man and woman practicing martial arts

Why Krav Maga and survival skills are so important | 11 things to learn

Krav Maga was created by Hungarian-Israeli martial artist Imi Lichtenfeld back in the 1930s and his fighting method has helped him successfully defended the Jewish community in Hungary. Right after the United Nations resolution to recognize Israel as a state Imi, his family and the Jewish community traveled to the Holy Land to settle there.

By the 1950s the Prime Minister himself, David Ben-Gurion told his Chief of Staff, Moshe Dayan to ask Imi to become part of the IDF and train new conscripts for Israel’s defense force.

It was such a timely decision because the UN and the US’ decision to recognize Israel as a new sovereign state did not sit well with the neighboring Arab countries. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan unite to try to destroy Israel because they felt that the Israelis robbed the Palestinians of their land. To make matters worse the Soviet Union was also backing the united front of the Arab countries that want the Jews out of the Middle East.

Thanks to Imi’s training the Israeli spies sent out to recon their enemies’ military positions came back safe and sound with almost zero casualties.

Imi’s Krav Maga has been proven to work since the 6 Day War of 1967 and it is still a proven self-defense skill even to this day.

The Benefits of Learning Krav Maga

The benefits of learning Krav Maga goes beyond self-defense and aside from the extended physical skills that you gain once you train in it, there are also a plethora of mental and interpersonal skills that can come from it.

a man is practicing martial art

Here are a few examples of those said benefits:

Learn incredible self-defense

Krav Maga is a hybrid martial arts (borrowed fighting styles from multiple combat systems from all over the world) that is considered extremely effective. Krav Maga classes are intentionally placing students in stressful situations in order to simulate real-life fighting scenarios. They may be asked to spar in a dimly lighted room or there would be distracting things placed near the area where they’re sparring to break their concentration or focus.

You may think that this is kind of counterproductive; however, the true goal of this kind of training is to help you prepare for the real thing, (i.e. street fight, mugging, or attempted sexual assault) which will never occur in ideal situations. Training in Krav Maga consistently will help you stay focused and alert even in the most unfavorable situations.

Increase your fitness level

The intense nature of Krav Maga, it greatly improves your fitness once you start training. You would be able to start training in Krav Maga in your first day of class as it does not require you to be big and strong or really fit and agile because the fighting techniques are designed to work around your physical capabilities and not brute strength.

Most KM schools and gyms actually incorporate some type of fitness training to boost your physical capacity and stamina.

Gain more self-confidence

The thought alone of being able to defend yourself effectively against any attack under any circumstances plus a kind of martial arts training that taps into your primal urge to survive will absolutely boost your confidence.

You won’t be bothered by how you look on the outside or how people judge you based on that, but you will feel great knowing that you’re capable of defending yourself and even protect others around you, because you’ve trained in Krav Maga.

Become more alert

When you train in Krav Maga, the instructor will train you to utilize your 5
senses to your advantage and be more aware of your surroundings. Once you learn how to focus your senses, then you will know exactly what kind of response you will put forward in order to pacify tensions or completely suppress any aggression.

You can also decide whether or not to engage threats or avoid them whenever or wherever they arise. Your decision will be based on your evaluation on what chances of survival you will have when confronting the threat.

If you think that you have a huge percentage of success in defeating your foe, then you may go ahead and engage him; however, if your evaluation suggests that not only your life will be put in danger but also those you care about will be in harm’s way, then it may be best just to run away than lose your life.

Lower stress levels

Due to the extreme nature of Krav Maga training, it expels huge amounts of cortisol in your body and makes you feel great constantly.

Cortisol, as you may know, is what scientists call as the “stress hormone,” because this naturally-occurring chemical (hormone) in the body increases in tandem with the levels of stress a person is experiencing.

In actuality, you can achieve this goal by engaging in intense physical exercise and there is a sufficient amount of that in Krav Maga classes.

