Defending Yourself

By Brent Stewart, The Southern

Saturday, November 1, 2008 10:42 PM CDT

Moshe Katz had been studying karate when he moved from New York to Israel. Wanting to continue his training, he contacted and became a student of renowned martial arts expert Itay Gil.

For the requirements of his belt, Katz would have to learn judo and jujitsu. Gil also introduced his student to another form of combat, Krav Maga.

"I almost came into it almost accidentally," Katz said.

Although he was intially interested in the sporting aspects of his training, the more he studied Krav Maga the more he felt it was "the real thing."

"If you're in a self-defense situation, God forbid, you're not going to wrestle the guy for half an hour," Katz said. "You're not going stand up and box with him or kick box with him. It's all over in a few seconds."

Katz brings his 20 years of experience in the martial arts, including karate, kung fu, Muay thai, judo, jujitsu, ground fighting and Krav Maga, as well as his time with the Israeli Defense Forces, to Southern Illinois next weekend. Katz will present a seminar on Krav Maga at Black's Martial Arts Academy in Carbondale.

This particular form of self-defense is a reasonably new art. In Hebrew, Krav Maga means close quarters combat. It's a series of techniques taken from many different forms of combat stripped down to the bare essentials.

"It's not like judo or traditional Japanese karate with rules and regulations; it's an evolving system" Katz said. "If a technique doesn't work in reality, doesn't work on the street or in the army, it's analyzed and modified to make it work."

The origins of Krav Maga trace back to the 1930s when Jewish communities were under persecution in Eastern Europe. Its philosophies of combat continued to be observed in the training of Israeli forces when the country was formed in the 1940s, after World War II, and was characterized by an aggressive mindset as opposed to a defensive one.

"Every martial art is affected by the culture in which it was developed," Katz said.

The practical nature of Krav Maga techniques is one of the reasons it's being taught in America for self-defense, especially for women. Actresses Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and Hillary Swank have all trained in the art for film roles in which they have fight scenes.

"What we've done is chipped away and gotten rid of anything that's not the most brutally effective," Katz said. "When they train people in Krav Maga in the army, the number of techniques is so minmal, what they work on is aggressiveness, motor skills; they do it to do it when you're dead tired; if it doesn't work then, what use is it?"

The effectiveness and ease in which the techniques are taught gave Master Thomas Black of Black Martial Arts a reason to bring Katz in for the seminar.

"It's an important art, especially in self-defense for women, young people and senior citizens, as well," Black said. "It's quick, it's easy to do." / 351-5074

When: 10 a.m. until 4 p.m

Where: Black's Martial Arts Academy, 800 West High Street, Carbondale