Krav Maga Mixed Ability: proven advantages of learning within a mixed ability environment.
The class is in full progress. John is a near-retiree, carrying a bit more weight than desired, and attending his first Krav Maga session. Phil is a karate practitioner in his late teens, strong and agile, and have practiced Krav Maga for over a year. Susan is a housewife, middle-aged, slightly built, but an experienced Krav Maga student for several years. They are all working together, interchangeably providing attacks and defences to build up their skills against two asocial aggressors looking to get close and swing a ‘cheap shot’ to the defenders’ face.
Age, training experience and physical ability are natural influencers not only on our learning proficiency, but also on our capacity to execute physical action and speed of movement.
Many Krav Maga schools apply these natural differences to how they train their students. They may split their classes by tenure; beginner, intermediate, and advanced students practicing at different times, or by proficiency; based on progressive grading results, or by gender; separating women into classes where they only train with each other.
At Spartans Academy of Krav Maga, we believe that in the world we live in, violent threats and attacks are not artificially segregated in these terms. Inexperienced violent attackers do not solely attack inexperienced self defence practitioners. Skilled criminals do not solely target skilled self defence students. Male aggressors do not solely target a male-only victim profile.
If the world of violence is mixed and unpredictable, so must our teaching and class composition be. It’s merely a reflection of reality.
When a student in our school attends their first class, they will be introduced to an environment where age is indifferent, gender is irrelevant and tenure is immaterial. This approach is deliberate and has multiple benefits to both students and instructors.
Firstly, the first-time or early-tenure student will meet a group of people where experienced practitioners are able, conscious and skilled to welcome new students. They exhibit an example of what to aspire to, and provide trained role model behaviour on how to train and act in a professional Krav Maga school setting.
This is a strong motivation for many of our students. Behaviour begets behaviour.
Secondly, both the inexperienced student or the more seasoned practitioner will be asked to enact violent attacks or threats as part of the teaching process. A common mistake in segregated Krav Maga schools is that once trained in striking or attacking movements, or in groups where no such skills exist, the process of attacking will be limited to either one of the other. The skilled practitioner will ever only train against skilled, predictable attackers. The unskilled student will only ever train against unskilled, unpredictable attackers. The process of learning becomes narrow and finite.
This isn’t the reality we live in. Some attackers will be proficient in physical violence. Most attackers will not be skilled. Some will be men, others will be women. Some will be physically very able, others will be much more deficient in their movement and speed. This must be reflected in the mix of the class. Some students will provide highly skilled partners, others will bring the unpredictability and chaos of the less skilled fighter. This composition teaches the student to meet all scenarios of real-world violence.
Krav Maga is not a by-design, gender-specific, weight-restricted, proficiency-regulated, age-defined and rule-based competition event in martial arts. It’s survival against any and all. This is how it must be trained – and its classes should be constructed the same way.
Thirdly, the construct of a slower progression in a proficiency- segregated school where the student only will encounter certain types of violent attack scenarios as they over time progress via (often expensive) grading sessions on an annual or bi-annual basis, is arguably placing a certain level of danger on a student that require to learn common responses to violence as quickly as possible. It is more symptomatic of schools where profits are the primary ambition through a very complex teaching curriculum (that takes time to work through and enables a very progressive system of payable grading exams to progress through).
This not only removes the experience the student needs across a wider range of violence, but also remove the benefits of listed in the first two reasons given above. A further benefit is to focus the student on the primary purpose of Krav Maga; personal and third party protection. It is not a self-interest measure of progression and status through a grading system of egocentricity.
A patch or a belt of a certain rank counts for nothing on the street. Your experience in handling violence and shock – from any person, any age, any skill, any gender, any physical appearance and any background – is what counts.
This is our world. This is how we train.
Written by Orjan Pettersen,
Krav Maga Close Quarter Combat & Personal Protection Instructor