Krav Maga & Martial Arts


First and foremost we in the USKMA never bash any other system. Blogging about this topic by one system is almost always self serving and a put down to others. A few statements; 1) I was/am a 4th degree black belt in a traditional system. 2) I will say right off that any system can be used effectively if proficiency is achieved. We differ in that we don’t believe it is prudent that achieving proficiency takes years.

When we in Krav Maga think self defense we believe it has to be easy to learn, easy to remember, come out of us instinctually and be effective no matter what the size and strength difference may be between our attacker and ourselves. We also believe in training everything we do must be put under stress and exhaustion to ready our practitioners for the adrenaline dump and the effects of stress that a violent attack will produce.

There are many talented martial artists. I know of Tai Chi masters who could whip 99.9% of us. I especially admire BJJ. Those guys are the most in shape, best conditioned people I know. I have my son was in BJJ. But….BJJ’s philosophy is to patiently control an opponent until they can be submitted. Add a second attacker, a knife, etc. and that philosophy isn’t self defense. I have often said if masters from other systems came into my gym and challenged me in front of my students most would probably kick my butt and make me look stupid. However (and this is self defense) if that same guy was in my house and going to hurt my family I would not lose. I would come from behind, break a chair over the back of his head and then take one of the broken shards and see how far into his throat I could ram it. I would not lose. Krav Maga is doing what it takes to be safe, and refusing to quit.

Martial arts are great for kids. It teaches them manners, respect and a host of other good behaviors. For adults martial arts are great exercise, great stress relief, great for socializing and meeting other good, hard working people. However, I personally cringe when a traditional martial art calls itself the ultimate in self defense. All martial arts were designed to overcome the problems that the founder was facing. Some martial arts were designed for the battlefield, some for unarmed peasants to overcome soldiers wearing armor, some for using anything found in nature to make a weapon of, etc. I spent countless hours in my traditional martial art in a front stance only to discover that the front stance was designed for balance when fighting on board of ships. I spent even more hours in a horse stance to discover that that stance was for peasants who were too poor to own a horse to practice for the calvary! Krav Maga was designed by the Israeli Defense Forces to keep people alive in modern times against enemies with handguns, rifles, knives, sticks, throwing fists, throwing knees, choking them, grabbing their hair, etc., etc. Krav Maga is only concerned with getting people as safe as possible as quickly as possible. Are we the best at knife defenses? Maybe not but instead of spending hundreds of hours getting awesome at a knife defense only to have a handgun shoved in our face we want to learn enough of a knife defense to keep us safe and alive and then move on quickly to learning the defenses to the other hundreds of ways a person can be attacked. I think most martial artists will admit that if someone takes their art for three months and quits that they aren’t very good and won’t be able to defend themselves very well. Three months in Krav Maga gets a person almost ready to be tested into level 2…and you are pretty darn good when you get that far.

I know of several systems that are now being designed by one man for modern attacks. These that rely on one “founder” worry me. Techniques are designed in a gym with students as the attackers. A lot of systems work for the head honcho. I can think of several systems where the head instructor is awesome and totally unbeatable (he’d kick my butt!) but the question is can that same system work as well for a 100 pound un-athletic female as it does the six foot two, two hundred thirty pound instructor? In Krav Maga any technique that we use or add has that exact filter to get through. Will it work for our smallest, weakest, least athletic practitioner? I have seen a system that taught a straight stab knife defense as a crescent kick to the knife and a back kick to the attacker (you better have a quick crescent and a devastating back kick!!). I have also seen a system that taught it’s students a handgun disarm that consisted of doing a forward roll towards the gunman and then coming up from under the gun and twisting it away (with his students mesmerized at his awesome technique…scarey!!). A handgun defense that looks like it should work, and works with simunition guns, is being taught as gospel. Has the founder ever had someone try to shoot them, stab them, bash their head in with a brick? Krav Maga was designed by an entire military system. The bullshit didn’t make it through because there is no Grand Poobah who has an ego, there is no tradition to honor….there is only keeping people alive, period. When I hear someone say they have a way better handgun defense than what Krav Maga has I laugh. If their defense was easy to learn, easy to remember and effective it would be Krav Maga, we would have stolen it already. We don’t have a system that has to guard its traditions. We’ll switch to another technique in an instance if it works better. Keeping people alive and safe is all we’re about.

