What is Krav Maga? Principles & Organisation

Krav Maga is a self-defence system developed by the Israeli army. In Hebrew, it literally means "contact combat".

Although it integrates elements from a number of combat sports and martial arts such as boxing, judo, wrestling and jujitsu, Krav Maga was, from the very beginning, rooted in real life situations.

"There is no competitive Krav Maga circuit, because the idea is to break all the rules, not play by them."

It is not a sport but a simple and effective fighting system designed for self-protection.

Page content:
  • Overview
  • Krav Maga Core Principles
  • Krav Maga Organizations
  • Krav Maga Grading Sytem & Belts
  • References


The history of Krav Maga is closely linked to the lives of its founder Imi Lichtenfeld and the first generation of instructors he trained.

Krav Maga was developed in an environment that showed no mercy so it emphasises taking the aggressor down as quickly as possible and escaping safely.

There are no rules and no limitations.

It relies on instinctive movements, practical techniques, and realistic training scenarios which makes it one of the most efficient self-defence system in the world.

All military and police offices in Israel are trained in Krav Maga. Its simplicity and functionality led a number of military and law enforcement units around the world to use Krav Maga (or a variation) as their main close-quarter hand combat method.

In the USA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), among others have all integrated Krav Maga as part of their training. Krav Maga is now practiced in over 30 countries around the world.

The Krav Maga symbol consists of the Hebrew letters K and M surrounded by an open circle because the system is open to improvement by adding techniques, exercises, and training methods.

Krav-Maga-Logo - Urban Fit & Fearless


With its focus on real-world situations, Krav Maga philosophy rests on the pragmatic approach of “this is the problem – what is the solution?".

It emphasises brutal counter-attacks based on simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers with continuous motion ("Retzev") in order to stop the assault and neutralize the threat as quickly as possible.

The premise of Krav Maga is fourfold:
  1. you can only rely on yourself if attacked
  2. there will be multiple aggressors
  3. they will be bigger and stronger than you
  4. there are no rules in a street fight (aggressors are not following some sportsman’s code of chivalry, they're trying to hurt, maim, or possibly kill you).

This leads to a number of principles:

1- Avoid confrontation or finish the fight as quickly as possible

The safest option is always to avoid violence but if not possible, you need to neutralise the threat as quickly as possible.

This overarching goal governs all the other principles of Krav Maga.

The longer a fight goes on, the more likely you're going to get hurt so it's important to counter-attack as soon as possible (or even attack pre-emptively) in order to turn the tables quickly, disengage and get back home unharmed.

2- Understand your surroundings and the psychology of a street confrontation

Situational awareness along with a good understanding of the dynamics of a street confrontation can go a long way in keeping you safe because it allows you to identify potential threats before an attack occurs.

Good awareness of your surroundings while dealing with the threat will help you to localise escape routes, to spot further attackers, or weapons of opportunity.

3- Techniques should be kept as simple as possible and rely on the body's natural reflexes

Your fine motor skills degrade when you're experiencing an excessive level of stress. This can lead to the "freeze" reaction which is part of the "fight, flight or freeze" response.

To avoid technical block, motor skills deficiency and "freeze" responses, defences should rely on the body’s natural reflexes. Similarly, to ensure maximum effectiveness and efficiency, techniques should make sense from a bio-mechanical point of view.

Krav Maga was designed so that it could be put to use as soon as possible and regardless of size, gender, body type and physical condition. It was developed in an environment where the Israeli military could not devote many hours to hand-to-hand combat training for their personnel.

4- Use the body’s natural weapons as well as ordinary objects

Your body comes with a number of weapons you should know how to use: the fists, obviously, but also the elbows, the knees, and the feet. Any improvised weapon such as a belt or a bottle can also tip the scales in your favour.

5- Exploit the human body’s most vulnerable spots

You should never try to match an aggressor strength ("they will be bigger and stronger than you"). Instead target their weaknesses and focus on the body's most vulnerable points, particularly soft tissues, such as the eyes, the throat, the face, the groin, etc. Many counterattacks involve eye gouging, groin attacks, and strikes to the throat.

