How practical is Krav Maga? If you don't plan on meeting black belts in the streets and just want something to defend yourself with, is it useful?
Well, first of all I wouldn’t worry about being accosted by a black belt or a dozen ninjas on the street. I’d honestly be much more terrified being attacked by a drunk guy with a knife or a crazed maniac high on bath salts than a kung fu grandmaster. My thoughts picture the times in the Emergency Room where me and eight other people are needed to subdue, restrain, and sedate a drug overdose or alcohol intoxicated patient who is combative.
I really don’t know Krav Maga, I’ve never trained in it and haven’t looked to much into it. Most of what I’ve seen seems to be simple, straightforward, and to the point. It’s the fighting art of the Israeli Defense Force after all. The way they train seems practical and realistic. I’ve seen some things that seem sketchy, but for the most part most of what I have seen makes sense.
I might be the last person to comment on what self defense system is best, being a fat man who is a beginner Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grappler and does kickboxing only once a week because I can’t fit it into my work schedule. I also did karate and Tae Kwon Do in college for a few years. With that being said here is what I think you should be wary of in martial arts.
1. Systems that teach or rely upon overly complicated techniques such as complex and flashy spinning kicks, striking small targets on the body with unusual hand techniques, pressure point nonsense, fine joint manipulation, and any techniques which require fine motor skills. When the adrenaline is pumping and you are fighting for your life while filled with terror, fine motor skills go out the window. Look for a system that teaches simple, yet fast and powerful techniques that rely upon gross motor skills.
2. Systems that teach that you can easily disarm knives and other weapons, but especially knives. I’ve seen so many knife disarm technique bullshit nonsense, both in my short martial arts career and videos. Working in hospitals I’ve also seen the results of real knife attacks. Most techniques I’ve seen involve the attacker making a single mechanical looking stab or slash, and the defender blocking it and disarming the knife or taking down the attacker. This is all fantasy. Knives are extremely dangerous. A person with no skill whatsoever can cause horrible mayhem with one. Knife attacks are extremely violent. A knife wielding attacker is going to come at you full force stabbing you a dozen times a second all over the body. In many knife attacks, the victim doesn’t even know the attacker has a knife until he or she has been stabbed several times. In law enforcement and military there is something called the 21 foot rule, where basically if an attacker is armed with a knife within 21 feet of distance, he/she will be able to close that distance and stab a person several times before the person can get a gun out of a holster.
Here are real knife attacks (very graphic, especially the third)
3. Systems that teach that you can easily fend off multiple attacks at a time. In real life, most situations that involve multiple attackers involve the attackers swarming the victim at once. Your odds are terrible.
In both situations (or any violent situation) your best bet is to keep your distance until you can run and get away. Second best and last resort is to pick up a weapon if you can and fight like hell. No martial art can teach you how to effectively defend against a knife in real life, no martial art can teach you how to fend off multiple people in real life. I’m not saying you shouldn’t train against weapons, knife attacks, or multiple attackers, but anyone saying you can disarm a knife with some kind of ridiculous wrist lock or fend off five people like Bruce Lee is bullshitting you. A teacher that trains you to fend off a knife attack and the person attacking isn’t running at you full speed and stabbing you a dozen times a second is doing you a disservice. A teacher that trains you to fend off multiple attackers and they come at you one at a time, not all at once, piling on, and stomping you death is doing you a disservice. A teacher is bullshitting you that doesn’t tell you in such situations your best case for survival probably will end with you waking up in a hospital with a tube down your throat, multiple stab and slash wounds, or multiple broken bones.
The one thing I would say is absolutely vital is that you should have training in both standing and groundfighting/grappling techniques. Most people don’t have the time to devote to both, but at least try to have some training one style while working towards mastery in the other. And again try to train in something that uses very simple techniques that don’t involve complicated movements and fine motor control. My golden rule with martial arts is keep it simple. Any system where simplicity of technique is not the keystone principle should be avoided.