If you’re looking for self-defense… well, you’re going to get a lot of varying answers, and every guy has their preference.
Couple things here:
Krav Maga isn’t a terrible system but like all martial arts it depends on who your teacher is. I see a few problems with it nowadays, but basically it comes down to the idea that organizations tell you they’re teaching you one thing when they’re really teaching you quite another. So get the idea out of your head that you’re going to learn super-secret commando stuff - you’re not learning what the Israeli special forces use. You’re going to learn a watered-down, highly marketed version that’s suitable for the American public.
Again, not saying it’s a bad system - it isn’t. But the techniques are going to be fairly close to MMA (except when you get to weapons training) but they’ll be taught to you by guys who aren’t fighters. As such, you’ll be a sort of jack-of-trades but a master of none. I’ve seen Krav guys punch. It’s better than someone with no training but it’s still shitty. I’ve seen Krav guys grapple. It’s better than someone with no training, but you’ll get killed if you role with a BJJ blue belt.
The third thing I don’t really like is it’s a lot of guys who have never been in a fight telling you EXACTLY what you YOU should do if you ever get into a fight, even though THEY have never been in a fight. This is pretty par for the course in all martial arts in America nowadays, but still, it worries me. The one Krav course I observed a few years ago outlined the changes they were making to how to apply a wrist hold, and noted that they were doing it differently “Because New York said so.” I assume that means the NY branch of their “leadership.” But the instructor pretty much said, “Yea, I don’t really get the change, but New York said so, so this is the new way to do it.” That sort of shit worries me.
Karate… eh. I spent a lot of years in karate as a kid, and took it back up as an adult for a brief time before I changed to boxing. As far as I can tell - and I can only speak for my own experience - the principles are sound, but they teach a lot of extraneous bullshit (middle blocks? knife hands? Low ARM blocks against a kick??) that will never work in real life. Also, many of the teachers don’t understand the movements themselves, and rare is the man who can break down a technique and really show you why its supposed to work, what it works against, and if it makes sense. I’ve seen them, but they’re rare. A lot of them are teaching things meant to be used with swords as hand-to-hand techniques completely unwittingly.
Also, I was never much for the bullshit top-down experience that most dojos give. So you have a black belt. Great. So I can’t call you by your first name? I can’t question if this is going to work, and ask what to do if it doesn’t? I have to bow to some fucking foreign flag at the beginning of class?
Eh. I could take it or leave it. But I ended up leaving.
Now, make no bones about it: I’m a boxing guy. I box. I teach others to box. I write about boxing. I live that fucking sport. So I’m biased as shit when I tell you that I think boxing is the best, especially for a guy with your particular set of attributes.
The benefits are as follows:
- It will teach you stance, footwork, movement, and balance. It’s inherent to the sport.
- It will sharpen your reflexes.
- It will teach you how to punch effectively in bunches and with power.
- It will teach you how to take a punch and not lose your fucking mind over it (see the karate guys when they get hit.)
- In a street encounter, it will keep you on your feet (critically important), able to slip, weave, counter, and run away.
- There’s no question that it works. There’s no wondering if a given technique will work “In a real fight.” They all work, because they’re meant for a real fight against another guy who knows how to fight. You need only search Youtube for “Boxer knocks out…” and you’ll find a million instances of where a fighter KO’d a guy easily in “the streetZ!”
The negatives are as follows:
- We don’t kick. Ever. This is a positive or a negative depending on your background and your inclinations.
- We don’t really grapple. We do some shit in the clinch that could tranlate to the street, but it’s not really intended for that. And if we go to the ground, well, you’ve cut off Sampson’s hair.
- Nobody teaches you about use of force continuum, how street violence works, how to avoid and defuse bad situations, how to spot crime, etc. etc. We give you the M-1. We don’t give you the manual.
But still, the positives outweigh the negatives in my opinion, and the rest of that shit you can learn here and there from books and cops and other things. It’s the most effective martial art for real life in my opinion, outside of Muay Thai or MMA (which nearly every point mentioned here also applies to.)
My 2 cents