Learning Krav Maga is not too dissimilar to learning to drive a car.

All limbs are engaged in bio mechanics, coordinated together. Observation of the external environment will determine the type and sequencing of the movement. Changes happening around you will immediately, often without hesitation, demand a corresponding reaction.

The way you drive is decided by the pictures you constantly get served from every angle around you.

This is why you don’t get asked to drive at 70 mph down a motorway (in Britain), or let loose at will at any speed on a German Autobahn in your first or early driving lessons.

If you do, you’ll screw up. Accidents will happen. Why? Because the pictures you process from outside, at speed, will not convert themselves to instinctive biomechanics quickly enough with your body.

That will only happen with experience, after a lot of pictures, a lot of observations and a lot of practice using your arms and legs.

Krav Maga is not different. You need to build up pictures of in-fight actions, then permit your brain with increasing speed to translate these into corresponding biomechanics; the block, the counter-strike, the effective hand strike or kick at the correct distance and speed, the combinations and the most suitable technique according to the picture or sensation thrust upon you.

A very effective method to build these pictures, at a tempo the brain can absorb and consider, just like your early careful driving lessons, is the slow fight, even against a rather static partner. The slow fight is deliberately very slow, as it’s not an exercise to practice speed, power or reaction – it’s a lesson in building up pictures and corresponding actions.

There can be multiple building blocks made in helping students develop the pictures they need. The early stage is fighting a static person, then make the target move a bit, maybe later with gently blocks or counters, then movement, then insert a second person to imitate tactical movement, before you make both students involved more dynamic.

Here is a step-by-step sequence to practice from.

Step 1: Work in pairs. One student will stand in fighting stance, facing a set direction without movement, except for turning the head to continuously observe, watch and learn from the ‘second student. The attacking student will practice slowly but always connecting strikes and combinations on the target, working on moving in and out, up and down and around the target student. Think ‘step and strike’, aiming for one connecting strike per step as they move. The concept is to slowly ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the opportunities for striking based on a 360 degree movement, from any angle and range. Do the drill in the dark to imitate unlit conditions.

Step 2: Replicate the drill, but now the stationary student can both block any strike and counter back. Restrict the responses to certain specific strikes first and build these up. The stationary student is still facing one direction only but can move the upper body accordingly to block, counter and strike. The tempo is still slow. The attacking student now also need to build up pictures of not only their own striking, movement and distance, but be alert to and act on the reaction from the opponent.

Step 3: Build on Step 2 and permit the stationary student to move on the spot, changing the angle to always try to face the attacking student, still able to block, counter and strike, maybe with specific motions such as straight, circular or hammer punches. The purpose is as in the previous step, but now the movement of the opponent is also built in.

Step 4: Introduce tactical movement into the exercise by adding a third student. The drill for the first two students is identical to Step 3, but the third student will move randomly, changeably and circularly around the student being struck with the intent of the attacking student to always move so they are kept on a line, essentially hiding the moving student behind the centrally positioned student at all times. The drill helps build up the perception of tactical movement whilst fighting. Again, the speed is slow enough for the students to always see pictures, analyse and respond accordingly.

Step 5: Now the two students or three can take drill into a dynamic drill with a moving slow fight, applying the principles of the first four steps. Attack in and out, up and down, trying to get getting around the opponent, adding a 2:1 fight with tactical movement. The speed should still be slow as they get introduced to the drill, with a higher tempo and protective gear later. The goal is still building pictures and responses. This is where students start to feel compelled to speed up, as one moving faster than the other will cause a ‘matching up’ of speeds, until the purpose of the drill becomes invalid. Resist and control this as an instructor.

To build effective Krav Maga and self defence practitioners, there’s a process of learning taking places which is applicable to all educational pursuits of a practical nature. The actions and reactions are driven by the brain. The brain needs to absorb a picture and determine an action associated with it. Every time this is trained too fast, time and opportunity is missed to improve – as the brain didn’t take in the picture and commanded the best muscular response. Consequently, progress slows down or is halted.

We call this ‘Slow Means Fast’. It’s the basics of early Krav Maga learning. You progress faster when you early on train more slowly. Give it a go.

  • Orjan Pettersen