What is the difference between Krav Maga and martial arts, and why is it important to begin cross-training once you reach an intermediate level?

To answer that question, it’s important to clarify first what Krav Maga is and what the primary goals of the system are.

Krav Maga’s primary focus is self-defense.

The ultimate goal of self-defense is to eliminate any threat and to disengage, not to prolong the fight or cause unnecessary harm. In Krav Maga, we seek personal protection and aim to optimize our awareness, confidence, posture, and physical skills. The reason being, as Imi said, “so that one may walk in peace.”

The way I see it is – we must work hard on the pre-fight, also known as the “interview phase.” During this fraction of time, effective strategies to be employed include responding with surprise, targeting vulnerable areas, and quickly disengaging.

Krav Maga’s curriculum focuses on realistic self-defense scenarios, using basic skills and minimizing damage, while more advanced fighting skills will come through additional cross-training. The conundrum is – the better you become at the basics, the less you will actually need to employ advanced techniques.

First off, pre-fight awareness and body language can help deter potential attackers and decrease the likelihood of being chosen as a target; avoiding yourself fitting the profile of being the perfect victim and target. If deterrence fails, we must rely on our training to react fearlessly. All Krav Maga techniques are based on the “surprise counterattack.” Simply because exposing your plans, will give your opponent some time to devise a better plan. Naturally, if you didn’t initiate the fight you will always be in the position of catching up, and you will not be the one in control over what is going on. 

Remember that we must always assume we are at a severe disadvantage. If we are acting in good faith, then we are not out looking for trouble. That leaves the attacker the advantage to choose Who, When, Where, and How the attack is going to play out.

We must analyze our situation constantly before it becomes a fight – assessing threats and taking actions to prevent it. When we have to fight, then our familiarity with the possibilities that training has prepared us for comes into play, allowing us to react quickly and not blindly or in shock.

Our training teaches us to associate offense – with defense, and make the time between these two forces very short. Our responses can then become effective in a real fight as we react with force toward venerable targets like the eyes, groin, knees, etc. But we do no harm if we are not forced to hurt. The idea is to always extricate ourselves quickly so we don’t get hurt either.

In competitive fighting and sports fighting, the opponents allow for an exchange, and there’s also a referee who makes sure no one dies at the end.

So – would a competitive fighter be able to survive a REAL fight? Trained correctly, I would put my bets on HELL YEAH. They are experienced in exchanging blows, controlling another body, and comfortable in the discomfort that is involved in fighting. The right question is, would competitive fighters act (or REACT) in self-defense? What I mean by this is – would they react with proportion and do no harm, or the minimal damage required so they can leave safely?

You become what you do. And so it is important to train your body and mind to accept that “winning” happens when you can leave safely, even if your ego is hurt.

Before becoming competitive, each art and fighting style was created with the purpose of saving lives and addressing specific threats presented in the time and region the martial art was invented. Usually, each fighting style possesses one aspect of the fight, like ground fighting (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), kicking (Taekwondo) or punching (Boxing).

Ground fighting related arts offer valuable knowledge and techniques that can complement any self-defense training. Learning how to be comfortable on the ground while gaining control, keeping your breath steady, and preserving your energy while in super close combat is a great skill.

When you explore the art of boxing, you learn to throw skilled strikes with your upper body, and improve abilities in movement and being light on your feet. The best fighters, if you notice, are, in fact, very loose with their movement and are not stiff and rigid.

Martial arts are like different languages, each with its own unique way of expressing the same thing. Each art style reflects differences in culture and values, and even the “conversation” between bodies. And studying them will highlight different strategies and target areas, offering valuable insights.

In general, we have many ways to communicate, many ways to say we are strong. And to think that although there are many languages on this planet, we can somehow universally understand the signs of anger, fear, and love. We all have the same range of feelings, although we may express them differently.

A friend of mine worked in Africa, and the tribe he was working with wanted to express gratitude, so they killed a monkey and left it bleeding in his fridge. He was understandably horrified but understood the gesture. To this tribe it was a beautiful act of respect.

When Do You Need To Start Cross Training?

Cross-training in martial arts is like learning new languages.

It is important to be mindful of the potential pitfalls of cross-training. If you try to learn too many different arts at once, or too soon, you may become confused and overwhelmed by the overload of information. If you are not careful, you could even develop bad habits or unexpected injuries.

So you first need to build a strong foundation in one art style. This means learning the basic techniques and understanding the underlying principles. Once you have a solid foundation, you can start to explore other arts that best complement your existing and growing skill sets. Be patient and practice slowly and steady.

Ways Cross-Training in Multiple Martial Arts Enhances Perspectives and Deepens understanding:

*Diversifies your Viewpoint!
Training in different styles exposes you to different ways of approaching a fight. Certain arts serve as perfect counters to others,take Boxing and BJJ as an example. If you are a grappler and only think about taking your opponent to the ground, but your training partner resists takedowns, you are left with nothing to work with. And of course, vice versa – being a great striker won’t suffice if you unexpectedly find yourself on the ground.

*Improves Fitness and Endurance!
The variety of types of movement and methods of training can help improve overall strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. This can boost performance in your primary craft, as well as enrich other areas of your life. Challenging yourself to do something different, you learn to think alternatively, contributing to enhanced skills and confidence.

*Neuroplasticity in Action!
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s remarkable ability to dynamically reorganize itself in response to one’s experience and learning. Transitioning between different martial arts prompts neuroplasticity, reshaping your brain based on multiple movements, techniques, and strategies. Studies confirm that such experiences trigger changes in neural pathways, strengthening connections linked to motor skills, decision-making, and sensory perception.

In simple words, no fighting style has all the answers. Each style is focused to solve a specific aspect of the fight. Once you become good enough at one style, open yourself up to another style to make yourself a more versatile and well rounded fighter. And be so good that you could train without hurting others, or yourself.

Mastery is a big goal, but it happens before you know it. When you practice something enough times, you become it. You become what you do. At some point, it will define not just your skills but who you are.

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