Krav Maga Principles

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
  • Core Principles Krav Maga
  • Krav Maga Principles of Defence
  • Krav Maga Principles of Attack
  • Tactical Considerations
  • 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 neutralising the aggressor as quickly as possible and escaping safely.

There are no rules and no limitations.

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

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?" with its absolute priority being "survival".

It emphasises brutal counter-attacks based on simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers with continuous motion ("Retzev") in order to stop the assault and neutralise 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. Then disengage and escape.

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

"Inflict maximum damage to your enemy, with minimum time spent, while sustaining minimum harm to yourself" Eyal Yanilov

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.

This is why Krav Maga instructors insist on scanning and evaluating threats before, during and after a violent encounter.

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 and gross motor skills. Similarly, to ensure maximum effectiveness and efficiency, techniques should make sense from a bio-mechanical point of view.

 "Keep it simple. Keep it efficient."

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 abilities. 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.


In terms of defence, speed and technique are key and more important than strength. Reaction/response time is crucial which is why repetition is so important (the pianist fingers go faster than his eyes; that's muscle memory gained through repetition).

The second major point is to acquire skills for real-life situations. Violent encounters would come in a variety of situations (including adverse circumstances) with a variety aggressors (different sizes, speed, body types, etc) who would use a variety of attacks (every person attacks in a different way), so you have to prepare accordingly, be able to improvise, to quickly adapt to any situation and to perform under stress and fatigue.

"The more we train, the more tools we gain."

According to Eyal Yanilov (Krav Maga Global), the following points should be taken into account in regard to defence:
  1. The 3 types of dynamic defences:
    • Lateral and horizontal moves (8 directions on the compass rose)
    • Torque, pivot and turn
    • Change of height
  2.  The defences that stop, deflect or redirect an attack
  3.  The releases related to ground self-defence and grappling


When it comes to attacks, the Krav Maga mind-set is to focus on the vulnerable points of your opponent's body such as head, eyes, throat, groin, knees, etc.The rational behind that is that these soft spots offer you the most leverage regardless of your opponent's strength and size, and regardless of your own strength and size. No fat or muscle protect these weak points.

The response to an attack should be quick and intense. Full out. The threat must to be neutralised as quickly as possible because:
  1. You might not have another opportunity: if you got to this point, it means you survived the initial attack. You might not get through the second round so your counter-attack has to be decisive.
  2. There might be multiple aggressors: You can fight only one person at a time. So, if there are multiple attackers, you have make sure each one of them is neutralised as quickly as possible and before they all make contact.

The counter-attack should be carried with "violent intent". That is, you have to have the deep and unwavering determination to hurt your aggressor more than he/she is ready to hurt you.

Eyal Yanilov highlights 6 principles of attacks:
  1. Understand the hierarchy "tool", "technique", "principles", "variations", "simulations" and "role-play"
  2. Understand the importance and the effects of recoil
  3. Understand the importance of speed and mass in the increase of kinetic energy and pulse/momentum.
  4. Understand the kinetic chain and the principles of biomechanic
  5. Understand the 5 ranges:
    • XS: grappling
    • S: head-butts, elbows, hooks, knees and hammer strikes
    • M: Punches
    • L: Kicks
    • XL: Advance, weapon, force multiplier
  6. Understand the 6 directions:
    • 2 horizontals
    • 2 verticals
    • Straight in / straight out


There is a number of tactical aspects to consider:
  1. Defend and counterattack as soon as possible
  2. "All in or all out", get to contact or disengage/escape
  3. Always scan and be ready for additional aggressors
  4. Look for weapons of fortune
  5. Escape as soon as possible and check for injuries (particularly knife wounds)

Become proficient, so you do not have to kill” Imi Lichtenfeld

It is also essential to remember that ground is not your friend. You have to have a strong ground fighting game because most fight end up on the ground and you need to get out of the situation as soon as possible. But you also want to avoid getting there as much as possible. Stay on your feet or get back on them quickly.



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