Lifestyle: Krav Maga is brutal but fun

Woman gouging eyes 2 attempts Krav Maga, the self-defence fighting system of Israeli Defence Forces:

I am exhausted, I can’t feel my arms and quite possibly cannot distinguish between left and right, up or down at the moment. However, I feel like I could be a bad ass covert ops agent and I cannot wait to try it all again tomorrow at Krav Maga class.

Krav Maga is the self defence fighting system of Israeli Defence Forces. This type of fighting is gritty, vicious and most importantly, practical for anyone regardless of their size or martial arts experience. In Krav, you learn to use everything at your disposal. Elbow and knee strikes, hammer fists, blocking and counter strikes, disarming weapons and some grappling. All of this is used deliver the most forceful hits to stun your opponent, allowing you to get away from the situation.

After hearing about Krav Maga I did a little more research and found a local gym that specialized in it. My first class was a baptism by fire. I am generally too lazy to go to the gym and the only cardio I will voluntarily do is running to the fridge. In class I was faced with a cardio warm up, but to my surprise I didn’t hate it and could actually handle it. The cardio warm ups featured shoulder tag with a partner, medicine ball throwing, squats, situps and boxing, all of which train your strength, stamina and agility. By the end of it you are drenched but have a minute to rest before getting on your feet again.

The next part of class focused on the basic Krav Maga principles, the choking and knife defences. People were paired up and each take their turn being the attacker and defender. Aggressive attacking was encouraged because it pushed the defender to use their skills as quickly and forcefully as they could. After being taught the basic moves of getting out of the choke or away from the knife, the defenders were told to walk around as if you were going for a nice stroll in your neighbourhood. The attackers would approach, get in your personal space and choke you or grab your shirt and hold the practice knife to your throat. For the first few rounds proper strikes were the main focus, and then things got tougher. The timer was set for four seconds and you had to get out of the situation within that time. Four seconds turned out to be a lot of time, and having my opponent on the ground or pushed away before the seconds ran out felt like a triumph. In that first class, I learned how to smash my attacker’s face in more efficiently, get out of a choke hold, disarm my opponent and even seize the knife from them. And now I kind of feel like I’m Black Widow from The Avengers.

Krav Maga took my previous experience with martial arts and injected it with an ferocity I had not tapped in to before. The instructors are vigilant in encouraging ferocity and ensuring your strikes are exacted most efficiently. I had a few years of Tae Kwon Do under my belt and learned valuable things like throwing decent punches and kicks, and much of it focused on memorizing specific forms. Tae Kwon Do was beautiful, physical artistry. During fighting scenarios however, I would be paired against an opponent roughly my size. It makes sense to have a partner of equal size when sparring for points. Moves like punching, grabbing, knee striking anywhere you wished were deemed illegal. Sparring was fun, but not really applicable realistically. In real life, you aren’t fighting for points, you’re fighting for your life. I firmly believe that striking anywhere you can with the most force you can muster is ideal in a fight. I had become proficient in the sport and wanted to try something new.

I had my reservations about Krav Maga at first because it looked like you would need to have size on your side and a lot of strength. I stand at a whopping 5 feet tall. I can throw a strong kick and punch, but I know my limits. I would not win in a brute strength fight against someone much bigger than me. Realistically if I were to be threatened, my attacker would most likely never be about the same size or smaller than I. I soon discovered Krav Maga does not require an immense amount of brute strength or martial arts experience. Instead, the strikes are strategic and a well placed hit even without much strength can do great damage. Krav focuses on certain places on the body that are more sensitive and there are no illegal moves, anything and everything goes. In class I was paired against males and females who were anywhere from 5 ft 7 to 6 feet tall. I could now practice what it would feel like being pitted against a real threat and gained an understanding of how much or how little force I would need to exert to stun or disable my opponent.

My martial arts background gave me an edge in punching and kicking, but there were habits I had learned that worked for Tae Kwon Do that did not help me in Krav Maga. There is nothing fancy about it, but it is productive. Nothing is off limits in striking your opponent and that size or strength and experience is not an issue. The instructors are vigilant about helping you strike as best as you can. Most Krav Maga and martial arts places will offer a free introductory trial class, and I’d recommend taking advantage of it. It has been an exhausting and brutal form of fighting, exercise but it is immensely fun.



Words by Tiffany Tong