Seeing Better by Seeing Less

Doing Krav Maga or Sparring with glasses sucks. They always go askew on my face. They get in the way.

So I was frustrated when I realized my eye doctor sent me the wrong contact prescription and I’d need to wait a week for the correct prescription to arrive. I’d be in glasses for a week.

10 minutes into my first sparring class I took them off. It was distracting having them slide off my face. I’d deal with seeing blurry people.

But then something amazing happened.

I could see strikes coming at my face more easily. I was suddenly able to get out of the way or block strikes like I’d never been able to see or block them before.

Usually, when I’m sparring I keep my eyes focused at the person’s chest and use my peripheral vision to “see” the attacks coming. I watch their shoulders for the tell signs of a strike.

With everything out of focus, I could sense general movement more easily. Dodging and blocking was suddenly easier.

If you can, try to unfocus your eyes while sparring or doing Krav Maga. It might help you see strikes.

Update: Our private lesson completely changed my straight punch

I wanted to write a quick update about the effectiveness of our private Krav Maga lesson back in June. Back then, I wrote how pleased I was that we spent some time perfecting the basics of our straight punches.

You may recall the times I’ve come home with a badge. After many of these classes, I’ve asked instructors what I’m doing wrong to have caused my hands to be so roughed up. I can’t stress how awesome I think my instructors are, but none have been able to spend the time with me to diagnose and tweak my technique.

Ever since this private session, I haven’t had any issues with my straight punches. Not a single badge. Not a single bloodied knuckle. Incredible. Just incredible. My instructor, F, was able to see what I was doing wrong and take the time to adjust, watch, adjust, watch until I had it right.

I also learned it’s okay to take time in a class—to slow down—to diagnose why I’m getting hurt or why something doesn’t feel right.

I’m officially a champion of taking private Krav Maga lessons to master these simple skills. In some ways, it was a little scary, because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid he’d look at my form and try to convince me to not take the level one test. None of that happened. Instead, I took one step closer to mastery of Krav Maga.

What has been your experience in taking private self defense, martial arts, or Krav Maga lessons?

How to make Krav Maga just a little bit easier

Tip: Hold the bag for your partner first. This gives you an opportunity to think through the strikes or defenses before you have to make your body practice it.

Personally, if I hold the bag for my partner first, I’m much more likely to be successful at the strikes and defenses.

I watch my partner as they strike the bag and focus in on how they move; how their strikes could be improved. Sometimes I feel things just click for me, like a light switch being turned on.

As I offer advice on how they could improve, things fall into place even faster. I think it’s something about explaining the strike or defense. It must activate a different part of my brain that helps me process the new information.

This means when it’s my turn to practice, I’m no longer over-thinking the moves. I’m able to just let my body work. Otherwise, I become sloppy, disorganized, and my body never moves quite right.

In short, I learn from my partner’s mistakes.

I highly recommend grabbing the bag first and holding it for your partner, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to think everything through. Of course, if you practice with one person regularly, you might want to switch back and forth, so they can have the same opportunities you do!

That tip only took me six months to learn… (You’re welcome!)

Tips on throwing better straight punches

Clearly, I don’t understand how to throw a proper straight punch. My hand wraps (thank god for hand wraps) saved my lower knuckles from being ripped apart. My middle knuckles, however, felt the wrath of the tombstone.

“Here’s what consistently happens to my knuckles with straight punches…” I told my instructor after class as I showed him my raw knuckles. “What gives?”

Two things, he explained:
1. You aren’t squaring up your knuckles when you punch. When you make a fist, the segments of your fingers between your bottom and middle knuckle should be square or rather flat. My middle knuckles tend to lift up a little.

Notice how my fingers are tilted upwards. They should be flat like...
Notice how my fingers are tilted upwards. They should be flat like…

2. When I punch, I’m also swiping my hand against the pad. Not only do I lose power, but it also beats up my hands. I’ll just have to be more conscious of how I punch…

M suggested I start doing knuckle push-ups. It’ll toughen up my hands and make my fist square up a little more naturally. I’ve heard this before, but I never started. Guess this is as good a time as any…

7 tips for your first Krav Maga class

So, you’ve signed up for your first Krav Maga class! Good for you!

Feeling a little apprehensive? Don’t worry! What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger (or some equally motivating slogan designed to make you feel less like you’ve signed up to be thrown into a pit of snakes…)

I can promise you there won’t be snakes. I can also promise that you will sweat and you will be sore the next day.

In any case, here are some tips to make your first Krav Maga class as successful (and hopefully as painless) as possible!

  1. Drink lots of water the day of your class.
  2. Drink lots of water the day of your class.
  3. Drink lots of water the day of your class. Hydration is extremely important when you’re exerting yourself. By drinking plenty of water, you can ensure your body is running at peak performance.
  4. Don’t eat any major meals within an hour of class. I’ve eaten a banana or a granola bar 15-20 minutes before and been okay. Anything more than that and you’ll seriously regret it.
  5. Let the instructor know if you have any injuries before class starts.
  6. Start breathing even breaths as soon as you walk into the gym—in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you can start breathing early, you’ll be better prepared for the intense workout.
  7. Never stop breathing. When you throw a strike, breathe out as you make contact. This will make your strikes faster and stronger, because your body will be more relaxed.
  8. Try not to be too self-conscious. I can assure you the only people who will have the time or energy to notice you will be the instructors and your partner. That’s one of the beautiful things about Krav Maga, you literally can’t think about anything aside from what’s happening at that moment. I’m convinced it’s physically impossible.
  9. Give it all you’ve got. Hitting the pad is not the goal, just like punching someone in the face is not meant to hurt their skin. You want an assailant to feel it in their bones. Hit the bag like it’s the outer layer to something you want to penetrate. You shouldn’t hurt your partner if they’re holding the pads correctly (which they’ll teach you) and paying attention.
  10. Oh! And come prepared with water.

