Krav Maga vs Boxing: first impressions

July 11, 2007 at 02:16 PM | categories: Health | View Comments |

Yesterday evening I went to my first Krav Maga class. I've been doing boxing for around three years now, and I like it a lot. Boxing is practical, no-nonsense and one of the most demanding sports physically. Unfortunately the location of the gym I attend forces me to drive, which I don't like because I prefer cycling and parking in downtown SF is a costly and stressful PITA. Also, I would like to learn some more varied things - a bit of grappling, some kicks, other techniques such as disarming opponents and escapes. I thought briefly about some traditional martial art, of which I have some experience from university. However, my experience with traditional martial arts was that they are not taxing enough physically (barely breaking a sweat), that the classes are too big so you lack individual attention, and that the focus is on dance-like movements which are impractical and frustrating. I also dislike the hierarchical belt system which breeds arrogance and a false sense of security. This is all my personal opinion of course, some people love traditional martial arts and that's great. I believe much depends on the particular club you are a member of. My experience was likely with bad clubs, but nonetheless it stuck.

It turns out that the SF Krav Maga training center is not far off my bicycle route home from work, and from the Wikipedia page the training looked very interesting to me. Emphasis is highly practical. So what is the actual training like? Having only taken a single lesson at a single place, I can't speak authoritatively. However my impressions are: training similar to boxing in many respects. In fact instructor made numerous references to boxing in terms of stance and movement. Stance keeps the legs a little further apart than a traditional boxing stance, for increased stability in scenarios where someone can push you from the side or from behind. There were some drills similar to those in boxing - try to touch opponents stomach or shoulders while avoiding being touched yourself. An interesting twist was to add multiple attackers. Thinking about attacking opponents from behind and from the sides, and also attacking below-the-belt was encouraged. The attitude was "do what ever it takes". Striking drills were similar to boxing, although no gloves or hand wraps were used. Strikes can also be open-palm, something I'm not used to at all. Another interesting drill was a standard "hit the pads" drill with the caveat what the striker is backed up against a wall, something I've never encountered in boxing - even though boxers frequently end up against the ropes in the ring. The first class ended with the teaching of a simple and highly effective technique for escaping from a choke. I think choking is an attack very frequently used in the real world, and as such knowing how to break out of it could be extremely useful. The technique is very simple, not at all convoluted, and instantly useful. Krav Maga also seems to place a heavy emphasis on fitness and conditioning. At least at this center, they separate conditioning from the classes, although the classes are a reasonably good workout. Apparently the level test process is a grueling four hour affair.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed the class and I look forward to learning more. Would certainly recommend Krav Maga to people looking for something practical and physically strenuous.

Niall O'Higgins is an author and software developer. He wrote the O'Reilly book MongoDB and Python. He also develops Strider Open Source Continuous Deployment and offers full-stack consulting services at

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