Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on alternatives to traditional workout regimes. Aside from preventing boredom, it has been shown that varying one’s workouts improves results. Consult a doctor before starting any workout program.
Mention that you’re learning krav maga, and you might get a response along the lines of “gesundheit.”
You can then explain that krav maga is an Israeli martial art that has been around since 1934 and has more than 250 training centers worldwide, including one in Algiers.
Translated as “contact combat,” krav maga is “the official self-defense system of the Israeli military,” said Vinay Chary, chief operations officer/instructor at Street Smarts Krav Maga at 2901 General De Gaulle Drive.
“It’s designed to be used in situations of high stress. It’s designed to be picked up very quickly – you’re supposed to become proficient in just a few months as opposed to other martial arts, where it takes years – and it focuses on the body’s natural instincts and your reactions to things, and we modify those into defenses.”
Chary said students learn to defend and counterattack at the same time to turn the dynamic of the fight around in your favor.
“When a person attacks you and you just defend and do not do anything else, they’re just going to attack you again,” he said. “But if they choke you and you break the choke and kick them in the (groin) at the same time …”
Basically, Chary said, “We teach you to finish the fight.”
At a krav maga class, one might participate in a drill in which “we have the lights out and you have your eyes closed, loud music playing,” said Chary, “and you have people constantly attacking you and agitating you and you have to react right away, so it’s based on the muscle memory that you’ve developed and your reaction time.”
Aside from learning how to handle oneself if attacked, “all of our classes involve a fitness element,” said Chary. “We get you tired, because that’s when the fight starts. When you get into a fight, instantly, within 10 seconds, you’re the most tired you’ve ever been, you’re completely out of breath. So we put you in stressful situations here, so that when it happens out there you’re not thrown by it.”
“I’ve been running and working out my whole life, and this is the best shape that I’ve ever been in,” said 40-year-old David Roberts, of Gretna. Roberts, who boxed when he was younger, said he’d had some interest in other martial arts, “but I never thought I’d find one that I really liked. I’d heard about people taking tae kwon do and you break some boards and they hand out belts, and that’s not all that great.”
After hearing about krav maga from a friend and checking it out, “I was just amazed,” he said. Roberts has been practicing for nine months, and is about to get tested for the second level.
Like the more traditional martial arts, there is a hierarchy of levels of expertise, with five levels. Unlike those methods, however, krav maga is “stripped down for the reality of everyday life,” said Chary. “We don’t have any katas or anything that’s going to waste your time; you’re not fighting for points out there, you’re fighting to get home to your family.”
In fact, Chary said, there is only one rule in Krav Maga, and that’s “to get home safe.”
After completing level one, which focuses on basic combat moves like punches, elbows, knees, kicks, and defending against common attacks like chokes from the front, side, or behind, and headlocks, “you’re pretty armed to take care of yourself,” said Chary.
Krav maga was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld, a judo practitioner who grew up in Bratislava, following in the footsteps of his father, a wrestler, according to Chary. But then he started to create his own self-defense system based on everything he’d learned from other disciplines. Lichtenfeld then began training freedom fighters in Jerusalem to fight the Germans, and was eventually chased from his homeland and went into hiding in the former Czechoslovakia. He would later return to Israel, where the newly formed government asked him if he’d develop a system for the military, where it is still constantly being tested in battle situations.
Street Smarts Krav Maga offers more than 40 classes a week, including cardio fitness classes as well as classes that focus on the core. There are also sparring classes, fight classes, weapons classes for advanced students and even a free rape prevention class.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to do krav maga, Chary said.
“The great thing about what we do is that it has to work despite your size or your athletic ability. It has to work for women as well, because men and women go into the military for a minimum of two years in Israel.”
For more information on Street Smarts Krav Maga, visit its website at www.kravmaganeworleans.com.