39 Reasons Why Krav Maga is the Best Self Defense for Women

Krav Maga is an excellent system for physical self defense, because it’s relatively quick to learn and anyone can do it. It’s also a great place to build confidence, awareness of your body, awareness of your surroundings, and more.

Without further ado, here are 39 reasons Krav Maga is the self defense system for women:

  1. Learn to use your natural reactions to your advantage. Imi Lichtenfeld, the founder of Krav Maga, studied how the body moves under stress to create and systematize the most effective defenses. This means many of the defenses are built on reactions you’d have anyway. With a little modification, skill, and practice, you learn to turn those movements into real defenses.
  2. Safety is the #1 priority. You learn proper form in throwing strikes in every class, as well as how to escape specific attacks and get away. Defend, attack, get to safety. Repeat.
  3. You learn to deal with more than one assailant. Group drills are common to build up aggression and train you to handle multiple attackers.
  4. Discover you’re capable and more resilient than you think. Krav Maga looks and sounds intimidating and it is, but there’s something magical that happens when you excel at something you didn’t think was possible.
  5. You learn to be aware of yourself and your surroundings even if you’re in the middle of an altercation. As we’re throwing non-stop knees, instructors yell to keep our eyes up and scan the area for more threats. Situational awareness is part of the training. I’ve been frustrated in the past to receive vague advice to “be more aware of your surroundings.” Krav Maga teaches you specifically how to scan, stay alert, and be prepared.
  6. It’s quick. No learning forms or positions for months before you learn a usable defense. It’s meant to be quickly learned and…
  7. Anyone can do it. No really. Anyone.
  8. It’s a dirty, all-out system, because in reality there are no rules on the street. You never learn not to do something, because of tournament rules.
  9. They teach you how to hold yourself against both violent criminals and those that are threats only. We often talk through different scenarios and use of force. Because “reasonable force” is different for each country (and each state in the United States), it’s good to think through when you’re in safe learning environment. What you learn is effective and it’s smart to think through possible ramifications of your new skills. You learn what’s appropriate, what’s not and what’s appropriate sometimes, while not appropriate at other times. “Is your wallet worth it? I don’t think so. Give ’em what they want. The risk is too great,” one instructor might teach.
  10. De-escalation. Sometimes, you don’t need to use violence to get away safely. Sometimes, a simple wrist release—techniques to rotate your wrists out of someone’s grasp—is enough to get to safety. You learn those too.
  11. Learn to talk to your potential assailant. Not only do you learn to make aggressive sounds while striking (believe me, it increases the power in strikes for some trainees), you also learn and practice phrases to make your intentions clear to both your assailant AND bystanders in the vicinity. “Get away!” “Leave me alone!” “Stay back!” “Get back!”
  12. You learn to defend attacks in the dark, in loud areas, and by different sized attackers using lots of great drills.
  13. We even practice against attacks where the assaulter makes demands of you, such as “Come with me!” or “Get in the car!” Occasionally, we’ll use profanity as part of our training. It depends on the instructor and the class, but I’ve had coaches turn speaking and yelling into one of the main areas of focus. It can be uncomfortable to yell at an attacker at first, but it becomes easier with practice. As one instructor told me, “Bad guys are like roaches. Once you shine a light on them, they scurry back into the dark.” Sometimes, yelling is enough to make ’em scurry.
  14. Krav Maga was developed for Israeli soldiers to fight Nazis. It needed to be easy to learn and use under stress. Additionally, it had to be a system where soldiers received little ongoing training.
  15. You can expect to learn at least one defense after just a single class. Every step is broken down into simple steps and you build up to one defense in each 1-hour class.
  16. Krav Maga is based on techniques from many different martial arts, including boxing, Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, and street fighting. You learn lots of great moves from many systems. In this regard, it’s also what I’d call a “gateway” system into additional martial arts. I’m already considering other styles to perfect certain skills I’ve learned in Krav Maga.
  17. You’re taught to be assertive AND aggressive. Being assertive or aggressive can be really tough for many women. They’ve never thrown a punch and they don’t want to hurt anyone. It’s understandable. In Krav Maga, your instructors teach you to “turn on” your assertive self. You have it in you. In many cases, you just need a safe, inviting place to practice and a good instructor to show you how.
  18. You’re taught to go from non-aggressive to aggressive quickly so you can neutralize your attacker quickly. By some estimates, most violent encounters last as little as a few seconds. You learn how to go from “regular you” to “aggressive you” so you can stop the violence asap.
  19. You learn to “feel out” your opponent in the moment. One of my favorite instructors once said to me “if I was asked why I hit a guy 10 times, it’s because nine was too few and 11 was too many.” Then I’m pretty sure we did an exciting and exhausting drill where we hit something. The point is that we train to feel out our partner as we’re defending, so you can tell when it’s time in an altercation to retreat to safety.
  20. As in other martial arts, you learn to look for openings. Krav Maga gives you base skills, but it’s not strict. It doesn’t matter if something isn’t “perfect” technique, as long as it works and you get away safely. In fact, when you mess up a technique, we learn to keep going no matter where you’ve ended up. Assailants won’t let you stop and “try it again”. You can know what’s still available to you if you mess up.
  21. Techniques are still being improved by higher level instructors at the worldwide organizational levels based on experiences out in the field. It’s not a static system. It’s evolving and fluid and it makes for smarter self defense.
  22. One defense to rule them all. Sort of. It’s a system with a base set of defenses. Instead of learning 300 different defenses for 300 different attacks, you learn the handful of defenses that will defend against the most attacks AND the most likely attacks.
  23. kravazon-fightingstance
    Kaci practicing a fast fighting stance.