A lot of martial arts are technique based while Krav Maga is philosophy based. For example, when a knife is coming towards our mid section we want to block it, hit the attacker hard at the same time and then either get the heck out of there or control the weapon and beat the idiot senseless. The traditional martial art I took had of 30 different techniques for a straight knife stab. Hick’s law states that when we have more than one choice it takes time to decide between them. How much time do you have when a knife is being thrust into your gut? Another problem is a lot of techniques have many steps. If in practice I always must do A through F I get lost in a real attack when it derails at step C. One other big problem I see too often is students not being allowed to questions techniques or to think for themselves. SGT Rory Miller in his great book Meditations on Violence talks about the time he visited a martial arts school and was sparring with one of the black belts. He got punched in the nose and threw a technique back at the black belt. The black belt stopped and bawled him out saying that they train realistically and that if he broke Rory’s nose in a real fight the fight would be over. Rory told the black belt that he has had his nose broken from a punch three times in his life and it never ended the fight, that he did indeed go after the attacker even harder! If that black belt is ever in a real fight he’ll deliver a nose punch that he was taught would devastate the other guy, stop fighting, and get creamed!

One last thought about martial arts and why some of them do not make sense for us today is “assumptions”. Too many martial arts make assumptions. For example, an art that teaches to take an attacker to the ground is assuming that you will only ever be attacked by one person. An art that relies only on joint locks and joint manipulations assumes that you will always have two hands. What happens to those techniques when you break an arm in the fight? We have our students at higher level tests put one hand in a belt that is tied around their waste and figure out how to defend themselves with one arm. Easy if you have a philosophy of “get rid of the danger and beat the attacker senseless”, not so easy if you are technique based. Another art may rely on high, jumping and spinning kicks. What do they do if they break an ankle first thing in their fight? Lastly, way too many knife and stick defenses that I’ve seen totally rely on the attacker coming from a distance and the practitioner seeing the attack coming. It is wrong to assume that you will always see the attack coming from a distance! We throw out any knife or stick defense that doesn’t work late (when you don’t see the attack until it is inches from striking you).

Again, we are not bashing any other system. We just believe that when it comes to self defense people need to think about what real violence is. Flashy techniques, training incorrectly, training for situations that no longer exist and complicated moves get people hurt. Remember, if it is complicated it isn’t self defense. Our number one rule in Krav Maga is BE SAFE.


I preach constantly that Krav Maga’s techniques are not magic and will not save anyone. The philosophy of go fist, go crazy, go hard and go mean is what will save us if real violence ever finds us. As I have asked several times in these blogs; Who do you think a cop would rather face on the street, 1) a very proficient martial artist or 2) a crazy who won’t quit and wants to claw their face off and see them bleed? Nearly one hundred percent will you they’d rather face the martial artist with the great techniques. Now, if we can train people to be awesome with Krav’s techniques AND be a crazy we have developed safe people!

I do not understand those who teach martial arts and self defense systems who concentrate on the techniques as if they are the end all. To not run classes where everything taught is put under stress and exhaustion, to not run drills that confuse and surprise and to not make students “uncomfortable” is teaching self defense techniques, not self defense. There is a big difference!

