Fit to Fight

By Sara Ayaz

In Combatives

April 25, 2012

PDF Article

Sara Ayaz describes how CrossFit and Krav Maga work together to produce finely tuned martial artists.

When I first started Krav Maga, it was the single most intense and awesome thing I had ever encountered. As a lifelong martial artist, I was looking for a system that was more ardent and practical than what I had previously done. Krav Maga was that system.

Krav Maga is a self-defense system created by Imi Lichtenfeld, and it focuses on practical approaches to modern-day threats. It was forged in a hostile environment and is ever-evolving.

Each class is started with a 10-minute warm up that consists of cardio, calisthenics and working our basic stance. Classes are interval-oriented. After two to three years of Krav, your athletic ability should be at a fairly high level. Each ranking in Krav consists of a three to five hour endurance test involving punching, kicking, sparring and whatever other creative calisthenics hell the person running the test can think up.

One might say Krav Maga is the full package: self-defense, fighting and fitness.

Enter CrossFit.

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14 Comments on “Fit to Fight”


wrote …

Could any martial artists out there discuss Krav Maga compared to other systems as a method of practical self-defense? I've studied Tae Kwon Do, but now I'm much more interested in useable techniques rather than drilling forms and above-the-waist kicks. From this article Krav Maga sounds like it fits the bill, but I'm curious how it compares to BJJ or MMA training, etc. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!


wrote …

Hey Bill..

There are no great martial arts, just great martial artists. Think about it...people have been using their various disciplines to defend themselves for years. Tae Kwon Do can be very effective. All those above the waist kicks can be used very effectively below the waist, and " forms" are where all the secrets of the art are held. Tough part of course is figuring out the secrets. If you study long enough, you also learn that most martial arts are not all that different from one another. There are only so many ways you can move the human body. Define your goals, and find a style, and even more importantly, find an instructor that can help you reach those goals. Just my two cents...all the best.


replied to comment from Bert Cunningham

Hi Bert,

Thanks for the reply -- I really appreciate your perspective. Lots of good advice in your post, but your point about most martial arts being not all that different from one another is very interesting.


wrote …

Find a list of illegal strikes from MMA and USE THEM !!!

Herb dean isnt going to jump out of the alley and take a point away :D

Its your life and well being at risk

I really like Krav Maga


wrote …


In CrossFit, we use what are called 'core to extremity' movements: when you swing a kettle bell, the drive really comes from the movement of your hips. When you launch a clean or snatch, you move your whole body, and the weight comes with you. Even in the kipping pull up, the motion begins at your center of gravity and is a split second later transferred to your arms and shoulders.

These are principles fundamental to all sports as well as every martial art in existence. Krav Maga is the application of these principles combined with the study of ruthless opportunism. The bad guy has you by the throat; Krav Maga technique would provide you with the best whole bodied leverage with which to break that hold, followed immediately thereafter with the most crushing possible whole bodied strike.

It's not for the squeamish. These strikes, often aimed for sensitive spots, can be deadly. In fact, I've heard it described that in a military setting this kind of hand to hand combat represents a failure paradigm. You and your squad-mates have let an enemy get too close; someone should have used a weapon long before. It's so brutal, this instructor told me, that guys who've used it often suffer a version of PTSD.

It's derived from a number of arts, but largely from Judo and Ju Jutsu as they existed before World War Two.


replied to comment from Thomas Nunan

"I've heard it described that in a military setting this kind of hand to hand combat represents a failure paradigm."

This is a very important point, it represents a failure in any situation.
A physical response should only be used after avoidance, and diffusal have failed.

Self-protection encompasses avoidance, diffusal, physical, and post-event.
Anything that only covers some of these aspects can at worst be detrimental to the goal of self-protection.

