We try Krav Maga: 'The combat part of the lesson took a dark turn'

It's basically throwing various fighting styles into one mass-teachable package.
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It's basically throwing various fighting styles into one mass-teachable package.

Krav Maga is what happens when you throw various fighting styles into one mass-teachable package. Stephen Heard signed up with the Auckland chapter to see if there's any weight behind the punches.

THE BASICS

Translating as 'contact combat' from Hebrew, Krav Maga is a self-defence discipline that was developed for the Israel Defence Forces post-WWII. It uses the tactics of Hungarian street fighter Imi Lichtenfeld as well as basic techniques from boxing, wrestling, jujutsu and judo to shut down confrontation as quickly as possible. While it may sound terrifying on paper, the training is angled at 'ordinary people' and is known for its focus on real life scenarios. It is not competitive like traditional martial arts.

GIVING IT A BASH

It was an interesting start to my Krav Maga debut; the YMCA hostel receptionist was clearly thunderstruck as we announced our arrival for the Israeli self-defence class. After much confusion we found the proper venue directly next door.

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The class is held by Aaron Moore who was trained by international Krav Maga master Eyal Yanilov. Assembling in a military-esque line we completed the only formality of the discipline to signify the beginning of the class: a forward bow with clenched fists and the phrase 'kehah', which means 'to bow'. As a warm-up we ran in a circle gradually adding different actions, including touching the ground, jumping, changing direction and trying to touch fellow class members on the shoulder. Some light stretching followed before a playful theatre-sports-style game of 'hand slaps' rounded off the warm-up.

The second half and combat section of the lesson took a dark turn as a question was raised about where you would find the most vulnerable parts of the human body; eyes, groin and knees were suggested. We paired up with someone of similar stature and the instructor ran us through the basic stance. We envisaged holding a ball in front of our face as protection. Open hand palm strikes are recommended as the ideal way to hit someone on the chin or nose, with the fingers dipping into the eyeballs as a follow-through. As my partner clutched a protective pad I honed in and struck an imaginary chin ten times. The same pad-drills were then repeated with closed fists, knees and two kinds of kicks — one a swift strike with the ball of the foot and the other a full-blown leg assault. We then combined all the strikes in various combinations.

The only appearance of self-defence came via an arm block, which in a real life situation should be quickly backed up by a counter strike in the attacker's face. Decisive counterattacks are a large part of the discipline. As an end to the class we split up into threes as one member held the pad, another tried to strike and the other held them back.

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WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT

The clear teaching style of Krav Maga is beneficial for those looking to gain practical and effective defence (and offence) skills in a limited timespan. The hour-long sessions bode well for stress management and self-confidence, particularly when throwing your weight into the pads and the close interaction with strangers. Through the warm-up and fast-paced drills it also has the ability to improve cardiovascular fitness.

RISK RATING

While the wound on my arm (from recoiling into a pillar) would suggest otherwise, there are no blatant risks worth shouting from the rooftops. The fundamental commandment of Krav Maga is 'do not get hurt'. Of course with any physical activity you should listen to your body and consult a medical professional if you have history with injury. The classes are well structured and the warm-up serves as deterrent for injury. You should inform an instructor of any injuries prior to the class.

FIND OUT MORE krav-maga-auckland.co.nz

 - Sunday Star Times

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