The popularity of Krav Maga has exploded in recent years. It is certainly a credible street defence ‘fighting style’ when taught and executed well, but why do there seem to be so many different ‘types’ of Krav Maga? A quick internet search throws up dozens of lessons, sessions, classes, clubs and – most alarmingly to me – federations, associations and organisations, each competing with ever more increasing claims of authenticity. Krav Maga is not some mystical, mythical set of secret techniques that turn an average person into an eighteen foot bullet-proof warrior who leaps tall buildings in a single bound and shits bullets. It is – when it is best and close to it’s origin – a philosophy, a set of principles and a tool-kit of techniques. It was defined and refined through five decades of application: from the barricades of Jewish neighbourhoods in 1930’s Europe, through World War Two, Israel’s War of Independence and the terrorism of the 1970’s and 1980’s by Imi Sde-Or, Eli Avikzar and Boaz Aviram.
When he retired from the IDF, Imi wanted to train civilians in self-defence and he founded the Krav Maga Association. When Eli Avikzar wanted to step to the side of Imi’s civilian Krav Maga Association, he founded the Israeli Krav Magen Association. Seems fair: the father of Krav Maga and his first successor each with an association promoting their specialised systems.
So how did we reach a point – 30 years after Eli retired from KMA – where we now have the Krav Maga Association, International Krav Maga Federation, Krav Maga Global, US KM Association, Israeli Krav Maga Association, Krav Maga Federation, Krav Maga Worldwide to name but a few?
Most of these organisations were founded by students of Imi or Eli; Haim Gideon or Eyal Yanilov for example, to maintain standards and with a deep desire to promote self defence. But it is often the case that when people are passionate about something they come to believe that they have a unique perspective, they care more, or know more and this – in my opinion – led to some of the schisms in the earlier organisations that has led to the plethora of ‘authorities’ we now see in Krav Maga.
Another factor has been the commercialisation of Krav Maga. What some call the ‘McDojo’ franchise model. I don’t suggest that good quality instructors should be denied making a living from teaching Krav Maga – I run a small club myself in the town where I live – but it is when I see people training within an organisation but then stepping outside it in order to train & qualify their own instructors and build a ‘pyramid’ organisation that I question the motivation. Most of the recognised Krav Maga organisations, or organisation-affiliated instructors have some degree of external moderation and quality control. In Pure Krav Maga we have a loose ‘family’ connection of qualified instructors all trained and certified directly by Boaz Aviram and only Boaz Aviram trains & certifies Pure Krav Maga Instructors. There is, though, nothing to stop me ‘retiring’ from Pure Krav Maga setting myself up as ‘ANO KM’ and starting a franchise McDojo business wherein I train who I like, for however long I like, and charging whatever I like.
And therein lies another root cause of the plethora of organisations, classes, sessions, clubs and companies selling Krav Maga; if I don’t like the organisation I’m in I can leave and found my own, claiming various elements of authenticity and lineage which the non-immersed ‘Kravist’ or prospective fighter (some prefer ‘Kravista’ because it sounds cooler) will find it difficult to navigate through to find a good organisation, session or instructor. But I really hope those people do their research and find training that suits them, because as we say in PKMK, something is better than nothing.