The kick of Krav Maga
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.