Krav Maga Vs Traditional Martial Arts

Everyone knows the benefits and advantages of traditional martial arts like Karate-do, Boxing, Muay Thai, Shaolin Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Kalarippayattu, Taekwond, Judo, Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling etc. In a sports ring, any expert who has invested years of experience in such martial arts will be any day better than any novice.

However, a common criticism of some traditional martial arts is the lack of real-life applicability – will all those fancy moves hold up against thugs with weapons on the street in a crowded bus.

After a while, most people seem to realize that most Martial Arts in their traditional form are not realistic self-defence systems – and were never meant to be but a sport: involving rules to prevent illegal moves and foul play.

Indeed there are some similarities between Krav-Maga and martial arts. However, Krav-Maga was developed in an environment where the Israeli military could not devote many hours to prolonged hand to hand combat training for their personnel.

Therefore, the Krav-Maga system was created with great importance placed on bringing students to a high level of skill in a relatively short period of time. There are no katas (forms) or rules in the system. Anything goes when you are fighting for your life!

Krav-Maga is more of a survival system dealing with personal safety issues in the context of defending against both armed and unarmed attackers. It is considered to be a modern, highly refined, street fighting system, designed to be utilized against muggings, street attacks, and sexual assaults.

We also believe no one martial art is better than any other. They are like peanut butter and jelly-they blend well with the right person. You have to see what’s available in your city and go from there. and again…the best art is the one you like to do because more practice the better. So if you don’t like something, you will not stick with it and get good at it…so stick with one or three (lol) that you like!

The most important fact is that you are infact…training. Anyway just for people who like to compare things, here is a small table. We do not wish to offend any martial artist or start a debate of who is best.

Like religion and politics, martial arts could easily be grouped with those topics never to discuss at a dinner party. People are often vehement about the superiority of one religious or political viewpoint. The same occurs when discussing the martial arts. There is, however, one fatal flaw with touting the superiority of one martial system over another; not every style was designed for the same purpose. Martial arts that we know today are generally focused on one or two of four levels of conflict: competition, fighting, self-defense, or combat. My organization, Bansenshukai Ninjutsu, developed this guideline and uses it to help determine the appropriateness of using certain techniques in various situations. In this article, I will break down these conflict levels, and conclude with why proper Ninjutsu training should prepare you for all four of them.

Traditional Martial Arts
Krav-Maga
Formal, ritual oriented, and difficult to learn
Fighting dirty and learning no-holds-barred moves in a realistic environment
Expects the student to adapt to it
Adapts to the student
Teaches moves adapted from animals
Students build on their natural human reflexes
Competitive tournaments, katas, rituals, or choreographed routines
Relies on “continuous motion” to complete the defence hence nothing is ritual or choreographed
Brings students to a high level of skill in a long period like 10 to 20 years
Brings students to a high level of skill in a relatively short period
Ritual oriented routines based on old era of swords and arrows
Incorporates modern realistic re-enactments so students learn how to operate under the stress
As a sport, it has rules and illegal moves
No Rules; use everything you have
Does not adapt or learn from other martial arts
Adapts and is a hybrid of mixed martial arts techniques like Boxing, Karate, Judo, JuJitsu, Muay Thai and other lesser known styles
Most Martial Arts in their traditional form are not realistic Self Defence systems
Students learn to function during the stress and shock of a sudden, violent encounter/ Thus, it is excellent for realistic Self Defence in an unpredictable environment like streets


  • Competition

    The majority of modern martial art programs are designed around this level of aggression. Competition would be defined as any controlled situation with specific rules governing the conflict. It is considered the lowest level of conflict because it has the lowest risk of injury and you have a real choice whether or not to participate. Preparation is easier than with the other types of conflict. In competition, the intent of your opponent is to win, either by scoring more points, submission, or knock out. Chances of multiple attackers or weapons are basically non-existent, and incurring serious injury or death is extremely low. Adrenaline will affect you in competition, but will generally be much less than the other more dangerous levels of conflict. Competition usually contains the most highly skilled opponents of the four levels.