I highly recommend more reading / news letter signup with protect self defence

"To us, self defence is about getting you home safely to your family. It's not all about technical application, because in reality the technical stuff - fancy moves, in other words - usually fails. Our focus is on staying safe from violence either by avoiding it, diffusing it, or if necessary physically defending against it as efficiently and effectively as possible. All of our training is designed to help people live more empowered, confident lives free from un-warranted fear and worry.” - Protect co-founder and director, Phil Thompson
Disclaimer: I have no direct affiliation with protect, I have participated in a number of their course and can't recommend them more highly.


replied to comment from Bill Maynard

KM is a common sense self protection system to get you back home safe by avoiding the problem or fighting to win the street fight. Groin kicks, small joint manipulation, eye gauges,foot stomps, are all common targets with low kicks, knees, elbows, and headbutts as weapons as well as weapons of opportunity. Whatever it takes to keep you and your family safe. Most classes are aggressive, aggression wins fights. KM does have groundfighting, but doesn't want you staying on the ground due to rocks, glass, and other people. I also do Judo and like both, both have good techniques just whatever you like personally to use and feels good for your body type. I think Judo has helped me in KM and I think KM has helped me in Judo. Check out the web for videos. A good site to check out is Fit to Fight for KM training.


wrote …

Wow, thanks so much to everyone for taking the time to respond to my question! I really appreciate all of your insights and advice -- where else but on the Journal could you find so many knowledgeable people willing to share their thoughts.


wrote …


LOL! Most people look at me funny, when I say most martial arts are very alike. Think about it, a block, kick, and a punch, is a block, kick and a punch! It is the pattern or the way you apply the technique that makes a "style." There are only a limited number of ways to do any of those. To think of it another way...The Tae Kwon Do, that is taught to athletes for the Olympics probably looks different than the Tae Kwon Do taught to the Pyongyang police department, but both would probably be called "Tae Kwon Do."

Anyway, in my experience, Krav Maga is pretty bad ass, which makes sense because it was developed in a place where the citizens are surrounded by people who constantly want to do them harm.

My suggestion, would be to keep TKD as your core style, and develop yourself as a "martial artist" by attending different seminars...become a great martial artist! And, please, please, don't get caught up or sucked into the very foolish debate about what style is the best! Or the, "my style is better than your style!"

All the best!


wrote …

Great discussion, folks!
Craig's input above, and the quote from Protect, remind me of much of what Tony Blauer says in his presentations on CrossFit's site and around the web. Self defense is a comprehensive undertaking on so many levels: situation awareness, planning, the physical, mental and emotional, the legal, to name a few.

Bert Cunningham, in his first post, makes a hugely important point that might slip by a lot of people, saying that the forms are where the secrets of the arts are held. No truer point has been made. This is where the direct - Krav Maga-esque (if I may use the phrase) effectiveness of a given art is found.

I know a bit about Judo Kata. On the surface, it's completely goofy. (Lots of kata is goofy, which is why practitioners across the board hate it.) However, it's goofy, or extremely purposeful, because it contains lessons that have to stand the test of time. Remember from Grade school playing telephone? Somebody starts a message, and by the time you go around the room, the end result is completely different from the beginning. That process happens to martial arts techniques in any dojo over time, as people make their own interpretations, consciously or not. Therefore, the founders of a given art have to present their core concepts in absolutely moron-proof or 'telephone-game-proof' fashion. Thus the strange, non-arbitary, robotic prescriptions of kata.

The only thing goofier than Judo kata is the way people flounce around doing it in demonstrations or competitions. Go to YouTube and have a laugh.

Kata should be done with all the solemnity of Algebra homework. Put the book down on the mat, try the first attack and defense, and start asking yourself why the Masters want you to do it like that. Make mistakes. Argue. Consider other options. Then put on the pads and do it for real. The bad guy doesn't fake anything; he earnestly tries to land his attack at full speed. Pretty soon it should become obvious why the Masters have chosen their given response and not others, and very soon, your goofy dance becomes a very different ball game. That's the essence of the art, the secrets to which Bert was alluding.

Kata was not meant to be displayed. It was meant to be discovered.

Krav Maga essentially shortcuts this process. It was put together by people who have done this kind of reality testing and are presenting the simple, brutal solutions.

