What is Krav Maga ?

Krav Maga is a military self-defence system developed by the Israeli army after WW2. It is not a combat sport but a simple and effective fighting system designed for self-protection and physical training. It is intended to be practical and intuitive regardless of age, gender or physical ability.

Known for its focus on real-life situations, Krav Maga combines a wide variety of practical techniques sourced from diverse martials art and combat sports, with reality-based scenario training.

What is the meaning of Krav Maga ?

Pronounced krahv mah-GAH (/krɑːv məˈɡɑː/), it literally means "contact combat" in Hebrew. The root word krav ( קרב) means "combat" and maga ( מגע) means "contact".

What does the Krav Maga symbol mean ? 

The Krav Maga logo 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

What is the motto of Krav Maga ?

There are a number of slogans that are used by Krav Maga practitioners but the most quoted is:
"Krav Maga, so that one may walk in peace" Imi Lichtenfeld

The unofficial motto, according to the New York Times, is "Hurt them real bad and then get away" but that's the first time I ever heard it!

Personally, I really like Urban Krav Maga slogan:
"Urban Krav Maga, so that evil may walk in fear" Stewart McGill

What Martial Arts is Krav Maga based on ?

Krav Maga can be described as a mixed-martial art geared towards self-defence. As such, it integrates elements from a number of combat sports and martial arts namely boxing, judo, wrestling and jujitsu.

One of the main influences in Krav Maga development, though, was the Fairbain-Sykes Close Quarters Combat Method (aka "Defendu") taught in the British army.

William Fairbairn, who trained allied special forces during WW2, emphasised the necessity of forgetting any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair:

"Get tough, get down in the gutter, win at all costs... I teach what is called 'Gutter Fighting.' There's no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed" William E. Fairbain.

From the very beginning, Krav Maga was rooted into real life situations and the brutal experience of Close Quarters Battle (CBQ) and street fights.

What is the origin of Krav Maga ?

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

Learn more about the origins of Krav Maga

It was developed in an environment that showed no mercy so it emphasises neutralizing the threat 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 that make it one of the most efficient self-defence systems 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 this system, or a variation, as their main close-quarters 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. It is now practiced in over 30 countries around the world.

Is Krav Maga a Martial Art or a Combat Sport ?

In many ways, Krav Maga is a Martial Art.

Martial arts, indeed, are codified systems and traditions of combat practiced for self-defense, military and law enforcement applications, competition and/or physical, mental and spiritual development, so Krav Maga fits well in that description.

However, it is focused entirely on simplicity and realism. It lacks the competition side of most martial arts, so it is not a combat sport. Krav Maga is specifically geared towards self-defence.

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

Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that there is no spiritual journey, no harmony to be achieved in Krav Maga. It was designed to disarm, disable and destroy your enemies.

In other words, Krav Maga is non-sport martial art designed for real-life situations that encourages practitioners to neutralize the threat as quickly as possible. Nothing is off-limits in Krav Maga. The priority is to ensure you survive any violent encounter. All techniques are tried and tested in a variety of circumstances from warfare to law enforcement and, of course, on the streets of many cities in the world.

What are the basic principles of Krav Maga ?

When conflict is unavoidable, Krav Maga teaches how to use everything at your disposal to neutralize a threat while remaining calm under pressure.

  • Avoid confrontation or finish the fight as quickly as possible
  • Understand your surroundings and the psychology or a street confrontation
  • Techniques should be kept as simple as possible and rely on the body's natural reflexes
  • Use the body’s natural weapons as well as ordinary objects
  • Exploit the human body’s most vulnerable spots
  • A good defensive action doesn't go without an offensive motion

Learn more about the Principles of Krav Maga

What are the levels of Krav Maga ?

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 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)
  • Expert (E)
Each category has 5 ranks: P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, then G1-G5 and E1-E5.

Learn more about Krav Maga Grading System

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

Learn more about The History of Krav Maga

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

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

Like any other form of martial arts, the original system has now been subject to changes, modernisation and in some cases bastardisation. One of the most modern and efficient style is Urban Krav Maga

Is Krav Maga difficult to learn ?

