My first class with a male partner

This is my first Sunday class and I feel pretty confident walking in. On Monday, I finished up not feeling like I was going to die from exhaustion.

We do the usual stretch and B, the owner and today’s trainer, tells us to do 20 push-ups and 25 sit-ups. I’m immediately a little anxious. The last time I tried to do the most push-ups I could, I was able to do… oh… ya know… seven. I surprise myself though. I’m pushing my body up and I’m suddenly past 10. Then 15. 20 push-ups? Please. That was almost easy. Almost.

I partner up with H for openhand strikes. I’m excited, because he’s the first guy I’ve worked with so far. He’s at least 2 inches taller and 50lbs heavier than me, but I feel pretty confident about my ability. B pushes us hard. We quickly make our way through straight openhanded strikes, groin kicks, and by the time we get to elbow jabs, I’m ready to pass out. I actually consider stepping out of the room. We must be getting to the end of class. I look at the clock. We’ve only been at this half an hour. It’s only half over.

Oh. My. God. I think I may die.

I look over at H. Sure, he’s tired. We’re all sweaty and exhausted, but he looks ready to start practicing the strike. I get a little boost of energy. Must keep up with the boys…

I’ve never done elbow jabs before and I immediately tell the difference between H’s and my own. He knocks me back a little with each strike. I don’t really think I’m doing them right. I’m stepping and twisting and not getting it. B comes over to help, but I’m so exhausted I can’t make my back leg push off like he’s instructing. I keep at it though. I can’t learn everything perfect the first time.

Now for my favorite part, learning to defend.

New scenario: Someone’s choking you from the side, most likely to either head-butt you (this is popular in Europe) or to drag you off (I’m sure you can fill in the gory details on your own). In this case, you rip your attackers hand away from you in a plucking motion, but keep a good grip on his hand. You don’t want him going anywhere. At the same time, give him a solid hit to the groin with your free hand. Bring your arm up through his arms and elbow him in the face. Give him a “little tickle” (B’s words) of a kick to the groin and then knee the crap out of him. Mmmm… Attacker down.

I practice this with H and he gets a little anxious defending against me. He accidentally clips my jaw once and immediately stops. It doesn’t hurt and I’m all “I’m still attacking, yo!” He finishes the combination and instantly starts to apologize. “I’m not bleeding and nothing’s broken, so keep going!” I tell him. He doesn’t let up any more.

Moral of the today’s Krav story:

  1. B knows how to hand my ass to me on a lovely Sunday morning (I’m so coming back next week),
  2. Guys tend to be great partners, because they motivate me to really work,
  3. I’ve just got to get serious and level them. I may be a girl, but I’m not gonna let up on you any. Give me all you’ve got.

Good news! I don’t feel like I’m going to die after class!

I still have a nasty scab on my right middle knuckle from class last week. I walk into Krav and promptly show the guy who manages the front desk. “So… this is what happened last time I was here,” I say with fake shyness. (Really, I’m super psyched about it…) “Is that gonna be an issue?”

He glows with pride—his face lighting up like a 10 year-old who’s just found out Christmas came four months early. “Good! It’s in the right spot! You want any scabs to be on your first two knuckles.” He assures me my hands will toughen up and tells me to throw open hand strikes for class tonight. A girl who’s signing up for her first class looks at me apprehensively, but I give him a big grin and go watch the class before mine. I have to admit, I’ve been staring at my knuckle with pride all week. Every time I look down, I remember what it means: I’m learning what I am capable of.

I’ve only been going a few weeks, but I can already feel myself getting into shape. After the initial warm-up, I’m not nearly as out of breath as I was before; I don’t feel like I’m going to die. My kicks are stronger, my punches are harder.

The instructor has us close our eyes. You have to train yourself to react as if you were on the street, he explains. You won’t always be prepared. My partner takes the rectangular bag and gives me a firm push and then prepares for my attack. My eyes fly open and I deliver a solid kick to her groin.

Again, I close my eyes. I force my mind to think about something else, allowing my weight to shift lazily to my left leg.

I seriously need to find a new job soon. She gives me a firm push from behind and simultaneously yells “HEY!” I open my eyes and deliver two solid open hand strikes. Left, Right.

I close my eyes… What should I eat tonight for… She shoves. Groin kick, groin kick.

When I leave, I feel great. I’m alert, strong, determined. I get on the crowded train to go home and catch a glimpse of myself in the window. I look like I’ve been manhandled, but I feel awesome! The guy sitting in front of me must think I look bad too, because he offers me his seat, even though there’s another woman in a suit standing closer to him. I smile and politely decline. There’s no way I could sit right now.

Quote of the week: “If you want to go home alive, play dirty.”

I’m already into watching Mixed Martial Arts

I’ve been house sitting (translation: a couch potato) for my boss with the other intern for the past week. Last night, I’m lounging on the couch, channel surfing, looking for something both G and I would be interested in watching.

Here’s a bit how that goes:

Home shopping network. Click.
Cartoon. Click.
Fighting. Click.
A documentary on…
Wait, fighting?!

And we proceed to watch an hour of MMA on Spike TV. Really? Just a few classes of Krav Maga and that’s all it took?

