Krav Maga and Reality-Based Self Defense



As a Krav Maga instructor in Los Angeles, I am saddened to see the term “reality-based self defense” mocked by various groups. 


It saddens me not because those critics are wrong, but because they are often right.  “Reality-based self defense” has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.


Earning my stripes in the early 90s in Krav Maga, I always took pride in training in a “reality-based self defense” system. I have trained Muay Thai, fought in the ring a few times, and loved it. I grapple 6 hours a week in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and I love that. But my first love has always been Krav Maga, a system that emphasizes “reality-based” training.  In those early days of Krav Maga, people came to us because they recognized that many traditional martial arts styles were too structured and archaic for street-oriented self defense against an aggressive, ruthless opponent.  Krav Maga’s emphasis on simple techniques and dirty fighting made sense to them. We usually trained wearing shoes, which was more realistic, and we wore regular clothes rather than gis. We often trained in street clothes, outside in the alley, and in bad weather.  We trained against non-compliant attackers, multiple attackers, and surprise attackers.


That’s what “reality-based self defense” is supposed to mean. It’s not meant to create a dichotomy between MMA fighting and a system like Krav Maga. If you practice BJJ and you make sure that your face isn’t exposed to an eye gouge when you try an Americana, you are engaged in reality-based self defense. If you take your MMA outside sometimes and practice ground-and-pound on the sidewalk, or you work your guard wearing jeans, you are engaged in reality-based self defense.


Conversely, if you constantly train in creative, unique scenario drills, but you ignore basic skills like punching, kicking, and footwork, you are fooling yourself.  Those reality-based scenarios are meant to test your basic skills, not replace them. 

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