    The system is broken down so you learn the defenses for the most common attacks first. You’re studying the attacks with the statistically higher likelihood of happening to you from the very start. As you progress through the system, you learn more advanced techniques against less likely attacks.

  24. It’s easy to remember, because it’s built on your natural reflexes. If someone were you choke you, your initial reaction might be to put your hands on theirs. Instead of simply placing your hands on your attacker, you learn to use explosive force of that nonaggressive movement to create space and get away.
  25. They teach you to respond as quickly as possible, so you don’t get caught frozen in a moment of danger. Many drills are meant to force you to react faster and with more aggression. “Again! Faster!” It can be as simple as getting into your fighting stance faster and as complicated as getting out of a defense faster.
  26. You practice feeling the impact of a punch. Even though there’s a bag between you and your partner’s punches and kicks, you still feel impact. Many people are frozen in fear when they’re hit the first time. It’s understandable, but you can train that out of yourself. If you take Krav Maga, you’re less likely to be frozen by the unfamiliar feeling of a punch, because it’s not really unfamiliar.fitandfearless-krav-maga-2
  27. You learn what it feels like to be choked and jostled in a safe environment. These experiences can be unsettling for many in the beginning and it can cause you to freeze in the moment. Your brain will spend less time processing the feeling of being choked or jostled, because it’s a familiar feeling, giving your muscle memory a chance to execute a defense.
  28. You also condition your body to know what it feels like to strike something hard. It takes time to become comfortable hitting someone. By learning this feeling early, you won’t scared to do it in the moment.
  29. You practice stress drills—exercises that put you under pressure both physically and mentally—so you train to perform at many different levels of fear. Because stress causes everyone to get messy in their self defense, these drills help you train to anticipate and excel in moments of stress.
  30. Krav Maga teaches you to think about self defense as a logical series of steps. 1) Identify the primary threat, 2) Neutralize the primary threat, 3) Get away safely.
  31. You’re taught to identify the immediate danger. When you’re choked from the front, you don’t worry about the pressure at the sides of your neck, you worry about the thumbs pressing into your wind pipe cutting off the flow of oxygen. We identify the immediate threats in a safe environment so you’re ready for it if it happens to you on the street.
  32. You learn how to defend and attack simultaneously and quickly. Every class you learn a defense that is paired with a counter-attack. Rarely do we ever defend, pause, and then attack. We almost always learn to defend and attack simultaneously or near-simultaneously. You’re training for the element of surprise, where you get to surprise your attacker.
  33. You learn to see an attack coming. In many classes, we learn about how (untrained) assailants tend move when they throw a punch. We watch what the movement looks like and learn to look for the warning signs so we can effectively defend.
  34. You learn how to get yourself into the best possible position to reduce the effect of an assailant’s strikes. More often than not, that means moving closer to your attacker. While many things in Krav Maga are based on natural movements, this one can be really counterintuitive. It’s important to learn and practice moving towards your attacker in a safe environment, so you’re not caught trying to move towards what feels like immediate danger.
  35. It’s an effective system if your attacker is larger and stronger than you. You don’t have to be an MMA fighter or Rocky Balboa to effectively do these strikes and defenses.
  36. You learn defenses against weapons like guns, knives, sticks, and more. Depending on your gym and your level of experience in Krav Maga, you too can learn how to defend against scary weapons.fitandfearless-krav-maga
  37. It’s a crazy awesome work out and it makes you stronger. I’ve never been in better shape.
  38. Krav Maga has given me confidence in other areas of my life, not just in being able to defend myself. There have been many times when I’ve said “Hey, I should be able to do this. I mean I do Krav Maga… this can’t be much harder, right?” And it’s true. We artificially limit ourselves. Once I started doing Krav Maga, my world opened up to a whole host of things I never thought I could do.
  39. It gets you out of your comfort zone. Like I said before, there’s something magical about watching someone do something, thinking you’ll never be able to do it, and then being able to in the end. I’ve personally gained a lot of confidence in myself.

