John Whitman's Blog: Why Krav Maga?

John Whitman
February 24, 2016

Gun From The Front


I have been a student, teacher, and advocate of Krav Maga for the last 25 years because I believe self defense training is important for everyone. If you drive a car, wear a seat belt. If you go sailing, bring a life vest. If you walk among people, know self defense.

But why Krav Maga? My search began toward the end of high school and college. I didn’t have a particularly large number of violent encounters, but some of those I did have left a mark. One incident involved a gun pointed at me (that turned out all right) and another involved a fight where two guys jumped me (I got my ass handed to me).

I had a few other incidents, but those two events stood out to me. I promised myself that if I ever committed to a self defense system, it would have answers to those two problems. I tried a few programs, from traditional martial arts to boxing to “street fighting,” but nothing seemed to answer the questions raised by my experience.

Then, a few years later, I took my first Krav Maga class. At the time, there were only about a hundred people in Los Angeles studying the system, and one or two even smaller operations on the East Coast. It was an unknown quantity and, in fact, wasn’t even considered a martial art by the establishment (that’s OK, we took pride in that).

I watched my first Krav Maga demonstration in October of 1991. Within minutes, I saw a gun defense that I knew would work based on my experience and I saw an answer to the fight against two opponents. That answer, by the way, wasn’t some fancy “multiple attacker drill.” It was simple: if you know there’s going to be a fight, hit them first. Very Israeli. I liked it.

I have continued to study Krav Maga for a quarter century because I appreciate its comprehensive approach. Krav Maga excels in certain areas, but ultimately it is a “jack of all trades, master of none” approach. I don’t mean that as an insult. I take pride in it. When it comes to self defense, I have always wanted to be very good in every aspect rather than great at one. Specialization seems like genius in one moment but folly in the next. That seat belt won’t do you much good on a sailboat.

There is a term used in certain fitness circles called General Physical Preparedness, or GPP. The philosophy promotes comprehensive fitness over speciailization. Think of an Olympic decathlete. His 100m dash time is nothing compared to Usain Bolt’s, but he probably pole vaults a lot better. Conversely, he runs the 100 faster than most pole vaulters.

The GPP philosophy is a great analogy for Krav Maga. We try to prepare for the unknown and the unknowable. That’s a wide net to cast. So we work hard to make ourselves very good in every area (stand up, ground, surprise attacks, guns, knives, multiple attackers, different environments, while injured, etc.). In my opinion, this makes Krav Maga an excellent system for the average person who wants good defensive tactics. If you want to be a great stand up fighter, you’re probably going to have to study Muay Thai, Dutch kickboxing, or the like. If you want to be a great ground fighter, you’re probably going to have to gravitate toward Brazilian jiu-jitsu. But if you are willing to settle for “very good” instead of “great,” plus learn other aspects of self defense, Krav Maga is the ticket.

Returning to the two situations that informed my own search for training, they were wildly different from each other. One was a stand up fight against two attackers, in which I was cornered. The other was a gun threat. What I needed, back then, was a single system with a comprehensive approach to defensive tactics. I needed Krav Maga.

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