I get a lot of questions about Krav Maga and the similarities with Russian Martial Arts, especially Systema. Now those of you who have read my articles will know that I place more importance on the man behind the art rather than the art itself. Bet let’s get back to the point – both arts were devised for street reality and not competition and were Military based and this fact alone separates them from many other arts. Military Martial Arts have one specific purpose and that is to very quickly dispatch your enemy and that of course, could mean killing them.
Krav Maga was developed by the Israeli Military and funnily enough has Slavic origins! Their techniques come from Martial Arts, Wrestling and Boxing and there is an emphasis of direct defense to overcome the opponent quickly and simultaneous defense and counter attacks. The similarity between the two is in their application as a Military Art and the emphasis on effectiveness and not competition. If you watch videos of both you will see a lot more aggression and direct movements in Krav Maga and that of course works to get the job over quickly, provided that you can sustain that aggression, so you will need a good level of fitness and training to keep the work going. That’s not to say you cannot get the same result without a high level of fitness, it just depends on how quickly you can get the job done and the techniques are very effective and explosive.
Now if you watch Systema, you will see almost a complete opposite of that approach, as the students are taught to relax and remain calm during a confrontation. This I know, sounds completely unbelievable because how can you do so in an adrenaline fuelled confrontation, you may ask. There is a lot of emphasis on the student learning strong basics, such as learning to breathe correctly, how to move, strike and counter strike. There is also a lot of grappling work and weapon defense is taught from day one. There is also a lot of ‘slow movement’ work, where the student will learn exactly how to react to any attack and also learn his or her own responses.
The ‘slowness’ allows the student to ingrain the movement into the brain, so eventually the response becomes instinctive. As confidence increases, the speed of the attack is worked up to bring it in line with reality and if the student has learned and trained correctly, they will easily adapt.
Now to the classic question – which is better? I am not going to be evasive here, only stay in line with my beliefs. Any art that offers street combat effectiveness is a worthy one and it is up to the student to work hard and practice, so we are back to the person behind the art and not the art itself.
It really depends on which one suits you, or maybe you do both! The best way to find out is to go and try a few classes of each and see what suits you and that may also involve trying a few different instructors, as each instructor will be different. That is really the best answer I can offer!