When I owned gyms I got calls from all sorts of people who wanted to know if they could learn Krav Maga. They thought that they might be too old, that their physical problems might keep them from being able to participate or they may have even had a handicap. My answer was always “Krav Maga would be perfect for you”.
The history of krav maga shows how it was developed for everyone, not just athletic people. Imi Lichetenfeld was put in charge of the IDF’s hand to hand training when Israel became a nation in 1948. Problems that Imi had that benefit us today are that he had everyone in the IDF from ages 18-55…men and women. If you were an Israeli at that time you were in the military, no matter what shape you were in. Because of that you’ll see no jump, spin, flying anything in Krav Maga, you’ll see a lot of groin kicks! Also, he had recruits for only six weeks. Imi had to teach things that didn’t rely on brute strength or size because he had small women to train. It had to be easy to learn and easy to remember because he had them for such a short period of time. If you know anything about Israel, you know that it had to be effective. Krav Maga isn’t a Martial Art where things are done because of tradition. Israel doesn’t care about tradition, they care about survival. If something comes along easier to learn or more effective they’ll jump to that technique in a heart beat
I told these people who thought that they may not be able to participate in class that their age, physical problem or handicap didn’t automatically keep them from being a victim of a crime. In fact, it may have actually increased the odds so they certainly shouldn’t use any excuse to not become safer. They would be able to do most of what we did in class because whatever we teach in Krav Maga has to be effective for the smallest, weakest and most un-athletic in our classes. To have defenses that use size or strength to be effective is ignoring those who need self defense the most.
I would tell them to sit out of anything that looked like it would aggravate their problem or anything that looked too rough. If they only did half of each class they would still be learning self defense and would become safer than if they didn’t do anything.
When I trained people who were missing an arm, for example, it really paid off that Krav Maga is much more a system about a philosophy and not about techniques. Having only one arm would keep a student from perfecting a technique that takes two arms. They would never learn it correctly. However, the philosophy of “go off, go forward, go hard and destroy the attacker” is something we can all learn to do. Hitting with what ya got, blocking with what ya got and being full of rage will keep you safer than any able bodied black belt in a technique based system. In fact, for our level five test I make the students do the first half (it’s about a 4 ½ hour test) with one arm tied to their body. They have to figure out what to do with choke defenses, knife defenses, handgun defenses, etc. My thought is that their arm may have been shattered first thing in the attack. If they had only learned techniques they would be at a major loss only being able to use one arm. As it plays out, they all do great. They make it up on the fly and stay aggressive. I get to see a lot of head butts and knees!
Everyone can’t become a black belt in Krav Maga but everyone, no matter what their handicap, can become safer. Don’t let any excuse get in your way! BE SAFE!