I’m not saying other martial arts and self defense programs also don’t have these 39 reasons to participate. To be honest, I don’t really care what martial art you train in as long as you’re doing something to practice self defense. There are lots of great programs out there and I’ve found a lot of success in Krav Maga.

My advice is for you to try at least a few classes.

Have you tried Krav Maga or another martial art? What did you think?

Dear Gym Bro: An Open Letter

Dear gym bro,

Yes, I’m a woman.

Yes, I’m smaller than you.

Yes, some of my strikes aren’t as strong as yours.

True, you’re not likely to face an opponent my size.

But yes, I deserve to be here. I’m smart enough, strong enough, and fast enough to be here.

Yes, I can hold my own.

And no, you won’t be wasting your time if you partner with me (if you’re smart about how you train).

Suck it,

Kaci


In beginning Krav Maga classes, I’ve noticed something in the way some guys approach class.

These are the cocky guys with something to prove.

Other women have reported guys telling them they don’t deserve to be here. That women have no right do this. That they can’t. It was hard for me to imagine. My gym is amazing at filtering out ego.

A few weeks ago, I was in a level 1 class. Our instructor asked us to pair up and I turned to my right. Everyone was already partnered. I turned to the guy on my left. He looked through me to the other side of the room. We were the only two people left. I extended my arm, pointed at him, and with a smile on my face said “Do you have a partner?”

His neck stretched as he strained to look over my head searching for another person.

“Uhhhh…” He looked back over his other shoulder and then behind me again.

My heart sinks.

“No, yeah, I guess we can partner,” he said. His attitude oozed disappointment.

Luckily, I’ve been at my gym a long time. I’m not intimidated by machismo. If anything, it fuels me. The kind of guy who would attack a woman is filled with this same ego.

He had no idea I had all these feelings vibrating through me. Anger. Frustration. Righteousness. I got through the class. I viewed the experience as another way to train. Don’t let him see the raw emotion. Don’t let him feed on it.

Now when we’re in the same class, I look through him. He had an opportunity to learn from me, but he chose to let his ego get in the way. But I learned plenty from him. I learned to focus my energy and emotions into my strikes.

You are no better than me and I deserve to be here.
I have every right to train.

Anyone who makes you feel like you don’t deserve to be here should mean nothing to you too.

Get through the experience. Learn what you can from it, but move on. They aren’t worth it.

Stay safe, but don’t take crap from anyone.

Lessons I Didn’t Expect to Learn in my Level 2 Krav Maga Test

I gained more in my level 2 Krav Maga test beyond a feeling of accomplishment and graduating to the next level. Here are three more things I learned on October 17, 2015:

1. Focus on making your partner better and you’ll be better.

Before we started the test, my partner Jolyn said she wanted to set an intention for the day. I nodded to her. It’s something I’ve done in the past and I feel good about.

I immediately starting setting intentions like “excel through the whole day” or “don’t get any injuries”.

Jolyn surprised me though.

“My purpose for the day is to make you look your best. When I focus on the other person—in acting, improv, in life—everyone seems to benefit more than if I were to focus on myself.”

It completely threw me off and it resonated with me.

