A few questions for Katrina Reynolds and Brad Ledbetter

The kick of Krav Maga

Katrina Reynolds

The character Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) of the TV series Alias is a practitioner of it. In preparation for his role in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Brendan Fraser reportedly trained in it. And in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic, the main character uses it. 

So what is it?

Krav Maga (contact combat) is a self-defense martial art originating from Israel—a hand-to-hand combat system that involves wrestling, grappling, and striking techniques. It’s known for its extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks and is taught to special forces around the world. It was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930s in Czechoslovakia as a means of defending the Jewish Quarter against the Nazi militia. Since that time, it has been refined for both civilian and military applications by including aspects of other martial arts from Asia.

The philosophy of Krav Maga is one of neutralization, aggression, and using both defensive and offensive maneuvers simultaneously. The three levels of practice—for the army, the police, and self-defense for civilians—feature different techniques due to their specialized applications (i.e. attack, threat-neutralization, or self-defense).

Katrina Reynolds, a Krav Maga instructor right here on campus, teaches at PEAK Academy and she agreed—along with her student Brad Ledbetter—to answer a few questions. 

FYI NEWS: How and where did you first hear of Krav Maga?
KATRINA REYNOLDS: I first heard of Krav Maga in 1995 while living in New York City.
BRAD LEDBETTER: On a TV show called “Fight Quest.”

FYI: Where and from whom did you learn Krav Maga?
REYNOLDS: I trained in New York City under Rhon Mizrachi, who is still my instructor and mentor—I proudly train with him as often as possible.
LEDBETTER: I’ve learned Krav Maga from Katrina Reynolds, (Black Belt, Dan 2) at the U of U.

FYI: How long have you been practicing?
REYNOLDS: I have been training for 15 years and teaching for 12. I moved to Utah in 2005 and currently train civilians, law enforcement, and members of the military in Krav Maga.
LEDBETTER: Not long enough. About one year, I think. Kung Fu trained me to not focus on time so much, so it’s easy to lose track.

FYI: What first drew you to Krav Maga—what is it that appeals to you?
REYNOLDS: Krav Maga appeals to me because of the simple and practical approach to learning and the effectiveness of the techniques. Krav Maga for me is much more than a system; it’s a way of life. Sharing and teaching Krav Maga with students and encouraging them to lead better and peaceful lives is a constant focus and goal.
LEDBETTER: When I first started training in martial arts, I wanted tradition because I was in love with the fantasy and mythology of Chinese Martial Arts, and because I was victim of the “older is better” illusion. Over time, I realized that for martial arts to be “martial” it had to be practical. Krav Maga is practical in combat, physically and mentally challenging, and continually evolving to remain applicable to a changing world.

FYI: How does it challenge you?
REYNOLDS: Violence can occur any time and any place. I’m always preparing and searching for new methods to avoid injury and to improve my chances. Students challenge me to be a better educator!
LEDBETTER: A good martial artist always looks for ways to improve his physical skills, and Krav Maga provides that. Combat requires concentration, can be very stressful, demands mental stamina, and requires overcoming fear. The battle against fear is a core principle common to all martial arts.

FYI: Have you used Krav Maga beyond the classroom setting—to defend yourself?
REYNOLDS: Yes. Learning how to fight has taught me not to fight.
LEDBETTER: I have never been in a “real fight.” I have used the basic physical skills—balance, control, strength, speed, endurance—on multiple occasions. I once crashed my bike and saved serious injury by rolling when I hit the ground—a basic skill in Krav Maga.

FYI: How does Krav Maga fit in with other martial arts?
REYNOLDS: Other martial arts typically have rules or codes of sportsmanship, katas (choreographed patterns of movement), and some incorporate meditation, but Krav Maga was designed for the street—a place where no rules exist. Every student is encouraged to maximize her/his abilities in the minimum amount of time.
LEDBETTER: Krav Maga was conceived in a war torn region by a member of a persecuted minority, developed in a military setting, and adopted by those who risked their lives to defend their values and their loved ones. This is at the heart of what makes Krav Maga the art that it is: simple, practical, and effective. Krav Maga is not burdened by the flowery movements or illusions of what we wish would happen as are often found in other martial arts.

FYI:  Please comment on the tension created by the brutality of Krav Maga and reconciling that with a desire for a peaceful life.
REYNOLDS: You have to expect anything. I have used the confidence and empowerment that accompanies my self-defense training to aid in my stress reduction and understanding of life’s everyday experiences.
LEDBETTER: The best way to win a fight is not to get in one. But when we are unable to avoid violence, we do what we trained for. Krav Maga teaches quick response—preemptive where possible—that stops the attacker. What may seem brutal may be the line that stops a bad situation from getting worse. I need to be clear on whose life I value more—the attacker’s or my own.

