Can I Do Krav Maga with a Bad Back?

Can I Do Krav Maga with a Bad Back lg

Krav Maga is an effective self-defense system that can be learned within a relatively short time frame. But, it can be intense. So, if you have a previous history of back injuries, you might be wondering: can I do Krav Maga with a bad back?

Here’s what I know about practicing with injuries:

The safest way to do Krav Maga with a back injury would be practicing slowly and avoiding techniques that require bending, falling, or twisting. But always consult a doctor before starting any physical activity following an injury.

Back pain limits one’s ability to learn the full spectrum of Krav Maga techniques. As such, it is risky to train in Krav Maga with a bad back.

It’s not advisable to start a training regime unless one has been checked by a qualified medical practitioner and has been informed it is safe to proceed.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what to do if you’ve got a bad back, whether you can still do Krav Maga, and other options available. Injuries in martial arts go hand in hand, and I’ve had several and have figured out ways to continue practicing.

Let’s dive in…

Can I start Krav Maga after a disc herniation?

As a general rule, it is possible to train Krav Maga following a disc herniation in a limited capacity. But never start Krav Maga or any martial art after an injury without first consulting a doctor and getting a list of restrictions which you can share with the Krav Maga instructor. 

When a person starts training in a martial art or an intense self-defense system, injuries come with the territory.

In a good dojo, the training is a close simulation of what you’re likely to face in the real world. So, there’s the likelihood of getting injured.

This becomes complicated when you have already had a disc herniation. So, it’s not ideal to think of starting Krav Maga until the disc herniation has been treated.

In fact, most good instructors would advise the same thing.

It’s not only risky, but it’d also limit the training partners you’ll be assigned because they’d have to be pulling their punches.

Most would probably not want to train with someone experiencing back pain.

Disc herniation is a form of disc degeneration occasioned by wear and tear as we age. Apart from the pain, it reduces one’s ability to be flexible.

And, as you know, flexibility is one of the preconditions required to be an excellent fighter.

When you’re healed and ready to take up Krav Maga, you’d probably want to know how much classes cost. 

To get the full info, check out a recent article of mine, where I shared all the facts you need.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is martial arts good for back pain?

The “hard” types of martial arts, such as Karate or Taekwondo, are not good for back pain, but “soft” martial arts such as Systema or Tai Chi could be beneficial for back pain. There are a variety of martial arts, broadly classified into “hard” and “soft,” based on how physically demanding they are. 

But, even when one’s convinced that the research has revealed an ideal martial art that can help with back pain, I cannot overstress the fact that you should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner.

And preferably, see a consultant who is a certified orthopedic surgeon before you commence training. If you have chronic back pain, it might be better to postpone your desire to learn or return to martial arts.

Having said that, the following “soft or internal martial arts”: Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Ba Gua, and Hsing I, are believed to be helpful with back pain.

Some practitioners report having experienced a subtle massage of their back as they engaged in these arts.

As a layperson who is not qualified to give medical advice, I’d say it’s better to get medically treated first. Get a list of recommendations and restrictions from your doctor.

Then, come to the dojo.

Most martial arts training incorporates some forms of stretching and other flexibility exercises before actual starting training, and at the end, that may help with back pain.

But the benefits of the above might be negated if you were thrown on your back or grappled with wrongly in the actual training.

So, see a doc first.

Do you have to be fit to do Krav Maga?

One does not have to be fit before starting Krav Maga. All martial arts and self-defense systems will include fitness in the curriculum, so while weight loss will not be the primary goal, it will be a by-product of regular training.

But, if you have doubts about your physical fitness, it’s best to consult a doctor first.

Good dojos would ask you about your medical history to protect you from harm. Because as you progress, the training becomes more intense. A person who is fit is actually in a better position.

But, each student starts where they are in terms of fitness, and they make progress irrespective of their level of fitness.

Krav Maga also incorporates some fitness exercises that are specific to it, which helps you as you train.

And often, you’ll see Krav Maga paired with Cross-Fit gyms.

There are warm-up and cool-down exercises and some to help you with flexibility and core body strength.

These are drills to strengthen your core muscles, such as the abdominal muscles, the back, and the pelvis.

They make it easier for you to engage in demanding physical drills, such as required by Krav Maga. But what if you’d like to teach yourself Krav Maga at home?

Is it possible? In a recent article, I showed you how to, using actionable, cost-effective strategies.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Krav Maga mostly done standing?

Krav Maga involves striking and grappling techniques, but standing encompasses about 80% of Krav Maga’s techniques.

Virtually all fights start with the fighters standing up. They most often begin with punching, striking, or kicks.

