Financial Krav Maga: Personal Finance Self Defense for the Modern Era

In East Asia, you probably know about the ninja and samurai. In Israel, there are soldiers trained in Krav Maga.  For those of you who don’t know, Krav Maga is a martial art developed in Israel.  It does not have the long tradition of respect, personal growth, and honor that come to mind when you think of Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu.  It was developed for one purpose, to survive.

Wikipedia say that “generally, there are no rules in Krav Maga as a defense fighting technique which is not regulated but utilized to keep the user safe and incapacitate the opponent by any means necessary.”  In other words, Krav Maga and this blog have something in common: One keeps you Free From Broke, the other keeps you free from death.

What does Krav Maga have to do with your personal finances?

Quite a bit actually.

While many of us work to manage our financial situation over time, there are always going to be unexpected situations that arise.  You can prepare for a lot, but what do you do when your bank goes out of business?  What do you do when your credit card is closed by the bank and your score dives?

You take the Krav Maga approach.

Quickly asses the situation, kick it in the balls, and keep moving forward.  Each of these principles of Krav Maga can be directly applied to your finances:

Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking preemptively).

The second you have a financial meltdown, react.  If you see something coming, get ready.

I am so tired of hearing people complain about their credit card debt, bad financial situation, or the situation that brought them toward bankruptcy.  If you end up in a bad situation, the worst thing you can do is nothing.  Stop complaining and work to bring your situation back in line with your goals.

Targeting attacks to the body’s most vulnerable points such as the eyes, jaw, throat, groin, knee etc.

If you screw up and let your bank account dip below zero, you get hit with huge fees.  You can just take them lying down, or you can fight them.  If you are not in the habit of over-drafting, you bank will most likely refund most of the fees, if not all.

When I was a banker, I would almost always refund a fee or two if someone had not overdrawn before.  If they had a lot of fees, I would usually take off at least 50%.  However, I never helped someone who didn’t ask.  If you fight back, the worst thing that can happen is they say no.  Optimally, you are back on your feet quickly.

Neutralizing the opponent as quickly as possible by responding with an unbroken stream of counter attacks and if necessary a take down/joint break.

While you are already on the phone with your credit card company or visiting the bank branch, see what else you can squeeze out of them.  Remember that you are the customer.  Admit your screw up and keep pushing.  I have read stories about people demanding something better than what they have, and winning.

Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack and so on.

While you are dealing with one problem, do not forget about the big picture.  If you miss a car loan payment, you can probably talk your bank into dropping the fee if you never missed a payment before.  However, if you are so focused on the car that you miss a credit card payment, you are in an even worse situation.

Don’t let a problem sidetrack you from your ultimate goal.

As a student of Aikido I couldn’t resist this guest article by Eric, who blogs about personal finance at Narrow Bridge.  He is a recent finance MBA graduate in Denver, Colorado.  He has worked in banking and corporate finance since 2007.
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Published or updated January 24, 2014.


  1. Eric is so right about asking for bank fees to be removed. My husband has gotten several of them removed in the last few years. When I would accept them with guilt over our poor planning, he goes in with indignation and asks for them to take them off…and they almost always do!

    • No need for guilt Melanie. We are all human and all make mistakes. Bankers understand that, as do credit card company employees. As long as you are not a repeat offender and ask nicely, they will almost certainly take off a fee or two.

  2. Cool article! I remember a few years ago they had a show on The History Channel called Human Weapon where two guys traveled the world learning various fighting techniques and then testing themselves against experts. It was a cool show, and I remember the Krav Maga episode being bad ass. It was basically about surviving when you are badly outnumbered.

    In personal finance, it can seem like the whole world is coming at you and trying to take your money. You need to be able to defend yourself and come out ahead!

    • I’m glad you like the article Mike. I have taken a few Krav Maga classes and I always thought it was funny when we were told the basic strategy: “kick in the nuts and run.”

    • I used to love that show!

      With personal finance, no one is going to look out for your best interests better than you!

