Make no mistake. Traditional martial arts techniques don’t prepare you for the real world. Krav maga—the Israeli hand-to-hand combat technique made famous by Hollywood actors Jennifer Lopez and Angelina Jolie and, more recently, by Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)—does. When you see Damon battle armed and unarmed attackers with lightning-fast hand movements, you see the most advanced form of krav maga in action.
Now, we Bangaloreans can aspire to be Jason Bourne too.
The International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF) opened its Bangalore chapter in December. And already it has 30 members on its rolls, more than half of whom are IT professionals. Encouraged by the initial enthusiasm, the institution is conducting a special workshop on Sunday. There’s also another reason why the experts were in a hurry to announce the workshop—a reason unique to the city. “After reading about road rage attacks in the Bangalore newspapers, we have decided to conduct a basic road rage combat workshop,” says instructor and centre in-charge Frank, who uses only one name.
The experts will offer participants real-life experiences inside the confined space of a bike or car so that they can witness the effectiveness of krav maga for themselves. Each training session will start at the federation’s Richmond Town centre and shift, after a couple of hours, to a vacant spot on Old Madras Road. “Since krav maga is meant to be of use in real-life scenarios, we will enact sudden violent attacks on bike and car drivers and demonstrate how krav maga can help combat such attacks.”
(Illustration by: Jayachandran/Ming)
The history of krav maga goes back to the early 20th century, and the technique is now being employed by many Western special forces such as the Swedish and Polish armies and the French National Gendarmes Intervention Group, or GIGN. After 9/11, even a CIA team was sent to Israel to learn krav maga.
The father of this art was Imi Lichtenfeld, who taught self-defence and combat techniques to Jews so they could protect themselves from armed German Nazi soldiers. After Israel was formed, Lichtenfeld became chief instructor to the Israeli defence force. About 20 years after his retirement from that post, IKMF came into being in 1996 with Lichtenfeld’s consent and support, and a bunch of martial arts enthusiasts. Now, the federation has expanded all over the world.
So how is a combat technique meant to be a protective tool against armed Nazi soldiers relevant to our lives and times? “Krav maga is not martial arts, but more of street fighting. It’s something you need in real life,” says advertising professional Abinanth Potri, who has been training for the last two months. “In karate, you practise a punch for some 16,000 times to strengthen just the punch. In krav maga, you take the best parts of all the martial arts and use what is needed in a normal life situation. You don’t need a flying kick or a boxing glove on the street. All you need is to sharpen your natural reflexes.”
Experts will tell you that karate, tae kwon do, ju-jitsu, judo, kick-boxing and Thai boxing are inferior to krav maga as far as day-to-day self-defence is concerned. Other forms of martial arts focus on improving reflexes so you can block the initial stab, not to instinctively grab the knife after the stab, as krav maga teaches. “It is instinctive, simple and easy to apply, even in a really crowded place,” explains Frank. Its holistic approach isn’t just effective, it’s also simple and easy to learn.
“Krav maga increases your flexibility, concentration and presence of mind, your body language becomes more agile, and muscular as well as cardiovascular stamina and mental endurance improves,” says Vicky Kapoor, chief instructor at IKMF (India) in New Delhi. Since physical fitness is closely interwoven into the system, the workout includes a number of cardiovascular and strength-building exercises, as well as stretching to increase flexibility.
The emphasis is on speed, endurance, strength, accuracy and coordination, especially in intensive krav maga training. “I find it very easy to learn, and effective at the same time,” says software engineer Pramoda Vyasarao, who has been training for the past three months. “It’s not like any other art that takes years together to learn just the different postures. This is purely based on reflex actions. On the first day itself, we were actually fighting—learning what to do when someone tries to choke you.”
Practitioners at the Bangalore centre vouch for the fact that even though it is one of the most energetic forms of self-defence techniques, krav maga doesn’t make a person overtly aggressive or violent. “In fact, you tend to respect life and humans a lot better because you see the kind of damage you inflict on the pads you practise with. You become more responsible and try and stay out of trouble most of the time,” says Potri. So before you dial to enrol for the workshop, be assured that krav maga is really meant to be practised with a smile.
Right now, the Bangalore chapter of IKMF is terribly male-centric, with the male-female ratio at 10:1. Of the 30 who have enrolled so far, 16 are from the IT sector, one is from the defence forces, six are businessmen, three are corporate executives, two are from advertising and one is a medical student. “Only four out of the 30 have some form of martial arts experience. The rest are complete novices,” says Frank.
Classes at The Doodle Den are another great incentive for Bangaloreans to learn krav maga. It is an activity store for children and adults to unwind through creative work. They can sprawl on the large open floor area to watch a movie on the Panchatantra tales, sharpen multiplication skills by watching a fun session on math or read a Tenali Rama story. Adjacent to it is The Colour Factory, where one can splatter, spray or paint one’s own art. Adding krav maga to the surroundings has only added zing to the otherwise quiet neighbourhood of Richmond Town dotted with elegant Victorian bungalows.
An introductory training session is available for Rs300 an hour; the monthly fee is Rs3,800, inclusive of a Rs1,000 admission fee. For more details about the workshop, call 080-41240090.
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