Krav Maga was designed by its founder to be an evolving system. Unlike many other martial arts, Krav Maga explicitly changes its content, method of instruction, and training standards to meet the evolving threats that its practitioners may encounter. The Krav Maga Worldwide logo includes this concept in its iconic symbol, featuring a break in the circle at the top and bottom – symbolizing the space for new and effective ideas to flow in and old ideas to exit.

Often, the catalyst for this evolutionary process is seen in the rise of new types of threats. When I attended an instructor certification in 2007, my Phase C group was the first to be tested on new ground fighting concepts in the Level 3 curriculum. MMA had become popular enough in the US that law enforcement officers were encountering attacks from criminals that paralleled the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu styles. KMW’s Force Training Division also had gathered intelligence that gang members were seeking similar training. Evolving threats necessitated the instruction of responsive defenses.

Often the evolution of Krav Maga’s training is culturally driven. The U.S. leads the world in gun ownership at 88 guns per 100 people. It would logically follow that exposure to a greater number of firearms would improve and update handgun and long gun defenses.

The United States also ranks fourth in the world in automobile ownership, compared to Japan at 17th, the United Kingdom at 33rd, and Israel at 48th. Naturally, a greater prevalence and reliance upon vehicles would lead to more crime involving these vehicles, such as vehicle-related abductions and drive-by shootings. The carjacking, a uniquely American crime, thus required yet another evolution in the Krav Maga Worldwide curriculum, combining the sensitivities of gun disarms with the restrictions of operating in and around a vehicle.

In addition, other threads of Krav Maga instruction have favored training addressing public transportation, such as buses and trains, where such transportation is common and attacks in those environments are more likely.

Many times, the evolution of a technique is driven by a shift in the pre-eminent principle that the technique is designed to preserve – if such a choice is necessary. A specific concept may work for a greater number of people if the need for an instinctive response is prioritized over a simultaneous counterattack. Or, a technique may be deemed flawed, because too many talented practitioners still struggle to execute it effectively under stress. Thus, an answer may be developed that is less exact in addressing the scope of danger, but more retainable and replicable under acute stress. The balance between various core principles then logically shifts according to the needs of the user(s).

Krav Maga’s principles are possibly at their best when applied to various physical adaptations, such as a person with a permanent injury or disability. My own instructional ability was tested when a new student, paralyzed from the chest down and wheelchair-bound, expressed a desire to train.

Aside from his physical limitations, he also was statistically more likely to be assaulted, as his visible restrictions likely made him more attractive to an attacker. But his distinctive situation also created many opportunities as well; during training it became obvious that an attacker had to behave differently in order to attack him. We developed modifications for a myriad of techniques from chokes, headlocks, punches, kicks, knife, and gun attacks (including the type of gun attack that led to his partial paralysis). Through the specialized instruction and training, I became much better prepared to defend threats, should I ever find myself restricted to a seated position. This too was a powerful evolution of training.

Finally, the evolution of Krav Maga in its purest form may be driven by what one might call “forensic” considerations. Video documentation of actual attacks, witness statements and/or after-action reports, information from medical reports of victims injured or killed in assaults, and other data better inform our techniques and training. This research gives Krav Maga practitioners vital insight into many factors upon which a defense is based; a common person’s instinctive response to a type of attack, what movements aided the defender versus which ones hindered him/her, how an attacker acted during a particular type of attack, verbal exchange before, during, and after an attack, and much more.

I’ve jokingly told many classes that several hundred years from now, when threats against laser guns and other previously unimagined weapons present themselves, Krav Maga will still be providing potent answers in these situations, because there will still be an immediate danger, an instinctive reaction, possible opportunities for the earliest and most effective counterattacks, and continued follow up until the defender is no longer in danger.

As long as Krav Maga instructors and practitioners hold to the concept of an evolutionary system, Krav Maga will always be on the cutting edge of self-protection and tactical training.

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  1. Scott Mather

    Thanks for this cogent, informative article!!