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Krav Maga and Taiho-Jutsu: Similarities and Differences

In recent years, Krav Maga, the primary Israeli martial art, has gained in popularity. With its roots in clandestine hand-to-hand combat systems, the style today has four general variations. The first is the short course for basic self-defense. The second is for law-enforcement, with the third for military. Lastly, there is an expanded and complete belt rank system. Our focus for this brief article is the course for law-enforcement, and the comparison will be made to the Taiho-Jutsu course.

Krav Maga, as mentioned above, began as a system of hand-to-hand combat, founded by Imi Lichtensten in Bratslava in 1910. A police officer, Lichtenstein combined his boxing and wrestling skills in the earliest stages of the course's formation. Further development came in 1930s when techniques were added and honed for self-defense against the anti-semitic fascist assaults that were occurring. In the 1940s, Lichtenstein immigrated to Israel and joined the Hagannah, a paramilitary underground group. Techniques were further developed in this new setting, and in 1948, he was asked to develop a program for the police and military by the newly founded State's government. In the early 1960s, techniques were further added and polished, and over 150 law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. have been trained in Krav Maga since then.

The first thing this writer looks for when comparing any system to Taiho-Jutsu is the use and emphasis of taisabaki. Taisabaki is a foundation of Taiho-Jutsu, and getting out of the line of attack is strongly and repeatedly emphasized. With Krav Maga, it seems that the defenses taught do employ taisabaki, but in the available literature of the system, as well as having observed many instructors, there is no "emphasis". Rather, the taisabaki is taught simply as part of the techniques, rather than spoken of separately. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, it would seem logical that the more this aspect of self-defense is stressed over and over, the more one will incorporate the principle smoothly and naturally in all applicable moves and techniques outside the training hall.


The law-enforcement curriculum seems most complete, covering ten areas. These are listed as: combatives; self-defense; weapon retention; defensive tactics against handguns; defensive tactics against blunt objects; defensive tactics against edged weapons; defensive tactics against shotgun/rifle; impact weapon use for defense and offense; arrest & control/officer safety tactics; ground fighting for law-enforcement applications. The curriculum further divides the training philosophy into four areas: retention of training, practical/simple techniques, performance under stress, and appropriate use of force.

What of the techniques themselves? Herein lies the most noticeable difference. Krav Maga's techniques are superior to nearly every system of police tactics I have experienced in my 40 years of martial arts, with the exception of Taiho-Jutsu. They are most effective, although they do not appear to be the "high percentage" techniques of Taiho-Jutsu, and while Krav Maga does indeed stress officer safety, the manner in which taisabaki is employed seems as if officer safety is greater in Taiho-Jutsu. Appropriate use of force is taught in Krav Maga, but the defenses themselves are a little more "harsh" than Taiho-Jutsu's, and an officer utilizing these techniques on the streets of the U.S. would have to be careful in our litigious society. One needs to remember, however, that the police in Israel have the threat of terrorist-type attacks in far greater numbers than in the U.S., and have to be prepared to deal with those in a most rapid and efficient manner. No terrorist organization will attempt to sue an officer or a department for excessive force under those circumstances.

In conclusion, I am most impressed with the techniques of Krav Maga, and feel that only Taiho-Jutsu offers an all-around superior program for the American police officer than the Israeli system.

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