We can’t pay someone to attack you…

This is my second official class of Krav Maga, but I’m just as nervous as I was the first time I walked in the building. When I see other women are there, I relax a little. I’m not really sure why.

We start warming up by running around the room and stretching our muscles.

I pair up with K, a shorter, petite woman, to practice straight punches. It takes a minute to get back into it.

Left, right.
Punch, punch.
Punch, punch.

My left arm isn’t as strong or as fast as my right. I can feel the power in my right strike.

After a few minutes of this, one of the instructors stops the class. What is the point of Krav Maga, he asks. Self-defense, we answer.

“Look, we can’t pay someone to attack you. This is your time to practice these moves. So practice them at full power. Practice them here so that you will be prepared out there.”

We start throwing punches again. I feel renewed energy. I think about someone attacking me and being forced to defend myself. Anger starts to boil up and I increase the speed of my left punch and put my weight into my right. The instructor walks behind me, yelling “Better! Good!”

I look down at my right hand. My middle knuckle is rubbed raw. I imagine going into work tomorrow all beat up… I can’t wait!

Our trainer adds another two steps to the combination. Left strike, right strike, step to the right of your opponent and punch into their side. When they drop their arm to protect their side, they expose their face and “that’s when you knock their head off,” he tells us. It’s like setting the opponent up for a knockout. He won’t even know what hit him.

I take it slow at first. Training my body to do what my mind is already starting to comprehend. I lightly tap my fist into the focus mitt as I memorize each step, acclimating my body to the feel of the movements. It’s almost like learning a dance.

Now that my body has felt the general movement, I start throwing real punches, putting all my weight into it. Taking a step toward my opponent feels alien, because my initial reaction would be to put space between me and them. But that’s the difference between Krav Maga and anything else I’ve ever seen: once you start defending yourself, you never back down until it’s over.

I go again, putting all my weight behind the final “head removing” punch. The instructor walks behind me again and pats me on the back, “Good! Good!” he says. I glow a little with pride and throw another hard hit. K’s body moves slightly with every throw.

When we switch places, I feel the power of K’s strikes hitting the mitts. I’m glad there is something between me and her fists. She’s a petite woman, but I can tell she could do some damage.

Now we move on to a defensive move. What if someone grabs your hair from the front. I’ve done this before in the previous class. K grabs my hair. My hands slap down on her fist, elbows closing in, and I thrust my body downward. Her wrist audibly pops. Guess it works. I take a few steps backward, her hand still lodged underneath my hands. When I look up she’s on her knees being dragged along the mats. I think I’ve got this defense down.

What if your attacker tries to grab your hair and knee you in the face? The instructors demonstrate the combination. Block their incoming knee with your left hand and simultaneously (or near simultaneously) swing your right hand up into the groin, almost like your bowling. Follow that up with solid punch to the face. Block, swipe, punch. Block, swipe, punch.

After class, I feel different about my surroundings. I’ve always walked with a bit of authority, silently sending out the message that you don’t want to mess with me. The difference is now I know I could actually do something if someone were to really attack me.

My First Krav Maga Class

My first official class was yesterday. I was a nervous wreck. Would it be mostly guys? Would they all be 6’3″ professional boxers? Would I hold them back?

Walking into class, I was surprised by the numbers. There’s maybe a dozen people in my class, half of them women. I’m instantly more at ease.

We start with some simple warm-ups and then a solid stretch.

The instructor demonstrates a roundhouse kick and directs us to a line of punching bags in the center of the room.

I give it a go, shooting out my leg for my first kick.

Now, I’m a thin girl, blessed with a high metabolism rate, but I’m far from toned. My body fully refuses to cooperate with my already inflated self-image as a bad ass, crime-fighting dominator. The black punching back bag barely moves.

I watch my partner—a shorter, thinner girl—throw her own roundhouse kicks. The bag obligingly scoots across the floor. Holy crap! If she can do it, surely I can too.

, Hips! Extend, Leg! Put some power behind it.

My mind is totally into it, but my body is completely unprepared to put power behind anything. Reset my stance. Try again. Ugh. My ankle starts to twinge a little. This… is hard.

How my obsession with Krav Maga started

About a week and a half ago I took a four hour women’s self-defense class at a local Krav Maga Training center. I saw women who, with every punch and kick thrown, have a story. A raw, hot anger boiling up inside of them. Stories that I’d rather not ask about and I’m sure they’d rather not tell. Stories I’d never want to claim as my own.

My boyfriend, Chris, first told me about Krav Maga after watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother. I just moved to a big city without really knowing anyone here. We figured it would make us all a little less paranoid (especially because he’s on the other side of the country) if I knew how to defend myself.

The thing I already love about Krav Maga is the ability for it to be a serious workout that is fun. We played a version of tag. We raced. We dodged, kicked, laughed, grunted, breathed. We sweat.

I left feeling empowered.

I walked all the way home with a sense of calm and excitement. I started looking people in the face as I walked by them, acknowledging their presence. I’m guilty of staring at the sidewalk as I walk by or deadpanning past people. “Acknowledge their presence,” B, our trainer, said. “It will make them think twice about attacking you.”

I can’t wait to start going to real classes.