This was reiterated to me once again in the Krav Maga black belt training courses that I was teaching awhile ago. I had ten level five students who have been training Krav Maga for years, who have been teaching Krav Maga for years and who know the techniques like the back of their hand. At the end of training some handgun techniques we ran what we call the “jostle drill”. One student is “it”, one has a handgun & a knife and the other eight take kick shields and push, whack and bump the student who is “it”. When the student with the handgun yells “gun” those with the kick shields get out of the way. The person with the handgun either sticks a handgun in the “it” person’s face or attempts to stab them with a knife. Each person has five tries being “it” and then the next person takes their turn. This really isn’t much exhaustion or stress. The person who is “it” knows to perform one of two techniques. They will either do the cupping technique for a handgun takeaway or do the overhead knife defense. Again, these are people who teach these techniques and are very, very proficient with them. Well, with just this little bit of confusion and stress the techniques go to heck! Out of the fifty reps (ten people doing five reps a piece) I saw three really good defenses and another twelve that were the technique done kinda like they were supposed to be done. That means that thirty five weren’t the technique at all. With just that little bit of stress and confusion the techniques degraded a bunch.

Now, the good news is that nobody did anything “wrong”. The handguns were taken offline and the attacker beaten (even if not with the exact right technique) and the knife attacks were blocked and the attacker was beaten (again, looked nothing like what we teach). This is why we teach the philosophy over the technique! They all stayed safe getting the weapon offline or blocked and then going forward, going hard and beating the crap out of the attacker. This was Krav Maga!

If those who teach techniques as the end all would apply drills like the one above I believe that they would have an epiphany. If techniques degrade in a drill where the student knew one of two attacks were coming, that they are in no real danger and that the weapons weren’t real how much more will the techniques degrade in a real attack when they didn’t know it was coming at all, didn’t know what attack or weapon would be used and realize that they are about to die? The technique will not be there. If, however, we trained to make our “flinch” reaction “go forward, go hard, go crazy and fight with rage” that will be there. The philosophy will survive when the techniques degrade. BE SAFE!


Ten years ago when I mentioned Krav Maga (if they had heard of it at all) the comment was almost always “oh, that brutal stuff”. I don’t hear this as much now but every now and then I still do. I would always tell whoever said “that brutal stuff” that I don’t really call it brutal, I call it effective. After all, I didn’t start the attack. What I do with Krav Maga is called “ending the attack with the least damage to me”!

Think about it. What is safe? Is safe defeating the attacker, not being killed, but still spending weeks in a hospital from the injuries? To me safe is getting out unscathed. Sometimes people get caught up believing Hollywood or TV (think Kung Fu) thinking that they will use a code of ethics, never throw the first punch, be honorable, defeat the bad guy the “right way”, etc. for self defense. Although the martial art code, ethics, etc. is a good thing this has nothing to do with real violence. There are predators and human scum out there who will slaughter your entire family and laugh about it. I read of a human piece of garbage slicing open a baby and raping the wound. How much “fighting the right way”, ethics and moral code are they using? If a human piece of garbage is going to think that way you are setting yourself up for certain defeat if you are going to think about anything but destroying the attacker. If the scumbag gets through me he tortures and rapes my family. What is “too brutal” in that situation? They set the attack up for the best possible outcome. They lay in wait to surprise, they cheat, they will hit when you are not looking. To defeat this you have to be meaner, dirtier, cheat more and win no matter what. As Rory Miller says “if the scumbags are going to use violence as a weapon, we must perfect violence and weald it better than they do.”

This is why in our Krav Maga first class intro we start introducing the concepts of “if someone needs hit they need hit as hard as we possibly can” and “if someone needs hit once they need hit many, many times.” We teach that sparring on the street is stupid, the longer it goes the higher our chances are of being hurt. It is immoral to hit another person but if you must it needs to break them. As my buddy Ernie Kirk says “I don’t wanna be in a fight, I just wanna hit him and go home.” BE SAFE!


When I was a kid if you knew Karate everyone was afraid of you. If you were a black belt (and there were very few around) you were a total bad ass! The martial arts were for adult males who had made themselves into weapons. The rumor was that they had to “register their hands with the FBI”! Then, came the Karate Kid, the Ninja Turtles, the Power Rangers, etc. Entrepreneurial martial arts school owners found out how to make big bucks off of the kids market. In so doing it can be argued that they totally ruined martial arts! There’s a school on every corner of most cities and each has dozens of 6 to 9 year old black belts. Martial arts went from being about kicking ass to manners, being courteous, doing your homework and listening to mom and dad. Now, these are great things to teach kids but not what the martial arts used to be about. As a teenager I wanted to do martial arts. I would have given anything to have been able to afford (and find) a gym close to where I lived. Now, teenagers tell me that they would be looked at as nerds if they were in “Karate”. How did this happen?! Well, if I have anything to do with it this won’t happen to Krav Maga!

