I always wanted to be like the Karate Kid. Ever since I was small, I dreamed of being the good guy, saving a pretty damsel in distress, kicking and chopping the enemy. This was furthered by my love for action shows such as Thundercats, Power Rangers, and of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I knew learning a martial art was in my future; it was only a matter of time.
By the time I reached middle school, I was ready to put my money (literally) where my mouth was. The local martial arts school, teachers of classical Isshinryu Karate, was down the street from my house. I would work 2 days a week, and all the money I made went to paying for classes. This was the beginning of my training & development in self-defense.
After a few years at the Isshinryu school, my instructor was involved in an accident, leaving him unable to continue to teach karate. While the hiatus gave me a chance to reflect on my life and focus on school, the time allowed me to reaffirm my desire to train.
Three years after the abrupt end to my karate training, a new school opened in town, this time focused on the arts of Kempo & JiuJitsu. A “total package,” it advertised. The instructor opened my eyes to grappling, chokes, and throws, something we did very little in Isshan-Ru. Kempo also taught me more lethal, and less graceful, self-defense techniques. After only two years of study, I felt prepared to hold my own.
Fast-forward ten years and I found myself living in the largest and toughest place in America, New York City. Moving to South Brooklyn, a traditionally Italian area, now in transition, exposed me to a fair number of fights and skirmishes on the streets and trains. Feeling rusty from my adolescent training, I began to search for a new school of defense, this time looking to combine some of the technical moves from Isshan-Ru with the groundwork and toughness of JiuJitsu & Kempo. What I found I could have never expected, a relatively unknown (at least in the US) school of Krav Maga. And since starting, it has changed my life.
Krav Maga is not for the faint of heart, or those looking to kill time one or two nights a week. There is a reason that Krav Maga is constantly ranked as one of, if not, the most lethal martial art. Think of it as a combination of street fighting and insanity. Eye gauges, groin punches, biting and breaking necks are common ingredients to the forms we practice, and there is a weekly sparring or fighting class. Full gear is required for sparring, and anything less may send you home with a significant injury.
However, is not due to malice or reckless attacks. Each move in Krav Maga is designed to inflict as much pain as possible in a short amount of time. Every attack has an immediate counter move; giving the student an assortment of physical tools to handle just about any situation he finds himself in. After studying at the IKMF school of Krav Maga for 3 years, I love it and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. But there is much more than punches and kicks that make this pain institute top notch.
Classes start out with running, sprinting, and avoidance drills, just to get the heart going. This is followed up with successively harder, and more intense, rounds of shadow fighting, basically imagining there are between 1 – 4 attackers that you have to defend against. Once a sweat is broken, everyone stretches and evaluates the state of any existing injuries, making sure to let the instructor know of any problem areas. This marks the real beginning of class, when the instructor outlines the day’s training. This sets the tone for the rest of the class, and the moves practiced at the beginning build up for more advanced ones at the end.
One class might focus on kicks, another rolls, the next chokes, bear hugs, or even grappling. By the conclusion of the session (which is anywhere between 1 – 1.5 hrs), everyone is drenched in sweat, shaking from exhaustion, and most likely bruised or jammed in multiple places.
Its tough getting up early, working a long day, then getting your butt kicked for another 2 hours, but it’s totally worth it. I wanted to be the karate kid, remember?
Krav Maga is more than a martial art; it is a life skill that instills confidence, self-discipline, and responsibility. It is also an excellent way to stay in shape, meet new people, and learn more about oneself in the process.
Anyone looking to try a new and fast-growing art and at the same time, learn skills that will protect their loved ones and themselves should seriously consider it.