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Learning Krav Maga

Barry Hooper

You might be forgiven for not being familiar with the term, Krav Maga, I know I wasn't. However, I did ask my enigmatic friend whose name I cannot disclose, nor whose profession can I reveal, saving that he was a member of the most Úlite special forces in the world. He knew, of course. Krav Maga is a Hebrew term for Contact Combat, which is particularly effective as a counter-terrorist measure, thus explaining my friend's expertise.

Of all the martial art styles, Krav Maga or Musti Yudha is probably the most institutionalised, having been developed as a professional system of self-defence and hand-to-hand combat, initially by and for the Israeli security, special and armed forces, police and anti-terrorist groups. The father of Krav Maga was Imi Lichenfield, a martial arts expert whose extensive background included proficiency in boxing, wrestling, judo, and jujitsu. He apparently refined street fighting techniques to defend Israeli athletes in the 1930's and extended it in the 1940's, for the underground liberation organization's benefit, whilst the state of Israel was struggling to establish itself. Later, he became an official instructor as an officer in the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces), and incorporated its methods into army training, including the advanced special force's close-quarter, and lethal combat.

Krav Maga subsequently graduated into the Israeli educational syllabus, and programs of private institutes, enabling children, and young adults of both sexes to benefit from its relatively simple methods. It is a hard, even brutal, force-against-force style, designed to enable the practitioner to prevail in highly confrontational scenarios, which explains its adoption by many international police forces, and even the FBI.

Its beauty is that its simple, and you can learn Krav Maga in a relatively short time, ranging from a few days to several months, and it's even feasible for the general public to take weekend combat courses, or to go on summer camps, virtually anywhere in the world. Whilst the officially sanctioned courses benefit from the tuition of the instructors of the International Krav Maga Federation, it may be learnt at home, using instructional DVDs, books and/or practice dummies.

Krav Maga relies on perfecting a practitioner's natural, instinctual reactions involving simple body-motions rather than rigorous, formal training. It presupposes that the majority of confrontations will find the subject at a mental disadvantage due to restricted movement, stress, surprise, darkness, unknown locations, or being prone. Accordingly, it teaches effective extrication methods. It also teaches defence against assailants armed with guns, knives, or wooden implements.

The more advanced level of Krav Maga focuses on hand-to-hand combat, where speed and efficacy are taught. Here the psychology of the fight, and the assailant are analysed, and combined tactics are taken into consideration. Free-form and versatility are the only rules, the end-game being to successfully overcome the opponent.

Remembering the proviso advocated by my special forces friend that once a fight is entered into, there must be no holds barred, because, as he points out, he who dares, wins.

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