When I decided, after learning how bad my powerlifting injury was, to try out new sports, it was a way of coping with the bad news that I was out of my sport. It gave me something to look forward to during some long days and weeks of pain and waiting. And today, just over a month post-surgery, I took my first lesson in what will be a year of learning a new sport each month. And guess what? I loved it! The instructors were laughing at my enthusiasm, as it led to surprising Brian several times with the force behind my attacks during sparring.
Why Krav Maga? (and what is it?)
It means close combat, and as best as I can explain it, it’s a street fighting, self defense form of martial arts that builds on a person’s natural instincts when faced with danger. Initially created by a Jewish fellow in Bratislava, Slovakia, the son of a circus acrobat turned chief police inspector, it was a means of fighting off the anti-Semitic gangs from entering the Jewish Quarter in the 1930s. The founder, Imi Sde Or, after fleeing Nazi occupation, later ended up in Israel, where he trained some elite military units in this style of combat.Today any number of bad-ass sounding types employ Krav Maga, including the Israeli Defense Forces Special Forces, the FBI, SWAT, and U.S. Special Operations Forces.
These are some of the principles of Krav Maga:
• Avoidance, prevention, escape and evasion.
• Handling throws and falls to all directions and angles.
• Attacks and counterattacks, performed to all targets, distances and directions and in all rhythms.
•Executed from all positions and postures. Use of all sorts of common objects for defensive purposes.
• Defending all unarmed attacks: punches, strikes and kicks. Releases from all sorts of grabs and holds.
• Defending all armed attacks and threats: knives, sharp objects, sticks and other blunt objects; of all kind of firearms.
• Dealing with attacks coming from all possible directions and places; Whether performed by a single or multiple attackers; at all possible location:
• Physical and mental control and disarm.
So. This is some pretty hard core stuff, which is naturally what appealed to me. Brian, who studied Tae Kwon Do and earned a red belt, black stripe, (the last step before black belt) also wanted to take it, as he was especially interested in the Slovakian background, that being his heritage. Some friends have said they’d like to learn some of my sports with me, and I love that, but for my very first one, I’m glad to have my husband as my partner.
I was nervous going in. Powerlifting was my first sport, partly because I never thought I was any good at anything physical until I started lifting. Although I’ve since found that I am an athlete after all, I still learn slowly when it comes to watching a physical activity and replicating it (it took me months to master the seemingly simple technique of a deadlift, and that’s just picking something up off the floor). I dreaded the thought of looking incompetent in front of the other students.
Therefore I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face when one of the instructors said within the first 10 minutes that I was a natural. I’m not a natural at anything physical! I feel quite dense: I have to repeat out loud the sequence of actions as I go to help me remember them, and have to watch the instructors over and over, and ask to demonstrate extra times before I can remember more than three things in a row. Even then I get about halfway through a drill the first few times and have to be reminded of the rest. But no matter, it was still so much fun, and evidently I have a good natural punch. Who knew!? I didn’t let my slow learning frustrate me and just kept trying, and found that I actually was good at a couple of the combat maneuvers. I could pin Brian’s arm behind his back and prevent him from striking me, and I could get him in a hold that completely incapacitated him, in a position that would let me knock him down if I wanted. And he wasn’t just playing along, taking it easy on me — I actually had control of him.
I loved how empowering powerlifting was, so this was definitely a plus for Krav Maga. Interestingly, the key is not using your own brute strength; I may be strong, but I’m obviously nowhere near as strong as most men. Instead, the technique relies on what they call short-circuiting your attacker. You turn the tables – make them the victim, use the element of surprise, and use their own weight and force against them. I think the main surprise to a would-be attacker is that you get up close, as opposed to backing away – they wouldn’t expect that, and that’s how you can best gain control. It’s pretty brilliant, actually. That’s what stunned Brian, that his tiny little wife actually, more than once, gained physical control!
We trained for about two hours, and the vigorous workout was just like a bonus. I really, really need to be better conditioned — I get too short of breath after too few kicks and punches. I’m going to take the class the two times a week it’s offered, and do a four-hour crash course to help bring us both up to speed. At home I’ll practice punches, which is the most important point for a beginner, the instructor told me (along with understanding the principles).
The idea behind my year of sports experiment is to find my next great passion. Powerlifting was my first sport and my first love as an athlete, and I hope to find that there’s another sport that’s a better fit for me. After only one lesson, bruised knuckles notwithstanding, I am optimistic that I’ll find it. And who knows? Maybe I already did.
My lessons are at REALITY Krav Maga