Krav Maga

I’m tired of being afraid. If I’m ever alone at night I usually overestimate my safety and believe that I have a magical aura will keep me safe. But that’s really stupid. The truth is that I’m a woman and that when I’m alone, especially outside at night, endless possibilities exist about how I could be hurt by a man.

Every guy who walks past me could be a possible attacker, a person who could take my purse, who could rape me, who could kill me. My only defense would be fear and anger. But that’s not always enough. So I decided to try Krav Maga.

An Israeli form of self-defense, Krav Maga was developed 56 years ago by Imi Lichtenfeld. The Israeli government asked Lichtenfeld to create a system of self-defense and fighting, one that could train people quickly and work for people of all sizes. It’s based on people’s instinctive movements and how to make those instinctive movements stronger. It’s about assessing your environment and looking for weapons available to you in your environment. Krav Maga is also how Matt Damon kicked some serious ass as Jason Bourne in “The Bourne Identity” and its sequel. After dorkily raving to a friend about the fight scenes in those films, he told me about a place where I could get a free introductory lesson. This could possibly be the beginning of me not having to be afraid anymore.

At 10:15 a.m. on a Saturday, I arrived at the Krav Maga Self-Defense and Fitness Center. I wasn’t in the mood to work out. Mark Blake, owner and instructor, gave me a bottle of water (which I had forgotten to bring) and showed me how to wrap my hands with cloth hand wraps. Blake said these were used to protect your hands while punching. Despite my morning grogginess, I was starting to get excited. I was more than ready to throw a couple punches with those hand wraps on. Blake had some music going and the small class assembled in the workout room where padding lined the floor and we faced a mirrored wall. I tried not to feel awkward as we started doing jumping jacks, which require a special rhythm to do them properly.

Then we stretched and began working on footwork and movement. That consisted of moving quickly to the left and to the right. Move quickly to the left and forward, and on and on. My mind was so focused on moving my body as quickly as possible that occasionally I would forget how or where to move. Agility is not my strong point, nor is staring at a mirror while working out. Come to think of it, neither is working out.

Then we worked on punches and then combined punches and footwork. My brain was working very hard, left, right, punch, oh, wrong arm, punch, back, right, punch, punch. My morning grogginess had disappeared with the unusual Saturday morning body and brain activity. I tried not to feel like an idiot as I moved across the floor punching.

Then came what I was really looking forward to: an opponent. The class divided into groups of two, and my partner and I shared mitts and a pad holder. Blake demonstrated the move we would be practicing, we’d try it a couple times with our partner and then switch. Someone would attack you (in this case a fake attack) and you would counterattack. I began to feel a rush of adrenaline, my eyes were focused on the target, my mind was working on becoming aware of where a hit would come from, where to grab and where to punch. I had a surprising amount of pent-up aggression that led to some hits and kicks that were a little harder then I intended. My partner asked if I played soccer. Never in my life.

While practicing the attack and counter attack moves I suddenly realized that these were moves that could be used in case anyone every tried to hurt me. I was learning how to defend myself, how to prevent the worst from happening. I felt oddly powerful and confident. In about two hours I had learned how to punch, how to deflect a punch, where to kick and where to hit. My usual forms of self-defense, when attacked by well meaning friends, consist of pushing or huddling in a corner and wailing my arms about. Now I could work on those instincts and form them into something effective. Though far from being a Jason Bourne, I had learned one thing: it feels good to know that you can take care of yourself.