Learn how to fight for your life with this intense martial-arts workout.
I’M NOT SURE what was more painful — relentlessly pummeling a striking bag at 7 a.m. while yelling, “Stop fighting” at my partner, or the torn skin on my knuckles afterward.
And let’s be honest — I loved it.
I was at Krav Maga Seattle in South Lake Union to take a Level 1 class and learn more about the self-defense martial-arts system.
Krav Maga Seattle www.kmseattle.com
Like most martial arts I’ve tried, it’s intense. But Krav Maga, under the oversight of instructor and owner Chau Le, takes the intensity to a new level, both physically and with shouting as part of the training. After an energetic warm-up, we practiced keeping our stance, never crossing our feet while moving side to side to stay balanced, and staying nimble. We soon worked with partners, bouncing around and trying to touch each other’s shoulders and knees.
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I was quickly panting during this exercise, and wondered whether the entire class would be this active. My answer came when we moved on to strikes — punches, heel palms and hammer fists. Once we partnered up, I realized the exercises would be even more vigorous. My partner Naomi got a striking pad, and I practiced hitting the bag over and over as she moved me around in circles. Teacher Allie Webster came by and told me to slow down my punches so I could hit with more power.
At one point, I accidentally (and lightly) clocked Naomi in the jaw. I apologized. She smiled and said, “Don’t worry; that’s what happens here.”
Holding the pad was as much work as hitting it. I had to brace myself for Naomi’s punches.
In between sets, as Le and Webster showed us techniques to work on, I could see people dripping sweat, and I could hear them breathing heavily. At least I wasn’t the only one.
We moved on to striking from different positions, including standing, on our knees and on our backs, while yelling over and over: “Stop fighting” and “Get off.” Le told us we need to use verbal cues if attacked. If someone doesn’t see you, maybe someone will hear you, he said.
After the strikes, we learned about a choke hold. Le wrapped his arm around Webster’s neck, and all of a sudden she had twisted out of it and furiously attacked him; I would not want to fight her in a battle of any kind.
Le showed us the escape — pluck and tuck the attacker’s hands away from your throat, turn your head, lift your shoulder, keep hold of her hands and twist out.
Naomi, a regular, had no qualms, so I rolled with it as we practiced. I knew it would require several rounds before it felt natural to grab at someone’s face, pull her hands and escape a choke hold. It doesn’t stop there with the escape; you have to keep attacking.
After several rounds, Le had us stand with our eyes closed and wait for an attack from our partner. We had to respond with strikes or by escaping a choke hold.
While getting choked is not my idea of a good time, practicing did make it less scary.
For our final exercise, we ran in between strikes and choke holds, or what Le calls the “Nike defense”: If you can run away from an attacker, do so.
Krav Maga Seattle is a self-defense school, and most people come in for some mixture of fitness and self-defense, Le said. I would need to spend more time to understand the self-defense techniques, but there was no question about the fitness. It was exhausting, and it also invigorated me for the day.
If you’re looking for a way to stay strong and fit, and also get some coaching in self-defense while you’re at it, Krav Maga is the way to go.