You are also allowed to unleash a modest amount of aggression in Krav Maga, especially in training and sparring sessions. Therefore you will not be pent up with emotions such as anger and frustration, which can build up and have devastating consequences when unleashed. You’ll have a lighter spirit all throughout the day as you’ve already released a fair amount of aggression in the gym while training.

Is Krav Maga Self-Defense or Something More?

A former IDF soldier turned Krav Maga instructor once said that “Krav Maga is not actually a martial arts technique, but a survival skill.” This is because if you break it down to its basic parts, then you’ll see that what they really teach in Krav Maga is how to survive out in an unforgiving world.

This, more than any other survival skills though, requires you to confront threats or work your way around them. The threats are essentially living-breathing human beings like you and me, and the basic steps to deal with human threats is to first reason with them, then run away from them, or fight them (as a last resort if there are no other options left).

Your goal is self-preservation and you are allowed to do your damndest in order to remain alive, or else it’s going to be death for you, and that is not an option.

Unlike other survival skills where you’ll have to find shelter from the elements or get fresh and clean water for daily consumption, Krav Maga emphasizes self-preservation by fighting a perceived aggressor.

So, even if you’ve learned basic survival skills or are a seasoned veteran in the survival department, but you don’t know any self-defense, you may find yourself in danger still depending on the circumstances of your situation. Therefore adding self-defense to your survival skills is not only essential but should be a mandate.

What are the Known Survival Skills?

airplane crash site

Martial arts is just one side of the survival coin and the other side is being able to sustain yourself with water and nutrients (among other things) while being alone outdoors, far from civilization with no access to EMS (emergency medical services).

If you want to survive the outdoors – for whatever reasons you may have ended up there – then you must learn, practice and master these critical survival skills.

  • Locating a suitable campsite – if you’re involved in a plane or helicopter crash and you survived; or if the cruise ship or any boat or yacht that you’re traveling in sank and you’ve been thrown off to a remote location like a forest or a wilderness, the first thing you’ll need to do is to find a safe and suitable campsite.This is where you’ll be spending most of your time while you figure out how to get back to civilization. A small cave, hillside or rock formations would be a good spot that will help provide cover from the elements and safe from predatory animals.
  • Building a shelter – you’ll need to be able to build a makeshift shelter from small tree trunks, jungle vines as ropes and bushes using only your knife and shelter building skills. If the campsite has a natural barrier which would make for a primary defense, then the shelter will be your secondary defense from wild animals and predators.
  • Starting a fire without a lighter or matchsticks – if you have not signed up for the boy scouts back in your elementary school days, then I highly recommend that you read this How to Start Fires with Sticks Guide. It teaches how to start fires using only friction, so you can acquire heat anytime and in any location.
  • Finding and purifying water – being out in the wilderness or jungle it’s difficult to get drinking water and you definitely don’t want to get a bacterial infection when there are no hospitals around. You can buy a portable water purifier and take it with you when you travel to faraway places, or you can purify water manually.
  • Identifying edible plants – since food (i.e. fast food, canned foods and other food sources that you can easily find in the city) will be scarce out in the remote area where you are at the moment, it may be a good idea to substitute your normal diet with edible plants. So research on what these plants are and how to identify them.
  • Using a split-tip gig to catch critters – learn how to make a split-tip gig so you can catch small animals and fish in order to include meat to your diet as you wait for help to come.
  • Navigating uncharted territory by day and by night – daytime navigation is easier as you can get your relative bearing just by looking at where the sun rises and where it sets. It would be great if you’ve familiarized yourself with the world map via Google Earth, especially the area where you think you’re stranded in. This helps once you’ll figure out where the four cardinal directions are and you can make your way to the nearest city in your location. By night you can use the stars to navigate through the darkness.
  • Tying a bowline – buy this survival bracelet and practice tying knots with it, although the bowline knot is probably the best one with versatile use.
  • Learn basic survival medical skillsSurvival MD written by Dr. Radu Scurtu was published specifically for people who want to learn how to sanitize and stitch open wounds with sutures while bypassing all the medical jargons. This book is like your knowledge in first aid on steroids. The risk of getting injured outdoors is high and therefore you must know how to treat them.
  • Sending up an SOS signal – there are 3 ways to send an SOS signal up in order for rescuers, who are searching for you, to find you. One is via signal flares (e.g. handheld flare, the parachute or rocket flare and the smoke canister), second is via a huge fire pillar, and third is by using a huge mirror and use the sun’s or the moon’s light to reflect onto a passing rescue helicopter or on a mountainside and hope that the rescuers will see you.