I took a silent moment to set the intention that I’d make Jolyn look the best she could and I think it helped. Throughout the day, I gave her encouragement or reminded her how she could make a technique cleaner. It gave me energy. She would adjust, something would click, and I’d feel a tiny spark of motivation. We were a team. I was her coach and she was mine.

I’ve had the supreme honor of working with a few people brand new to Krav Maga since my level 2 test and I think it’s made their first experience even better too.

Focus on the success of your partner and you’ll both benefit.

2. Flexibility Does Matter (Sometimes)

kacis-poor-hip-flexibilityIt’s funny to learn something technical in your test, but I did. In reviewing the video, I can see where Matt would yell at me to “shoot [my] hips higher.” I would push my hips as high as possible, but as I watch the footage it’s clear I have hip mobility issues.

They need to go higher than they currently do in order to be successful against a bigger, stronger assailant. It’s something I’ll focus on in the coming weeks.

Flexibility matters, especially in ground fighting.

3. The Way You Think Matters.

In the three weeks since my test, I’ve found myself taking three classes in a row without getting tired. My friends who are new to Krav Maga look at me like I’m crazy.

“You’re going to another class?”

Why yes. Yes, I am.

But when you do something for nearly eight hours, doing it for three or four feels like nothing. During my test, I could keep going at the six hour mark because I had to. So, why should it matter if I’m taking regular classes or testing?

Because it’s all in my head.

It’s made me realize that I have more power, more energy, and more strength than I think I do.

This is one of those life lesson moments. It goes beyond Krav Maga or martial arts.

We artificially limit ourselves, because we don’t think we can keep going or we’re not good enough, but we can and we are.

There’s almost always a little more energy, a little more strength you can ring out of a moment.

Think bigger and stronger and you’ll capable of more.

My first Level 3 Krav Maga Class (and the Evils of Imposter Syndrome)

My first level 3 class is like the first day of school: I’m nervous, excited, but also feeling dread.

A few of my higher level friends peer pressured encouraged me to go to the Wednesday level 3 class a mere four days after my level 2 test, so here I am.

When I graduated from level 1 in 2014, I was terrified of the level 2 classes. It took me weeks to get up the courage to go. I gave myself all the best excuses. I was resting after my test, I wasn’t feeling well, I should take a level 1 class to get back in the swing of things…

Have you heard of imposter syndrome? It’s the belief that your successes are unwarranted and you don’t think you belong. It’s the little voice in your head that says you’re not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to be here. You’re a fraud. Somehow, you managed to fake out the people who let you in and any minute they’ll figure it out.

Evil, right?

When I went to my first level 3 class (and my first level 2 class!), I could feel imposter syndrome eating away at my stomach lining.

  • What if I’ve forgotten everything?
  • What if my level 2 skills aren’t good enough to serve me in level 3?
  • What if I hurt my partner?
  • What if my partner thinks I’m shitty at this and is super annoyed they have to partner with a new person?

I hate imposter syndrome.

I walk in just as class starts. Everyone greets me warmly and I immediately feel welcome.

Imposter syndrome does not go away.

I pair up with Jeff, a tall, well-muscled guy with a shaved head. He’s funny, but intimidating. I’ve sparred with him before so he knows me a little and he’s actually one of the people who encouraged me to come to class. I’m scared shitless.

He smiles at me as I put in my mouth guard.

“We’re doing all defenses from level 1 and level 2,” he says. It’s common in higher level classes to do lower level defenses as the warm up.

I nod. Okay, you can do this.

His hands wrap around my throat and I pluck and kick. My combatives feel foreign and sloppy. I’m nervous and it’s affecting my performance. I don’t want to suck at this.

Camille comes into class just as I finish my first defense and she joins our group. I feel immense relief.

We tell Camille what we’re doing, she nods, and I move in to choke her.

Imposter Syndrome is the little voice in your head that says you’re not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to be here. You’re a fraud. Somehow, you managed to fake out the people who let you in and any minute they’ll figure it out.

It’s funny looking back on this class. At the time, I don’t process these feelings—intimidated by Jeff and his proficiency in Krav Maga, imposter syndrome, my nervousness. It’s uncharacteristic of me to back down from a challenge. In fact, I usually relish in working with guys bigger and stronger than me. It’s the best training. I love learning new techniques and this is the one place where I really have no qualms about saying I don’t know something.

