September 5, 2022

Karate vs Krav Maga: Differences & Effectiveness

It is essential to have an honest and open look at every martial art form while choosing to learn one. Learning about the pros and cons and which suits your needs better is also very crucial.

If you are confused between a very common Karate and not as much Krav Maga, then keep on reading.

At the surface level, it may seem that Karate and Krav Maga are common because they both talk about self-defense and fitness. But it’s only when you delve more profoundly that you understand that the two are poles apart when it comes to techniques. Krav Maga believes in aggression, damaging, crushing and finishing the opponent as quickly as possible. On the other hand, Karate predominantly employs kicks and punches to take part in a fight.

Now that you have a brief idea about the two let us look at each martial art form in detail.

Tracing the History – Birth

Karate is a very old martial art and is considered to be on the lines of Kung Fu. The form of Karate that we know and learn today, is believed to have originated in the Okinawan island of Japan around a hundred years ago. During the world wars, the American soldiers learned Karate and after returning home, popularized it in the west.

Ever since then, Karate has seen many TV shows and movies on it’s name and is one of the most, if not the most, popular martial art in the world.

Krav Maga, on the other hand, was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld who developed it as a means of self-defense in street fights from his experiences of wrestling and boxing. The method was later adopted by the Israeli military and security forces to teach unarmed self-defense.

Darren Levine was approved to teach outside Israel as a Krav Maga instructor in 1981. Since then, it has travelled worldwide and has been picked up by many people as one of the most trusted forms of self-defense.


Karate has very deep-rooted philosophies and focuses on training the mind and spirit alongside the body and emphasizes on the whole being. The martial art teaches its practitioners the right way of leading one’s life.

On the contrary, Krav Maga is purely aggressive with offensive and simultaneous defensive maneuvers. It focuses on dealing maximum damage on the opponent by using violence and tactics. 


Predominantly focused on striking, Karate uses subjugation moves, attacks and punches to dismantle the opponent. In contrast, Krav Maga practitioners aim is to subdue the opponent as quickly as possible using any means and methods.


Krav Maga revolves around real combat and believes in practicality, aggression and efficiency. With a great emphasis on tactical thinking and simultaneous attacking and defending, the aim is to crush the opponent quickly. A Krav Maga practitioner attacks the vital points of the opponent’s body to deal maximum damage.

Karate is inherently different from Krav Maga in the sense that it was built on the principal of perseverance, and is dedicated to the core philosophy of humility, kindness and self-discipline. It talks more about defending oneself rather than harming others. A Karate practitioner is required to have proper form while point fighting in order to score points.


Krav Maga involves continuous strikes and counter-attacks. It is crucial to have a safe distance between the practitioner and the opponent while striking with the sole purpose to hit the vulnerable parts and pinning the opponent down as quickly as possible. The areas targeted include the eyes, face, chest and head, groin, stomach, among others.

Although Karate believes in striking, it has a variety of forms of attacks and defenses and moves which include:  

  • Grappling
  • Knee strikes
  • Punching
  • Throws
  • Spear-hands
  • Knife-hands
  • Vital-point strikes
  • Palm-heel strikes
  • Restraints
  • Joint locks
  • Elbow strikes
  • Kicking


Owing to the fact that Karate originated in Okinawa, weapons play an important part in its training. But only the students who are at an advanced level are taught how to use it. Some of the weapons that Karate fighters practice with include tekko, spear, nunchucks, shield, bo(long staff), tambo(very short staff), kama (small scythe, among others.

Krav Maga is not like traditional martial arts, and its philosophy is all about surviving. To do that, Krav Maga practitioners are allowed to take the weapons from the opponents and use it against them even if it is a rifle or a spear.

Which is More Effective in Street Fight?

The answer is Krav Maga.

Krav Maga is all about self-defense and how to meet an aggressor while being attacked. It does not matter if you leave them for dead, but the priority is to defend oneself.