How Krav Maga Ties into All of This

The things that I’ve mentioned above are what’s called “passive survival skills” and they are meant to keep you alive through food, water, and other essential sustenance. They also help you avoid risky areas and dangerous animals while trying to stay alive until you are rescued.

Krav Maga and other martial arts techniques are active survival skills and while they aim to achieve the same goals, which is self-preservation, it helps you to be prepared for when you will have to engage in physical altercations with other people who may want to harm you.

While you may think that this is a farfetched scenario for you, it is quite useful for people who work in security firms, police and military.

So as you can see Krav Maga is both a self-defense technique and a survival skill as it trains your mind to stay alive at all cost.

Also read: this is the essential training equipment for Krav Maga

Situations Where Your Survival Skills can come in Handy

It’s not only in remote places away from any civilization that your survival skills are useful, in fact, they can also save you in urban environments when there is a crisis and governments loses control of its population. Those survival skills that you’ve learned are crucial to your survival and they can help keep you alive even underequipped for certain situations.

In some cases, you will have to push yourself beyond your limits to survive, but knowing the basic survival skills already puts you ahead of other people.

a picture of a deserted island

Here are some situations where your survival and Krav Maga skills can be put to good use to save your life and other people who depend on you.

  1. Street Fights – street fights are unpredictable and they can happen anytime anywhere. Sometimes you and your family/friends get caught in the crossfire or worse, become the targets of the aggressor and depending on the situation you can opt to run away or confront the aggressor and protect yourself as well as your loved ones. You can put down the aggressor with your Krav Maga skills and give first aid to those who are injured or hurt – even the aggressor himself.
  2. Mob Freakouts and Riots – one angry person is already dangerous by himself/herself. Put him in a crowd with likeminded people and are as passionate as they are and you can be sure that those peaceful rallyists can instantly turn into a mob that can wreak havoc and turns a thriving street into a war zone. You may have to fight through such a crowd and run away to a safer place. If you’ve trained in Krav Maga, then you’ll have a better chance of success.
  3. Active Shooter Situations – we may not know the motivations behind those active shooters that we see in the news; however, that is not the most important thing, because what’s important is that you’ll survive in such situations. Since Krav Maga is a form of military training, then you can use it to flee to safety, or if the shooter has cornered you, then you can use your knowledge in Krav Maga to outmaneuver him and take him down.
  4. Being Targeted by Criminals in Various Environments – There are situations where you accidentally stumbled upon a criminal operation and you can bet that they don’t want any witnesses to their crime. So they’ll chase you no matter where you’ll go until they are certain that you won’t be talking to the police anymore. Your survival will depend on the environment that you’re in. If you’re in the woodlands or forest, then you can easily lose them, but if it’s in the city it will be more difficult. You can use guerilla tactics that you’ve learned from your Krav Maga training and take them out one at a time until you’ve gained the upper hand.
  5. Getting Lost in the Wild Outdoors – there have been many cases like this and hikers and campers lose their way and get lost in the part of the woods where they haven’t been before. Arming yourself with basic survival skills can save your life, so before you’ll go on a hiking or camping or mountain climbing trip, always know what you’re getting yourself into. This will help you prepare for any and all possible scenarios and you’ll have some idea on how to survive them.
  6. Surviving a Plane Crash – a lot of airplane crashes end up with 100% fatalities, but there have been instances where there were survivors and again your chances of success in this scenario are the area where the plane crashed. Is it just near the airport? In shallow or deep waters? Is it in the forest or urban areas? It gets difficult to survive in open water or deep in the forest, but the coastguard and search and rescue teams should be able to find you in a few days to a few weeks.
  7. Being Stranded in an Island, Desert or Ice – it doesn’t matter how you got there what’s important is how you’ll get out. A remote island in the middle of the ocean is very difficult to get out of and places like the Gobi and Sahara Deserts are just as unforgiving. The same is true for places like the Canadian and Russian tundra where islands are almost indistinguishable from water passageways because they are all covered in thick ice. Keeping yourself hydrated, ensuring that you will not suffer hypothermia or frostbite is crucial to your survival, and you can learn all this in survival training/classes. Therefore it’s best to be prepared.
  8. Surviving Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and other Natural Disasters – nothing beats a person who is prepared for anything. Having the right knowledge for the right situation will save your life and who knows? You may even be able to save other people who are in the same boat too! You can survive any natural disaster if you know what to do and where to go in order to get help.
  9. Surviving a War Zone – in 2016 a breakaway group of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) besieges 2-3 square kilometers of a small town in the Philippines called Zamboanga City. They were able to capture that part of the city because they had help from the inside. The government, later on, declared them a terrorist group and fought them for months on and tried to free their civilian hostages, and then the same thing happened in another city on the same island. Lately, terrorist activities are just popping up out of nowhere and kill a lot of people and destroy government and public properties. The worse thing is that innocent civilians get caught in the crossfire and, in some cases, become hostages of the terrorist too! Wars also broke out in Iraq and Syria which are brought about by the same terrorist group, so at any given time you could get caught in a terrorist attack and your priority is to get out of that area before it becomes a war zone. Your training in Krav Maga is your best weapon to keep yourself safe and find an escape route as fast as possible.

