Krav Maga is a combat system that was developed specifically as self-defense for the Israeli Defense Force. Its movements tend to be very direct, and emphasize aggressive threat neutralization. Students learn to strike and defend simultaneously, and undergo sometimes extremely strenuous training techniques.
Practitioners insist that Krav Maga (which in Hebrew means “close combat”) is not a martial art, because its strikes do not stem from any artistic considerations. There is no formal set of movements all students must learn, there is no rank or belt system, and no particular adherence to a code. If there is any underlying philosophy to Krav Maga, it is that one must always do as much as one can to survive.
Students are taught striking, endurance, remaining calm under stress, and in later stages, disarmament and fighting with common weapons. One of the more rugged aspects of training is that students are pushed to keep fighting, even when exhausted. Advanced training puts students in a darkened room with flashing lights and blaring sounds, to teach students how to remain oriented in a chaotic environment.
From a fitness standpoint, Krav Maga is excellent. Strength training is encouraged, and students constantly train for stamina — one exercise related to me by a friend who takes Krav Maga concerns a student carrying another student upon his back and running for a distance before the roles are reversed and the rider must then carry the other for a similar distance. While there may not be as much of an emphasis on flexibility as you’ll find in kung fu or tae kwon do, it’s more than made up for by the sheer strength of will the class teaches. Students often will either take to it immediately or decide after only a couple of classes that it isn’t for them. It’s worth finding a local class and deciding for yourself; there really is no other way to know for sure whether you will appreciate Krav Maga.