Now given Krav Maga’s goal of destroying an attacker by any means necessary, grappling techniques are definitely part of the curriculum.

But avoiding taking the fight to the ground is usually preferable, especially if the attacker is bigger, stronger, or heavier than you are.

A skilled Krav Maga fighter ironically is not interested in fighting their assailant. It’s not a sport!

Their goal is not to fight. The goal is to incapacitate their attacker within seconds or minutes. And, the time when they’re still standing is the best time to do this.

They’d most likely avoid being grabbed and thrown down.

The dynamics of a fight change when you’re thrown on the ground! The ground makes the fight more “slippery” and dangerous.

Of course, if the KM fighter is truly skilled, they’d probably feign and have the untrained fighter believe they’re down with playing their game.

In truth, they’re simply looking for the most vulnerable parts to strike. The KM dude’s elbows, knees…become lethal weapons.

They’d even kick the other fellow in the groin or gouge their eyes!

I told you they aren’t keen on fighting. Fighting is the last thing any smart person would opt for. Flee, first. If you can’t flee immediately, “cripple” your attacker, then flee.

Krav Maga is not about showing who’s more macho, it’s about protecting yourself from harm as quickly as possible.

Are Krav Maga classes worth it?

In a recent article of mine, I answered a question in some depth. After all, it’s not just the time commitment or monthly tuition. There’s registration, and maybe a uniform cost. And maybe gear or belt testing charges too. It adds up. Is what you get from all that worth it?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the best martial art if you have a bad back?

Tai chi is the best martial art if you have a bad back, given its slow and gentle nature and that it is a solo practice. But Systema, with its focus on breathing, fluidity, releasing excess tension, and lots of massage, can also work well as long as the instructor has a clear understanding of the physical limitations.

But let’s explore both Tai Chi (sometimes called T’ai chi ch’üan, Tàijí quán, or Tai Chi Chuan) and Systema in greater detail so you can decide if one might be better for you than another.

Luckily, while I would certainly not claim to be an expert in either, I have years of experience doing both.

Why choose Tai Chi?

At first glance, it seems like a trivial, graceful dance, but it’s actually a profound, ancient, effective art form that offers many benefits. In fact, it’s one of the martial arts promoted by Harvard Medical School.

In one of the school’s publications on the healing power of Tai Chi, the following was shared:

No More Pain–A growing number of clinical trials show that tai chi offers significant relief from back, neck, arthritis, and fibromyalgia pain.”

The Yang Style short form is the best style to get started with. It’s been codified into a set of steps that you could go through with relative ease.

It’s a series of graceful, flowing circular movements that can be done by anybody, irrespective of age, size, or gender. The style has 24 forms.

Tai Chi is not complicated. It’s made up of simple postures and movements, which are like a coordinated, graceful dance in slow-mo.

The forms are practiced as a whole, helping with integrating the body-mind-spirit. The practitioner pays attention to their breathing as they execute these effortless movements.

In addition to other benefits of Tai Chi, the Yang style offers full cardio-work out, making the practitioner more flexible.

Why choose Systema?

Systema is a lesser-known Russian martial art.

Make no mistake, it can be brutal and deadly, and there’s a reason it’s practiced by the Spetsnaz (Russian military Special Forces). But it is also focused heavily on cleansing and healing.

It uses a lot of breathwork to release trauma that gets stored in the body.

And classes often feature a lot of massage work at the end, with a heavy focus on using the breath to release excess tension from the body.

It can be very healing.

It also avoids choreographed movements and instead relies on the body’s natural instincts in responding in the moment to whatever is happening. Fluidity and small movements are key.

But because it can involve striking, kicking, falling, and rolling too, it’s imperative that you have a doctor’s release and list of restrictions and that you go over them fully with the instructor.

Martial Arts Training With An Injury | ART OF ONE DOJO


In the article, we looked at whether it’s okay to get started learning Krav Maga even if you have a serious back injury, such as a disc herniation.

But we also looked at whether martial arts are good for a bad back and if you have to be fit before starting Krav Maga.

The best thing is to consult a medical practitioner before starting any martial art, especially if you have a history of injury. In general, martial arts are intense, so they are not good for back pain.

You don’t have to be fit before getting started with Krav Maga. It’d even help you become fitter.

We also learned why Krav Maga is done mostly standing up, and we wrapped things up by looking at a martial art that Harvard Medical School recommends is good for back pain.

Photos that require attribution:

krav maga epo test II-41 by leopoldo de castro and a video still taken from this video – Lumbar Spine Disc Injury Rehab Program – 24 week progression | Physio REHAB by Physio Fitness | Physio REHAB | Tim Keeley are licensed under CC2.0 and were cropped, edited, merged, and had a text overlay added.

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