Not today. Today, I feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the whole experience.

Francisco, our instructor, leads us through take downs. As the person being taken down, you have to catch yourself with a fall break. I watch Francisco demonstrate the technique feeling nervous about my first real need to effectively use fall breaks. If I do these poorly, the whole experience will suck for me.

Jeff moves into my legs slowly, dumps me gently on the floor, and I catch myself with a fall break.

Nothing bad happens. I do what I’m supposed to do and it’s all okay.

I let out a tiny breath of relief. It’s my turn to face Camille and take her down using the new techniques. I struggle like anyone who’s never done something struggles. We take turns, attacking and falling.

It’s all okay. It feels almost exactly like a level 2 class. No one questions my right to be here. We move on to the next technique.

 

sprawlI’ve done Krav Maga—cumulatively—for four years and I’ve done a lot of sprawls by myself. As a warm up, a sprawl is a technique where you put your hands on the ground in front of you and push your hips and legs back and down while keeping your face up so you can see your attacker.

This is the first class I learn to sprawl as a defense and it’s exciting to put it to use.

Camille shoots in and tries to wrap her hands around the backs of my knees to take me down to the ground. I throw my hips and feet back into a sprawl and press my hands and torso down into her back. It looks like this Human Weapon episode from The History Channel:

Francisco instructs us to do a series of sprawls, ground work, and take downs that’s hard to explain. It takes me a bit to understand everything he wants us to do and even now I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

Overall the class goes well. I was nervous, but everyone was super nice and told me I did well. And I sort of believe them.

This is something I have to get over.

Krav Maga is a learning experience filled with ambiguous situations and uncomfortable drills, but they make me stronger and smarter.

All these people are my friends. They want to see me learn and excel. I can’t wait to get to another level 3 class!

What’s a level 2 Krav Maga belt test like? My story.

Krav Maga Level 2 Test - BeforeThe level 2 Krav Maga test starts at 8am on October 17, 2015. It’s a bright Saturday morning.

As I drive to the gym, I feel calm. It’s almost eery. No butterflies. Just resolve. I know I can do this, because I’ve done it before during my level 1 test.

I pull into the gym parking lot at 7:40am and walk my five bags of food, water, and equipment into our training room. The night before I cut two cucumbers, half a pound of strawberries, half a bell pepper, two apples, three mandarin oranges, five pieces of ham… I looked at it all and fearing it isn’t enough and cut two more cucumbers.

20151017kravazon-overprepared-food

We line all our stuff up along one wall and laugh at how much we’ve brought. It’s so much for a single day. Part of the test is the ambiguity of how long it will take. It could take six hours. It could take 12. There’s just no way to know until you’re there and you’re at the end.

20151017-kravazon-allourequipment

There are six of us. We walk around the gym talking and laughing. I bounce on my feet.

Matt asks us to line up in front of the room just like any other class. He asks us to bow to our partners. I turn to Jolyn and we smile at each other.

“No matter what happens, we’ll still be friends.” We laugh.

We bow to our instructors. I take in big breaths. I’ll need all the oxygen I can get.

And then it begins.

At my gym, our Krav Maga tests are broken into two sections.

  • Review
  • (Short break)
  • Test

The review is the time to ask questions, perfect technique, and get worn out. We go through everything that will be on the test. It’s exhausting and that’s kind of the point. They want to test us when we’re wiped out.

We’ll take a short break—usually 5-15 minutes—and then the actual test begins. We’ll execute each technique until the lead instructor has a chance to see everyone perform the attack or defense. Then we’ll move on. No breaks. No rest periods. Operate at 100%, 100% of the time.

The Review


We start with a standard warm up. Jogging around the room, lunges, squats, and sit ups. We move into striking combinations with our partners. I hold focus mitts for Jolyn. I call out a number and she strikes with the corresponding combination.

“Four!”

Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut.

“Two!”

Jab. Cross.

“One!”

Jab.

I’m focused. Alive. I love this.

20151017-kravazon-gearing-upThen it’s the dreaded fall breaks. I’ve had anxiety about back fall breaks and I’ve spent a lot of time practicing them after class. When Matt yells “fall breaks!” I take a breath. This is it. All my hard work comes to this moment. There’s no time to think about it. “Go!” he yells and I fling myself back and catch execute a fall break. I can do these. I’m determined to do these.

