Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Bringing Out My Inner Ninja

Shira's gym has started offering Krav Maga classes and tonight she had me tag along for one of their intro classes. For the uninitiated, Krav Maga is a fighting style created by (for?) the Israeli Defense Force and essentially is used for self defense. I'm told it's a combination of a bunch of different fighting styles (boxing, wrestling, Judo, etc.) and is supposed to be both relatively easy to learn and focused on real world use. Go check out YouTube for lots of examples.

The class started off tame enough. The instructor helped wrap our hands with boxing wraps and took us through some basics: the stance and a few punches. I felt like I was taking dance classes as we practiced roaming around the mat using pronounced movements. And then the instructor busted out a few large pads and things got interesting. Rather than pairing up with my petite wife, the four of us in the class were paired up by the instructor. Shira was to practice with another petite lady in the class. I, on the other hand, would be practicing with a 6'4", 200 pound mass of muscle.

First it was his turn to hold the the large pad as I slugged away at it using my newly learned punching techniques. I can't lie, this was fun. A lot of fun. Sure, my technique was a mess, and I'm sure my punches felt puny on the other side of the pad, but that didn't matter, I was kicking some butt. Then it was my turn to hold the pad as my partner pummeled me into the ground. That was a humbling experience to say the least. Note to self: don't hold the pad in front of your face; I nearly had a broken nose as my partner's fist collided with the pad, which pushed my hand back into my face. Rookie mistake.

After more working on our basic technique, including how to break out of a choke hold (Hi, my name is Ben, I've known you for 15 minutes, I'm going to choke you now.) we finished up the class with a near death inducing "conditioning" sequence. OK, I'm exaggerating a bit here; we just did push-ups and sit-ups till I couldn't do any more, which turns out to be a painfully small number of both of those exercises.

The introductory class was over. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I was ready to count this as a victory. The instructor, however, invited us to stay for the next class, which was the regular meeting of the Krav Maga students. Shira loved the idea, so we stayed.

The regular class turned out to be similar to the intro class. We worked on some basic punches, and then switched gears to focusing blocking head attacks. This consists of putting your arms up around your head and allowing the instructor to bash you with a set of pads. Nothing quite gets the heart pumping like trying to stay focused on not getting your head bashed in.

The regular class finished up with yet another conditioning session which pretty much guarantees I won't be able to get out of bed tomorrow.

I've got to say, everyone we met in the class, including my 6'4" partner, couldn't have been nicer and more encouraging. There was no ego or showing off; just a bunch of folks interested in learning skills and having fun while doing it. It was definitely a fun way to work out, with the hand to hand combat aspect being a total rush. The fact that I might pick up some practical self defense skills is a nice bonus.

Finally, I really do like the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something different. Sure, it's no fun to be the awkward kid in class who punches like an 8 year old (actually, thanks to Martial Arts camp, our 8 year old punches quite well thank you very much), but I know of no other way to grow then try new things.

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