Krav Maga 101: It’s History, Grading System And Techniques

What is krav maga and its history

Have you ever wondered if there is a no-bullshit system that works in self-defense?

What I have found was that most martial art styles are good at fighting in competitions such as boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). Most of these styles can teach you how to defend yourself in a bar fight if you are facing one opponent.

Here is the problem.

Most of these styles will not teach you how to defend yourself for when you are faced with multiple opponents, knives or even firearms. Krav Maga is by far the most practical system which is specifically geared for this type of situation.

Currently, we live in a world that is unfair and very cruel which forces us to take our understanding of fighting away from the rings or octagon and into the streets.

In this article, you will learn some Krav Maga 101 on its history and what makes it so useful. You will also learn more about its grading system and will become familiar with the training and moves associated with this system.

Krav Maga Fundamentals

In this section, I will make you more knowledgeable about Krav Maga on what it really is and why it is so effective. I will also show you why most security agencies choose Krav Maga as their first choice in teaching their staff self-defense.

a) What Is Krav Maga?

Krav Maga is a self-defense system that incorporates the techniques from many other styles to develop a system that anyone from any age and sex can use. It also only takes the most effective moves that do not require a lot of training to perfect.

Krav Maga stands for “contact combat” in Hebrew (קְרַב מַגָּע).This system is not meant to be a style and cannot be used in a sport because it is intended to take down your opponent with any means necessary. Most of the moves in this system would be deemed illegal in the fighting ring.

This system is also easy to learn because it uses the most straightforward techniques that are also the most practical. You will also learn real-life situational awareness on how to avoid a fight or confrontation in the first place. If you can become a master at Krav Maga, then you will be a walking human weapon that can take down most attackers with ease. You will also learn how to defend yourself against threats such as knives, handguns and also rifles if close enough.

b) How It Is Used Today

If someone mentions Krav Maga, then I cannot help but think of the Israeli Defense force. Security guards, infantry and also private bodyguards will be introduced to Krav Maga somewhere in their lives. Some of the best Krav Maga practitioners are those that are getting paid for protection by the worlds richest and famous people.

The commando’s from the anti-terrorist squad are also very familiar with Krav Maga as a close quarters fighting system. This system also became very popular in the US and Europe during the ’90s.

How krav maga is used today

Netanya is a city in the northern district of Israel and is also famous for its personal protection services. It is also home of the International Krav Maga Federation. Some Krav Maga instructors will also train bodyguards not only to defend themselves but also how to bring a client or hostage to a safe spot.

c) What Makes It So Effective?

Several factors make this system so effective at self- defense. Below, I will give you an overview of each element that makes it so deadly. You can also have a look at the documentary below for a full rundown on Krav Maga:

  • It is simple – Forget about katas or any of those special moves that are resembling more art than efficiency. Krav Maga is not meant to look fancy and is more focused on getting the job done. This system is also presented in such a way that you can easily incorporate the moves with little practice.
  • Physical aggression – There is a difference between physical aggression and emotional aggression. When referring to physical aggression, I am NOT referring to emotions such as anger or rage but acting with enough force and power where you launch multiple attacks aggressively without hesitation. This aggression can also be referred to as Retzev or continuous motion.
  • Weapon defense and offense – Depending on your goal and occupation, you will learn how to use weapons such as firearms, knives, other sharp objects such as pens and car keys. You will also learn how to disarm an attacker at gunpoint and how to defend yourself against knife attacks.
  • Strike and block at the same time – The purpose of this system is to neutralize an opponent as fast as possible, and this is why you will strike and block at the same time. The reason why it is so effective is that an opponent will be vulnerable and open when he is hitting you. His arms will be extended which will make him open for attack.
  • Will help improve your fitness – Because of the explosiveness of this system, you will need to get fit enough to maintain the aggression of your attacks on possibly more than one attacker. There is a good chance that you might throw up during the exercising sessions which are not a bad thing.
  • Striking at vulnerable points – Originally developed from Ninjutsu, pressure points are areas and organs in your body that are vulnerable to any pressure applied. Areas such as your nose, eyes, throat, behind your ears and also the groin are very sensitive. You need to take out your opponent as fast as possible, and this is why it is not incorporated in a sport.
  • Reacting under stress – There is nothing worse than breaking under stress which makes it easy for your attacker to achieve his goal. You will perform drills under a lot of pressure which will teach your body and mind how to function optimally while still being aggressive. When was the last time you froze when confronted with violence?
  • Situational awareness – You will not only learn how to defend yourself but also how to avoid the confrontation (or death) in the first place. Trying to be a tough guy like Jean Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal will not get you anywhere. Sometimes it is just better for the attacker to take your wallet or phone than to face a bullet in the head.

