Self-defense is a great skill for anyone because you never know when you’ll need it. However, there are many forms of self-defense that you can learn. Today we’ll be comparing Krav Maga vs Systema to help you decide which one is better for you.

Krav Maga and Systema are both forms of self-defense that teach you to be prepared in real-life situations where you might need to fight off an attacker. Krav Maga focuses on speed, whereas Systema focuses on your strengths and fighting with those. Both teach you to escape using any means necessary.

This article will explain what Krav Maga and Systema are and choose which style is better for you.

What Is Krav Maga?

Krav Maga translates to “contact combat.” It is a method of self-defense that focuses on preparing you for the worst-case scenario. It does not promote violence – rather, it teaches you to do anything necessary to save yourself and your loved ones.

In this section, I’ll explore Krav Maga in more detail, including how it started, the weapons training you’ll learn as part of this martial art, and some equipment you can use for training.

History of Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a method of defense that was created in Israel by Imi Lichtenfeld. It was created in the 1950s, a few years after the formation of the country of Israel. As a new country, its military needed a defense system. 

Before Israel became a state, when it was still part of British-controlled Palestine, they had a civilian militia called the Defense. The Defense’s form of combat was called Kapap, which was the inspiration for Krav Maga.

Kapap focuses on self-defense methods that are best for each person as opposed to a universal method. This focus extends to Krav Maga. 

Krav Maga is solely a type of self-defense that focuses on surviving, or better yet, avoiding the worst-case scenarios. If someone is threatening you, you need to know the best way to get yourself out of the situation. 

Krav Maga Weapons

In Krav Maga training, you’ll learn to fight with weapons and learn to fight against them. As we’ll discuss in a later section, you need to take a weapon away from an attacker quickly. Being able to get the weapon away gives you a better chance of survival in the fight. 

Then, you can either continue to fight against the attacker with no weapons involved, or you can use the weapon to your advantage. If you’re trained to use whatever weapon you took from the attacker, you can use it. 

You can also carry weapons if you’re trained in using them and have the confidence to use them and not lose them to an attacker if you were ever in the situation. Krav Maga focuses on three main types of weapons to prepare you for attacks: guns, knives, and improvised weapons.

When training with knives and guns, you’ll learn how to take them away from an attacker and use them in an attack without allowing your attacker to take them away from you. The third type of weapon, improvised weapons, is any weapon you can make with your belongings. You can use glass, other sharp objects, heavy objects, or anything else that you can utilize at the moment.

Krav Maga Training Tools

To learn Krav Maga, you will first need to master the basics. Then, you can focus on more advanced training, which includes weapons and equipment. This section has some of the best equipment to help you practice Krav Maga. 

Books such as the David Kahn Krav Maga Fundamental Strategies (available on Amazon.com) will teach you the most important parts of Krav Maga. This book includes how to avoid violence, fighting techniques, and how to counterattack and survive. There are also illustrations to give you a better understanding of each lesson.

DVDs such as the Krav Maga Training Series on DVD (available on Amazon.com) explains Krav Maga so that everyone can understand and learn at home. This DVD covers 5 different subjects: Introduction to Krav Maga, Line of Fire, Basic Combatives, Self Defense, and On the Edge. Each one focuses on a different aspect of Krav Maga that is essential for beginners to learn. 

Next, this video from Global Martial Arts University on YouTube teaches you the first steps in learning Krav Maga as a beginner, including how to stand, palm strikes, and use hand targets:

Finally, Gershon Ben Keren Krav Maga: Real World Solutions To Real World Violence (available on Amazon.com) will help you understand how to approach real-life situations where you need to use Krav Maga. It also includes skills and scenarios you can use to learn how to apply Krav Maga in the real world, and it will help you understand how to prepare yourself if you ever do end up in a scenario where you need to use your Krav Maga skills.

Krav Maga Techniques

There are a few basic Krav Maga techniques that everyone who learns the martial art will learn. The three listed in this section are the three that you should master before getting into more advanced techniques. 

Front Kick to the Groin

The first is the front kick to the groin, which is a very weak spot of the body. To perform this move, you bring one knee in front of your body in a triangle shape. Then you power through your hips and kick up into the attacker’s groin. 

When you make contact, you should be hitting them with your shin or the top of your foot while keeping your foot flat either way. The key is to kick fast so that your attacker doesn’t have time to react and stay far enough away from them that they have less time to counterattack.

Bearhug Takedown

Next is the Bearhug Takedown. This move aims to prepare you to attack back if you end up in a bear hug in front of your attacker. You want to be able to get out of the bearhug before your attacker can bring you down to the ground, or worse, take you to another location.

