Krav Maga (by )

I've always enjoyed combined mental/physical challenges. As a child, I often entertained myself with things like getting from one part of the house to another without touching the floor. This required planning, and finesse; the combination was exhilerating.

I enjoyed my time in the Combined Cadet Force, as many of the exercises we were set involved this combination; and I particularly enjoyed being in the school shooting team. Especially when we went out to electronic target ranges and did exercises involving running to checkpoints with an assault rifle, diving into the prone position, inserting the magazine, shooting at targets as they popped up, and then running to the next checkpoint. It was like playing Time Crisis!

However, that kind of thing has been missing from my life for the past decade or so. Also, I've been spending far too much of my time sitting in cars or at desks, with my main exercise being carrying heavy objects (such as sleeping children) for short distances. I was feeling a keen desire to exercise more.

Then about a year ago, Jean started doing Ju Jutsu, and I started to wonder about taking up a martial art. I remember, many years ago, a friend saying he was taking up Krav Maga, an interesting-sounding Israeli martial art that grew from self-defence techniques in the Jewish gettos of Hungary before World War 2.

However, my searches found no nearby Krav Maga groups; the nearest was in Bristol. So I gave up on this idea for the time being. But a few weeks ago I spotted a poster in a shop window in Cheltenham advertising local Krav Maga courses; sure enough, a group had started!

So yesterday evening, I turned up to give it a try.

It's delightfully pragmatic; most of the attacks seem to revolve around wacking your attacker as hard as you can in the softest bits of them you can reach, then running away. The first skill I started practicing was how to kick somebody in the groin, punch them in the face twice in quick succession, pull them down hard onto your rapidly-rising knee into their stomach, elbow them in the kidneys, and end up behind them (running away, of course), in one smooth motion. We then proceeded to have a try at being pinned from behind by one person while another ran at you from the front; there is a technique to escape the grip and leave the person gripping you curled up in a painful ball on the floor, but doing it while also dealing with the person coming at you from the front makes it a lot more interesting. There were also some more abstract exercises in dealing with large numbers of people coming at you, avoiding being cornered or surrounded, and getting them to get in each other's way. That involved some physical activity in keeping moving, but it was mainly a mental exercise, observing the paths of the attackers and planning your movements.

The practising was good exercise in itself, but we also did a bit of general fitness exercise, largely as part of the warm-up before getting into the practice. I left feeling tired but lively, and today I've been feeling the ache of growing muscle over much of my body, so it's been a good work-out.

I got on well with the other students, who were very helpful with the new people in their midst; and the instructor seems to be a truly intriguing and inspiring person!

It was good challenging fun, so I'm going to keep going, hopefully switching to the Gloucester group that will be starting on Mondays in September!

I turned up in a shirt and trousers, straight from the office, but most of the people there had track suits. Black ones, and t-shirts with martial-looking imagery on, were particularly popular. The contrarian in me is now wondering if I can get a glittery pink tracksuit in my size...

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