We do six or so back fall breaks and then another six or seven side fall breaks. I don’t think about it too much. My hard work has paid off. I feel good.

We put on our shin pads and work on side and back kicks. I take these slowly. These are strikes I’ve struggled with in the past and I want to make sure I do them correctly. Then we’re off to kick defenses. Jolyn kicks her foot up the center of my body and I deflect with my shin or hand or arm.

We work on 360 and inside defenses. All with full counters—meaning we complete each defense as if to finish the fight. There are no instances where we do just the defense. It’s defend and immediately counter.

20151017-kravazon-360-defenses

There are no clocks in the room and our only sense of time is the activity outside as other trainees go to classes on the hour.

Chris, my awesome, amazing, wonderful husband brings everyone smoothies. By this point, we’ve started losing steam. It’s difficult to get food in between each set and we need the protein to focus. I try really hard to sip water before we start each round, but food is tougher.

We move on to bear hugs. Arms caught with lots of warning. Arms caught with no warning. Arms free.

Choke from the front with a push. Against a wall. Choke from behind with a pull.

Then we do ground work. We’ve been working near-nonstop for four hours and I’m tired. If you’ve ever done ground work, you know how exhausting it is. It sucks to be tired and know you’re about to do something that’s even more exhausting.

There’s also more to ground work than just the physical demand. It’s personal and up close. It’s scary to defend from the ground. It means something has gone terribly wrong and your assailant wants to end this in a way that’s exceptionally bad. It’s not just about taking your wallet. They want to take a part of you. Rape. Your life. For me, ground work is real and laced with emotion.

We roll around on the floor for almost an hour before the review part of the test is over.

The Rest

Matt gives us 10 minutes to rest before the test begins.

I eat a handful of almonds, some apple and cucumber slices, and suck down some coconut water with chia seeds.

I stretch a little and put my legs up on the wall to give my feet a break.

When Matt calls us back in, I’m tired. In some ways the break itself is the hardest part. If we keep moving, the momentum gives me energy. With the rest, my body starts to shut down. I’d really like a nap.

The Test

We do jumping jacks and squats to warm back up. Everything feels more difficult. Like running through mud.

Matt calls out a series of combinations and I hold focus mitts for Jolyn as she works through them. It’s almost exactly like the review.

20151017-kravazon-frontkick“Jab, cross, hook, elbow!” he calls. Jolyn strikes the focus mitts until he calls out the next combination.

“Jab, elbow!” She transitions.

“Breathe,” I tell her. “Keep your hands up.” She nods, but says nothing. She’s focused.

When we switch, I can feel myself breaking down. I’m trying to stay focused and calm and execute the combination in front of me. I hear Matt’s voice in my head reminding me to keep my hands at my chin between strikes. The 16-oz boxing gloves are literal weights. My arms feel heavy. A cloud settles over me.

“I can see you’re getting tired, but you’ve got to dig deeper!” Matt calls out to us. “Get it together!”

Breathe. Strike. Breathe. Hands to chin.

Jolyn offers me quiet encouragement.

“Gloves and mitts off!” Matt says from the front. “Fall breaks!”

Fall breaks. I can do these. I’m confident now that I’ve done them in the review ,but I’m tired. They’re sloppy. I focus on trying to execute the technique, but I flounder.

YOU CAN DO THIS. Don’t eff it up now.

I fling myself back and do a fall break. They aren’t as clean as they were before. Side fall breaks have always been fine for me, but I struggle with these too. We do six or seven of back and then six or seven side fall breaks. I breathe. That could have been better.

We put on our shin pads. I want to wear my sneakers so I can protect my feet, but the pads don’t fit well around my shoes. I try to make it work, but my thinking brain isn’t operating well. I look up and realize everyone is waiting on me. I feel flustered. I put them on the way I usually do when I wear shoes, knowing they’ll shift around.

I’m thankful Jolyn goes first with the kicks and kick defenses. It gives me a second to transition after feeling flustered about my shin pads.

Level 2 kicks have been a struggle for me in the past. We don’t do them often in class and I’ve had to work on them outside of class. Before each kick, I take a breath. I don’t have to do a million of these. I just have to convince Matt my technique is there.

Bring your knee up higher, I hear him in my head.

