Military technique proves popular

17:00, May 27 2014
Donovan Ryan
FIGHTING FIT: Self-defence instructor Donovan Ryan says everyone could use the practical skills taught in krav maga.

Could you protect yourself against an attacker three times your size? 

Aucklander Donovan Ryan is currently New Zealand's only International Krav Maga Federation instructor and is a staunch advocate for the self defence technique originally developed for the Israeli military.

He has countless tales of students who've been able to protect themselves with skills they learned in his class.

One, he says, was held up at knifepoint while withdrawing cash from an ATM and managed to get away.

Another escaped from being attacked and raped in a park.

"Hearing from students who have actually saved their own lives with the skills is amazing," he says.


Ryan got into the self-defence technique in 2011 - more than 20 years after he started studying martial arts as a teenager.

The 38-year-old from Remuera says the practicality of krav maga had him hooked from the start.

Krav maga was first designed for soldiers in Israel and teaches defence in real-life situations using boxing, karate, wrestling and fight training techniques.

"What I really liked about it was that it wasn't really a sport. It was self-defence. It was practical," Ryan says.

Part of his training included a 24-day course, practising for about 12 hours each day under top instructors including members of the American secret service.

Thousands of enthusiasts apply but only 20 make the cut, he says.

"It was 24 days of getting my arse kicked. It was intense.

"It's the most physical thing I've ever done. It really takes the body to the limits."

But it's not all action, Ryan says.

The mantra used in krav maga is, "So one may walk in peace".

The idea is to use the defence techniques only as a last resort, he says.

"A lot of it is being aware of situations and how to avoid them.

"It's so that people can walk in peace and make sure they are safe, their loved ones are safe, but if something does go down they've got the ability to protect themselves."

Students range from young kids to people in their 70s and 80s, Ryan says.

Many have been bullied or had troubled pasts and they emerge from classes with a noticeable change in confidence, he says.

"It really builds your confidence and it does actually improve your life."

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Central Leader