We often get asked about self-defense classes. What are the best classes to take, where can I find one, what are the differences between them…Well, I have asked all of these questions, too, and know that I am training to become an expert on personal safety and self-defense, I decided to do the research for you and share my findings on this lovely little blog!
So, I’ve heard alot about this thing called Krav Maga, an Israeli form of martial arts. People have told me that this is the only style of martial arts that applies to real world situations, so last week, I decided to check it out for myself. I contacted the Denver studio via their website and was invited to try a free class. I arrived at the studio, located in the thriving Five Points neighborhood, as the intermediate class was finishing up. While I filled out the typical sign-your-life-away paperwork that studios such as this require, I observed the class as it finished up. It seemed quite intense so I asked the receptionist if this was an intermediate class and when she responded that it was, I felt relieved. Clearly my beginner’s class wouldn’t be so intense, or so I thought…
We started, as many martial arts classes do, by lining up at the front of the room and taking a bow. Then we went right into jumping jacks (something that my muscles remember vaguely from high school) then alternated with push-ups and some basic blocks with a partner. I asked the woman I was attempting to punch if this was a self-defense class or more of a cardio-kickboxing class. She assured me that it is a self-defense class with a very intense warm-up. After this we moved to the floor for ab-work (another distant memory for my core muscles) and then did a little stretching. The tone of the warm-up was similar to what I picture boot camp to feel like; a super tough guy yelling at you and attempting to break you down. By the end of the warm-up, I was terrified, but I didn’t run.
Next we got with a partner and practiced hitting pads with our palm-heel. This was getting fun. As a student of FAST Defense, I have grown to appreciate my adrenaline as an important survival tool, and I love self-defense classes that give me an opportunity to channel it and make it work for me. Next we moved into some attack scenarios, first watching the instructor and his assistant walk through a frontal choking situation. He showed us how to get out of this and what not to do, then we broke it down into steps and practiced one step at a time with our partners. We started with a block, then added a palm strike, and finally added a knee to the groin. The order and speed in which we learned this was very easy to understand and really simplified the moves. Throughout the class, the instructor came around and offered feedback and criticism on our form and force.
We ended the class the way we started, with jumping-jacks, push-ups, and ab-work, but this time we had to move quickly from the floor into palm strikes and back again. This helped to prepare us for the idea that we may have to get off the ground and fight for our lives at some point, so we should be ready. The yelling and intensity of the class in general was also directly relevant to real-life situations. Most attackers will not walk up to you and quietly ask you to cooperate. It is much more likely that they will come in swinging or grabbing and screaming obscenities, so this type of training really helps to desensitize us. In addition to Krav Maga being a great way to get some practical self-defense training, it is also an AWESOME work out! I left the class completely in love and wanting to continue. Unfortunately, it is not cheap and I am financially challenged at the moment so I chose not to buy a membership, but if I could, I would.
The fortunate thing about not committing to one type of training is that now I can go take free classes in all sorts of martial arts studios and report back on how they differ. An artist friend of mine is an expert in Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu. He approached me about building him a website and I agreed to trade my design services for his expertise. Last Wednesday was day one, so I don’t have alot to share yet, but as I learn more, I’ll keep you posted. So far, all I can really say about Wing Chun is that it’s main focus is on protecting the center-line of the body. It is a very slow and meditative practice and the polar opposite of Krav Maga.
That’s all for now, but check back next week for an update and take advantage of the free classes offered in your area (most studios will allow you to try one free before signing up). Peace.