Krav Maga is based on natural reactions and movements. The techniques are designed to capitalise on these innate reflexes. So, compared to traditional martial arts, Krav Maga is quite accessible and easy to learn. The system was made to be simple and quick to assimilate.

Focused on reducing reaction time and on going straight for the weak spots of the human body, the entry level curriculum is accessible to most people. The fundamentals are simple but, as with most things, to become fully proficient will require regular and serious training.

How long does it take to learn Krav Maga ?

The answer is that it really depends on how often you train, your natural ability and you level of fitness and athleticism.

With the right training, you can pick up the basics and more in 6 to 12 months to effectively put them into practice in a variety of scenarios. It can take about 3 to 4 years to get to an advanced level where you are dealing with weapons and protecting third parties.

Want to Learn more about Krav Maga?

Read some of our articles on Krav Maga


Aviram, Boaz (2014) Krav Maga: Use Your Body as a Weapon. Skyhorse Editions.

Aviram, Boaz (2009) Krav Maga - Use of the Human Body as a Weapon: Philosophy and Application of Hand to Hand Fighting Training System. Lulu.com.

Green, Thomas A. , and Joseph R. Svinth (2010) Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO.

Kahn, David (2019) Krav Maga Combatives: Maximum Effect. YMAA Publication Center.

Kahn, David (2016) Krav Maga Defense: How to Defend Yourself Against the 12 Most Common Unarmed Street Attacks. Griffin Publisher.

Kahn, David (2012) Krav Maga Weapon Defenses: The Contact Combat System of the Israel Defense Forces. Ymaa Publication Center.

Kahn, David (2008) Advanced Krav Maga: The Next Level of Fitness and Self-Defense. Griffin Publisher.

Kahn, David (2004) Krav Maga: An Essential Guide to the Renowned Method--for Fitness and Self-Defense. St. Martin's Griffin.

Katz, Moshe (2016) Footsteps from Judea: My Journey in Krav Maga and Life. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Levine, Darren, and John Whitman (2016) Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide to Over 250 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques. Ulysses Press.

Levine, Darren, and Ryan Hoover (2009) Black Belt Krav Maga: Elite Techniques of the World's Most Powerful Combat System. Ulysses Press.

Levine, Darren, John Whitman, and Ryan Hoover (2009) Krav Maga for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide to the World's Easiest-to-Learn, Most-Effective Fitness and Fighting Program. Ulysses Press.

Lo Presti, Gaetano (2015) Imi Lichtenfeld - The Grand Master of Krav Maga. Youcanprint.

Sde-Or, Imi, and Eyal Yanilov (2001) Krav Maga : How to Defend Yourself Against Armed Assault. Dekel Publishing House.


Human Weapon (2007) S1.E7: Krav Maga. The History Channel.

Fight Quest (2008) S1.E9: Krav Maga. Discovery Channel.

Fight Science (2008) E3: Special Ops. National Geographic Channel.

Fight World (2018) S1.E5: Israel: Masters of War. Netflix.

Dziewonski, Greg (2018) Krav Maga - the way of life. Vimeo.

Hackel, Jack (2012) Krav Maga Israeli IMI System.

Kleinman, Yoav (2016) The history of Krav Maga. Krav Maga Global.

Yanilov, Eyal (2014) Interview of Imi Lichtenfeld. Part 1. Part 2. KGM.

Yanilov, Eyal (2014) Remembering Imi. Krav Maga Global.

History: Imi Lichtenfeld, the founder of Krav Maga.Lorrine Suder.


Cossar, Vicki-Marie (2013) "Krav maga: Why women are taking on the brutal Israeli army self-defence technique". Metro, Monday 28 Oct 2013.

Lavelle, Anthony (2009) "Krav Maga, the Israeli art of self-defence". FT Magazine, April 18, 2009.

Kershner, Isabel (2017) "Battle Royale Over Rightful Heir to Israeli Self-Defense Discipline". New York Times, Dec. 30, 2017.

Moss, Stephen (2016) "Krav maga – from Bratislavan streetfighting to Westminster". The Guardian, Wed 17 Aug 2016 (Last modified on Sat 25 Nov 2017).

Rousseau, Daphne, and Sara Puig (2016) "From the IDF to Hollywood: Krav Maga’s meteoric rise". Times of Israel, 19 May 2016.