What is Urban Krav Maga

Urban Fit & Fearless™is one of the branches of Urban Krav Maga in South London.

As its name suggests, Urban Krav Maga (UKM) is a fighting system that has its roots in the Israeli self-defence system: Krav Maga (What is Krav Maga?).

Urban Krav Maga consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from various martial arts, combat sports and fighting systems such as Karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) among others.

UKM is characterized by a very strong ground-fighting component and is one of the most modern and intelligent adaptations of classic Krav Maga.

History of Urban Krav Maga

Urban Krav Maga was founded by Stewart McGill in 2008.

Stewart McGill

Urban Krav Maga - Stewart McGill

Originally, McGill was a 3rd Dan in Goju Ryu karate. His instructor, who had earmarked him to take over the running of the club, had been trained by Yamaguchi Hanshi who was himself a student of the famous Chojun Miyagi, founder of the style and one of the most revered figures in the history of the Okinawan/Japanese martial arts.

McGill interest in reality-based self-defence systems, led him to Krav Maga. Having trained in Israel under Haim Gidon, one of Imi Lichtenfeld first black belts and one of the founders of the Israel Krav Maga Association (IKMA), and alongside David Kahn (IKMA US Chief Instructor) a long-time friend, McGill became a civilian/Law Enforcement instructor with 2 separate Krav Maga organisations including the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF) under Eyal Yanilov.

In the UK, he was teaching at the "Central London School of Krav Maga". Also a Senior Instructor with the British Combat Association (BCA), McGill comes recommended by Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine.

In 2006, McGill started to train with Leo Negao, an experienced Vale Tudo and MMA fighter, and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) black belt under Master Fábio Gurgel. Leo had learned Jiu Jitsu to further his Vale Tudo – a very aggressive no-holds barred system, Vale Tudo translates as “anything goes” – so he was very aware of the demands of reality. Leo's experience and insights confirmed what McGill was sensing: although krav maga was a fantastic system, originally way ahead of its time, it was also suffering from limitations and weaknesses.

This led McGill and a group of his most senior instructors -who were all experts in a range of different martial arts- to split from classic Krav Maga in order to create Urban Krav Maga in 2008.

In his own words, McGill wanted a system that "was more than Muy Thai with some weapons defences based around the punch and rudimentary groundwork". He wanted a system that drew on a wider range of combat sports and martial arts.

Additionally, he wanted a system based around the attacks that actually happen to people and designed for the threats faced in the most violent country in western Europe; he also wanted strength-neutral techniques based on the principles leverage (i.e. that didn't rely on punching power) in order to deal with larger, bigger, stronger and more violent assailants.

The system envisioned by McGill was a relatively new approach to Krav Maga. It was based on the combatives and tenets of Krav Maga, weapons, throws, grappling, choke defenses, and the fence (by Geoff Thompson) with scenario based training.(ie. ten most often attacks in an urban setting, based on info from the BCA, UK Police Dept., records Hospital records, etc.)

It was clear to McGill that somebody like Leo Negao with his experience, teaching skills and applied intelligence regarding fighting and inter-personal violence, not just the ground game, would be crucial for the development of the new system.

Leo Negao subsequently joined the organisation as joint Chief Instructor and has ever since been an integral part of Urban Krav Maga.

Leo Negao

Urban Krav Maga - Leo Negao

Born in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Leo Negao started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) in 1993 to further his Vale Tudo (a very aggressive no-holds barred system). He joined Carlson Gracie’s academy and trained under Carlson himself and Murilo Bustamante (from whom he got his purple belt). There, he trained with Amauri Bitteti, Vitor Belfort (former UFC light heavyweight champion) and Mário Sperry among others.

Leo quickly rose to become National and Estadual Brazilian BJJ champion in 1997.

In 1998, he moved to Sao Paulo to join the Alliance Jiu Jitsu team which had been founded by Romero “Jacaré” Cavalcanti, Fábio Gurgel and Alexandre Paiva in 1993. At that time Team Alliance was composed of great fighters such as Fabio Gurgel, Leonardo Vieira, Fernando Terere, Ricardo Vieira, Eduardo Jamelão and many others.

Leo was one of three instructors, together with Leo Vieira and Fernando "Tererê" Augusto. He received his 2nd degree black belt from Master Fábio Gurgel.

After his move to Sao Paulo, he went on to become BJJ World Champion in 1998, and also to win a further two national titles (in 1998 and 1999) and 3 Estudal championships (in 98, 99 and 2000)!

In 2001, he beat Ricardo Arona (8x Pride Champion) at the BJJ Championship in Brazil.

The following year, Negao trained with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions Vitor Belfort and Antoñio "Minotauro" Nogueira to develop his striking techniques and to help them develop, their Jiu Jitsu techniques. He also trained extensively with UFC phenomenon Anderson Silva.

Leo Negao moved to Sweden and opened BJJ and MMA schools around Europe before settling in London.

He later joined the Team Brasa and was its European representative.

Leo also had a career in MMA fighting.

-World BJJ Champion (1998)
-National BJJ Champion (1997, 1998, 1999)
-Estadual Champion (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)
-Beat Ricardo Arona (8x Pride Champion) at the BJJ Championship in Brazil (2001)
-ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, 2nd place Brazilian Trials (2000)
-1st place Roma Submission Wrestling (2003).

-10K Ground Clash London (March, 2007) Semi finalist vs Jeff Monson.
-NAGA UK title 2015 - "NO-GI Expert Heavy Weight" category.

Principles of Urban Krav Maga 

UKM aims to maintain safety under all circumstances, it therefore emphasizes:
  • Avoiding confrontation / Diffusing situation
  • Executing a pre-emptive move if a fight can't be avoided (action always beats reaction)
  • Focusing on short intense counter-attack, making use of pressure points like eyes, groin, throat, fingers etc
  • Getting out of the situation as soon as the threat is neutralised
  • Aware of surroundings and likeliest exits

Having its origins in classic Krav Maga, UKM follows the same principles:
  • Neutralize the threat as quickly as possible
  • Immediate, aggressive counterattacks
  • Simultaneous defense and attack
  • Retzev, or continuous motion
  • Use of weapons of opportunity
  • Focus on vulnerable soft tissue and pressure points
  • Keep it simple & use natural responses and reactions
  • Disengage as quickly as possible
  • Scan for the next threat

Urban Krav Maga also follows other important principles:
  • Position before Technique: without a good position you can't apply your technique properly
  • Leverage: all techniques need to work against anyone, regardless of physical disadvantage, UKM therefore contains a range of techniques that are not dependent on gender, size or strength.
  • Damage limitation: every move should make your position better and limit the risks. There's no situation so bad that you can't make it worse.
  • Ground fighting: given that a large percentage of fights end up on the ground, it is important to be able to deal with these situation properly (particularly considering the recent development of MMA and BJJ). The focus is placed on getting up quickly and safely.

UKM takes a genuinely scenario-based approach. Its core syllabus is based around the disciplines and techniques needed to defend the 10 most common street attacks.

"By teaching concepts through techniques, students are taught how to read a situation and react/respond accordingly, even if they have not experienced that exact same scenario in training. Giving students the ability to improvise is an important element of our training"

The main difference between Urban Krav Maga and classic Krav Maga is that UKM is an open system. It uses a genuinely collegiate and evolutionary approach. The system keeps evolving and new techniques are integrated if shown better that old ones.

The one priority is to make techniques work well for all who need them. UKM instructors listen to students – the genesis of the system lies in their observations of what does/doesn’t work under pressure.

Want to Learn more about Krav Maga?

Read some of our articles on Krav Maga: