So the other day I came across a local MMA school that over the years has altered their syllabus several times in respect to what they teach. On this occasion I was surprised to see that they are now teaching Krav Maga… I found that interesting as there are not a great deal of Krav Maga gyms in my city and wondered who they had studied under here and what their affiliations were. I was not able to find any of that information on the website, what I did find however was their stated ambition that they wish to teach Krav Maga in such a way as to ‘return it to its roots in Muay Thai’….
I confess that I found that an interesting statement, especially since I have spent quite some time studying the history and lineage of Krav Maga and the founder Imi Litchtenfeld and some of his first students. It is my view that there is absolutely no evidence at all that Krav Maga has or had any roots at all in Muay Thai.
Let me be quite open and say that I am not knocking the martial art of Muay Thai, there is a reason that it is becoming popular and that it is because of its sheer efficiency and skill set. I also have a massive amount of respect for the way that students build up their leg muscles like rock to withstand repeated kicking and bruising in training. People could do a lot worse than taking some training in Muay Thai if the opportunity was presented to them.
Yet the fact remains that Krav Maga is not Muay Thai no matter how much someone wishes to make it appear that is the case.
What we do know is that Imi Litchtenfeld first combined Western Boxing and Wrestling together to defend himself and his people in the pogroms of Europe. We then know that he joined the British armed forces and learnt their combat training and applied it in fighting for the allies in northern Africa. We know that after the war Imi made his life in Israel where he worked to develop his system of Krav Maga. The first two black belts awarded in Krav Maga were to people that had training in Judo and Aikido. At this point some of the discussion about the development of Krav Maga goes on to become conjecture at best. Yet it is blatantly obvious to even a novice scholar that its ‘roots’ are in wrestling and western boxing.
It becomes difficult to really prove with any level of primary documentation what influences fed into Krav Maga post WW2. There is some evidence that rather than Thai, that the indigenous martial arts of the Philippine Islands – Kali/ Escrima were an influence into Krav Maga. There is some evidence to suggest that some Jewish people did find refuge in the Philippine Islands going back as early as being persecuted by Spain and through to prior to WW2. It is suggested that some of these people may have returned to Israel with this knowledge accordingly. Yet again it sounds okay in theory, but having actual primary documents to prove it becomes somewhat more of a difficult challenge.
Perhaps the other thing to consider is what we traditionally call the ‘Taekwondo Breaking Techniques’ taught in several schools of Krav Maga, and by this I mean the specific training techniques to counter the Muay Thai style high kicks and to simultaneously counter attack someone that is attempting to kick you. Some examples are the necking technique where the kick is stepped into, the attacker is taken around the neck, taken to the ground and either has their neck broken or is choked out. Alternatively the stepping back and striking the groin technique. The point that I am making here is that Krav Maga trains pretty openly to counter high kicking techniques, so why then would we wish to go to a point where we have to then introduce foreign content into Krav Maga when there is already a specific reason and training syllabus for what that content is not there in the first place?
It is also suggested that Muay Thai has been itself influenced by Western Boxing and French Savate. in its own striking patterns, defences and feet movements. Yes the stances are different, yet not all of the striking content is as different as you might consider if you care to study it for yourself.
Perhaps it is a nice Idea in theory.- Yet not really all that practicable when you go a little deeper into it.