A straight Krav program would be a hard sell for most parents, especially the moms. The Israelis aren’t worried about manners or clean bedrooms or doing homework but about staying alive. When I first attended a Krav Maga gym for training there were a few kids around. I remember hearing my Israeli instructor tell a kid “Hey, I heard you were in a fight at school”. Being from a martial arts background I assumed the kid was about to hear that they better not have started it, how to handle the situation without violence, etc. Nope, the instructor asked him “Did you kick his ass?” We are teaching things a young child needn’t see or hear until they get older.

My main concern with teaching Krav Maga to kids is we don’t BS people in Krav and tell them techniques will keep them safe if they won’t. Kids just don’t have the size or strength for most combatives, plucks, etc. to be effective. Think about it, have you ever seen a 9 year old who’s punch or round house kick to the body would hurt you enough for you to let go? To show them choke defense, headlock defense, carotid choke defense, buck and roll, etc. when they weigh 60 pounds and tell them that it would work would be blowing smoke up their you know whats! That’s something we won’t do!! The same would go for most of our knife, stick and handgun defenses. A four footer that weighs 70 pounds couldn’t use these defenses effectively. A lot of systems would have kids practice these and tell them that they would work. I don’t know how they could live with themselves when one of those kids get hurt in real life. We pride ourselves in the fact that Krav Maga is one system that tells it like it is. As you’ve heard me say in the past always put common sense and self experience before the majority opinion or a self appointed expert when it comes to your personal safety….or that of your kids.

It’s certainly not that I disagree with teaching kids self defense. It’s just that the “Krav Maga for Kids” classes that I see aren’t really Krav Maga. Anything that isn’t teaching to cheat, hit first, grab something to use as a weapon, go off like a bomb until the attacker is unconscious…anything that doesn’t teach to go forward with hatred and rage to do the maximum amount of damage, isn’t Krav Maga. It would not be right to teach kids these things. For kids the stranger danger courses are great. In my martial arts days I had parents get upset with me when I taught their kids that there are bad people out there who may try to harm them. What are they doing in the martial arts if not to learn some self defense? Ignoring things won’t make them go away. If one of my students would have ever had someone attempt to abduct them I would think the parents would had been mighty glad that we practiced for just that scenario. Teach kids to not put themselves in a bad situation of course, but teach them that bad things can still happen. Head butts to the soft part of the attacker’s face, kicks to the groin and punches to the groin would be effective in having the bad guy’s grip release for at least an instance, even at their size. These must be taught as a way of escaping, not having them believe that these strikes would devastate the bad guy. I teach my son to just flail and be a hard target, kicking and punching to the groin, head butting the face, biting, scratching, screaming, etc. until the bad guy’s grip lets loose….then run like crazy! The movies where the little karate kids are beating up adults and knocking them over with kicks make me wanna puke!! Use common sense, think for yourself and BE SAFE!




One of the top Krav Maga instructors in the country will be teaching krav maga at the Tuscaloosa YMCA beginning Thursday, Feb. 12. Mark Slane (see & below) is a third degree black belt in Krav Maga and tours the country teaching police, military and civilians the Israeli Self Defense system of Krav Maga. Mark has authored four books about Krav Maga and has had an article published in Black Belt Magazine. Mark owned three krav maga gyms in Columbus, Ohio with over 750 members but is now living near Tuscaloosa to be close to his wife’s family.

