Fitting Fit with Krav Maga

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Krav Maga: a term that translates to ‘Contact Combat’ in Hebrew and just so happens to be the official hand-to-hand combat style of the Israeli Défense Forces (IDF). However, this combat skill is acquiring global impetus as an effective workout for everyday civilians. But this isn’t just another kicking and punching class. We talk to Sensei Yuly Grosman – a martial arts expert and shadow Krav Maga instructor – of Sacura Martial Arts Academy to get the 411 on why women around the world are taking up the skill.

It’s A Great Workout

Your body is a weapon and needs to be in the best shape possible to be the most efficient. While every class is different, the general mould of the class starts with stretches, warm up and then a punching and kicking session. This is then followed by fighting drills with a partner, before wrapping up with self-defence strategies according to your level. That’s a lot of cardio, body conditioning and strength training in intense intervals. “These classes require quite a bit of energy and you’re going to definitely sweat. It has an overall improvement for your health,” explains Grosman.

It Mirrors the Real World

The likes of Taekwondo, Jujitsu, Aikido and Karate are considered competitive martial arts that occur in controlled scenarios and designed for sport. Krav Maga, on the other hand, teaches practical and realistic ways to handle daily confrontations. “It’s pure self-defence that ensures you can protect yourself well after the class,” explains Grosman.

In order to truly simulate real-life threats, the class utilises stress drills that exhausts the body and disorients your senses. “Attacks happen in unideal circumstances, so the students are put into a situation where they are completely exhausted such as after a massive cardio workout that completely drains your body’s energy levels. This is so that only your mind and muscle memory are left,” elaborates Grosman. Mastering this technique teaches you how to remain calm under stress and take on surprise multiple attacks. Because when people panic, they make more and sometimes grave, mistakes.

But It Doesn’t Preach Violence

Scenario: a man walks up to you and pushes you. So, you decide to push back. But now, it’s his turn to react and he has two options. Either he pushes you again or chooses to escalate it to a punch, kick or knife stabbing. But what if you could do something to diffuse the situation from the first shove?

The original Krav maga which was created for the Israeli defence forces (IDF) would have taken a very brutal approach. Its motto after all is – don’t be killed, kill. However, Grand Master David Haliva created Shadow Krav Maga that takes a more peaceful approach. “He came from the point of view that 60 per cent of self-defence is about psychology and you can resolve the issue without violence,” adds Grosman. “It’s about manipulating your body and using conversation to manipulate the mind.”

And It’s Not Just for Extreme Situations

The Krav Maga ethos of prevention, avoidance and deterrence builds overall confidence and improved sense of awareness of your surroundings. Preparing for these hypothetical situations gives you a better understanding of your body and your environment. Your perspective of spaces and everyday appliances get new meanings because they won’t be sources of confinement but of liberation. “What krav maga does is gives you tools that don’t require brute strength or years of training. It teaches you to look out for pressure points on his body to give you the upper hand. It also teaches students how to use everyday objects like their cell phones, laptop, glasses or even their business cards for self-defence to help them get away,” elaborated Grosman. The fact that it increases the variety of things you can achieve at an instinctive level is a pretty powerful feeling and a confidence boost.

Anyone Can Learn It

The beauty of Krav Maga is that it’s designed for anyone and everyone. It’s an equalising technique no matter your age, weight, or gender. In addition, you don’t need any prior martial arts experience to become proficient in it. “You have to keep in mind that your attacker will most likely be bigger and stronger than you. So, trying to overpower him is not an option,” says Grosman. Instead, you want to use his power against him. Grosman believes in this principle so much that he has reached out to organisations that work with people in wheelchairs or girls in slum areas to organise free events to help them feel safer and more empowered. He, also, invites serious parties to get in touch with him.

You Get to Flex your Discipline and Respect Muscles Too

This is not your usual gym activity. Once you show up for a class, you have to commit until the end. “When I opened Sacura Martial Arts two years ago, my target was to create a professional martial arts school (dojo) with everything that sums up the meaning of dojo. This means you can’t come late, take calls during class or walk out in the middle of class to run other errands,” explains Grosman. They even bow and shake each other’s hands at the end of class as a sign of respect. The reason for such strictness in dojos worldwide is to instil discipline and respect for other students and the instructor. And hopefully, filters into other areas of your life as well. We all know the road to fitness and health is paved with these two attributes!

Interested in Getting Started? Here’s What You Need to Know…

Class Duration: Officially, it’s an hour but it can go up to 30 minutes overtime. “I don’t like to watch the time and kick everyone out after an hour,” explains Grosman. “I like to make sure that whatever the students are supposed to do within the lesson, they finish.”

Number of sessions required: Even after the first class you can do two three moves by yourself. However, it takes six months to learn basic skills, such as ward of knife attacks, choking, grabbing, handling multiple attacks and women’s self-defence on the ground. After that, you’d do your first major exam. “This is crucial because I can’t teach you new techniques and more advanced skills if you haven’t grasped the basics,” explains Grosman. However, there are special courses such as one day and one-month self-defence for women that teach the basics for women’s self-defence, especially ground work. Other skills one may be interested in including VIP Survival Courses, Driver’s self-defence (in the event of carjacking and kidnapping scenarios) and as Team building experiences.

Damage: It’s KShs1,600 per class. If you can commit, then, they have four packages you can choose from. “If you take the popular package of three times a week, it’s 10k for the month which works out cheaper,” illustrates Grosman. Packages can be used in any of his dojos.

What to wear: For your first classes, you’ll need comfortable t-shirt and long tights because of grabbing. “If you wear a vest or shorts it hinders the level of interaction as your classmates wouldn’t want to expose you,” says Grosman. Once you decide you’re staying, you must buy a uniform for the discipline and respect factor. Protective equipment is provided in the class.

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