Breathe, I tell myself.

I bring my knee up and strike the pad in Jolyn’s holds. Then with an advance. I take a step and shoot my leg out. They’re fine too. I’ve been working on these. It’s paid off.

Back kicks are hard. I have to remember to keep my knee down otherwise it turns into a weird backward roundhouse kick with zero power. Then we do it with an advance.

I’m okay. I’m going to be okay.

Matt throws us a curve ball.

“Advancing side kick followed by an advancing back kick!” I’ve never combined two advancing kicks together. I stare at him trying to make the kicks work in my head. He repeats it. “Advancing side kick followed by an advancing back kick! Go!”

Breathe. You can do this. Take it slow the first time.

I feel like a newborn fawn. Awkward. I stumble a little. It takes a few tries, but I finally get it. I look up and Matt is watching the group across the room. I worry he hasn’t seen I can do it. I don’t want to fail. I’m so tired. We move on.

20151017-kravazon-standing-smilingI take a drink of water and prepare for chokes. Jolyn chokes me with a push against the wall. I catch myself on my forearms and circle around to throw strikes. We’ve practiced these chokes a lot in class and I feel confident. We’ve done them against brick walls and chainlink fences. The confidence gives me a little energy, but we don’t stay here long.

Matt gets excited. “It’s just ground work and then the final drill, guys!”

Ground work is exhausting. I’m not feeling super energetic about it, but I dig deeper.

We get to it. I lay down on the ground and Jolyn bares down on me with a front choke. I pluck her hands away and buck out of it. I’ve worked with some big guys on ground work and they’ve forced me to work hard. I feel confident in my ground work skills, as long as I can get my hips up when I buck. With these chokes and head locks, the defense is almost the same. Once you’ve got one of them, you’ve basically got them all.

This part of the test is a blur. I don’t remember most of it. What I do remember is trying to defend Jolyn mounted on my back. I lay with my forehead pressed to the mat. I have to pluck Jolyn’s hands away from my neck while simultaneously pulling my legs up underneath my body throwing her over my shoulder. It’s impossible. I just can’t get my hips under my body. I know I’ve failed the technique.

At the end of the ground work, Matt gives us a minute to grab a drink of water while he explains the final drill.

It’s a doozy.

The Finale

I listen to him describe the plan in detail. He’s so excited.

“This is your favorite part, isn’t it?,” I ask. He smiles like a kid on Christmas.

I blink and take another swig of water. I take a deep breath. This is it.

We go outside and I mount the kick shield. The sun is so bright. I try to take in another breath.

“Ready?! Go! Go! Go!”

I strike the pad on the ground (“ground and pound”) for at least a minute.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

I throw elbows, hammer fists, palm heel strikes, and slam the edge of the bag down on the cement simulating slamming an assailant’s head on the ground.

“Up! Run, run, run!”

I lumber to my feet and start running across the parking lot.

“Hips forward, relax your hands! Keep going! You’re running to help your family. Your friends. You have to get there fast!” Matt chants at us. “Faster! Faster!”

I keep breathing.

We get to the end of the parking lot, turn around, and run back. I’m so tired.

Keep breathing.

I mount the kick shield and go back to striking. Strike, strike, strike, breathing the whole time.

“Up, up, up! Go!” Matt yells.

I get back to my feet and start running. Matt is running behind us, yelling, overcoming us. I turn around at the edge of the parking lot and run back. I try to find extra energy. There’s nothing. I can’t go faster.

“Your choice. Piggy back, fireman’s carry…Choose however you want to carry your partner and go!”

I jump on Jolyn’s back and she trots across the parking lot.

“You’ve got this. You can do it!” I say into her ear.

When we get to the edge of the parking lot, I dismount off her back and turn around so she can jump on my back.

“Ready?” she asks.

I nod and she jumps on my back. I shuffle as quickly as I can without falling. I’d like this part to be over.

“Good job, Kaci!” Jolyn says over my shoulder. “Keep going!”

We near the doors and Jolyn jumps off my back. I jog to my kick shield and feel grateful to carry my weight only.

We run back inside to the gym room. Sabrina draws the first name and Nick (the lucky first victim) heads back out to run the length of the parking lot. Matt runs behind him. I take big breaths and grab a drink of water. I pace impatiently.

