Can Krav Maga Beat Kung Fu? We Find Out

Martial arts practitioners, in general, like to believe their art form is better than the next. However, it always comes down to brass tax. When you pair up different forms against one another, that’s where you see where the strength lies. Since Krav Maga is not a martial art but a deadly self-defense system, you might have wondered if it can beat Kung Fu?

Krav Maga as a system can beat Kung Fu. Since Krav Maga is not a religious or spiritual discipline, no spiritual philosophy steers it except to do whatever it takes to live. Both Kung Fu and Krav Maga can be used in self-defense, and a Kung Fu Master can beat a Krav Maga novice. However, Krav Maga will triumph over Kung Fu in an actual life-threatening situation.

The basis of each discipline will determine the outcome in general; each of these systems has merit and a long history. Kung Fu is the older discipline by several centuries. It’s a physical system and has a deep-rooted spiritual side. On the other hand, Krav Maga has no link to spiritualism or religion; it was developed purely to survive a fight by any means necessary. Let’s find out if Krav Maga can beat Kung Fu and why.

The Origins Of Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a word derived from Mandarin and Cantonese that, when spoken in English, typically refers to Chinese Martial Arts. The term Kung Fu in Chinese means – any skill acquired through practice or learning. That would include merits, skills, hard work, and achievements.

Legend has it that the root Chinese Martial art developed in the Xia Dynasty around 4000 years ago. Yellow Emperor Huangdi was the first to introduce a fighting system in China around 2698 BCE. He was a famous general, avid astrologer, and apothecary who wrote many manuscripts on martial arts. Chinese Martial arts is one of the oldest philosophies and systems known and practiced.

The Philosophy of Kung Fu

Kung Fu is not only physical, but it is deeply rooted in Taoism. Lao-Tzu, between 604BCE and 531BCE, founded Taoism. His collection of writings were recorded in the Tao Te Ching and taught harmony in living between humans and nature and, more importantly, within oneself.

Kung Fu is built upon a philosophy of values, morals, and respect. Emphasizing your conduct in the dojo and on the street, you become a mirror not only of yourself but of your teachers. Kung Fu teaches students techniques to master themselves, stress, and cope with daily life.

Kung Fu is still practiced at the Shaolin Temple by Buddhist/Taoist monks. The Tao is translated as The Way/The Path. It is the transcendent force and source of all of creation. The Taoists have three life goals;

  • Moderation
  • Humility and
  • Compassion.

They are taught that everything is inter-connected, and for every action, there will be a reaction. They believe in the laws of nature and the rhythmic cycles. They believe the practice of Kung Fu keeps them in harmony with all of creation.

The Ying/Yang concept that Lao-Tzu developed was simple; both are necessary to achieve and maintain a balance;

  • Good and Evil
  • Bright and Dark
  • Male and Female

This concept is essential in Kung Fu as it is directly related to how the student applies and develops the physical powers used in their techniques along with the elemental Taoist Philosophy;

  • Locate key pressure points to strategically and quickly defend.
  • Controlled breathing and use of Qi (chi) for maximum inner strength.
  • Controlled use of Qi for physical power and sound mental health.
  • The effective use of hard and soft yin and yang techniques against an opponent.
  • The effective use of soft techniques against the most vigorous opponents.

The Origin Of Krav Maga

Krav Maga was developed by Hungarian Native Imre Lichtenfeld. He was of Jewish descent and grew up in Bratislava. He was a very active sportsman and loved boxing and wrestling. He would win a wrestling championship in 1929, and the same year he won a boxing title.

For the next decade, he would immerse himself into wrestling as a participant and coach.

During the 1930s, his neighborhood became the target of many anti-Semitic attacks and riots. Imi took it upon himself to lead a group of boxers and wrestlers to guard his neighbors. He realized that boxing in a ring or wrestling on a mat was nothing compared to a street fight. They were often explosive and brutal, leaving them stunned.

Because of his active resistance against the local authorities, who were also anti-Semitic, Imi fled Europe and left for Mandatory Palestine. He then joined the Hagana Para-military organization and did four years of training. Due to the effectiveness of his skills he developed in Europe, in 1944, he started training fighters in his unique style. He concentrated on;

  • Physical fitness
  • Swimming
  • Grappling and wrestling
  • The use of knives
  • Defense against knives

Imi not only trained the forerunners of the IDF special forces, the Palmach Striking Force, and the Pal-Yam, he also made his training available to the general population. This later developed into the Krav Maga system we know today.

The Philosophy Of Krav Maga

The philosophy that drives Krav Maga is straightforward. It is encompassed in one word – Retzev – and that means continuous motion. Krav Maga uses explosive aggression and a system of simultaneous attack and defense maneuvers while moving forward.

Krav Maga fundamentals are the backbone of the system and can be summarised as follows;

  • Neutralize the immediate threat.
  • Keeping it simple.
  • Simultaneous attack and defense.
  • Retzev – continuous motion all the time.
  • Weapons of opportunity.
  • Weapons defense.
  • Soft body points and vulnerable areas.
  • Subduing techniques like choke

Students are taught to do whatever is necessary to neutralize the threat, do as much damage as possible to the attacker and get away safely. This means you need to be as ruthless as possible and keep it as simple as possible.

Unlike the philosophy of Kung Fu, Krav Maga places no value on spirituality or respect for the opponent. This is a fight for the right to live, and it will get ugly.

Why Krav Maga Can Beat Kung Fu

Krav Maga is not a martial art but a military-style self-defense system, and it shows minimal regard for an attacker. Like most martial arts, Kung Fu incorporates disciplines like respect, harmony, and subduing without causing harm. When you practice Krav Maga and face a life-threatening situation, there is no time to try the philosophy of harmony on your attacker when trying to kill you.

In Kung Fu, sensitive areas like the eyes, groin, throat, heart, and head are off-limits for strikes, but in Krav Maga, these are the areas you will actively seek out. Krav Maga incorporates the following;

  • Wrestling
  • Judo
  • Boxing
  • Aikido

In a situation where you can strike the throat of an attacker, you need to do it. If you can kick the attacker in the groin, you need to do it. Both of these are not harmonious to the attacker, but they will instantly neutralize them.

Krav Maga, when applied in a situation where your life is threatened, can be lethal. There is no time to think about harmony, peace, or second chances for staying safe. One of the most effective methods in Krav Maga is using weapons of opportunity like a pencil, a rolled-up magazine, a set of keys, or a stick.


Although Kung Fu is a great martial art that works for students who wish to practice the system and philosophy, it will not be as effective in a life-threatening situation as Krav Maga. The reason for this is its preservation of life philosophy.

Krav Maga is a system of self-defense practiced not only by various military and police departments worldwide but also by a vast number of ordinary people who feel the need to be empowered to defend themselves when needed.

With the philosophy of Retzev engrained, Krav Maga can beat Kung Fu in a life-threatening situation.   

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