If after the first class you ask why anyone would ever want to endure that, go one more time. If the cardio totally kicks your butt, imagine how great you’ll feel in a month or two when it doesn’t.

The first class is hard. The second class will be hard too. But if you stick with it, you won’t regret it.

What to wear to train in Krav Maga


What exactly do you wear to train in Krav Maga? I’ve seen some interesting wardrobe choices, but there are some items that will help or hinder you.

So! Without further ado, here are some tips to make your Krav experience even more successful.

Do wear/bring:

  • Loose, comfortable, lightweight, quick drying clothing. Not only is this a self-defense class, it’s also a great way to get in your cardio. You will be sweating.
  • Shorts. Again, I can’t overemphasize that part about you sweating…
  • Comfortable running shoes.
  • If you have long hair, you certainly want it off your face and neck.
  • Don’t forget to bring lots of H20! (To drink, not to wear!)

Don’t wear/bring:

  • Rings or dangle-y jewelry. Your rings will carve up the punching bags and your jewelry will probably just get in the way.
  • Any clothing you care about. You will be tugged, pulled, punched, kicked, etc. It generally won’t hurt, but when you start learning some attacks, your shirt could get stretched.
  • If you can go without your glasses, I’d highly recommend it. I wear glasses to class and they have been sent askew on my face more than once. If you have a spare pair of glasses, I’d recommend wearing them. Contacts are even better.
  • Anything that could get in the way. Remember: you’re here to learn self-defense, not how to be a beauty queen (or king!)
  • Your cell phone. Yeah, leave that baby in the car. Nothing is more annoying than someone yackin’ on the phone while everyone else slaves away. It’s distracting for everyone.

Optional, but highly recommended:

  • Guys should wear a cup. Your partner will be kicking, kneeing, and punching at a pad in your groin area. One little mistake and your guy parts could be feeling the effects.
  • Hand wraps are a good idea if you don’t want nasty bruises, scrapes, and sores on your hands. They aren’t necessary, but they help you minimize any visible aches and pains. Trust me on this one, you’ll thank me later.

A Krav Maga class can be super rewarding if you come prepared. If you follow these suggestions, you’ll learn self-defense, improve your strength, lose weight, and increase your self-confidence.

Defending against straight punches… more bruises? Really?

This is the first Krav Maga class I’ve been late to. I’m usually a few minutes early, but traffic was atrocious. When Chris and I walked in, we found our class doing side crunches. You lay on your side and lock your legs in your partner’s legs while crunching upwards. At the height of your crunch, you throw a right, left punch combination into your partner’s open palm. I found them relatively easy. I’ve noticed my ab/core strength is getting strong these days. Don’t even think about asking me to do squats though. Ew!

Since Chris and I arrived late, we partnered up again. We practiced defending straight punches to the solar plexus and then counter-attacking with our own defenses. This, I have to admit, was extremely painful. In order to defend a straight punch, you keep your arm in an ‘L’ shape and sort of rotate your arm forward and around, so most of your opponent’s strike ends up pushed to the side by the meatier, back portion of your arm. We have a plethora of bruises and sore spots because of this little trick.

The really hard part is determining with which arm your opponent is going to use to strike. I noticed if I tried to over-think it, I’d get hit in the gut.

Luckily, I just read Fight Mash’s post on how to read your opponent. I noticed if I watched Chris’s movements (particularly his shoulders), I could determine which arm he would use to throw the punch. Now I just need to keep my own thoughts and attacks imperceptible.

**UPDATE: I just found out Level 1 tests will be moved back to December. That extra month is greatly appreciated.

7 ways to avoid using Krav Maga training

We can learn self-defense all-day long, but the best defense is to not be in a situation where you need Krav Maga in the first place. Here are some ways to play it safe:

  1. Choose to fight back if you are attacked. No matter what. Some figures estimate that 70% of women who are attacked leave mostly unharmed if they put up a fight. Fighting back is mostly a mindset.
  2. Listen to your instincts. If you feel uneasy about something, there’s probably a reason for it. Get out of whatever situation you’re in immediately.
  3. Walk purposefully, with confidence, and with your head held high. Observe what is happening around you and be alert. Don’t talk/text on your cell phone or wear head phones when you’re walking. These wonderful, awesome, amazing technologies eliminate valuable senses (hearing and seeing), which could make you more vulnerable to an attack.
  4. Have your keys ready before you reach your destination. Don’t be caught digging for your keys in your purse… I personally latch my keys to my purse with a carabiner.
  5. Don’t leave drinks unattended and watch them being served. Limit alcohol consumption.
  6. Walk with a co-worker or a friend when walking to your car (especially in parking garages or at night). Check the back seat before you get in your car. Immediately lock your doors and get rollin’. No balancing your checkbook or applying another layer of mascara!
  7. Find a public place with lots of people and call 911 if you think you’re being followed. If there isn’t such an area, turn around and demand that the potential assailant tell you what they want in your loudest, most confident voice. Draw as much attention to yourself as possible. Get out your cell phone and start dialing 911. Let them know that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Follow these guidelines and be safe!