The Science of Krav Maga: The World’s Most Effective Self-Defence System

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This article was originally published in BlueStar Magazine October 2022 issue. BlueStar is the Australian Federal Police Association’s quarterly publication for members.


Krav Maga is Hebrew for ‘Contact Combat’.

It was conceived in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld who introduced and developed the system for use by the Israeli Defence Forces. It has since been adopted by law enforcement and militaries around the world and remains, today, the most popular system among police, military, security, and defence personnel worldwide. 

The basic principle of Krav Maga is effective and efficient self-defence and combat in situations when there are no rules and no referees. This principle accounts for the realities of a real-life confrontation, which are very different to a scheduled fight in a ring with a single, known opponent.

Krav Maga is a constantly evolving system of self-defence, fighting, and third-party protection that teaches its students to protect at all costs and defend with everything at their disposal.

What does that mean in practice? 

Krav Maga studies how your body instinctively moves and reacts when attacked. It uses and hones these reflexes for the purpose of self-defence.

The training focuses on using these existing reflexes and on building muscle memory, so it is relatively easy to learn even for people with little or no martial arts experience. Krav Maga has been specifically designed to take advantage of the inherent weaknesses in any attack and attacker with the objective of ending a fight quickly and effectively.

Krav Maga teaches practitioners to attack the most vulnerable parts of the body, which can be done in a number of ways through takedowns, kicks, and knee strikes.

It follows that you should avoid exposing these vulnerable areas when fighting. Krav Maga training builds a deep, instinctive understanding of how to defend from attacks.

How is Krav Maga different from other systems?

Krav Maga is designed for offence and defence, it is not just defensive system

fights end up on ground what percentageKrav Maga’s goal of realism exposes students to un-telegraphed attacks of all types and helps prepare them for better responses to any threats. It also teaches effective defences in the pre-fight stage, utilising de-escalation techniques. Finally, it teaches practitioners how best to take advantage of the weaknesses of people who attack.

Eyal Yanilov, Imi Lichtenfeld’s direct successor, is the head of Krav Maga Global (KMG). It was Eyal who brought Krav Maga to the world, adapting it to civilian use and helping grow the system globally.

KMG’s Krav Maga System integrates the science of human physiology and the experience of its practitioners in the military and law enforcement, whose feedback helps the system continue to develop and evolve as the world changes around us. 

The KMG system is constructed from three integrated parts, noting that these distinct pillars may merge into one in an actual confrontation:  

  • CQB, Armed and Unarmed Hand-to-Hand Combat – defeating an opponent quickly and effectively in close combat. This involves different elements of a fight: tactics, techniques, combinations, psychology and mentality of a fighter. Use of knives, sticks and guns for attacks are integrated into this.

  • Self-Defence Techniques – defences against both armed and unarmed attackers. The techniques are eventually practised under stress, in simulations of adverse conditions and environments, such as in the dark, on the ground, indoors and outdoors and in situations that limit the practitioner’s movement.

  • Close Protection and 3rd Party Protection – defending a third-party (a friend, family member, VIP, or fellow officer) against all kinds of attacks and threats. Dealing with one or more attackers, moving, evacuating, and taking care of the other person, functioning under different conditions in different environments and locations.

Science within Krav Maga

Every technique that is adopted by KMG and taught to its practitioners is first extensively stress-tested. With elite units around the world training Krav Maga regularly, the system has been stress-tested widely and has been forced to adapt as scenarios new threats develop. When a new type threat is identified, the threat is workshoped within the system, tested, and then rolled out to the instructor network. 


For example, there has been an increased number of knife stabbing attacks where the attacker uses an underhand (‘oriental-style’) stab using the rear hand but uses the lead hand to simultaneously push the defender, effectively ‘ranging’ the attack.

The defence for this attack is now incorporated into Krav Maga training. This dynamic nature is what keeps Krav Maga so relevant and so valuable to military, law enforcement, and civilian practitioners. 

Moreover, over the last few years ground combatives have become more prevalent in the community as MMA and ground submission wrestling have become more mainstream.

I cannot speak for all schools, however most good Krav Maga schools will also incorporate ground combatives training such as Sambo, pancreation, or BJJ into their teaching.
sambo classes at sgs krav maga(1)

Learn more about sambo classes At SGS

That said, it is dangerous to focus exclusively on ground combatives at the expense of tactical training.

Outside of a padded martial arts gym, law enforcement and security officers are faced with multiple attackers, weapons, as well as attackers that may be much stronger or heavier than they are.

This fact begs the question: is the defender able to wrestle with someone much larger while maintaining control of the duty weapon or in the absence of backup in a multiple-attacker situation?

Why is Krav Maga used around the world by military and law enforcement?

From verbal de-escalation techniques to unavoidable physical confrontations, with and without a weapon, Krav Maga teaches the most effective, direct, timely, and context-appropriate defensive and offensive techniques.

Regular training improves an officer’s critical skills and decision-making abilities in stressful situations, as well as providing the mental and physical conditioning required to perform at their peak.

Krav Maga teaches students to apply context-appropriate tactics and techniques to solve time-sensitive, potentially dangerous problems, real-time and under simulated conditions of stress and/or fatigue.

By providing consistent exposure to realistic and dynamic situations, officers learn to successfully condition themselves to transfer that training to enhanced performance in high-stress, real-world situations.

Students learn a variety of tactics to de-escalate, disarm, or overpower a threatening individual or group, taking into account the constraints placed on the Officer by State and Police Regulations, as well as the situation itself. This includes training to use the minimum force necessary to control a dangerous situation, as well as pre-emptive force when required.

Why is Krav Maga so effective?

While many self-defence systems will teach you how to defend against a punch, others will teach you to grab and hold someone. This often leaves your less-defended areas — and your head, in particular — dangerously exposed.

Krav Maga teaches practitioners to be aware of their weak points at all times and how to avoid leaving them exposed when defending and when attacking. It also teaches practitioners to take advantage of those same weaker areas of your opponent’s body, making Krav Maga the most effective system of self-defence available today.

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