  3. Great Article! I did Krav Maga for about 18 months – Got to Level 2…2 words BAD ASS!

    I stopped because the sparring sessions were getting too ridiculously volient and while I loved it as a hobby I can’t/don’t want to come into work with a black eye.

  4. Pup Slavin says:

    Fantastic article! You never know unless you ask. Eric is very right in encouraging individuals to ask their banking relationships to remove fees. If you have a responsible track record, you are often times rewarded for it. I actually did this two weeks ago with a new business banking account. Of course, as the banker lifted the fees, she gave me a motherly look, the kind of look that said ‘I better not see you in here again with the same problem’.

    • Good story Pup. Thanks for sharing. I am glad to know this has worked for others before too!

    • When you don’t ask the answer is always no.

      Before we closed on our home we needed a bunch of certified/bank checks. I asked the teller if there was any way to not be charged (about $7 per check). She set me up with someone else and they changed my account to one that had free bank checks. I was then told if I didn’t need any more checks I could come back and change the account back to where it was.

      Whole thing saved me at least $28!

  5. Interesting that Krav Maga was developed in a tiny country surrounded by bitter enemies on all sides – and that country not only survives, but thrives. So, one’s tiny set of assets have every right to grow and thrive – in a hostile environment – as well. Also, I can confirm the post and comments about getting fees removed – I have a 100% success rate on getting overdraft fees removed, about a half dozen over a three year period. But, yes – one has to take the offensive, not the defensive.

  6. I definitely loved the comparison between Krav Maga and finances. I’ve always heard that Krav Maga is the down and dirty version of martial arts. And that’s exactly how you should manage your finances. Mercilessly and quickly.

  7. If you end up in a bad situation, the worst thing you can do is nothing.

    Eric crushed it. It’s great to see a personal finance guest post that doesn’t mollycoddle. If I hear one more person say, “We don’t know how we got in such huge debt, it just kind of crept up on us…” Bullcrap. Treat your debt radically as the cancer it is, instead of a cold that’ll eventually go away. It won’t.

    • Exactly! I am glad you get it. Take the steps to deal with your situation rather that just complain. We can all have good situations, but it does take effort.

    • It’s so important to take personal responsibility for your debt. Then you can say “hey I screwed up, how can we get this fixed.”

      You go in to a bank blaming them off the bat and you won’t get very far (and neither will your finances).

  8. Awesome comparison and awesome blog post!

  9. Great post! I’ve never thought of asking a bank to waive fees before. I have always thought of banks as being very uptight with their regulations and didn’t think they would bend the rules for anyone. After reading a few of the responses here about how people have explained their situation to their bank and then had their fees waived, I am beginning to see that if you stand up for yourself, banks can be willing to negotiate with you.

  10. Personal Finance Articles says:

    I really like the analogy you used to explain defense with personal finances. It is pretty painful to see those aound you suffer with debts and other money issues. The one thing I hope for is more people to take this information seriously.

  11. I like the metaphor that there are always things that are unexpected, so plan accordingly. It’s nice to have some money in an account for several different things, I guess an emergency fund just in case these things happen.

  12. I like how this article doesn’t beat around the bush: Attack and neutralize your financial problems, and then move on! Krav Maga sounds pretty badass…

  13. Very fun post Eric! Hai Yah! 🙂

  14. Great post! I think that one of the main themes in almost every form of martial arts is conquering your mind which is also a huge part of personal finance.

    • So true! If most could get past their wants and concentrate on their true needs then there would be less financial mess.

  15. Jennifer Barry says:

    My husband really enjoyed this one since he has a Brown Belt in Krav. We always brainstorm different financial setbacks that could happen, and we are kicking debt in the balls!

  16. This article really hit home. Mr. Broke used go take Krav Maga at KravMagaSF. He’s a former marine and the very first thing I Learned from him is to react and to always listen to your surroundings. Always expect the unexpected and when it comes down to the gritty, kill!!!!! Lol.

    I’ve never thought about putting Krav Maga side by side with finances… But it sure does make sense! Printing this article an placing it in my finance binder

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