Krav Maga vs. Other Martial Arts

A New Student’s Perspective:
As a martial artist, I often find myself wondering how well I would actually handle myself in a serious situation. I’m 21 years old with eight or more years of experience in the styles of Muay Thai Kickboxing, Jujitsu, Karate, and now recently about three months of Krav Maga.
Back when I was in high school and still training avidly in those three styles prior to my Krav training, I wondered about this a lot. Like most guys, (especially in our teenage years) this is very important to us. I think it’s safe to say that we have all at one point or another imagined ourselves in a fight and during that imaginary fight we were unstoppable. In our minds we all like to think of ourselves as a total badass. If someone were to ask me back then, “how well would you be able to handle yourself in a fight?” I would have to guess fairly well.
I mean, I did train a lot. Guy who trains vs guy who doesn’t train… you do the math. UNLESS this person also trained as hard as me. What then? Of course my mind would naturally make me the winner. This is my imaginary fight after all, i’m not about to lose to some random guy in my own mind… But let’s be real, what if this was in an actual encounter? What if my opponent also trained in martial arts? What if this randomly occurred on the street? That alone changes the ball game dramatically. What if I was minding my own business, walking alone somewhere and three guys decided to mug me? Let’s analyze that. This is a lot more serious than any school fight. One guy, who trains in Muay Thai, Jujitsu, and Karate vs three thugs who want his money, his shoes, and want the pleasure of beating him senseless.
Now the first point that needs to be looked at is what my training was like back then. I trained hard, always getting stronger, more flexible, faster, and more confident. I was no weakling, but what kinds of scenarios was I training for? The answer is one guy vs another guy, both wearing gloves and shin guards. No strikes to the groin, no knocking out your sparring partner, no strikes to the throat. Sometimes you’re only grappling, other times you’re only stand up sparring. Competition style rules. So what we’ve really got here is one guy who trains hard under a set of rules, against a single opponent vs three guys who couldn’t care less about following rules. Maybe they’ve had some training, and maybe not. But they’re all attacking at once and they’ve got the element of surprise on their side. A group of attackers like this clearly have no regard for the life of the person they’re attacking.
This adds another very dangerous element to the mix. If they aren’t concerned with their victim’s well being then what would stop a couple of guys like this from bringing weapons to attack with? I wasn’t completely helpless against weapons back then. I did learn a few techniques against knives, sticks, and even guns. But for this type of scenario? Let’s just say the odds wouldn’t have been in my favor. And that’s putting it nicely. I would have gotten DESTROYED if something like this had really happened, and i’m very thankful that it never did. So why is it that someone can train as hard as I did (and still do) but not be the slightest bit prepared for multiple attackers attacking without warning? The answer is actually quite simple.I was learning how to fight but not how to defend myself. Which contrary to what you might be thinking actually makes all the difference. A fight is where one person squares off with their opponent in some kind of fight stance (though most people on the street actually have very poor stance). The punches and kicks are expected because both fighters are mentally prepared. Self defense is much different. In self defense you do not have an opponent but an attacker or attackers. Your attacker has not given you a chance to mentally prepare or get into a fighting stance. Meanwhile as you’re busy trying to comprehend what’s going on and frantically trying to get yourself together. You’re taking vicious strikes and blows left and right. There is a very, very, small window of opportunity to save yourself by successfully neutralizing your attacker and if you’re too busy being confused while all of these strikes are coming your way then you are finished. Your life is no longer in your hands but in the hands of the thug or thugs who put you into this terrible position to begin with.
I started to realize all of this within my first few weeks of Krav Maga training. Within about three months of training I’ve certainly learned more about effectively defending myself than in all of the eight years I spent training in those other forms of martial arts. Krav Maga was tough for me to adjust to at first. Not because the of the moves but because of the Krav mentality. Most of the moves that I learned in my years of training prior to training in Krav are the same basic moves used in Krav Maga. It was obviously not those moves that I had trouble adjusting to but rather their application. When you spend years being taught under a set of rules that prohibit certain strikes and then all of a sudden you are not only taught, but encouraged to strike the groin, or gauge someones eyes with your thumbs, or strike the neck, or kick someone’s knee the wrong way. It is very tough to adjust to at first. As Sensei Alex Saia often tells me, “bad habits die hard”. Those moves I just mentioned might sound brutal but that’s because they are and they need to be. Krav Maga is 100% focused on instilling a life or death mentality in those who train in it. We practitioners of Krav train very hard and very seriously to be able to recognize a life threatening situation and to be able to act on that situation in the quickest, most effective way possible. That is the goal that I strive for. I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve mastered the moves, techniques, mentality, and the physique necessary to be able to handle myself in any situation under any amount of pressure. But as they say, “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step”.