Over the past decade of teaching Krav Maga I have taught thousands of students, young, old, fit, out of shape, police, military, and civilian. Unfortunately, my most frustrating students have always been the ones coming with previous martial arts experience. This is not because of their inability to learn techniques, but their almost complete inability to change the way they move. The reason stems from the little differences that are apparent between different fighting systems or martial arts - one system may call it a good technique and the other a bad habit. I call it having a martial arts “accent.” Much like when learning a new language after the age of 12 and most likely having an accent in the new language you learn.
Most physical activities we partake in have some type of movement pattern or style. That style becomes set as we become adults due to neurological adaptations from training. More specifically, due to the nervous system and our natural coordinative abilities. Our linguistic abilities adapt in a similar way. After all, speaking does require the use of muscles - tongue, muscles of the jaw, and vocal cords.
I have been very fortunate to be fluent in Russian, Hebrew, and English by the age of nine; all of which almost without an accent. Any person that works with or has children will tell you that they are sponges. Note that all three of the languages I speak are completely different with different roots. The primary reason that I was able to learn all three so well, was that I did not yet, developed these physical and neurological adaptations in my body. On the other extreme, my grandfather lived in Israel for 26 years until his death at age 97 and could not speak a word in Hebrew.
To avoid a movement “accent” and set a wide movement base, you must start early. This will allow quicker and smoother adaptations to new movement patterns and techniques. As the cliche saying goes, “you can’t teach a dog new tricks.” It is especially crucial for children not to specialize in one sport until their teen years. In martial arts as well, new movement patterns will only benefit development and help prevent future injuries from repetitive motions. The wider the movement base taught at a young age, the better all around fighter you will have as an adult. That fighter will not have an “accent” in the different techniques from different fighting systems or martial arts that he or she uses.
Taking natural coordinative abilities out of the equation, my most successful students have always been the ones that were physically active throughout their lives, trained in a variety of martial arts, and kept an open mind. Set yourself up for success in your training, vary it, try something new, and don’t let ego get in the way of your abilities.
Thank you for reading,
Founder | Chief Instructor