Neutralise: Krav Maga and Civilian Self-Defence

Having been involved in the Bosnian peacekeeping, Nick Maison left the Army in 2003 for a more family orientated life. While researching personal training techniques he stumbled across, and soon fell in love with, Krav Maga, a military self-defence system developed specifically for civilians.

Peacekeeping

Back in the 1990s, Nick Maison served in the British Army in Bosnia as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. For their mission, codenamed ‘Operation Grapple’, British troops were tasked with protecting humanitarian convoys into Bosnia.

“It was a very frustrating conflict as a soldier. We were under the command of the United Nations, so all these atrocities were happening around us, but we weren’t in a combative role so we had to basically watch as, you know, these atrocities were happening, and we couldn’t be seen to be involved.”

“You’re aware that you’re three days into a six month tour so you’ve got a lot of time ahead of you and anything can happen within that time so, your mind starts to wonder a bit and you start to think, ‘I need to be careful, I’m here in a dangerous operating zone’”.

Homecoming

Maison became increasingly fearful of his safety and decided it was time to leave armed combat behind him. “I thought it was time that maybe I looked at a different career that would allow me the opportunity to think about a family and getting some property and moving forward in a different direction of life”.

After returning home to London, Maison wanted to get involved in personal training. “I obviously had my background in unarmed combat from the army but it wasn’t very suitable to teach to civilians, so I did a little bit of research”. While browsing the internet one evening, he stumbled across a curious art form known as ‘Krav Maga’.

Maison sent a letter to the man running the website and, to his surprise, he received one in return along with a book by Israeli author Eyal Yanilov. “He’s the second in line from Imi Lichtenfeld who designed the system of Krav Maga”. Yanilov eventually came to the UK and started training with Maison “and it kind of started from there really”.

What is Krav Maga?

Krav maga is a self-defence system developed in Israel that has roots in military combat training and borrows elements of several different martial arts. The name translates almost literally to ‘contact combat’ and was crafted to specifically protect individuals from situations where an enemy attacks them first.

“It became popular that people wanted to learn an effective self-defence system and if you imagine the climate in Israel, they deal with terrorist incidents on a much more frequent basis than perhaps we would have in Europe”.

“It became pretty obvious that they needed to teach the civilians some level of Krav Maga, not just the military”. Elements of Krav maga that were not as weapons-based started to be taught to women and children as a means to defend themselves.

The master and the apprentice

Like the UN’s intended role in Bosnia, Krav Maga’s central purpose is peacekeeping. It is designed to remove individuals from positions of danger and neutralise situations in a defensive manner. Maison was very taken by the core values of the system and his enthusiasm to learn was met with Yanilov’s extensive teaching experience.

“He has been training Krav Maga for over 30 years and his body movements, kinetic chain, the way he can perform, it’s very impressive to watch.”

Maison was soon taking his own classes and passing Yanilov’s teachings onto members of the British public. “People much like ourselves who are civilians, who are just going about their normal day to day business are feeling that they need something extra to take care of themselves”.

Maison’s classes take the best parts of other disciplines, for example, he’ll take punching techniques from boxing, kicks from kickboxing and various shapes from taekwondo. “We do borrow elements, but Krav Maga definitely has its own style”.

The Legacy

“we might train outside, we might train in the rain, we might train inside a carpark or inside your vehicle”. Maison’s classes really go the extra mile to re-create real-life situations. 

“Travelling on the tube or on the bus people feel that they want to have some knowledge about how to react or what they can do if there is an incident”

The absence of the competition aspect really helps this, as it means people learning Krav Maga are able to train purely for real-life situations. “there’s very little emphasis on tradition” says Maison.

“we’re not relying on horseback and swords. If someone brings out a new type of weapon, we’ll train ourselves on how to defend ourselves on that type of weapon”. As technology and culture develop, so too does the arsenal of Krav Maga moves. It truly is a personal defence system for modern times.

Watch ‘Neutralise’ below, our film on Nick Maison and Krav Maga.