Krav Maga and Karate Compared

​A you considering learning a "martial art"?  Are you worried about your safety and would like to learn some self defence? 

The purpose of this article is to compare Karate and Krav Maga and give you an insight into what might suit your objectives.  I have considerable experience in both so I hope you find this article useful.  



K​rav ​Maga


Traditional Japanese martial art

​20th century European & Israeli self defence system

Purpose & Objectives

Competition, tradition, spiritual, discipline

​Develop self defence skills to stay safe in real situations


Gi / kimono

​Modern workout clothes

Training Methods

Drills, Kata, Sparing

​Partner and group drills and simulations

Training ​Environment


​Gym or any location to simulate real situations

​Syllabus & Ranks

by school/ style


Krav Maga Global...

International syllabus

Diplomas & patches


​Karate is a traditional martial art originating in feudal (war time Japan).   There is no one founder but there are there are different "styles" that trace themselves back to "grand masters".

Krav Maga originated in street fighting in 1930s Europe... the founder​ Imi Lechtenfeld ​was a champion wrestler/boxer and gymnast.  As a Jew in 1930s Europe he faced daily violence from anti-Semitic groups and was involved in frequent street fights to protect himself and other Jews.  He later went on to  become the head combat instructor for the Israeli Defence Forces and subsequently when he left the army he developed and spread Krav Maga as a civilian self defence system.​

Purpose & Objectives

​Karate was originally developed to protect warriors on the battlefield and preserve the ranks and command system inherent in Japanese society and military.  Today it is for ordinary people and the emphasis will depend on the school (see training methods  below).

Krav Maga was developed first and foremost, as a self defence system to protect ordinary people in real/ everyday situations (initially to protect Imi himself).  It has "add-ons/adaptations" for special needs such as VIP Protection, Police and Security, Military
(but you will not learn these aspects in regular classes).​


Karate practitioners wear traditional kimonos/gis and belts and bare feet.

Krav Maga practitioners wear tee-shirts, shorts or cotton trousers & shoes.

Training Methods

​The training methods in Karate will depend on the school. Some focus on sparing and competition, some on spirit and traditions, some on self defence.  However, some common elements include... practicing kata which are predefined sequences of moves or techniques, emphasis on recognising ranks and hierarchy with bowing and titles, precise repetition of techniques.  Practice is generally solo or in pairs, grnerally as preparation for a 1-on-1 rules based competition fight where participants are striking (punching/kicking) each other. Training may also include training with and against traditional Japanese weapons.

Krav Maga classes are very dynamic and do not include kata, ranks, or bowing.  Drills are conducted in pairs or groups.  There is no set repetition of techniques other than partner exercises.  Drills ofter include defences against weapons which consist of actual weapons like knives, sticks or guns, or common objects that can be used as weapons.  Krav Maga defences are not only against strikes but also against aggression and threats, grabs, chokes, headlocks, standing and on the ground... any kind of potential attack.

Krav Maga does not have rules, other than train safely with partners and act within the law of the land.  The counter attacks are based on striking "vulnerable points" on the attacker(s) so that a smaller person can beat a large person.  

Training Environment

Karate is practiced in a "dojo" or training hall.  The environment and equipment will depend on the school.

Krav Maga is practiced both in a training hall and "in-situ"...because Krav Maga is "reality self defence" practice may be conducted in places like a park, public transport, car, home, etc to simulate the a
ctual environment you might be attacked

​Syllabus and Ranks

Each Karate ​s​tyle ​has its own syllabus.  However, ranks are recognised with coloured belts.

Krav Maga Global has a syllabus taught in over 60-countries.  ​Practitioners receive official diplomas to regognise passing a syllabus level along with a patch that is sewn on the trousers or shorts to recognise the level.  

​​Which Should You Learn?

Karate will suit you if you want something traditional or want to compete in competitions.

Krav Maga is for you if you are more focused on learning practical self defence.  Men and women of all ages can learn Krav Maga together as it is non-competitive and does not rely on strength or size. ​

​Article written by Aaron Moore Head Instructor of Krav Maga Global in Auckland.  

Aaron is an Expert Level 2 instructor in Krav Maga as awared by Eyal Yanilov.  ​He previously received a Black Belt in Karate.

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