Krav Maga is nothing like a martial arts program. Classes are a tremendous (and fun) workout where you will be constantly moving and building cardio while you are learning the most battle tested, real world self defense system found anywhere. Krav Maga is effective no matter what size you are and is perfect for women as it does not rely on brute strength or athletic ability. Krav Maga teaches a survivor mindset and all techniques are put under stress, exhaustion and realistic attacks…exactly what you’ll see if ever attacked on the street! Come and work out in a safe and positive environment, we have had dozens of members lose twenty, forty, even ninety pounds. Classes will be at the Tuscaloosa YMCA every Monday and Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. Call 614 301-9825 or e mail Mark at to set up an intro lesson.


The origins of Krav Maga can be traced to pre-World War II Czechoslovakia (present-day Slovakia) and a young Jewish athlete named Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi was a nationally and internationally renowned boxer, wrestler, and gymnast. Beginning in the mid-1930s, fascist and anti-Semitic groups rose to power in Czechoslovakia and began inflicting violence on Jewish communities. Feeling duty-bound to protect his neighbors, Lichtenfeld organized a group of young men to patrol his community and defend against would-be attackers. He quickly learned, however, that his training in sport martial arts was no match for the anti-Semitic thugs he encountered. Fighting for points in a match and fighting for your life in a street fight require a different mindset and different techniques. To effectively defend himself and his community, Imi began synthesizing his martial art knowledge and started placing an emphasis on attacks that quickly disabled and neutralized a threat.

By 1940, Imi found himself living under a Nazi-allied puppet regime and decided to head for Palestine to join the Zionist Movement and fight for a Jewish state of Israel. When he moved to Palestine in 1942, he joined the Haganah, a pre-Israel Jewish paramilitary organization with a mission to protect Jewish settlers from locals who did not welcome the new arrivals. Israeli military leaders quickly noticed Imi’s fighting skills and his ability to teach those skills to others. They put him in charge of training the military’s elite fighting forces, including the Palmach (elite strike force), the Palyam (marine commandos), and the Haganah.

After Israel gained statehood in 1948, these separate fighting forces were merged into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and Lichtenfeld was named the Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness at the IDF School of Combat Fitness. It was in this role that he developed what today is known as Krav Maga. Lichtenfeld needed a combative system he could teach new military recruits in just three weeks — one that was simple, efficient, and effective, and could be applied in a number of lethal situations. To create such a system, Lichtenfeld combined the most effective techniques of boxing, aikido, judo, wrestling, and jujitsu into a single, fluid, fighting military discipline that emphasized continuous motion, simultaneous defense and attack that doesn’t rely on brute strength or size. Later in the 70′s he called his self-defense system “Krav Maga,” meaning “contact combat” in Hebrew. It quickly became the official combative of the IDF and continues to be today.

Imi taught what’s now know as Krav Maga for nearly 20 years in the IDF. After retiring from military service in 1964, he began devoting his time and energy to modifying and teaching the self-defense system to civilians. Imi opened two Krav Maga studios in Israel where he taught thousands of students and instructors, all while continuing to add and improve upon the fighting discipline he had developed in the military. In 1974, Imi founded the Krav Maga Association, a non-profit dedicated to promoting and teaching Krav Maga in Israel and throughout the world.

Krav Maga is still the official combative system of the Israeli Defense Forces.

A few of Imi’s early disciples brought Krav Maga to the United States, and it quickly became a preferred close-combat system in many U.S. military and police forces.

Mark Slane is the United States Krav Maga Association founder and chief instructor. In 1999 Mark Slane was a member of the very first group of outside instructors ever trained at the Krav Maga National Training Center in Los Angeles. He then went on to open one of the first half dozen Krav Maga schools in the United States. To become a black belt in Krav Maga is difficult. Prior to 2007, instructors who wished to become black belts must have been personally invited to test in Los Angeles by Krav Maga Worldwide. Krav Maga Worldwide tested, on average, only four or five for black belt each year. Mark became a black belt in November of 2003 (one of only thirty in the U.S.), tested with the USKMA to Second Degree Black Belt in 2009 and to Third degree in 2012. Mark has trained in Israel with the founder of Krav Maga’s official heir, Grandmaster Yaron Lichtenstien.

