Have You Tried? A self-defense system that tones and protects
Updated 10:07 am, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
I was in no real danger and had no fear of attack, but there I was kicking, jabbing, throwing elbows and shoving my hands into the face of a man I had just met.
Fortunately for me, these were just a series of drills and the stranger was actually Norwalk resident Eric Feeney, 33, who proved to be a patient and knowledgeable partner for my first class of Krav Maga ("krahv magah"), the self-defense system long employed by the Israeli military.
He was one of four men I recently joined at the Israeli Krav Maga-CT fitness center in Norwalk, for an hour of fitness and education headed by lead instructor and owner Gus Bottazzi. On this morning, the class learned how their elbows and knees could become a powerful force against a person intent on causing them harm. I simultaneously was learning how different this was from anything I had ever done before.
"I'm going to effectively use my elbows as if they are spears and pierce his chest or any part of his body that is at the level of my elbow," Bottazzi said, before bursting forward toward Feeney, who helped Bottazzi set up each drill. The thrust knocked Feeney off balance, putting Bottazzi in a position to employ another technique or quickly extract himself from the situation. "Offensively, you are creating pain, while creating a high amount of defenses so you don't get hurt in the process." Below is a breakdown of my Krav Maga experience and some useful tidbits on the martial art.
More InformationWant to try?
Here are a few places in the region that offer Krav Maga:
Israeli Krav Maga-CT, 261 Main Ave., Norwalk. Classes for children, teens and adults. Varied fee and membership plans are available, ranging from $30 a class to $169 unlimited monthly membership for self defense classes. Call 203-350-0402 or visit http://israelikravct.com.
Connecticut Krav Maga, with programs at Connecticut Krav Maga, 37 South Main St., Naugatuck, 203-723-1907
BreakThru Family Fit 4 Life, 48 Union St. Bldg #2; Stamford, 203-355-9395
Tribury Karate & Fitness, 1432 Old Waterbury Road, Southbury, 203-267-7780, serves adults and children. Fees range $20 a class to $120 a month for unlimited classes, with yearly membership packages.
Krav Maga seminars are running June 29 and 30 in Stamford. http://www.seriousselfdefense.com.
Cannon Ridge Training Center, 3 Simm Lane, Newtown, 203-307-5728 (classes also offered at Sport & Wellness, 17-27 Starr Road, Danbury, 203-791-1221). Adult classes. Program fees range from $20 a class to $129 a month. http://www.kravmagact.com, 203-307-5728.
If you want to do more research on Krav Maga, you can always check out some of these sites: International Krav Maga federation website (http://kravmaga-ikmf.com) Krav Maga Worldwide (http://www.kravmaga.com.) or Krav Maga Global (http://krav-maga.com).
What is it -- Created by the late Imi Lichtenfeld, Krav Maga emphasizes moves and techniques for real-life situations. Whether an assailant is armed or unarmed; taller, broader or stronger than you or has you at a disadvantage, the discipline trains its practitioners to react quickly and effectively to gain the upper hand.
It contains elements from different disciplines, such as wrestling, boxing and martial arts, but it is unique in its form -- a hand-to-hand combat that stresses efficiency and continuous motion.
The idea is to move right in on your attacker, using a series of maneuvers that create pain, immobilization and disorientation, all protecting yourself with strong, defensive moves, such as grips and strikes. "My three favorite words -- take space away," said Bottazzi, 47.
The martial art has gained some attention over the past several years because of its appearances in Hollywood movies, including "Jack Reacher" and "The Bourne Identity." Several high-profile celebrities have trained in the system, including Angelina Jolie, Jason Statham, model Bar Refaeli and former Fairfield resident John Mayer.
Beyond the ability to gain some confidence and learn practical self-defense moves, Krav Maga offers a full-body workout. It gets the heart pumping, and the core and other muscle groups working. Over time, adherents say, it increases flexibility, improves balance, tones muscles and boosts confidence.
Fitness level -- I am a relatively fit person, but this class tested my stamina. The intensity began the minute the class started. There was a dense 15-minute warm-up with timed cardio work (including jumping jacks), resistance training, and abdominal exercises. The drills that followed required a perseverance and commitment to go all out. With the full body conditioning, I left feeling as though I had given myself a great workout.
As with any workout, it is good to talk to your doctor first and check to see what level is right for you. Given most places in the area offer a complimentary first session, you can see whether a particular program is a good fit. The system also works with all ages and athletic abilities. Bottazzi's youngest client is 7; his oldest 68.
What to wear -- Loose, comfortable workout clothes and good sneakers. There are kicks and turns and lunges, so you will not want to be inhibited by your clothes.
The experience -- You can't get much closer to functional fitness than teaming a great workout with the knowledge of how to defend yourself in any given situation. Words of caution for those who want to try this: Get ready to push or be pushed, to kick or be kicked, grab or be grabbed. I'm not talking about split lips or bloody noses, but I was urged to strike with intent. My initial discomfort at the combat system's invasion of personal space was proof of how effective it can be. In terms of fitness benefits, Krav Maga's short, confident, balanced bursts were ideal for toning and cardio training.
Health benefits -- It is possible that Krav Maga is as good for your brain and well-being as it is for your body. I left knowing that I had not only spent more than an hour working out, but had also practiced moves I could have used that day.
"What I love about the system is that you could walk out of class today, and, God forbid you need it, you could use it," Bottazzi said.
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