I’m writing this in hopes to connect with others who may have similar stories. I admit that I am uncomfortable having this published, but feel that it is important to start the dialogue – even if it is only with your self. If anything, I hope this will give insight into one of the many paths that draw people to Krav Maga and why it is important to push yourself past your boundaries.
Italicized sentences represent thoughts and inner dialogue.
Why I started Krav Maga
Finally, a moment alone.
I crumble onto my bed, exhausted after a rickety flight home. Ugh, I think, Why do I still taste tequila. It’s a typical post-Vegas-with-the-girls moment.
I take in the feeling of my room: safe, warm, and silent – a much needed hug after a distressing weekend. I give myself a moment, lying there in peace until an urge begins to nudge my brain. Ignoring my nausea, I roll over to grab my laptop.
Good ol’ friend, I think, how I missed you and your stoic personality.
I open it up and launch the search engine. Before I can begin typing, I flash back to a dark and booming Vegas nightclub. It’s alive with bodies drenched in purple and pink light, and the murky scents of tequila, B.O., and sexual tension settle thickly over the dance floor. Disorienting strobes of white flicker to EDM music as I make my way through the crowd – alone – trying to find my friends. I clench my phone tightly, the text on the lock screen reading “We’re outside! <3”.
I’m afraid, suddenly afraid, as thirsty eyes follow me through the club. It’s a pit of coyotes and I am a lost sheep. A catcall here, a slap on the ass there, followed by a thirsty touch, and then another, and another… I don’t know what to do and my voice has decided to run, strength has hidden from my muscles. By the time I shake myself out of the shock the culprit has already scurried back into the crowd, another dark, haunting figure joining a throng of anonymous bodies. I look around. No one took notice, not even the bouncer standing in clear view.
I keep walking, swaying now – not from the alcohol but from the tears welling up in my eyes. Why didn’t I do anything? I think to myself. But even if I had managed to say something, what good would it have done? Too many times has an attempt at self-preservation been misinterpreted as an enticing invitation.
I’m trying not to run and I’m trying to keep my cool but it seems like I can’t get out fast enough. My breathing is shallow, my head is spinning, and there is no one I know in sight.
The worst part of that night was that I didn’t feel like what happened deserved any sort of acknowledgement. In the end, my clothes were on and I wasn’t hurt. However, I realized that it was unpunished moments like these – passing instances of unwelcomed hands and unwanted advances – that have made this behavior “normal”, ignored, and even acceptable. The memories of these ghostly interactions deeply affect one’s psyche and sense of security, lasting long after the flight home.
See, that weekend forced me to realize three things:
1) I do not feel confident enough to stand up for myself.
2) Instead of running or fighting, I freeze in situations that scare me.
3) I cannot rely on other people to look after my own safety.
That last point was pivotal, especially since I had lost the majority of my drunken friends in the crowd that Vegas evening.
I’m aware that I’ve grown up in a bubble of security that is my suburban neighborhood. As a young, female millennial hoping to travel the world and blaze my own path (yes, the millennial cliché), I know that changes must be made if I am to be both safe and successful. The trip to Nevada only solidified this sense of false security. I cannot – and will not – remain the ignorant lamb that trusts in the protection of others. I have to ensure my own safety, like a lion defending its territory.
So, in my room, I type into the search bar the name of a self-defense technique I had heard brutal – yet effective – things about: “Krav Maga”. Thanks to the stalker-like location monitoring on my browser (thanks Google!), Urban Tactics Krav Maga appears as the top result.
Alright, I think, This looks legit.
The first thing that catches my eye is a flow chart depicting when or when not to use lethal force. I give it a read and am pleasantly surprised – it seems like this gym really cares about real life solutions. I was concerned that I would attend and get beat up continuously. As someone who works in the entertainment industry, I can’t very well show up to work with a black eye.
I keep browsing and begin to read the class descriptions. This “Defense Class” might be the best start to my training – bonus: it’s free on your first day! The “Warrior Class”, however, looks rather intense and includes full contact sparring – something I’ve never done before. Indeed, it’s something I’m quite afraid to do.