  • Fighting

    The next level is fighting, which is characterized by two or more individuals “squaring off” with an understanding of loose social norms governing the rules of engagement. Chances of serious injury or death in a fight are slightly higher than competition. Some of the competition-based martial systems which have fewer rules translate well into fighting. There is no criminal intent beyond that of simple assault in a fight, as most fights are ego-based, with the aggressor simply trying to exert his or her will over the opponent. Multiple attackers are a possibility, but societal norms tend to keep most fights one-on-one. The chances of weapons being drawn in a fight are low, with non-lethal or blunt weapons being the most common (a pool cue for example). While there are no specific rules like a competition, most aggressors understand and adhere to the socially acceptable rules, such as no eye-gouging and ceasing attacks to an unconscious opponent. People who do not observe social norms are often considered “dirty fighters.” Your adrenaline level may be higher in a fight than a competition since there are no specific rules to govern the conflict. Opponents may have some street fighting experience in a fight, but are usually far less skilled than opponents in competition.

  • Self-Defense

    Despite many claims, very few modern martial arts are suited for this level of conflict, both from a technical, and perhaps most importantly, a legal standpoint. A situation is defined as self-defense when your attacker has some level of criminal intent and this intent supersedes basic morality. Chances of serious injury or death are high, and a strong possibility of multiple attackers exists. Lethal weapons are likely to be involved, including baseball bats, knives, or firearms. While the attacker in a self-defense situation does not follow any rules, you are legally bound to using reasonable force based on the actions of the attacker. The legality of a self-defense situation is what may make it the most challenging of the four levels of conflict, as it is possible to win physically yet lose legally. Your adrenaline level will be vastly increased in a self-defense situation, due to the increased chances of serious injury or death, as well as the added fear of the unknown. Attackers in self-defense will typically have minimal training and are generally unskilled.

  • Combat

    This is the highest and most dangerous level of conflict, with only the vast minority of today’s martial arts being equipped to realistically address it. Your attacker’s intent in combat is to kill you; serious injury or death is imminent. There could be anywhere from one to several potential attackers in a combat situation. Unlike the complicated rules of self-defense, there are no rules in combat. Training and preparing becomes hardest at this level due to the increase in the adrenal factor. Typically, only large movements and gross motor skills will work with any success. Employing lethal weapons is virtually guaranteed. If your martial art does not include weapons training, then it simply does not prepare you for combat. Going into a combat situation unarmed is poor strategy and should be avoided if at all possible. Opponents in combat generally rely on their weapons and are poorly trained.

Those are the four levels of conflict that most types of physical conflict you engage in will fall. Let’s make a few observations about what happens as you climb the levels of conflict. As the level of aggression increases, so does your adrenal level. This will cause a decrease in your fine motor skills. The aggressor’s skill level usually decreases as does the amount and specifics of the rules of engagement. The probabilities of weapons, multiple attackers, and serious harm or death rises. It becomes evident that each level has its own challenges, be it your opponent’s skill, the adrenaline, or the legal aspects. Ultimately, the greatest benefit in learning the four levels of conflict is to be able to effectively recognize the appropriateness of any given technique in certain situations. This will help ensure that you avoid improper training, and add an entirely new element of realism.

So how does one know which levels of conflict their martial art is suitable for? You simply must examine your art with an unbiased view. Possibly the greatest flaw, however, with virtually all martial arts is this: they are designed to defend against their own style. Most martial arts simply fall apart when faced with the unorthodox attacks of either an untrained fighter or someone outside of their style. One of the few potential exceptions to this is the various Mixed Martial Arts systems. While this may be true, many MMA students have developed a sense of elitism because of their systems’ versatility. MMA is often touted as the ultimate self-defense system; however, that is not completely accurate. MMA is fantastic for competition and fighting, but it is generally inadequate for self-defense, and almost completely inapplicable to combat. This is mainly due to the lack of weapons training and recognition of possible multiple attackers. It would be much wiser to consult a Military system (Krav Maga being one of them) for self-defense or combat than a top MMA coach. Let’s face it; Randy Couture’s just not as well-qualified to take out a terrorist cell as a Military system. Inversely, it would be wiser to train with an MMA coach for a cage fight than in a Military system, as a Military system practitioner may fare poorly.

It’s important to realize that these guidelines are in no way definitive of every situation. It is entirely possible to have a combat situation with a highly-skilled, yet unarmed attacker intent on choking you to death; or to face an untrained individual in competition that breaks all the rules. Also be aware that the levels can quickly escalate. What starts out as a fight can quickly turn into a self-defense or combat situation. Intents can change, weapons can be drawn, and opponents can increase.

Know your enemy, know yourself, and know your limitations. And choose your system or martial arts wisely. And do a background check on your instructor too!.