My First Time Doing Krav Maga

I was registered for a Krav Maga class at noon on a Sunday. The entire morning I anxiously awaited my first go at Israeli self defense.

The only self defense classes I had previously taken were in high school gym class. We would attack a male volunteer in my grade from behind. Taking turns running at him as he sat facing away from us. We put him into a choke and scissor holds and tried to make him tap out as quickly as possible. I remember thinking, why would this ever be useful? Why would we “defend” ourselves from someone sitting down not even looking at us?

But I knew Krav Maga was no nonsense. Have you seen the YouTube videos? You’re learning to fight against real attackers in the real world. I was admittedly pretty intimidated. Even though I’ve been an athlete all my life and have been a personal trainer for almost five years, this somehow seemed more challenging and intimidating than most of the workouts I’ve seen and done.

We began at noon on the dot. That’s discipline. We warmed up with a jog and a shuffle, squats and push ups with a partner and then some stretching. Yeah, I can do this all day long. Comfort zone intact.

Then the Revgear kick shields came out and I knew Krav was on. We were instructed to strike, elbow, knee and kick the padding as quickly and as hard as possible. I felt completely lost and uncoordinated. I knew I was hitting “like a girl,” barely making the person on the other side of the shield budge. The instructor came over and showed me how to hit with power. The visual cueing helped. I soon struck harder and harder with my upper body working in sync with my lower body. My core fully engaged. This was so damn cathartic. My heart was pumping with adrenaline and I suddenly felt confident that I could do this.

Next, with new partners, we were to defend against someone hitting us on top of the shoulder from behind. I again felt lost. My initial response was to get into a quarter squat, rotate my torso, eye the padding and drive my elbow into it. It was rehearsed, slow and required thought. No. I was to stand straight, quickly turn my head, make eye contact, then BAM! Strike. I repeated this pattern again and again. Soon, I acted quicker and struck harder. I was training my mind and body to operate in a completely different way. I reacted immediately after the contact without thinking. My reflexes and instincts were working.

Then it was on to chokes and the instructor demonstrated a real choke on me. I soon realized that I had no idea how I would get myself free if this ever happened to me in real life. And honestly, as a female living in New York City, who’s to say this couldn’t happen?

The instructor broke down each movement. One. One, two. One, two, three. We completed these sequences several times on our own and then with various partners. I initially felt awkward choking strangers and having them choke me, but I could see how simulating these stressful and uncomfortable situations was necessary to be practical. I mean Krav Maga literally means combat contact. You have to manhandle each other.

Once in the choke, I plucked the hand away, jabbed the groin, elbowed into the chest, angled the upper body away, drove the elbow into the jaw and punched myself away. My classmates and instructor helped me fine-tune each movement. “Position your hand like that” and “move your elbow like this.” I was learning. I felt myself become more efficient and effective as I practiced. I grew more comfortable and confident with the techniques. I felt appreciative of the people around me who helped guide me to improve and feel more at ease with Krav.
Before I knew it, the hour was over. I was sweating, breathing heavy and hungry for more. I knew there was so much more to master and I was all in. Until next time, Krav Maga!