Krav Maga History

This style had an interesting origin and was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld who was the sole creator of this system. In this section, I will explain its origin, the man behind this system and also some of the styles that might have influenced the development of Krav Maga.

a) It’s Origin

Krav Maga was developed in the 1930s by a person named Imi Lichtenfeld (will get to him later). This system has influence from many other styles which might include boxing, wrestling, karate, and many others. It began in the town called Bratislava where antisemitism was incorporated by gangs of men where they would spread violence in the city. Lichtenfeld started to lead other boxers and wrestlers into the street to deal with this problem.

Krav Maga Origin

He soon realized that streetfights was much different than the fights in the ring and was forced to develop his style known as Krav Maga. The problem is that “sports fighting” and self-defense is not the same thing and has different goals.In 1944 Lichtenfeld moved to Israel where Krav Maga was born.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) was formed in 1948 where Lichtenfeld become the first instructor of Krav Maga to the commandos of the defense force. This city was the place where Krav Maga became popular enough to where it is today.Lichtenfeld also established the Krav Maga Association (KMA) in the year 1978 where it also started to spread to other countries.

In the year 1981 Krav Maga was brought into the US where some police departments began to implement Krav Maga.

b) The Man Behind Krav Maga (Imi Lichtenfeld)

Emrich Lichtenfeld also called “Imi” was born in the year 1910 to a Jewish family in Budapest. He and his family then moved to Bratislava where his father Samuel Lichtenfeld influenced him to become a successful gymnast, boxer and also a wrestler.

Imi Lichtenfeld

Imi Lichtenfeld on the left

He received many national and international awards for his sportsmanship. It is also said that the WW2 had a significant impact on his life which contributed a lot to how he perceived violence and fighting.

His father was also a circus acrobat who later got involved with law enforcement. In the 1930s Lichtenfeld was forced to protect himself and his neighborhood in Bratislava where antisemitism where he and other boxers went to the streets.

He got experience in street violence which later formed his new system called Krav Maga. His techniques became so popular that the authorities which made him flee to Israel in 1940.

In 1944 he began to train military personnel on how to defend themselves against knives and also how to become very fit. He also trained the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) wherein 1948, the division was formed. He served the IDF for 20 years which helped him to refine his system.

He retired from the IDF in 1964 where he further helped to train people, and he later created the Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA) in 1978 and the International Krav Maga Federation in 1995. He then passed away in the year 1998 at the age of 87.

c) The Styles That Influenced Krav Maga

This system is not a style that was born out of thin air. It has a lot of influence from other martial art styles which can be seen today. This self-defense system has taken all of the most effective moves out of these styles which formed the system known as modern-day Krav Maga.


Imi was a great boxer in his time where it helped him to develop his agility, striking and also his footwork. All of these principles then helped form the base work or foundation of Krav Maga.


Wrestling is also one of Imi’s specialties to help with some of the closer aspects of Krav Maga. Wrestling also incorporates some important skills when it comes to defending yourself on the floor.

Wing Chun

This style is also very similar to Krav Maga in the fact that it uses striking, grappling and close range combat. The techniques from Wing Chun are soft and flexible which dramatically helps with self-defense.


This style is best used on the floor which incorporates grappling. The effectiveness of this style is not dependent on the size and strength of its user which makes is excellent for Krav Maga. You can easily tear tendons and dislocate shoulders with this style.

Muay Thai 

This style is initially developed in Thailand where it is also referred to as “Art of Eight Limbs.” This style uses striking from both fists and elbows and kicks from the shin and knee which are very powerful. Muay Thai is also very good at toughening up a fighter.


This style was used initially by ninja which were great assassins that infiltrated bases and had to terminate their opponent in close quarters quickly. This is where I believe some of the pressure points were discovered which can immediately stop an attacker in their tracks.

Grading System

Like most other martial art styles, Krav Maga also has a grading system to gauge how advanced a pupil’s skill level is. The student will start with basic techniques and will move on to more advanced moves.

Imi Lichtenfeld stated the original belt grading system which is similar to that of the judo ranking system. It starts with white and moves through yellow, orange, green, brown and will eventually reach black which is the final level.

Eyal Yanilov also developed the patch system in the late 1980s which represent 15 ranks which are put in three main categories called Practitioner, Graduate and then Expert. Each category will represent five ranks ranging from 1-5.

krav maga grading system

a) Practitioner

This grade forms a large part of the beginning phase of Krav Maga. It also holds the most members, pupils and makes up the majority of the classes. It has five levels ranging from P1-P5. If you are entirely new, you will start with P1.