However, we can also get back to Craig Oliver's point above. We can't shortcut true, comprehensive self defense preparation. I've discovered in my own case this theory, that people who go to the trouble of all that exploration do develop an appreciation of the big picture, the strategic and tactical sides of self defense.


replied to comment from Thomas Nunan

Hi Thomas,

Don't mean to repeat myself, but thanks so much for your well-informed and thoughtful posts on this topic. You are absolutely correct -- I see now that there are many subtleties to Bert's point about the importance of forms that I did not fully appreciate. This is exactly what I hoped would happen here; that knowledgeable practitioners would be willing to offer their thoughts and advice. There's enough valuable content in these posts that are worth re-reading and keeping in mind that I have to remind myself to also remember the original article!

BTW, I've found a local KM training center that is also in the process of opening a CF box -- could I ask for a clearer sign to get down there and start adding martial arts training back into my fitness regimen?


wrote …

I can so much relate to this article as it closely parallels my experience discovering Crossfit after having trained in Shotokan Karate for over a decade. My fitness from a karate standpoint was superb but soon after I got through my Foundations cycle (On Ramp at some boxes) , I could see the gaps in my conditioning, but at the same time I was presented with a way to shore up those gaps.

The core to extremity emphasis in Crossfit's movemnets also brought full circle what my senseis have been preaching to me for years about not overmuscling the techniques and being sure to "relax your shoulders" when punching and blocking.


wrote …

Bill - In my experience (as a martial artist and an ex-Infantryman) there are two issues at play: the issue of style, and the issue of attitude.

Deciding to study martial arts is a lot like deciding to get fit. You can decide to specialize in - say - Olympic lifting, in the same way you can specialize in Krav Maga (or Shotokan, or Aikido, or ...) By deciding to specialize in Olympic lifting (and without something like CrossFit to augment it) you'll specialize at the expense of other aspects of fitness. The same is true in martial arts - by specializing in one style you miss the opportunity to add other techniques to your arsenal (say, the ability to use weapons as an extension of your body, or joint manipulation if you're a striker). By adopting a CrossFit attitude of developing broad exposure and capability to multiple styles and techniques you maximize your toolkit and minimize your weaknesses. Of course, this also takes time, but I think the overall results are worth it. As my coach puts it "be great at some things, be good at everything, but don't suck at anything." In my mind, this is what makes styles like Sambo, UFC and Krav Maga so appealing - their breadth of technique and applicability. Otherwise, specific styles are mostly a matter of preference and fit for each person.

As for attitude, I think most anyone who's seriously studied (or fought) will tell you that there's a huge gap between KNOWING what to do, and being WILLING to do it. Johnny-on-the-spot, without reservation or hesitation. Take the licks, and give 'em out. Win. Based on what I"ve seen Krav Maga has an edge on most styles on this issue. It's not a sport - it is exclusively oriented toward winning, knowing how to do it and preparing you to do so. Many other styles with a sport orientation (including my own Shotokan Karate) seem to lose that level of aggressiveness.

Bottom line - study what you like and what works for you, but definitely follow your interests as they expand. Try everything and see what works.


replied to comment from Eric Enos

Hi Eric,

I hope you check back on this discussion, because I want to say how much I appreciate you taking the time to write this post. I really like how you broke it into the two issues of style and attitude. As you (and others here) point out, finding a style is a matter of personal "fit" with the particular martial art and perhaps even with the particular instructor, so that's something you can experiment with and see what works for you. As for attitude, I can understand what you're saying about the difference between knowing what to do and being willing to do it, and how KM is not a sport but rather a system geared to defending yourself in real situations. This, I think, is exactly what I was wondering when I read the original article -- whether there was a substantive difference between KM and other martial arts. Not that it's better or more worthy of study, but just where it's coming from as opposed to other styles.

So again, I'd like to say to you and everyone else who posted here how much I appreciate the wisdom and good advice you've all given me!

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