Developed by the Israeli military, Krav Maga is a form of self-defence / martial arts. It stands alone from many other martial art forms, however, in that it is built heavily around real life situations. Wing Chun Kung Fu or Karate for example, can often have a more choreographed feel. In fact, many of the East Asian martial art forms hail from dances.
Krav, for short, has very much a rough and ready feel to it; it prepares you for the kind of fights one might encounter on the streets, or maybe while running!
So at 7pm on a Thursday night, I enter the class followed by regular ‘goer’ and colleague, Yemi Williams. There’s about 24 of us, some experiencing it first the time just like me, others showcasing different coloured belts.
The class kicks off with a warm up, now I say warm up, but this really was one hell of a warm up. Varying from star jumps to lunges, press ups to stretching. It certainly qualified as one of my weekly workouts from my home improvements challenge.
Then came the gritty side. I was paired up with an ‘orange belted’ man, not so he could pick on the newbie, but because he was better off showing me the right technique and guiding me in the correct way.
“OK, let’s start with 360 blocks,” announced the instructor. This essentially was learning how to block oncoming armed attacks, like with a knife for example. One person would hold their hands in the blocking position, the other would use either their left or right hand and come from high or low. With your forearm at a right angle, the aim is to block their arm before they get close.
Yes, it really hurts your forearms, I was genuinely worried about hurting this other man’s arms, despite him being twice the size in terms of muscularity. He said not to worry about it, so we carried on. When it came to my turn to swing the arms, I found that being blocked hurt so much more.
We then moved on to practicing a similar motion, but the other person would have a rubber knife. Here, you had to block the stab, and then kick his standing leg as you fell away (to presumably then run away from danger). I felt like a bit of a fool when I first started kicking, like the very first time you kicked a football with your weaker foot, then you learn the technique and it slowly feels more better.
This then moved on to a scenario where we were being held at ‘knife-point’. I was being taught how to push ‘the attackers’ arm to one side, throw a couple of punches, and then throw him on the floor. I have never thrown anyone to the floor before, and boy it felt good to learn how to do so.
Again, at first, I felt a bit gangly and out of sorts, but then the more and more I practiced the better it felt.
However, the most tiring part was still to come. Out came the rectangular punching bags. In a row, 12 people would hold the bags, while the other 12 essentially punched, elbowed and kicked the crap out of them. It was in that order, and you would only move along the ‘conveyer belt’ once the instructor said so. “Next!” he would shout, and then I would move on to kicking.
The instructor told me that I should make each punch count and exhale as I do so. “There’s no point throwing tired punches” he shouted, “throw three big ones instead of 10 small”.
When it came to swapping and holding the bag while other people pummeled it, it turned out to be even more challenging. My chest was taking a pounding.
Then the exercise was over, “thank god” I thought, I felt as though I had been beaten up. “The idea of that exercise is to make each punch count,” boomed Paul Crowther, the instructor, “even when you have little energy you need to give it your all.
“If you’ve just run 10K, you’re gonna be tired, an easy target. If you still have the energy to defend yourself then you might just be OK.”
After stretching out I spoke to Paul, and asked him on the benefits of Krav and running. He said: “Yeah absolutely [it’s good for running] it’s all about explosive power, it definitely increases your CO2 max.
“I had only started running a couple of months ago and I found I could run 10K fine.”
I told him that I didn’t even know how to punch, he replied: “A lot of people come through these doors and don’t know how to punch, this is the place to learn it.
“Unfortunately in this day and age, these skills are sometimes necessary.”
I was sweating at the end of the class – I never sweat, even after a hard intervals session. I can also confirm that the next day I was sporting some sore muscles and a few bruises!
The first class is free and I would definitely recommend it, even if you just want to get a feel for it.
For more info, visit www.zutkravmaga.co.uk