FYI: What would you say to others who are interested in learning this technique?
REYNOLDS: Krav Maga is a self-defense system that anyone can use, regardless of size, strength, fitness or gender. It emphasizes simple and practical techniques, real life scenarios, and intense training. Try a class, it may save your life!
LEDBETTER: Krav Maga is a self-defense method that can be learned in a relatively short amount of time (6-12 months) from a purely novice starting point. Be prepared to work hard. You get out of it only what you put in to it. 

For more information contact Katrina Reynolds or call her at 917-693-9024. Also see the Krav Maga Federation online.

3 Responses to A few questions for Katrina Reynolds and Brad Ledbetter

  • Brad Ledbetter says:

    I’d like to expand on the 6-12 month statement in the last question, because it can be misleading. The answer provided here is a summary. One can learn the first basics of Krav Maga in 6-12 months if they train hard and frequently. Those basics are enough to defend yourself in a variety of common scenarios. There is much, much more to learn beyond that meager time investment, but that’s when the foundation is built.

    And give it at least 3 months – you can’t decide if you like it until you’ve really give it a chance.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am a former student of Katrina Reynolds. I took her class on campus during the summer and fall semesters of 2008 and attended a few of her classes at the JCC. I have previously studied Kung Fu and Capoeira and while they were enjoyable and challenging they did not prepare me to defend myself as did Krav Maga. Being a smaller male with a stubborn streak for what I feel is morally right I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being on the losing end of several physical confrontations. What is even a worse feeling, however, is when I have not stepped into situations I felt I should have to defend myself or another for fear of sustaining yet another beating.
    Over a year after discontinuing training with Kat (due to time constraints), which in total had only amounted to less than 6 months, I found myself in another physical confrontation. I was dancing with my girlfriend, who is yet smaller than me, at a club when two intoxicated men began insisting that she go with them to have some drinks. She declined their advances twice. After they walked away the second time I was suddenly pushed from behind. I reacted by immediately pushing my weight backward to avoid crushing my girlfriend. When I turned around I was faced by the two men, one of which raised his hand in a fist.
    I raised my open palms in a pleading manner as I saw a preview played out in my mind of his fist striking my face as has happened too many times before. I closed my eyes in anticipation so strong I could smell the blood on which I would surely soon be choking. Instead I opened my eyes to see my right hand clenched in a fist striking his nose sending him to the ground along with a splatter of his own blood. I stood in shocked astonishment and looked at his friend who seemed equally shocked, or maybe just too drunk to immediately realize what had happened. After a moment, realize he did, and lunged at me tackling me to the ground and sending my glasses flying. Amazingly, I spun as he grabbed me and was able to land on top. After a few split seconds of scuffling on the ground I found myself being drug away by a friend as the two drunks were thrown out of the club.
    I feel extremely lucky to have sustained only a few scratches and a large bruise on my shin. I am even more grateful that the two individuals did not draw any weapons. While Krav Maga does train you how to defend yourself against knives, blunt objects and handguns in close quarters I am unsure if I would have reacted as well as I did and am perfectly satisfied that I did not have to discover how I would have reacted in such a dangerous situation.
    I contribute my successful self-defense and avoidance of grave injury to my training in Krav Maga. In reflection I recognize that each of my actions came from reflexes drilled into me during training which overpowered my instinct to freeze in fear. Kat trained us to place our hands, open palmed, in front of us. Not only is this body language which conveys the message “I don’t want any trouble, let’s talk this out” but it also is an excellent pose to deal with a variety of aggressive actions dealt out by an attacker who has chosen to elevate the situation beyond conversation.
    I found Krav Maga to be a powerful yet easy to learn form of self-defense. I recommended it to several of my female friends as its techniques do not rely on strength but rather fast reactions and strikes to areas any aggressor will be susceptible to. I hope that they never need to use it but after my own experience I feel much better knowing that they will stand a fighting chance if they are ever unfortunate enough to have to defend themselves against an ill-intentioned male aggressor.

  • Kat says:

    Anonymous,
    Thank you for sharing your personal story. I’m very happy to hear that you were able to utilize your training and escape possible serious injury! You were able to adapt quickly and improvise and that is crucial to survival. If you find the time, I strongly encourage you to resume your training; classes are offered several times a week and even training once a week can really sharpen and help retain your skills. Shalom!
    -Kat

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