When I told people I was going to Krav Maga, responses varied from, “oh, is that some kind of massage, how lovely!” to, “that sounds awfully far away, how lovely!”. Safe to say that when I explained that it was unlikely to be lovely and may, in fact, see me being kicked in the face, perhaps even having my neck broken, those unsuspecting people either laughed heartily or echoed a general sentiment of being glad it was me and not them. Krav Maga, in fact, is an Israeli form of self-defence which aims to allow one to protect themselves as quickly as possible. Krav Maga teaches socially appropriate methods of reacting to threats, without unnecessary violence or aggression. While employed by over 500 different militaries and police forces worldwide, it is designed to be usable by absolutely anyone.
Having absolutely zero martial arts training and pretty pathetic levels of fitness, I was initially worried that I was going to be completely crushed by burly men who laughed at my futile attempts to punch them in the face. Fortunately, the other two members of the force team were willing victims, and merrily walked with me into the lion’s den.
Firstly, everyone was instantly welcoming. Despite a slightly harrowing walk down a back alley, despite initial reservations, we were not killed and skinned, but greeted enthusiastically by Jim, the instructor. I was immediately surprised by how normal everyone looked. I was fully expecting a room full of the world’s strongest men competitors… but no, definitely strong but not The Mountain-strong.
So what did we do? KICKED ASS is what we did. No, really! They very kindly paired us up with the two assistants, (shout-out to the unbelievably patient Luke and Ryan) which meant we were fully informed of every move, and taken through exactly what to do and how to do it. We punched, we kneed, we rolled fully grown men off from on top of us. They snuck in some cheeky sit-ups between rounds, which despite trying my hardest, I was told would not mean I was walking out of there with a six-pack.
Every sequence was demonstrated and explained by Jim and Luke, with modifications to take it further if you felt comfortable. This is often a huge barrier in fitness classes, people feel put off by having to keep up with those who have more experience and the feelings of inadequacy that come when you can’t do everything you think you’re supposed to be doing. At no point were we made to feel weak for needing a break or a drink, as happens in many other classes (spin anyone?!). I was well aware that my punches were pretty lame, my kicks lacked power, and the poor guys had to repeat the instructions many many times because I couldn’t remember “one” and “one-two”.
I may not have gained rock-hard abs, but I did definitely gain the confidence that I probably would be able to defend myself should I need to. Even with one or two very simple moves. The most surprising thing was just how fun it was. We laughed more than we probably should have done, but most importantly, it just felt so empowering to use your body in that way. That’s the takeaway from this class- there are exercises out there that are truly enjoyable. You don’t have to endure an hour of running in the dark and cold three times a week and there’s no need to have flashbacks of high-school hockey in the cold getting hit in the shins when you think about “gym class”. It is possible to find a form of physical activity that makes you feel good about yourself so that even after an hour and a half, you just can’t wait to go again.
What should I wear? Opt for your most casual gym clothes. This is not the place for your tropical print sweaty betty leggings and teeny tiny reebok top, no matter how hot and powerful you feel in them. Go dark, plain and with plenty of moveability.
Do I need protective gear? Most people do have their own, but there will be some available to you, especially on your first visit.
Should I take anything else? Water, water, and more water!
Will there be other women?Yes! There’s definitely a few women, this is a surprisingly female-friendly activity. But the number doesn’t actually matter. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and the fact we were women didn’t make anyone so much as bat an eyelid.
But won’t I be at a disadvantage? We asked this! And no, whether you’re 8 stone or 12, you can indeed push someone 6 stone heavier off you if you nail the technique.
Anything else I need to know?: Prepare to get very very bruised. This is not an activity to participate in the day before your best friend’s wedding or the first day at a new job. It will hurt, but the ache in a reminder of just how hard you worked, and the enjoyment and feeling of empowerment is definitely worth it!