With a relentless flurry of preemptive strikes and attacks, coupled with powerful defense techniques, Krav Maga is the way to go when caught up in the middle of an uncomfortable situation.

Karate is also very effective when it comes to street fights, but in comparison to Krav Maga, it somewhat lags behind. Karate has some compelling moves, including the powerful knee strikes and punches. It is more than enough to defend yourself in an unpleasant situation effectively.

But Krav Maga is more aggressive, and there are no restrictions to any maneuvers. The stance that Karate practitioners take sometimes leave vital areas like the chest and the sides exposed, which might prove fatal.

Therefore, when it comes to street fights, Krav Maga is the one which can help you hinder your opponent.

Which is Better for self-defense?

It is Krav Maga again!

Krav Maga takes all the points in its favor because of the aggressive fighting style. Krav Maga practitioners are taught to be aware of their surroundings and have an impulsive counter strike move ready if the aggressor attacks.

The sole purpose is for the attacks to be lethal and strike the opponent from every side and angle, leaving him no room to breathe. Again the training, dedication and experience matter too.

When it comes to real-life altercations, knowledge of any form of martial is good to have. Karate is again a superb choice and will help if attacked in a secluded lane. The joint locks, punches and knee strikes will give you enough space to defend yourself and escape.

In the end, in a situation of self-defense, it all comes down to the tactics and the urge to survive. Pumped up with the adrenaline rush, the human body is capable of miraculous things when it comes to such instances.

But Krav Maga is slightly better because there are no rules. That was the whole foundation of Krav Maga. Karate does have some weak spots, therefore when it comes to the question of self-defense, Krav Maga takes home the trophy.

Which is More Popular?

Fig: A representative graph showing the popularity of Krav Maga and Karate over a span of five years in the United States.

The blue line in the graph stands for Krav Maga while the red line stands for Karate. As we can clearly tell, Karate is more prevalent in the United States than Krav Maga.

The reasons for this might be numerous. Krav Maga is an all-in offensive martial art and may not be preferred by many people. Also, movies, cartoons and TV shows play an important role in the rise in popularity of any martial art. 

Karate is widely known and is very popular among kids because of the numerous shows made on it. Karate also talks about self-discipline and training the mind along with the fight and physical side of the martial art, which might be preferred by more people.

Which is Easier to Learn?

Krav Maga is easier to learn by a margin.

A person learning Karate will be comfortable with the basic techniques within six to eight months. If you are looking for the time taken to reach the black belt, it is around four to six years.

When it comes to Krav Maga, to get familiar with the martial art and learn the basics, the fighter will take around six to twelve months. When the question of reaching the advanced level and using and learning with weapons comes in, we are looking at about three years or more.

Cost Comparison

When talking about monthly prices, the amount that you are looking at for learning Karate is somewhere between $75 and $150. For the whole course, Karate will cost you somewhere between an overwhelming $4500 and $9000.

Krav Maga costs around $80 to $170 per month. When talking about the whole course, learning Krav Maga will cost you around $2880 and $6120. The prices differ on the basis of schools where you are learning, the time taken to complete the whole course and the master you are training under.

What Should You Choose?

The fact that you have decided to learn a martial art form is something deserving of appreciation. It is important to remember the three D’s if you are trying to excel – Dedication, Devotion and Determination.

Whether it is Karate or Krav Maga, you will have to practice and give it your best. You will have to be honest with yourself and your training regimen. You cannot have any cheat meals or off days. Everything is necessary, but discipline is essential.

If you are thinking of learning something very hard and aggressive, then Krav Maga is the way to go. But, if you want to train both your mind and the spirit and learn some fighting techniques for self-defense as well, then Karate should be your choice.

It is important to look deep within yourself and understand your needs and capacity. You have to research, visit schools for both martial art forms and then make a decision.

No matter what, never give up and put your best foot forward!

More Comparisons

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

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