(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
The arms of my female co-worker were covered in bruises. I was walking down the hall and stopped when I saw her holding them out, a proud look in her eyes as she moved her arms this way and that, displaying her wounds from multiple angles. The bruises studded her pale skin from wrist to elbow. Was it an unfortunate accident, or a drama-filled fistfight? Hardly. She’s been practicing krav maga.
What is krav maga? It borrows certain techniques from martial arts, but it’s not technically a martial art. It was originally developed in Israel as a self defense and military hand-to-hand combat system. (Is that too obscure? Watch this video on YouTube.)
After talking to my co-worker and hearing her enthusiasm, I decided to take an introductory class. The first thing we did was warm-up — but don’t let that modest term fool you. The warm-up kicked my butt, but in a good way. I was literally dripping sweat all over the mat (along with everyone else, I might add). We started out by jogging forward, and then backward, around the room. We did push-ups, and burpees (which I’d seen but never attempted), and squats. (And let me tell you, I was rockin’ those squats. Most of the time I do squats with weights, so doing them with just my body weight was easy. When I get on one of those squat machines at the gym, I’m using weight-plates that add up to 140 pounds — roughly my own body weight.)
I did have an embarrassing moment. I’m not used to jogging backward, so I was having a little trouble keeping up. I felt like I was going to fall, and it was awkward trying to run while holding my head at an angle so I could see behind me. The guy who was running in front of me wasn’t paying attention, and he ran right into me as we rounded a corner of the room — his back collided with my chest, and his foot landed directly on top of one of mine, causing both of us to land in a heap on the mat. Luckily we were able to recover quickly and jump back up, rejoining the line of backwards runners.
After the warm-up we went over the correct way to stand in a fighting position, and practiced different punches and kicks. We worked in groups of two — I was partnered with another female — and we took turns holding hard, black punching bags while the other person beat the crap out of them.
We’d call out to our partner which punch they should throw (“jab” for a right-hand punch; “cross” for the left, and “combo” for one of each). While we were punching we were also moving around, and we had to shuffle our feet to stay in a fighting stance. Sometimes it was hard to remember to do everything at once: stand in the correct pose (or the instructor would come by and correct you), punch with the correct fist, don’t forget to twist your body with each punch (and make sure you’re holding your fist in such a way that you won’t injure yourself!). But it was fun and the time went by quickly.
We also practiced kicking. One person would bend forward and hold the punching bag a little lower than waist-height. The other person would kick straight up, with their shin hitting the bag on the way up. I was good at kicking. My lower body is pretty strong.
(This is completely unrelated, but just in case anyone’s curious…yes, about 3/4 of the class consisted of males. I didn’t feel self-conscious — I’ve gotten used to being around men when I lift weights at the gym — but it was nice having all that eye candy whenever we stopped to rest.)
I didn’t have bruises on my arms once the class was over, but I did bust up a few of my knuckles from hitting the punching bag so hard with my bare fists. (The regular students came prepared with gloves or hand wraps.)
My worst injury was a knuckle on my right hand. The skin was completely torn away — even though it looks a lot better now, it’s taking a while to heal (bending my fingers so much doesn’t help the healing process). I had two scraped knuckles on my left hand as well, but they didn’t look quite as bad as this one:
Am I going to continue with these classes? Not right now. It was fun, and a great workout, and I’m glad I tried it, but I’m not ready to commit to the time and money involved. If it was something I could do once a week, or pay on a per-class basis, that might be a different story. But this studio in Washington, DC (just a few blocks from where I work) charges $150 per month for unlimited classes. If I signed up and only went once a week, I’d be paying almost $40 per class. Right now I have too many after-work commitments — including the extra work I do in addition to my regular “9-to-5″ — to take classes multiple times a week.
Now, true, I realize that fitness, and how much we’re willing to pay for it, is all about our priorities. If I truly loved krav maga, I’m sure I’d be happy to hand over that $150 every month. I’d either cut back on some of the extra work I’m doing, or I’d cut back on social activities and the other forms of exercise I do, like running and biking. But that’s not what I want to do.
I don’t feel like I’m doing so much right now that I’m overwhelmed, but at this point I’d rather continue to try new things (like going rock climbing — that’s next on my list!), until I find something I love so much that I feel like I’m ready to focus a lot of time and energy on just one activity.
But, you know, maybe I’ll never focus on just one thing — and I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m a Gemini, and Geminis are characterized by their love of change. If I take krav maga, and then go rock climbing, and then take a cardio striptease class, and then yoga, and ballet, and boxing? Oh, my Lord, how fun does that sound? I’ve never been an expert in any one subject, and that used to bother me quite a bit — but it bothers me less and less each day. The fact is, I like trying new things, and I like being able to say, “Yes, I’ve tried that. Now let me tell you what I thought about it from my non-expert perspective.”
Sacha Chua started taking krav maga in early 2007, and started back up again a few months ago. She’s experienced bruises on her arms and knuckles, but she seems to be enjoying herself. In April, Sacha made this observation about her hands:
The middle knuckle of my right hand is a little darker than the others, and a bit sensitive to the touch. It’s an interesting sensation. I’ve never bruised my knuckles before. Heck, the krav maga folks had to teach me how to punch.
But it’s so much fun!
In…krav maga class, we practiced groundwork, side kicks, back kicks, and getting out of side head-locks. I’ve got a long way to go before I can kick as well as the others do, but the guys make it fun. We often warm up with a shoulder-tapping game, which I like. I sometimes forget to breathe, though, and that makes me tire faster!
Gotta work on that.
Lil Leya said she couldn’t wait to go back after her first krav maga class.
Yesterday’s combat instructions were geared to teach you to get out of a situation where someone has you in a bear hug. The instructor gave us techniques like slapping your hand on the back of the attacker’s neck where their nerve ending are, or grabbing their nose and twisting their face until they have to drop. My favorite is gouging our fingers into the attacker’s eyes and pushing them onto the floor! At one point we were practicing (on each other’s foreheads, not our eyes…I just got laser surgery thank you very much!!!)…anyway..we were practicing and the instructor praised my eye gouging technique! They have officially created a monster! I can’t wait to go back!!!
Attackers…watch out!!! I may be little, but I am fierce!!!!!
Kimber is taking krav maga with a friend.
We are finishing our second week of Krav Maga and love every pulse rising, sweat inducing, limb extending moment of it. We often partner up for drills and being the shy introverted types, we spent the first week glued to each other partly in fear of the unknown and partly out of our survival instinct. We have now reached a more comfortable level of acceptance among the group and are forging new partnerships with our classmates.
Has anyone else tried krav maga? If so, what did you think of it? If you haven’t, would you?