New Student Guide to training in Krav Maga

When you take your first few classes at East Texas Krav Maga, you’ll most likely feel exhilarated and empowered. Students leave their very first class with knowledge they could use if they were choked, picked up or dragged. Krav Maga is the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces because it works, and training makes regular people into powerful weapons in a very short time frame. Here’s how to make your training as effective as possible.

Specify Goals

In Krav Maga, as in the rest of life, people are more likely to achieve their goals if they are specific about what they are. Take a few minutes to think through why you want to learn. Write it down and post it somewhere you’ll see it often, especially on days when you feel like staying home. Some of the goals we most commonly hear are as follows:

  • Learn real-life self-defense – Krav Maga is useful for anyone, no matter their size, strength or fitness level.
  • Improve physical fitness – Each class is a whole body workout. It includes a warm-up, drills to develop skills and bursts of activity that are intense cardio. Students who attend class regularly almost always report greater stamina, improved muscle tone and core strength and reduced body fat.
  • Develop confidence – Some of our students have been victims of violent attack, and they refuse to ever be a victim Even if you’ve never been in a violent situation, most people have felt physically threatened. Krav Maga changes your perspective on fear, makes you more willing to face new challenges and instills a confidence that spills over into other areas of your life.
  • Increase awareness – Because we consistently train for real-life situations in which the unexpected happens, training makes students better at reading situations and reacting with both their body and head. As you teach your body to respond decisively and inoculate against a panic freeze, your mind begins to focus even when you’re stressed. We also train students not to ignore those warning signals you feel when you face threats. They’re there for a reason.

Understand Aggression

You won’t train long before an instructor watches you practicing and says to repeat what you just did, only with more aggression and more violence. Sometimes students feel confusion, because the act of striking an opponent or a pad is inherently violent.

However, aggression in Krav Maga means understanding you are too important to lose, you have confidence from your training and no one has the right to threaten what matters to you most. Read How to Prepare Your Mind for Physical Aggression if you haven’t already.

What to Expect During Level One

Your first class an instructor will help you learn several Krav Maga basics. Here are a few fundamentals:

Fighting Stance

Stand in front of a mirror with your feet shoulder width apart and weight slightly shifted forward to the balls of your feet. Raise your hands to about eye level. This is your neutral stance. Now, take a half step forward with your non-dominant leg and a half step back with the other. If you’re right handed, your left foot should be in front, and for lefties step forward with your right foot.

Make sure your toes are pointed forward toward your attacker. Bend your knees slightly and distribute slightly more weight to your back foot.

Unless you’re striking, your hands should be up, about where you would be able to touch your cheekbones with your thumbs. Round your shoulders in slightly and tighten your core. Keep your chin down and eyes up, almost like your eyeballs are in your forehead instead of your eye sockets. John Whitman demonstrates a correct fighting stance here.

Palm Strikes

We often teach palm strikes because they are extremely effective. The bones of the hand are fragile, and effective punching requires training. Palm strikes reduce your risk of injury.

Start in your fight stance. You’ll actually make contact with the fleshy part of your palm just above the wrist. Flex your wrist, allowing your fingers to curl slightly. Forcefully drive your palm into the target.

This isn’t just a hand movement. Picture the power coming from the ground, traveling through your core then running down your arm as you send the palm strike. Your core is engaged, and your shoulder should rotate forward as you strike.

Straight Punch

Punching starts with the same stance and motion as the palm strike. Close your fists with your thumbs folded over your fingers. Always hit with the two knuckles on your index and middle finger. Don’t bring your fist out and then swing in, or you will telegraph your attack.

Punches should shoot straight from your core, with any hand rotation happening at the very end just before you make contact. The elbow stays down, with the hand leading the way. See a demonstration here.

While videos are helpful for practicing at home, there’s no substitute for the input you’ll get from a live instructor. Videos show what a move should look like, but they don’t identify what you might be doing wrong. Make sure you’re practicing correctly so you don’t fossilize mistakes.

Common Hurdles

New Krav Maga students report facing challenges in the following areas:

  • Developing stamina – Even if you’re in good shape when you walk in the door, Krav Maga is different from any other class that develops fitness. It’s normal to find yourself out of breath, muscles begging for a break. With regular practice, you’ll quickly improve and soon find yourself in the best shape of your life.
  • Bruising – Krav Maga means contact combat, and we train for real life situations with real violence. If you punch incorrectly or do so repeatedly without gloves, your knuckles will show it. When we practice inside and outside defense, sometimes students bruise on their arms. It’s impossible to prepare for real violence without making contact. Your body will adjust and you’ll notice less bruising as time goes by.
  • Frustration learning new techniques – New students often want to soak everything up like a sponge, and that’s great. However, there’s a lot to learn in level one alone, and sometimes the brain gets tired. If you hit the wall, know that’s common. Ask an instructor to walk you back through what they just demonstrated and help you make better sense of what you’re seeing.
  • Fear during stress drills – One of the biggest challenges you face as a new student is the anxiety you feel during stress drills. Most of the class you’ll work on developing stamina while learning a new technique, but almost every class provides an opportunity for you to practice that skill under stress. Sometimes you’ll face multiple “attackers.” Other times we’ll ask you to spin with your eyes closed so you don’t know from which direction to expect a threat. It’s uncomfortable for a reason. Stress drills help you understand your body’s natural response to stress and respond even when you’re outside your comfort zone. They might be the most beneficial and critical aspect of your training.

If you haven’t already started, show up at your first class well hydrated and wearing comfortable clothes. You don’t need any equipment or previous knowledge. We’ll help you learn at an individual pace and get you in the best mental and physical shape of your life. Contact us for more information today.