Within this level, students will need to know the basics on how to defend themselves and also situational awareness. Students usually grade 1 or 2 times a year. Their patches are a brownish gold with dark stripes.

b) Graduate 

Most lower level instructors for Krav Maga are in this grade where they already have a full understanding of what is involved in the Practitioners grade. This grade also ranges from G1-G5 and takes a minimum of 3 years to complete.Students usually grade once each year. Their patches are dark blue with silver stripes.

c) Expert

Most of your higher level instructors will be in this grade. It is also the most advanced grade available for the public. If you want to become an instructor, you can also specialize in instructing military officials, commandos and special units. Their patches are black with golden bars. This grade also needs to be taken in Israel one year after completing your graduate phase.

d) Master

Little is known of this level and is usually given to those that have spent their entire life dedicated to Krav Maga.

Krav Maga Training And Moves

This system takes very easy to implement but can also take years of training and repetition to perfect and execute with lightning speed.

a) Krav Maga Training

In the beginning, you will learn basic footwork with your stance and how to defend yourself against constant strikes, headlocks, and chokes. You will also learn how to cope with stress and how to be more resilient when confronted with a difficult situation.

Once the basics are mastered, you will then learn how to defend yourself against multiple attackers because as we know it, life is not fair. The training can be very intense and is almost guaranteed to make you fit.

​It is somewhat tedious to write about all of the drills, so I have come with some videos to help you out.

Warm up, drills, and training ( Complete session)

Serious drills in Israel for military officials

b) Techniques & Demonstration

Below, you will find some of the most commons techniques on what makes Krav Maga so unique and deadly. We are going to cover striking, blocking, takedowns, ground defense, defence against chokes and also how to disarm a handgun.


To effectively punch, you will need to understand the mechanics of a perfect punch which will involve the extension of the arm along with shoulder and hip rotation.

The body will also need to be pressed forward to release a more powerful punch. These techniques will not only increase the power but also the reach which is important if you want to hit your target.This video will also explain to you how to make a proper fist so you do not break your hand upon impact. You will also learn drills on how to improve the strength of your fist.

Blocking (360 Degree Defense)

What good is any self-defense system without learning how to block properly?

Krav Maga has got you covered with a 360-degree defense system which will counter strikes from all directions. To execute this move correctly, you will need to counter your opponents attack with your forearm against his/her wrist.

The 360-degree defense system will also learn you how to defend yourself against knife attacks. The video below will show you how to defend against strikes:

The next video will show you how to defend against knife attacks will the help of the 360-degree defense system.


The first thing to realize before attempting a takedown is your surroundings. You do not want to attempt a takedown if there is more than one potential target. The reason for this is that you do not want to be open to an attack from behind if you are focused on the ground.

If you are on the ground then you are also more vulnerable than on your feet. If you are faced with only one opponent the taking him down will make it easier to restraining and having more control over that person. 

In this video, you will learn on the Seatbelt Takedown which very effective at having control over your opponent and taking him to the floor. The video above will explain this move in more detail.

Ground defense

The very first thing that you will learn on ground defense is what to do when you fall. You will learn the “fall break” technique which will lessen the impact of the fall so that you do not hurt yourself in the process.

You will also learn hip control on the ground and how to defend yourself with your knees, elbows, and forearms. You will also learn how to quickly get up on your feet. The video above will show you some of the bad habits to avoid.

The video will also teach you what to do the moment you get back on your feet. It is important for you to practice this technique until it becomes a habit. You do not have much time to react once on the floor and you need to be quick.

Defending against front chokes

This type of defense is very useful, especially for women as it does not require a lot of strength to execute. The video will show you how to defend against a front choke. This happens when someone comes from the front and grabs you on the throat with both hands.

The science of defending against this type of attacks comes from leveraging strength. Your opponent’s arms will be stretched out which makes him the weakest at his hands. The first thing that you need to do is to break the attacker’s grip as you do not want him to break the trachea which is made out of cartilage.

There are also many ways to break his grip and to follow up with an attack of your own. You can either kick him in the groin area or go for the face.

Disarming a handgun 

Last but not least, we have the disarming against a handgun. You should also measure the risk of the current situation because sometimes it is better to give your wallet or iPhone to the thief or attacker because your life is more important.

Sometimes you will also find yourself in a situation where your actions will determine if you live or die. The video will explain to you how your stance and how to have control over your attacker’s firearm. You will also be shown what to do once you have control over the firearm.

Now it is off to you

Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about Krav Maga. This is by far one of the most efficient styles which will teach you everything you need to know and prepare you for almost every situation. 

What is your experience with Krav Maga?Please leave a comment below and share with us your experience.

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