How training outside your curriculum will make you better at Krav Maga
A few days ago Krav Maga Systems Senior Instructor Kurt Colpan and I returned from our training trip in Israel. It was my second time there, and Kurt's seventh or eighth. For both of us, it was one of the most enlightening experiences we've had. For one, we were tied to an organisation this time around, so we were free, so-to-speak, to get some different perspectives of Krav Maga training from some great Instructors.
One of the more prominent bits of thinking fodder I received was this: Krav Maga is like a tree trunk. All the organisations and ways of approaching training/teaching are the branches on that trunk.
The general idea of this metaphor being that the principles are the principles - they are constant and the foundation of what you train and teach. Whether you twist your fist at the end of a punch, or use your hands to get up off the ground, it's all just a result of preferences, theory, and/or testing.
You hear it all the time: Krav Maga is meant to work for ANYONE, regardless of size, height, physical conditions, age and gender. YET, you're encouraged to conform to your curriculum and the exact way your Instructor tells you to do a technique. Now, there is a time and place for doing things the way you're told by your instructor (they should be pretty knowledgeable on the implications of certain techniques if you do them wrong). There is also a place for a curriculum, it creates a path for learning and a way for you to progress and measure your skills. Where we see the downfall is that the individualism of Krav Maga has become lost. It is a little less about finding the optimal way for YOU to be efficient using the tools and principles of Krav Maga and a little more about you doing what you're told is efficient to do. For example, I'm about 5-foot-1 (5-foot-2 when I'm feeling insecure), I also have injuries that prevent certain movements, so there are just some techniques that I simply cannot do out of the box. I'm sure you've found yourself in a similar position. Perhaps you adjusted to it, or just kept pushing yourself to fit into the mold. Well, in either case, I'm here to reassure you that as long as you understand the principles and the context of why you're doing something then Krav Maga can easily be molded to fit you (rather than you into it).
Just really have a think about it for a while. Yes, you've probably heard this before. I've heard it all before too. I'm often the one writing the ad copy and exclaiming how great Krav Maga is as a tool for anyone, so I didn't need convincing. But, I realised I actually wasn't practicing this key principle. I was letting Krav Maga be a struggle, and it killed the joy of it for a bit. Are you doing that too?
You can turn it around for yourself, if you know the principles. If you're not so confident, then your instructors will be able to guide you. If your instructors know what they're doing they will be able to see you as they individual you are: They will know how you train, observe your strengths and your weaknesses, and they'll be able to point you in the direction of the most optimal ways you can use Krav Maga.
To do this though, you need options. Your instructors need to know your options too. There are so many variants on techniques out there that there are options for anyone (and again, if not, you've got the building blocks in the principles of Krav Maga). The only way you can get these options is to go outside of what you know and your curriculum. The common argument of why you shouldn't do this is "Only this organisation knows Krav Maga, the rest are bullsh*t". Hmmm perhaps this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
Either way, do your own research. If you want to get better and make yourself as effective and skillful as possible, then you gotta be willing to grow. Fortunately the only way you really grow is by going out of your comfort zone. So if that means you have to step away from you pre-conceived ideas about Krav Maga, then so be it. Reach out to Krav Maga Instructors from other organisations, or read stories about people who have used Krav Maga in real-life (Ask yourself: if all other Krav Maga is bullsh*t then why did they succeed in using 'bullsh*t' Krav Maga?). Learn and then test. That's the formula for finding out what's best for you. If something you've learned (and make sure you've learned it correctly because sometimes you unpredictable technique is bullsh*t but you just haven't learned how to do it properly), and unpredictable conditions then it is probably something that works for you. If not, scrap it and learn something new.Test it for yourself - try it from different starting points, environments, against different people (etc.).
There's a whole great world of Krav Maga out there. You have the power to see as much or as little of it as you want.