face and elbow in the kidneys to remind him that he’s a very naughty man. Then, once there’s a nice tidy pile of bleeding thugs, get your girlfriend to pinch his ass, collect your food, and trot home. That’s justice.

Scenario #3:

You’re at a peace rally in London. You’re sitting comfortably with your placard that reads “no war for oil” or “the pope is a bummer” or whatever. The police are bored, so they think it’s about time to liven things up by busting a few dreadlocked heads. A policeman, clad in riot gear with his truncheon above his head, is bearing down on you.

Krav-less Revolution:

You get hit on the head, fall over and die. The video appears on youtube, the policeman gets suspended, but no one really gives a shit.

Krav Resolution:

You block the policeman’s flailing arm at his wrist with your forearm while simultaneously trying as hard as you can to destroy his windpipe with your other hand. Control the baton-wielding arm and deliver 6000 knees to his groin until his chances of having children lie in a sticky pink puddle at your feet. Then the choice is two-fold. Either take his baton and continue smashing your way through London  until every policeman lays unconscious. Or, and this is the one I would recommend, run the fuck away as fast as you can and don’t stop until you’re in Mexico. They hate police there, you should be fine.

That’s about it for now. I’ll try to write more Krav stuff in future, but i thought i’d just give you some background. Please note: the International Krav Maga Federation strongly suggests that you don’t actually do anything that i’ve said in this blog post.

*Loads of krav instructors will argue that it’s not a martial art, but it is, as long as you take the literal understanding of martial art:  ‘martial’, from the same etymological root as things like ‘court martial’ and ‘martial law’, from the Latin ‘Mars’, of or relating to war. Since krav maga was apparently engendered on the battlefield, Krav Maga is absolutely a martial art.

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Krav Maga for Beginners

  1. Hi, John. Your recent post on The 10 Unwritten Rules of Krav Maga reminded me that I’ve been meaning to ask you something since reading this entry.

    Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve needed to bring your skills to bear (in self defence, of course, just in case there are any surveillance cameras around) ? Or have you found that either your extra confidence makes you less of a target (kinda like the US Gun Lobby’s argument for “carrrying”) or your improved fitness aids you in getting the hell out of the way before things turn nasty.

    I had a workmate who was a black belt TKD, which was all fine until one night at the pub, he got so newted that he made the poor judgement call to take a shortcut home through one of the local no-go-after-dark parks. When accosted, he attempted a roundhouse kick (poorly executed due to his inebriation), fell flat on his back and received a good kicking for his troubles.

    Another colleague at the time (also black belt, but in karate) swore that the best defence is not to be there in the first place. Speed (not the pharmaceutical kind) was his friend.

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