Our Primitive Cavemen Ancestors Learned Survival First and then Handed their Survival Instincts to us via Evolution

Roughing out in the wild was a common theme among Neanderthals, Cro-magnons, and Denisovans, and they made caves their homes as they lacked the ingenuity to build small communities and other types of civilizations.

Surviving the elements, their environment, and wild animals was a daily occurrence and through it, they were able to develop natural survival instincts. Thankfully they had passed on those instincts to us their descendants through DNA evolution, which made us so much better in surviving this world than they ever could.

Later on, in modern history, humans fought each other for many things including power, dominion, lands, and resources. In their attempts to become a better warrior or combatant they have developed the martial arts skills that we know of today – including Krav Maga.

So everything is circled back to our primitive ancestors and, in fact, martial arts is just another form of your survival instinct if you really think about it.

Why Krav Maga is the Key to Survival

Survival is objective and nothing puts your life at a total risk like an aggressor who is willing to do anything, including harming you and others, to get what they want.

When you lack food and water you don’t have to physically fight for it in order to survive, but rather you get creative and find it somewhere.

You have ample time to come up with a plan to avoid dying of hunger or thirst, but not so with an immediate threat where it also warrants your immediate attention.

Below are the reasons why you need to learn Krav Maga:

  1. It works in a real-life combat situation – you won’t feel overwhelmed when you will one day actually engage in a real fight, because what you learn in the gym is very similar to what happens in a street fight. You will have a clear mind, always on alert and execute your fighting moves with precision. You will successfully defeat any threat.
  2. Anyone can learn it – Imi Lichtenfeld, the founder of Krav Maga, had intended for his self-defense style to be efficient and easy to learn. It’s so easy, in fact, that basically anyone can learn it! Men, women, and children, boys and girls, young and old, even people with disabilities can learn it. The amount of power and execution of the techniques also depend on the practitioners, for instance, an older individual will focus more on debilitating attacks with the least amount of effort to save his/her strength for a follow-up attack if needed. Meanwhile, a younger KM practitioner will use his strength to deliver the most devastating blows in order to incapacitate his opponents as quickly as
    possible.
  3. It is a great workout routine even if you did not plan to go to the gym to lose a few pounds – the retzev alone is more than enough to help you shed off some of those extra pounds in your body. If you’ll consistently train, then you will eventually get fit and be on your peak physical condition. And then there’ll be no need for you to go on a workout routine because you already have one.
  4. It will help you in other areas of your life – everything that you’ve been doing while training in Krav Maga is working towards optimizing you as a whole. You can clearly observe the difference between your mental state before you took up Krav Maga classes and after, and the results will stun you! You will see a boost in self-confidence, better decision-making process and you solve problems in the most efficient way, and I’m not just talking about fighting problems but all sorts of problems, obstacles, and challenges in your life.
  5. You will make new likeminded friends – social interaction in Krav Maga classes is also expected and so it is highly likely that you will meet new people and become friends with them eventually. Chances are when you become friends with fellow KM practitioners, then you also help each other in life and I’m not just talking about street fights.