“Here they come!”

Sabrina turns off the lights. Nick runs into the room taking deep breaths and we’re on him. We can attack him with any defense from level 1 or 2. We circle him, hands reaching out to choke, bearhug, or bar arm. Whatever we can do to make it difficult for him for the next few minutes.

Suddenly the lights come on. We do this for each person until it’s my turn.

When they call my name, I dash out of the room. I hear Sabrina call to me “Go, go, go! Matt will catch up.” I believe her. He’s behind me in a hot second.

My feet pound across the pavement. “Faster!” He says. “Hips forward, hands relaxed. Go! Go! Go!” He swats at my back the whole way across the lot and all the way back. “Faster, Kaci! Faster!”

I open the door to the gym and run back into our room. It’s dark and suddenly there are people circling me. They’re everywhere. Their hands reach out for me. Hands wrap around the front of my neck while arms bear hug from behind. It’s mayhem.

I pluck at the hands around my throat throwing a simultaneous kick. I rotate my elbows around my back to disengage the person latched on my back. They loosen and I dash out of the circle and stack my opponents. It’s impossible. There are too many. I defend one at a time.

It feels like a train barrels into me as arms wrap around my torso. Matt is overwhelming.

I rotate and strike out. I dig even deeper and defend against him. He loosens.

Hands keep reaching towards my throat or around my body and I keep defending. I try to get into the best position possible, but otherwise I stop thinking. I’m reacting. There is nothing else.

The lights come on, another name is called out, and the people are gone. The hands don’t reach for me. It’s just me and my breathing. For me, it’s over. Emotions bubble up. I pace around the room. The lights turn off and Millicent runs back into the room. There’s no time for emotions.

She dodges us. I reach for her and wrap my hands around her throat. It’s not about what I can defend now. It’s only about how I can make this experience challenging for everyone else.

When Millicent’s time is over, it’s Ryan’s turn. Ryan is easily 6’2″ and 200+lbs. He’s a beast. When he enters the room, he barrels past everyone. I want to stop him. I want him to be challenged. I want him to be forced to use Krav Maga. Someone grabs him from the front and I work my way behind. I bury my head in the middle of his back and wrap my hands around his front in a firm bear hug. He whips me to the left, but I don’t give up. He whips me the other way and I cling to him. Six seconds, eight seconds, 10 seconds. He can’t get me off his back and he strikes at my hands to get me to release.

There are no rules in Krav Maga. The point is to get away safely.

It’s not an official technique, but it works. My hands release and he rushes away.

After we’ve each taken a turn, Matt asks us to line up so we can bow out.

Sweat pours off us. Our faces are red. We breathe heavily. 7.5 hours. I’d like to cry.

“You did great. You got tired, but you pushed through. I know you each trained outside of regular class for today. It was a fast test, because you each prepared. Congratulations! You all passed.”

Emotions well up.

“Turn to your partner and bow,” Matt instructs. I turn to Jolyn and bow.

“Thank you,” I say with deep sincerity. She smiles widely at me.

We turn back to Matt. He bows to the other instructors and then to us. “Class, kidah!”

I bow. “Kidah.”

Welcome to level 3.

20151017KravTestAndWhat-sm

How to Defend Yourself in High Heels

Ever since I started learning Krav Maga, I’ve been thinking about how self defense might change depending on my situation.

Me in 2015 wearing my favorite heels at my good friend's wedding
These high heels pass the test (and they’re my favorite!)

What if I’m wearing high heels? Or what if I’m out dancing with a group of my lady friends? I’m the only one with Krav Maga experience and I’m the only one actively training in any sort of martial art.

Imagine me and four of my closest friends against who knows how many assailants.

Yes, this is what I think about. I want my friends to be safe and it’s one reason I’ve tried so hard to get and keep more of my friends in Krav Maga.

Anyway, Avital posted a video in July about how to defend yourself in high heels. She lays out four possibilities:

  1. Can I take off my heels?
  2. Can I run away in my heels?
  3. Can I fight in my heels?
  4. Can I use my heels a weapon?

I really love how down-to-earth and real she is. She takes this question seriously, but she also clearly has a sense of humor.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Remember: it can be as simple as choosing cute heels that you can run and move in when you head out for the night! Plus, it’s so much nicer to have heels you can dance in, amIright?