As Krav Maga continues to gain popularity, people are increasingly curious—is it possible to teach yourself the basics of this self-defense system through practice at home?
The short answer: yes, you can teach yourself Krav Maga…but there are some very important caveats.
In the age of the internet, where we’re always just a few clicks away from apparently endless how-to articles and blog posts, it often makes sense to tackle new skills on our own. A quick online search will reveal a wealth of resources aimed at helping beginners learn the basics of Krav Maga.
For example, the video above will teach you how to flawlessly execute a rear naked choke. And the video below will teach you how to escape from a bearhug. These are extremely valuable -- potentially even lifesaving -- things to know.
So you can absolutely learn Krav Maga’s basic elements—its stances, introductory techniques, and best practices—through research and practice by yourself. But are the books, blog posts, and tutorial videos enough to actually teach yourself Krav Maga?
In order to answer these questions, it’s important to consider Krav Maga’s origins, as well as its underlying philosophy.
Krav Maga: a discipline without borders
From Bratislava to Israel . . .
Born and raised in a ghetto in Bratislava, Slovakia, Imi Lichtenfeld began learning to defend himself at an early age. His father was a veteran police officer renowned for his skills as a fighter. He taught Imi essential self-defense techniques. As a young man in pre-World War II Europe, Imi used these skills to confront anti-Semitic violence in his community.
Imi later fled to the Middle East to avoid the rise of violent fascism in Europe. He continued to practice and develop his self-defense skills, and when Israel became a state in 1948, he worked with their military to formalize his techniques into what is now known as Krav Maga.
From Israel to the United States and beyond
By the 1960s, Krav Maga had been tested and refined by nearly a decade of use on the battlefield. Having shown the strength and efficacy of his system, Imi Lichtenfeld began offering Krav Maga instruction geared specifically for civilians. He worked one-on-one with his best students to train them as instructors, ensuring that the fundamentals of Krav Maga would be passed on faithfully to future generations of instructors and students.
As Krav Maga grew in popularity both in Israel and internationally, Imi began hosting training sessions for promising students from around the world. It was during one such training in 1981 that Darren Levine met Imi, spending six weeks learning under his supervision. Upon returning to the United States, Darren decided to make Krav Maga his life’s work.
Darren Levine continued to work with Imi Lichtenfeld until the founder’s death in Israel in 1998. Darren honored Imi’s vision by teaching courses in schools, training law enforcement officers, and eventually founding Krav Maga Worldwide.
Today, Krav Maga Worldwide has expanded to over 150 training centers around the world and offers some of the most authentic Krav Maga training programs available. Its students include military personnel, police officers, athletes, and everyday citizens of all ages.
Krav Maga’s philosophy
It’s not a martial art
It’s a common misconception that Krav Maga is a martial art, like Taekwondo, Jiu-Jitsu, or Karate. Krav Maga is not a martial art; it is a system of self-defense. Krav Maga lacks the rigid rules and structure found in other systems and instead emphasizes flexibility and quick thinking in the face of danger.
This flexibility is one of the system’s greatest strengths, as well as one of the many reasons its popularity continues to grow. However, it’s precisely this same lack of structure that makes it challenging to teach yourself Krav Maga through home practice alone. As such, you’ll tend to do best when training with experienced instructors and live sparring partners, as opposed to trying to learn Krav Maga by yourself.
It’s not just physical
Krav Maga is well-known for its no-holds-barred approach to fighting. Less well-known, however, is the fact that Krav Maga promotes a philosophy of restraint, humility, and self-awareness. Developing the focus to maintain your composure and self-control in the face of stressful conditions takes considerable practice.
As with any discipline—mental or physical—Krav Maga’s guiding principles are easiest to adopt and practice when surrounded by like-minded individuals. Given this, we suggest students of Krav Maga spend as much time as possible in a community of experienced trainers and peers.
Person-to-person training is in keeping with founder Imi Lichtenfeld’s vision
Another important aspect of Krav Maga’s philosophy is that it has been passed on directly from instructors to students since its inception. From founder Imi Lichtenfeld’s early education in self-defense by his father to his hands-on approach in spreading the culture of the system internationally, Krav Maga has always demanded a person-to-person exchange of techniques and training.
Clearly, Krav Maga was founded on the idea that training with experienced peers is the best way to master its techniques. While it might be tempting to try to teach yourself the basics of Krav Maga, by practicing in the context of a formal training environment you can expect the best results possible, all while honoring founder Imi Lichtenfeld’s vision.
So . . . can you learn Krav Maga by yourself?
Krav Maga is perhaps most famous for its comparatively informal approach to self-defense. There are no rules or forms, unlike in traditional martial arts. Instead, Krav Maga emphasizes the need to prepare for real-life scenarios, especially scenarios that demand quick judgment and practiced movements.
You CAN learn the movements and techniques from the comfort of your home, and we even offer an online academy to help facilitate that learning. To get the most out of the online training, though, it’s very important that you have someone to practice with. This will allow you to train more effectively for real-life scenarios and to develop the reflexes and muscle memory necessary to defend yourself in an attack.
In addition, once you understand the basics, we recommend training with a professional instructor to help fine-tune your technique and expand your abilities. As previously noted, Krav Maga was designed to be passed on from instructor to student, and a knowledgeable instructor is an invaluable source of coaching and inspiration.