  6. It can save your life – whether you live in a small or big city, you can be certain that there will be crimes happening there and by the law of probability, you will eventually get involved in such a crime where your life might be in danger. You will be grateful for all those hours you’ve spent in the gym training in Krav Maga system because you’ll be able to effectively defend yourself if anyone tries to hurt you. Although I do hope that it won’t happen to you and you won’t have to fight for your life at all.

Krav Maga as a Way of Life

When you keep training in Krav Maga, it becomes your second nature and you as well as your class batch will soon get promoted to the rank of experts and masters and even may start your own KM schools.

Krav Maga can become your way of life as the lessons never stops and you or someone else from half-way around the world has a new technique that you can share in international KM organizations’ annual gatherings.

With the evolving threats in the world Krav Maga adapts and refining its methods in dealing with such threats.

You’ll also have the rare opportunity to meet new KM practitioners and connect with them and expand your network of friends.

Krav Maga History

After Israel won a decisive victory against the 3 Arab states that threatened her existence she grew ever stronger than ever in terms of her economy and as a regional power with the support of America and Europe.

Krav Maga while overshadowed by the miraculous win of Israel slowly became a prominent self-defense technique that would take the world over by storm. At the turn of the millennium Krav Maga started gaining a great reputation in the martial arts community and by 2010 70% of various nation’s military and police are commissioned to train in this martial arts technique.

They also train in several other martial arts that have been deemed useful for military and police combat.

Becoming a Global Phenomenon

From 2010 onwards Krav Maga self-defense rolls full steam ahead to fame and recognition and the reason for that is, because it gets right to the important stuff and not dull you with pre-fighting rituals and spiritual concepts of the martial arts.

Women and children also find Krav Maga helpful in not just learning and mastering the art of self-defense, but this fighting style is also a great alternative to common weight loss programs.

Children learn how to identify threats like pedophiles, sex offenders, rapists, kidnappers and other kinds of bad people, and know how to respond in critical situations where these kinds of scum are involved and especially if there are no adults around to supervise them.

When compared to other martial arts techniques people find it easier to fit in with Krav Maga, and perhaps that was the reason why it became a household name.

Today there are thousands upon thousands of Krav Maga schools and gyms as well as dozens of international organizations that help people who are looking for information related to Krav Maga. The militaries, law enforcement agencies, and private security firms from all over the world include Krav Maga as part of their training.

It would be surprising for someone not to know about this Israeli fighting style today as information about it has been proliferated online and via word-of-mouth marketing.

Going Full Circle: Is Krav Maga Just Self-Defense or is it a Survival Skill?

So going back to the inquisitive question about Krav Maga in order to close this article we find the answer to be fluid.

As I’ve shown you above Krav Maga is clearly both a self-defense and survival skill that can save not only your life but also the lives of others around you. It taps into your primal instincts – one that which only drives is to survive at all cost – and will push you to your limits to ensure you remain alive until you will reach safety or can get help.

If you’re interested to know more about Krav Maga, then read the various topics about the subject in our blog section, and then later on if you’re keen on practicing this martial art, then sign up in a Krav Maga school near you.

Also read: will Krav Maga make me a badass?