14 Oct 2007

[Republishing an article from 2007 since I'm looking at doing this again]

I'm still counting up the fifty pounds when the big guy with the scar reaches into his bag, removes a pistol, and racks the slide. In fact, the bag's full of them, and his mates help him to get them all loaded.

I wasn't expecting this. They must be props, or possibly BB guns, but they look real. No one seems to be passing around eye protection. As it turns out, the guns are for the advanced Krav Maga class in the next room. As new students, we'll only be dealing with the knives.

The three-hour "induction" isn't physically demanding. While there are token pushups, the session is nothing on the two-hour Shao Lin workouts from my uni days. Blocking hurts, but there are none of the surprise attacks, pyrotechnics or full-contact sparring that my research had led me to expect.

At least not at this level.

There's a grim realism. Mike, our instructor, shows us the proper knuckles to punch with, then gestures to the smaller two and says "if you hit with these two, you'll break them". Against knives, running away is not only advised, it's part of the drill. It's difficult to move far in the crowded room, but those few steps are mandatory.

I get the feeling that fights involving Krav Maga are very short, one way or another. Concluding a vicious three-second attack on a punching bag, Mike edges back with "and now I back off, because if the fight's still going, I'm in trouble".

For all that, it's not boot camp. When he says "then you rip their eyes out", he pauses a beat and then breaks into a grin. The class is relaxed; we slap hands to build reflexes and play "zombie tag" to train awareness of multiple attackers. Our instructor jokes that "there's always more than one", but then he says it again, and he's not smiling.

The techniques themselves are simple, so simple that I have to unlearn some of my Shao Lin training. It's messy, too - everyone punches at a different angle, using the natural position of their hands, rather than rotating their fists. The only place you ever aim a kick is to the groin, or to the kneecap if you're down.

At 5'3 and 120 pounds, the training doesn't give me new options - it just improves my survivability if there are no options. Given that, even three hours makes a difference, but I'm tempted to go to a few of the two-hour Thursday night sessions. Like the first aid course I did back in Adelaide, at least it'll guarantee that I never use it.