The first step in a Bearhug Takedown is to go limp and lower your center of gravity. By bending your legs and going into a squat position, you can make it harder for your attacker to hold and move you in the bearhug position. 

Next, you need to distance your body from the attacker’s hips, making it harder for them to hold you continuously. You need to strike them to get away from the hips, then continue to strike until they let go of the bearhug.

Knife Defense

This third technique is to prepare you if your attacker has a weapon, specifically a knife. When you encounter someone with a knife, you should remember RCAT, Redirect, Control, Attack, Takeaway. 

First, you want to avoid the initial attack by redirecting. Redirect the attacker’s attention by kicking or punching them to stop the momentum behind their attack. Continue to redirect until you can move to the next step of control. 

The second step is to gain control of the weapon. You have to prevent the attacker from continuing to attack. Then, once you control the weapon, you need to attack them. Whether you punch, kick, or whatever other attack works at the moment, you need to continue to fight until you can move to the final step.

Last, you need to get the weapon as far away from the attacker. You can throw or kick it away from you. Then, you can continue to fight without a weapon involved until you can escape the attacker. 

What Is Systema?

Systema is similar to Krav Maga in that it focuses on self-defense and prioritizes the skills of every individual. It’s a Russian form of combat with three main focuses: combat, spirit, and body.

History of Systema

Systema started in Russia in the 20th century when Russian Special Forces needed their self-defense system, but its concepts date back to the 10th century.

Systema was preferred by soldiers because it allowed each individual to make full use of their unique skills and abilities. While everyone shared the same goal – defeating the enemy – the individuality of Systema meant that each soldier was attacking their strengths instead of having to conform to a universal attack.

The principles of Systema acknowledge that you never know the exact situation in which you’ll face an attack and have to use your skills. So, Systema teaches you how to use your mind to quickly access a situation and determine the best way to escape safely. 

Here’s a video from Black Belt Magazine on YouTube that gives a deeper explanation of Systema and its history:

Systema Basics

Systema doesn’t have any specific techniques or methods that everyone must know. They want you to use your strengths during an attack, and anything goes as long as you win the fight. 

However, there are a few basic themes that your training will cover. The first is hand-to-hand combat, which prepares you for close-range combat, both with and without weapons. The second is ground fighting, which teaches you how to fight back when you’re at a disadvantage. 

The third theme is weapons, which teaches you how to disarm someone else’s weapons and use them to your advantage. The final technique is punching. Systema punching prioritizes powerful punches over speed.

Systema Training Tools

Here are some great tools you can use to get started learning Systema.

I recommend the DVD Systema Spetsnaz Knife In Close Combat (available on Amazon.com). It will help you learn more than one hundred techniques for Systema knife fighting. This knowledge will come in handy if you ever need to use Systema on the street against an attacker with a knife.

If you prefer book learning, Matt Hill Systema: Russian Martial Art 25 Combat Drills (available on Amazon.com) focuses on drills that you can practice to enhance your Systema skills. There are twenty-five easy-to-understand drills that you should master as part of your Systema training. 

You can also refer to this YouTube video from Jesus Revezzo to learn effective lessons on Systema training for beginners. This includes breathing techniques, warm-ups, and punches:

Additionally, this YouTube video from Systema Spetsnaz shows you how to use hand-to-hand combat Systema skills during a fight against a stronger opponent:

If you find this video helpful in your training, the channel also has a full playlist with more than one hundred Systema training videos.

Krav Maga vs Systema: Deciding Which Style is Right for You

You need to decide if speed or focusing on your strengths is more important for you. 

Krav Maga teaches you to attack using physical techniques so you can get out of any situation safely quickly. You’ll be moving fast, so your attacker has less time for counterattacks, which gives you an advantage to either attack more or escape sooner than you could with other self-defense methods. 

On the other hand, Systema will teach you to use your skills to defend yourself, whether it be size, strength, speed, or something else. It will also teach you to think ahead no matter where you are, so that you’re better prepared to defend against an attack should you need to. 

Additionally, it’s important for beginners to note that Systema takes longer to learn than Krav Maga because of the additional focus on the psychology behind the attacks. So, if time is of the essence, you should choose Krav Maga.

There are training centers worldwide that teach both forms of self-defense, so whichever style you choose should be convenient for you. 

Final Thoughts

Systema and Krav Maga are both great forms of self-defense to learn and use. Systema focuses on using your mind and body to defend yourself most effectively. In contrast, Krav Maga focuses on speed and getting out of an unsafe situation using any means necessary. 

You need to decide which focus is best for you and your body. You can utilize all the training equipment from this article to help you get started with the self-defense method you choose.

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