My interest in self-defense began at a very early age. Like many young boys, I was enamored with action movies, and my favorites were the ones with martial arts. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan were my heroes, as they always seemed to be on the good side—plus they were capable of facing any level of adversity. I took a strong step in this direction when I enrolled in my first Krav Maga class.
In school, I was very intimidated by the bigger and older kids, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. This bred a feeling of helplessness within me—that I was powerless to oppose negative forces in the world. Besides the desire to simply assert my own will, I also often found myself wishing I could step in on behalf of those around me who were being intimidated or pushed around. Without any training, there was nothing I could do but witness. I had these situations in mind when I finally began practicing Krav Maga.
Starting the Journey of Krav Maga
At the beginning of my training, I was ready to learn a bunch of kicks and punches, so I could be prepared for a fight. Krav Maga is effective in real life, but not in the ways I expected it to be. I was surprised to find that I had the wrong idea about the goals of self-defense. As my teacher explained Krav Maga, I found that fighting was always a last resort.
In fact, I discovered that there were many differences between my idea of martial arts and what Krav Maga turned out to be. Being the better fighter wasn’t all about who had the best moves. When a fight was inevitable, Krav Maga taught me that the smarter fighter was the one who won.
Observe and Respect
Part of what makes Krav Maga so effective in real life is the way it teaches you to submerge yourself in the aggressive instinct that’s essential in a fight and balance it with deliberate actions.
From day one, my instructors stressed keen observation. You had to observe your opponent, your surroundings, and even the objects that could potentially be used as weapons. Today, I automatically scan areas for escape routes, threats, hiding places, and potential items that I can use as a weapon. My instructor told us that this practice of watching is one of the most essential features of Krav Maga self-defense, but it also affected my daily life in unexpected ways.
Since I’m always staying aware of possible threats by observing others’ postures and facial expressions, I gained valuable insight into how my friends and family were feeling. Understanding body language is a skill that I put to use every day.
From all our practice with observation, I was learning that Krav Maga and self-defense is not just a set of moves to use in a fight—instead it is a lifestyle, a way of seeing the world and preparing yourself for anything. If Krav Maga is to be effective in real life, whether you’re fighting or not, observation is a key aspect of the practice.
Form and Preparation
The next step of my training in Krav Maga was about learning form. Our instructor told us that an attack without proper form is weak. We learned how a stance can affect your balance, reaction time, and power.
Before I realized it, my posture had improved even outside of the Krav Maga studio. All of a sudden, people were asking me if I had gotten taller. As a young man whose growth spurt wasn’t as impressive as I had hoped, these comments built up my confidence and showed me that Krav Maga was more than an effective fighting style in real life; it also helped to build daily confidence and improve my appearance.
Taking a Hit
Before starting Krav Maga, I had done the rounds at the local martial arts studios. Krav Maga was the only one that held my interest. The reason was the focus on the exchange of blows. For me, there was always the question of the difference between practicing in the ring and facing a real-life scenario. In other martial arts, they taught us to stop fighting when we hurt our partner, but in Krav Maga, our instructors wanted us to fully understand what it meant to get hit.
I truly believe that this practice ensures that Krav Maga is effective in real life combat situations. Now, I know that getting hit with full force won’t stop me from reacting. This knowledge gave me the confidence to take action when I felt it was appropriate—whether it was confronting a bully or standing up for someone else. While this confidence was often misplaced in my youth, the longer I’ve practiced Krav Maga, the easier I have found it to subdue an inflammatory situation without fighting.
The Art of Sparring
Once I learned about what it really meant to take a hit, my instructors urged me to begin sparring. At this point, I had been studying for several years and was comfortable with all the basic holds and strikes. When an instructor first brought up sparring, I wasn’t sure if it would actually help me make Krav Maga effective in real life, due to my past sparring experiences in martial arts. How could I learn what a real fight was like if I had to stop every time my opponent was hurt?
It turns out that Krav Maga sparring does not stop until someone is on the ground, completely defeated. I ended up in a ball on the floor during my first sparring session because after punching my opponent in the face, I stopped to ask if he was okay. This was a mistake, as he took me down as I approached him. Sparring in Krav Maga is truly an effective way to simulate real-life situations.
Versatility of Technique
I knew from the beginning that Krav Maga was meant to counter all fighting styles, especially the disordered, dirty street fighting, but I didn’t fully comprehend this until I fought someone that didn’t practice Krav Maga. Since it is a mix of many different fighting styles, there’s a wide body of knowledge that goes into the practice. As a result, the point is to prepare you to defend against many kinds of attacks, including unruly ones.
If you are involved in a scuffle in real life, the odds are you’ll be dealing with someone who has little to no formal training. There are no referees or rules, so you’ll be left with only your skills and techniques against an unknown arsenal of attacks. Krav Maga is effective in real life, as it helps avoid attacks and deliver decisive blows to end the fight as soon as possible.
Ending the Fight
The goal of Krav Maga is always to end the fight by any means necessary. The first approach is to attempt to find a peaceful way to resolve the conflict. If there’s a way to avoid a physical fight altogether, this is the best way. You always aim to give your opponent every opportunity to back out of the fight, either before it begins, or during the fight.
I use this method every day when my kids fight, when my coworkers disagree, or when my friends get heated. Krav Maga taught me how to work as a mediator and instilled within me a great respect for peace.
Krav Maga is more than just a physical system of fighting. It’s about building mental strength, poise, and confidence as well. Of course, these mental exercises translate into real life. I’m not the shy teenager I once was. Today, I deliver speeches, present sales pitches to Fortune 500 CEOs, and express my opinions in a calm and concise manner, no matter the emotional atmosphere.
Krav Maga and Real Life
Even though Krav Maga was not what I expected when I first joined the practice years ago, it has proved to be far more impactful than imagined. Rather than just training in combat, Krav Maga is a fully rounded lifestyle that is centered around observation, self-evaluation, and confidence. I use the skills and knowledge I gained from Krav Maga to face even non-combative struggles on a day-to-day basis. The fact is that Krav Maga is effective in real life as a way to arm yourself to succeed.