Wait, I think as something catches my eye, there are discounts for military personnel? How advanced are the students if they are ex-military??
I quickly reconsider my decision, my stomach twisting more in its already warped state.
Maybe I’m not ready for this, I think, I should find another place that has women’s or introductory classes… That would be better for someone with no martial arts experience, right?
I take a deep breath to steady myself as my heart beats rapidly. I tell the finicky organ to calm down, though it rarely obeys. Stop shying away from discomfort, I say. If you do, you will never grow – you will never become the lion that you need to be.
I exhale, calmer now. Might as well give it a try with the Defense class, right? It’s pretty close by anyway.
My Journey with Krav Maga
I ended up trying both classes on my first day. The Defense class was a great fit and the Warrior class wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. It’s been two years since that online search and I must say I’m tremendously happy I did it. I’m now an Orange Belt and have received my first stripe in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. I have also completed all the available firearms courses available to date.
That first Summer after Vegas I trained hard – I trained with the intention that I would use these skills, be it years from now or that very evening. With that immersed mindset I quickly learned how to apply situational awareness to my everyday life. I felt brave, not solely because I felt stronger or trusted that I could push myself farther, but because I learned how to avoid situations that could be potentially dangerous. Reducing the opportunity of these situations has proved pivotal for my safety.
In class, I’ve been in instances where I’ve been extremely uncomfortable, where I felt like I wouldn’t make it to the end of the session. I’ve been caught in suffocating holds in BJJ close to puking or feared I would never breath again. However, with the Krav Maga mindset I learned to push past the freeze instinct and fight my way out. It’s moments like these that have taught me to believe in my own strength – both mentally and physically – especially when fighting men and women much larger than me. It’s a stilling feeling when your instincts begin to alter and you understand just how unpredictable any situation can be.
The saying, “Krav Maga, so one can walk in peace” has become a truth to me. I used to be afraid of walking alone in the city or in clubs, but now I feel an odd tranquility. The training I’ve undergone has conditioned me to be mentally and physically alert, to operate at “Code Yellow” when I’m out in public. For this, I feel that I can look after my own safety, something I had never been close to a couple years prior.
Of course, I am slowly and steadily continuing my training. Like any skillset, mental awareness and physical responsiveness must be sustained by consistent training. Though I’m not in the gym as often as I’d like, Urban Tactics has become one of my safe spaces for self-exploration and transformation.
Why I recommend Krav Maga to you
I’ve already spoken about personal growth but I have a few points remaining here. I’ve seen students overcome panic attacks, emotional turmoil, excess weight gain, and physical restrictions by willpower and commitment. The individual transformations I have had the honor to witness have been awe-inspiring – a daily reminder of how much any one person is capable of.
Needless to say, Krav Maga is a work out. From the least active to the most conditioned athlete, the training can be modified to fit your needs. I’ve seen retirees, mothers, fathers, and children all on the mats, working hard and breaking a sweat.
In such a tumultuous time, it’s easy to see why the ability to defend yourself is vital. Climate change and political distress will quickly change the social and physical landscape around us. Learning how to quickly analyze a stressful situation, understand the operations of a firearm, or being physically fit may save your life or the life of a loved one.
This one was unexpected. I found that those who join Krav Maga have a mutual understanding about the world; specifically, that the world isn’t as safe and wholesome as we always like to believe it to be. Because of that, you find a large array of individuals from different ages, genders, races, and careers that you may have never met otherwise. I was fortunate enough to meet a group of individuals who have filled my past two years with support, laughter, and friendship. From Dungeons and Dragons nights to beers at pubs, it’s been a remarkable and rewarding time.
If you join any Krav Maga institution, I highly recommend starting up conversations with your peers. I wouldn’t have found these friends without going to class and we only pushed each other to improve. The staff and students at Urban Tactics make it a safe place, and they are only one of the reasons why I recommend Krav Maga to you.
Thank you for reading,