All about Krav Maga
By Jess Hunter
Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defence system that is rapidly becoming more popular throughout not just the UK but also in Europe, the USA, and worldwide. Its name literally translates into ‘contact combat’ and it has a reputation for being among the most brutal and efficient systems for self-defence around.
When I first looked at getting into Krav Maga I was massively put off by the overwhelming male ego surrounding the discipline. Its reputation for being tough meant that all the photos of training and classes online depicted athletic-looking men VS other athletic-looking men, with a woman thrown in here and there for good measure. At the time, I didn’t have the confidence to put myself into that situation, even though I’d spent over 5 years training to black belt in kickboxing as one of a handful of women in a club back home. I lucked out a few years later however when I revisited Krav and found a new class that had started up near where I had just moved to. It was a small but incredibly friendly club with more than just a handful of women in the class. I had decided to sign up before my taster class even finished.
Everything I have to say about Krav Maga within this blog I’ve learned from being taught by some inspirational instructors under the broader umbrella of Krav Maga Worldwide (KMW). KMW is an incredible organisation which emphasises that Krav Maga is a system that was designed for all bodies and all people of all ages, rather than the hardcore few men I had perceived during my initial exploration of Krav years ago.
Krav’s badass roots
One of the things I love most about Krav Maga are its origins. Imi Lichtenfeld, a young Jewish man, initially trained in wrestling and boxing as an athlete under his father, Samuel. However, he honed his combative skills on the streets of Bratislava and at this time became much more aware of how street fighting differed from using these same techniques in a sporting setting. Imi used his skills both to defend himself and his loved ones from fascist thugs and to join others in defending the local Jewish community from anti-Semitic groups.
Imi would later be forced to flee Europe, which was falling to Hitler’s Nazi regime, and eventually he settled in Palestine. Israel’s newly-formed government, aware of Imi’s skills and experience, recruited him to develop an effective self-defence and close combat system to disseminate through their military (the Israeli Defence Force; IDF). What I find interesting about this is the fact that the Israeli government couldn’t be too picky about who they recruited, being that they needed to build an army up pretty quickly. So, they had people who were any size, and strength, any gender, with varying levels of fitness, experience, and ability. This means that even when Krav Maga was purely used in a military population, it was specifically designed to accommodate diversity and difference.
As for me, I’m a small young female, standing just short (no pun intended) of 5ft tall. I look pretty unassuming to those who don’t know me. But Krav turns my size and appearance into an advantage and has taught me how I don’t need to be the bigger or stronger one to win a fight. As a teacher and practitioner of Krav Maga, I frequently boast to other people about how amazing our system is, how accessible it is, and how much it caters to the people who are, unfortunately, most likely to need to use self-defence skills in their everyday lives. I’m referring to women, here, or honestly anyone who doesn’t present as male. Belonging to other minority groups, be that in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, or disability, just increases that risk and feeling of vulnerability when out in public. As I am currently the sole instructor teaching classes at our school, I like to think that we do a really good job of considering this from lesson to lesson. We work on verbal commands as well as physical techniques, and how we can use our body language to communicate assertiveness and confidence too.
Now, this isn’t to say that just because Krav is very inclusive of women that I haven’t had times when I’ve encountered sexism or misogyny as a student and as an instructor. Thankfully this hasn’t been aggressive as such but being told multiple times that “as a female instructor, you’ll have to be better than all the men in your class” made me borderline hysterical. Thank you, male person, for telling me what it is like to live as a woman, I’d have no idea otherwise…?!? When someone interrupts our class from the gym because they need to get something from the studio we train in, they look to one of the (very few) men in our class to ask if they can run in for a second. I mean, I have ‘instructor’ written across the back of my bright red t-shirt but fine, whatever. I could go on with the subtle sexism that I’ve encountered as a female practitioner, but suffice to say, there isn’t any getting away from it.
Which just makes it all the more important that I, and the other female self-defence and martial arts instructors out there keep fighting and keep doing what we’re doing. With so few of us teaching classes, it can be harder for women (often, though not always) to get into these kinds of activities when they’re so desperately needed! Krav Maga gives you so much: fitness, confidence, resilience, friends, support, a mental escape and a physical release to name but a few. I want to keep teaching women (and people of all genders) the skills they need to keep themselves safe. I hope that at least one person reads this and uses it as the push they need to try out a class – We all have it in us! Let’s show them who’s boss!
Want to try Krav Maga out?
If your interest has been piqued and you’d like to try a free taster class with Krav Maga Worldwide Bristol, we currently run classes twice a week in the city centre:
- Mondays 8-9pm
- Thursdays 7-8pm
Classes do incur a cost but we have a range of options available to suit different needs. All classes are taught by a female instructor, and although the classes are for all genders, we have a predominantly female class. We generally take students aged 14 and up, but anyone wanting to train with a child/younger relative or enrol a young person under the age of 14 is still welcome to enquire to discuss suitability.
As is mentioned above, you don’t need to have a particular level of fitness or experience to be able to attend classes and learn from them. If you have any additional needs, be they physical or emotional, please do get in touch either via Facebook message or via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are worried that participating in classes might bring up difficult memories and feelings related to previous experiences of assault or similar, but are still interested in trying a class out, we would encourage you to get in touch to discuss this ahead of time so we can keep you safe while you train with us. As well as being a Krav instructor, Jess has a full DBS check and safeguarding training, as well as extensive experience working in mental health and related fields.