Mark has studied the martial arts for over thirty years. Mark started his training in Tae Kwon Do and holds a fourth degree black belt in that art. In Olympic style Tae Kwon Do he won a national championship in sparring in the light weight division – 33 to 40 year old age group. He has taught martial arts to hundreds of students in various schools over the past twenty years and has coached and trained dozens of national medalists, national champions, U.S. team members and World medalists. Mark has also trained in boxing for several years with Olympic Gold Medalist, Jerry Page and has spent years studying Muay Thai, BJJ, and Mixed Martial Arts as well.

Mark retired early from his firefighter/paramedic job to devote his life to making others safer. Mark founded the United States Krav Maga Association to spread Krav Maga throughout the U.S. the right way. No politics or egos…Just real world self defense training. Mark is also the author of Be Safe! Self Defense for Women In the Real World, American Krav Maga, Krav Maga For Law Enforcement with SGT Brannon Hicks and Defending the Barrel & the Blade; The Weapons Defenses of the USKMA.


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“the problem with most martial arts is that they take a logical and cerebral approach to a chaotic and visceral situation ” SGT Rory Miller in MEDITATIONS ON VIOLENCE

“When things are at their darkest and it seems like there’s no hope of surviving, well, that’s when you gotta get mad dog mean” The Outlaw Josey Wales

Different “arts” and systems seem to take different approaches on how they view emotion. In sports fighting we are told that you can’t fight mad, that you must be under control. Most martial arts preach Zen-like attitudes and to be calm under pressure. We root for the martial arts hero in the movies who seem calm and at peace as they whup butt.
These things just don’t transfer to the real world. Fighting mad in sports makes you go hard and wear out…and you have several rounds to get through. The not fighting mad makes sense in that arena. The magical martial arts and their Samurai code are cool to study, great for self-discipline, fairly good exercise….and are fairly worthless when it comes to real violence.

When attacked on the street by a couple of scum bags who want to do you and your family harm going off with all the rage and hatred you can muster and fighting like an animal is the best chance you have of surviving. In SGT Samford Strong’s must read book STRONG ON DEFENSE he interviews dozens of people who have made it through horrible, unimaginable crimes. His main points that come through again and again are that the people who survived these horrible attacks had two things in common. 1) they worried more about the crime being done to them than they worried about injury. They accepted injury and pain and decided to pay it back to the attacker ten-fold. 2) the ones who consistently fought back and won were those who went off with anger, hatred and rage.

The thought “how dare you think you are going to harm me, I will tear you apart” and then attacking like a wild animal has a much greater impact on survival than any techniques, system or art. We cannot worry about staying fresh for a prolonged fight as we want to destroy the attacker as quick as we can and get out of there. We certainly can’t live by a “never strike first” or chivalrous code because the attacker’s don’t.

I tell student’s all the time that Krav Maga will not save you, it is not magic. Mixing our techniques (which are easy to learn & remember, use gross, whole body motions and are designed to do as much damage as possible) with going off like a bomb brining out all the anger and rage you can muster is the best chance you have of surviving violence. Ask any law enforcement officer whom they would rather face; 1) a very proficient and talented martial artist or 2) some crazy who wants to claw off their face and chew on their eyes. They would much rather face the martial artist. If we can be both the crazy person and be proficient with our techniques we will be a scary opponent indeed.

We bring this out in our classes by not just learning techniques but by putting what we learn under stress and exhaustion. We run drills in our class that wear people out and make them want to quit. At that point it is all heart that gets them through it and heart on the street is worth more than any technique or system. We encourage people to yell and cuss during these drills. Not the “hiiiiii yaaaa” of those oh so controlled martial arts but we call the attacker a “son of a bitch”, etc., etc. This may sound over the top but if we can see the scum bag in training, yell at him and hate him we are much, much safer on the street when it’s for real and we have that “been there, done that” feeling.

The scum bags use violence as a tool, we must perfect that tool and wield it better than they do. If your butt is ever on the line get mad, get mean and fight with rage and hatred. It’s the best chance you have. BE SAFE!