Ever wonder why the Israeli army is regarded as one of the world's best? The secret lies in Krav Maga, the Israeli method of self-defense, which is required training for Israeli soldiers. For anyone who thinks Krav Maga seems obscure and exotic, Keller's new studio Monster X Camp is ready to demystify the experience with classes at beginner and advanced levels.
Coach Larry Clay, who started Monster X Camp, has been teaching Krav Maga since 1998. He picked up the practice in 1996 in Lubbock from a police detective who had trained in it for self-defense. Clay soon realized that, in addition to being a potentially lifesaving routine, Krav Maga was also a great workout. Clay estimates that his students can burn anywhere from 800 to 900 calories per 45-minute session.
I headed to a Monday-evening class. As the class began, our instructor Ian Katz stressed, "Once you are out of the line of fire, you do not get back into the line of fire," which seems to be the governing principle of Krav Maga.
Hebrew for "contact combat," Krav Maga was developed for the Israeli military during the 1940s as an easy-to-learn, easy-to-initiate strategy that plays on a victim's instinctive response by adding a slight modification. Each maneuver is precise -- even a slight movement of one finger has a specific purpose. Katz explained that the goal of Krav Maga is to defeat your attackers without provoking a response from them. A hard punch is replaced with the swift block from the forearm; a forceful kick is substituted with a sidestep in order to trip the attacker.
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"Out of the fight!" says Katz. "You have to be prepared to shoot in and out all the time. We don't want to hurt anyone, we just want to protect ourselves."
Krav Maga's philosophy emphasizes threat neutralization so that one is able to be on the offense rather than the defense.
During the 45-minute class, Katz led the students through a variety of drills. Boxing gloves were strapped on and punching targets were brought out. We were taught first how to defend against an unarmed attacker with a swift routine that saw each student moving in quickly for a double punch, then retreating even more quickly. By introducing a plastic toy pistol, Katz demonstrated how to defend oneself from a mugging at gunpoint. Although he advised the class only to fight back as a last resort, through his Krav Maga moves, he was able to turn the gun on the attacker within a matter of seconds. Under his instructions, the class properly executed all moves with equal swiftness, as if they were practicing a ballet of sorts, albeit one of incredible strength.
For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Krav Maga is its practicality. It is straight-forward and to the point -- unlike so many other things in life. In a world where exercise trends seem to be veering more toward the mystical and the meta, Krav Maga is a welcome dose of utilitarian functionality.