Vanity vs Effectiveness in Self Defense

How many times have you heard these things said about beginning Krav Maga practitioners?

“I don’t like their form.”
“They don’t move like fighters.”
“It does not look right.”

I’ve heard it many times, for many years. If one understands Krav Maga and its philosophy and mentality, he will know the response to these criticisms.

Krav Maga’s goal is to enable its practitioners to defend themselves as quickly as possible. To look and move like a professional fighter takes a lot of time and dedication. Time that many people do not have. A school that is proper and true to the philosophy of Krav Maga will acknowledge that the average practitioner has a day job, is a student, or simply does not have the time to train five days a week, five hours a day. Krav Maga’s true goal is to prepare this person to be able to defend himself against as many threats as possible even with limited dedication to training.

Krav Maga in the hands of a beginning casual practitioner might not look clean, smooth and “sexy”, but it will be efficient and get the job done. Sloppy looking counter strikes are still effective as long as they happen with intent and purpose. A kick to the groin is still effective at stunning the attacker even if the form isn’t perfect. Any counter strike to the throat or back of the neck can be deadly, regardless of the form.

We know that in order to truly master a technique, one needs repetition. And to have that technique be instinctual under an attack requires ongoing practice. How many practitioners have trained longer than a year? Not that many. The ones that commit to training over time will learn proper form as well as the defensive techniques. The reality is that most people do not train in one system for very long regardless of the style. The responsibility of a good instructor (whose goal is to teach and impart live saving self defense skills) is to make sure that he can prepare his student to defend themselves ASAP. We want each of our classes to teach the practitioner life saving skills and mentality that they can use immediately. Perfect striking form that will show up even under stress requires thousands of repetitions. This takes time, and should not be the first goal of the beginning Krav Maga practitioner.

So what are *you* looking for in your self defense training: vanity or effectiveness? Do you want to look good when you’re fighting, or is your goal to be able to defend yourself?

Most of us know that Krav Maga started in order to train soldiers (IDF and paramilitary units before the formation of the IDF). If you served in the military (How many KM instructors have? That’s a different issue…), you know the issues that combat soldiers have. One of them is time: How can soldiers be made combat ready and efficient in the shortest amount of time? Krav Maga was the answer for the Israelis. From the military, it went to civilians, and the philosophy stayed the same. Schools who want their beginning students to look like professional fighters with perfect form are missing the point and are not aware of the system’s true philosophy.

If you want to look like a boxer, go to a boxing gym.

If you want to look and move like a MMA fighter, go to an MMA school.

If you want to learn to defend yourself as soon and fast as possible, go to a Krav Maga school.

So that one may walk in peace.

Danny Zelig

One Response to “Vanity vs Effectiveness in Self Defense”

  1. Harold Feinberg


    Tov (very true)! Traditional or contemporary MA are all effective with proper instruction and a bit of training. I’ve seen both well practiced and sloppy techniques landed on the right target and end the conflict quickly.

    MA Students to often get caught up in stylistic elitism and it unfortunately causes them to cease believing in (and practicing) the basic and pragmatic techniques that will save them in a conflict.

    I have trained in Moo Duk Kwan TKD for 34 years with the very best and highly ranked in the traditional military style. Traditional MA techniques aren’t necessarily vanity, just tradition. Yet, rigid traditionalism is not practical for the beginning self defense student (even resulting in a loss of confidence).

    There are many, many effective advanced techniques that require thousands of repetitions to be considered “proficient.” However, in application, most any basic (more instinctive) technique is going to be effective against an attacker whether it has been practiced a few dozen times or a few thousand.


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