6- A good defensive action doesn't go without an offensive motion

That's the principle of simultaneous defense and attack which goes hand in hand with the principle of continuous motion ("Retzev").

Your goal is to disrupt the attack and simultaneously counterattack to surprise your aggressor. "Retzev" is a continuous series of aggressive defensive and offensive movements with sustained forward pressure which aims at overwhelming the attacker.


Until the 1980ies, the organisation of Krav Maga was quite simple. The IKMA, presided by Imi Lichtenfeld, was the governing body.

When the system started to spread outside Israel and dissensions within IKMA grew bigger, numerous organizations, affiliated or not to the IKMA, appeared.

Many of Imi's students started their Krav Maga schools and in many cases created their own organizations.

Like any other form of martial arts, the original system has now been subject to change, modernisation and in some cases bastardisation.

Here are the main Krav Maga organisations:

Krav Maga Organisations - Urban Fit & Fearless


Most Krav Maga organisations use the judo-based ranking system with coloured belts that Imi Lichtenfeld designed. The belts go from white to black, and there are 9 Dans (aka "Dargas") for the Black belt. The time and requirements for advancing from one belt to the other vary with each organisation.

Some other Krav Maga organisations, mostly outside Israel, use coloured patches instead of belts. There are only 3 colours, Yellow, Blue and Red. In the patch system which was developed by Eyal Yanilov in the late 1980's, the grades are divided into 3 main categories; Practitioner (P), Graduate (G) and Expert (E). Each category has 5 ranks: P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, then G1-G5 and E1-E5.

Krav Maga belts colors and patches - Urban Fit & Fearless

Practitioner Level (P1-P5) - Level 1-4 (KMW)

=> Equivalent to belts White, Yellow, Orange and Green

Students learn how to defend the most common attacks and avoid situations while developing their fighting skills and fitness. Students learn stances and movement, strikes (punches, elbow strikes, hammer strikes, kicks), 360° Defences, blocks and strike defences, breakfalls, ground fighting and grappling, defence against stick attacks,

Krav Maga Global: White trim & logos on black attire. Grading patches are yellow with black bars representing their level.
British Krav Maga Association: White (P1-P3), Blue (P4-P6) and Red (P7-P9).

Grading System European Krav Maga Federation (FEKM):

Curriculum Krav Maga Worldwide (KMW/KMU)

Syllabus Krav Maga Global (KMG):

Graduate Level (G1-G5) - Level 5 (KMW)

=> Equivalent to belts Green, Blue and Brown

In order to move to Graduate level the student has to demonstrate a proficiency in all of the P level techniques first. More focus is brought on fighting skills at G level and more complicated situations are adddressed. Students learn more advanced strikes and striking combinations, defenses against various cold weapons attacks and firearm threats. Most instructors hold a G level grade.

KGM: Red trim & logos on black attire. Grading patches are cobalt blue with black or white bars.

Grading System European Krav Maga Federation (FEKM):

Syllabus Krav Maga Worldwide (KMW)

Curriculum Krav Maga Global (KMG):

Expert Level (E1-E5)

=> Equivalent to Black belt

The Expert grades cover more advanced techniques (i.e. military and third-party protection) as well as advanced sparring and fighting skills. Only high level instructors hold a E level grade. Expert level testing is by invitation only, and has specific requirements apart from testing for each level.

KGM: Gold trim & logos. Grading patches are gold with red bars.

Grading System European Krav Maga Federation (FEKM):

Beyond Expert 5 there is the rank of Master. However, this rank is reserved only for those who have dedicated a lifetime to Krav Maga and made valuable contributions in teaching and promoting the style.

Only a small number of individuals hold the rank of Master. Among them are:
Imi Lichtenfeld (+)
Eli Avikzar (+)
Haim Gidon
Haim Zut
Eyal Yanilov
Raphy El Grissi
Kobi Lichtenstein
Darren Levine



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