Scenario Based Self Defence Training

Krav Maga can be described as a martial art yet its focus on equipping students to deal with real threats is shared by various self-defence programmes. This begs the question: what is the difference between martial art and a self-defence system.

While there is some overlap, this post clarifies the major differences between martial arts and self-defence programmes. It then moves on to look at the many benefits Krav Maga can deliver for the committed student. While learning Krav Maga will equip men and women of any age and context with potentially life-saving combat skills, the advantages go much further than that. They include a range of physical, mental and emotional health benefits from better fitness and concentration levels to reduced anger and more respect for other people.

One of the main advantages of learning Krav Maga is the development of self-discipline. We conclude the post by focusing on the importance of self-discipline for success in work, study, relationships and life in general.

If you want more information about Krav Maga, including how to find classes, please visit our Contact page for ways to get in touch. 

What is self-defence?  

Self-defence classes and programmes are focused on teaching the student practical, effective skills that they can use in the real world to protect themselves from harm.

This includes both combat skills and techniques for avoiding and de-escalating situations so that the person can escape.

Self-defence is a natural human (and animal) reaction to a threat. It is legal for anyone to use appropriate force either in self-defence or to protect someone else from assault.

However, for many people, factors such as reduced awareness, poor self-discipline and a lack of physical conditioning can harm their ability to keep themselves safe.

A good self-defence class will empower students in all of these areas and help them to look after themselves on the streets. 

Mike Tyson once famously said, ‘Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.’ A critical element in self-defence is the ability to think quickly while under pressure. This gives the person vital seconds to choose how they will respond to an attack. This is why many of the skills and techniques taught in self-defence classes are designed to be simple to remember and apply effectively.

What is martial arts?

Martial arts is comprised of hundreds of formal combat disciplines, many of which were founded in the far east. Examples include karate, kung fu, tae kwon-do and jiu-jitsu.

Martial arts teach combat-related moves such as punches, kicks, blocks and throws but the focus is usually on perfecting the techniques rather than applying them in a real-life street scenario. The movements are often combined into sequences that the student has to learn.

Progress in martial arts is usually made through a grading system of coloured belts with the student having to demonstrate their mastery of the techniques to progress through the ranks.  

Many martial arts are also performed as sports at regional, national and international levels. Competitors may take part in individual and team events, including combat and demonstrations, in order to win trophies and medals.

Boxing, fencing, judo, tae kwon-do and wrestling are now established Olympic sports with karate joining the list for Tokyo 2021.

Martial arts often have a strong spiritual dimension to them. Through many years of sustained effort, the martial artist becomes the ultimate warrior, able to master any situation in life.

Self-defence vs martial arts: How are they different?

One of the main differences between self-defence systems and martial arts can be summarised by the phrase ‘function over form’.

Because self-defence programmes are designed for the streets, the emphasis is on skills and approaches that work, even if they are not performed to the technical standard of a martial artist. This need for results means that self-defence moves are often measured to objective standards. Only techniques that have been proven to neutralise attacks will make the grade. Evidence is constantly being collected to inform best practices.

The moves in a martial art are measured against a subjective standard. This will vary depending on the specific style or school being followed. Individual instructors may also have their own ideas of what a correctly performed technique looks like.

Martial arts training is all about the pursuit of perfection with students expected to memorise and execute lengthy sequences of moves. These patterns increase in length and complexity as the student progresses through their grades.

In contrast, self-defence is about moves that are effective in protecting people from harm. It is well-known that our capacity for carrying out complex planning is reduced when under threat so students are taught a repertoire of memorable, easy deploy techniques.

Self-defence programmes often include a legal element. This might include teaching students about the circumstances in which the use of force is lawful.

What are the benefits of Krav Maga?

Krav Maga offers students the best of both worlds: self-defence and martial arts.

Rooted in the real world and used by police and security forces around the globe, Krav Maga is, first and foremost, a practical self-defence system. It has been designed to give students the means to survive on the streets in a range of hostile situations.

In addition to teaching the most effective moves from a range of martial arts, Krav Maga uses a belt grading system. This helps to instil the patience and self-discipline students will need to achieve their life goals.

Physical fitness is paramount in self-defence and this forms a central part of Krav Maga training sessions. A variety of drills are taught to build the student’s strength, agility, stamina, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. By strengthening their core muscle groups, students will improve their balance and posture, giving them a powerful platform for evading blows and bringing a swift end to any hostile situation – the ultimate goal of self-defence.

As the student’s fitness and capability quickly improve, they will become more self-confident. They will feel more able to achieve their life goals and to handle difficult situations. This will translate into happier and healthier personal and work relationships.

Mental strength, resilience and teamwork

Krav Maga is about much more than physical training and combat skills. Students learn to be alert to their surroundings and to concentrate on their actions, giving them an advantage over their attacker and boosting self-confidence even more.

They will have the ability to approach situations with a cool head and make smart decisions. As well as helping them to avoid or quickly end the conflict, these are important life skills that will help students ace job interviews, perform well in their academic studies and fulfil their potential at work. They will be more resilient to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and anger.

Through working closely with other students and their instructors, a Krav Maga member will develop a bond of mutual respect. They will learn to understand the value of teamwork which will help them to skillfully navigate their personal and work relationships.

Other benefits that regular Krav Maga members enjoy include lower body weight and decreased risk of lifestyle-related issues such as heart disease and diabetes.

Self-discipline: the key to success

One of the greatest gifts that Krav Maga and other martial arts and self-defence systems bestow on students is self-discipline.

Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s own impulses and emotions rather than getting swept away by them. Some of the benefits of improved self-discipline include:

  • Less likely to get into fights due to ego or the need to ‘save face’. 
  • Better quality, less competitive relationships.
  • Ability to delay immediate rewards in favour of more satisfying long-term goals. This can have a positive knock-on effect on everything from finances and adult education to career prospects and relationships.
  • Improved concentration as students are better able to avoid distractions
  • A better work ethic and more productive work.
  • Willingness to push further and harder than before to achieve success.
  • Improved self-esteem.

Positive habits that will last a lifetime

Self-discipline isn’t something that develops overnight. It emerges over time as students commit themselves to the rigours of their training and enjoy the fruits of their work.

It takes 30 days to establish a new habit (1) so the sooner a person takes up Krav Maga, the sooner they will reap the rewards. There is another reason why young people should seriously consider a self-defence programme: according to Home Office figures from 2019/20, 16 to 24 year-olds are the most likely age group to be victims of violence (2).

To summarise, self-defence systems prioritise function over form, helping students to quickly arm themselves with a set of potentially life-saving skills. Martial arts are dedicated to the pursuit of technical perfection, teaching practitioners self-discipline as they rise through the grades.

Krav Maga takes the best of both worlds, combining the real-world efficacy of an elite, globally renowned self-defence system with the best martial art moves and a structured belt grading system.

Committed Krav Maga students will benefit from improved physical fitness, mental sharpness, emotional resilience and the self-discipline that will empower them to lead the life of their dreams.

Join an Introductory Krav Maga Course !

My name is Simon, I head up the instructor team and have a 3rd Degree Black Belt in FEKM Krav Maga, as well as being the President of the UK Sector of the FEKM.

All of the instructors are FEKM qualified and undergo continual assessment to improve and develop their skills. A full list of instructors can be found on this page.

We run introductory courses every few weeks at our Club in Brixton, so that you can discover Krav Maga and learn how to protect yourself…


  1. https://www.familymartialartscentres.com/self-discipline/ 
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/thenatureofviolentcrimeinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2020 
  3. Introductory sessions at Brixton Krav Maga