Pistol Disarms and Knife Deflection, oh my!

Grant, ‘11

Brentwood, Tennessee • Biochemistry

I have no classes on Thursdays! As such, I was able to take advantage of several of the many free events that went down today. The most interesting one was a Krav Maga workshop sponsored by Hillel of Richmond. Expert Moshe Katz came to teach UR students a little about the history of Krav Maga, as well as some basic techniques.

When Israel declared itself a nation in 1948, the Israeli Government saw an immediate need to raise a competent military force. Imi Lichtenfeld, an accomplished martial artist and experienced street fighter, was called on by the government of Israel to develop an effective system of self defense. A dynamic and reality-based combat system, Krav Maga has been added to and refined through decades of savage fighting and armed conflict in the Middle East. It’s learned and utilized by elite military, law enforcement, and counterterrorism groups all around the world.The reason Krav Maga has gained so much popularity among both military groups and civilians has to do with its origins. Because Israeli soldiers could only afford a short period of training before deployment, the system was patterned after instinctive human responses, allowing it to be taught quickly and recalled easily in real combat situations. Moreover, it’s practical- no complicated forms, and relatively simple moves.

As Moshe explained, it’s possible to become nearly unbeatable with traditional martial arts like kung fu, but one would have to study twenty years or more to attain that level of proficiency, whereas Krav Maga’s simplicity and versatility allow you to become quite effective in a much shorter training period. Most of the techniques in Krav Maga are taught with the assumption that you are at a disadvantage in the fight, i.e. surprise attacks from a stronger person or even multiple people. This makes it especially useful for civilians as a means of preventing kidnapping, rape, and robbery.

Enough talk. Let’s get down to what we actually did, besides indulging in free food.

I’ve attended a few free/promotional martial art workshops in the past, but this was head and shoulders above the rest. The workshop focused on three general areas- escaping grabs, deflecting knives, and pistol disarms, and featured a variety of takedown techniques that work in conjunction with the above.In all the other martial arts I’ve been exposed to, the defensive techniques rely too much on either the attacker’s aversion to pain, or your ability to pull off complex moves with perfect precision. Krav Maga uses a refreshing combo of biomechanics, pressure points, and common sense. During our practice the techniques seemed to tolerate errors in execution better than any others I’ve learned, a testament to the intuitive nature of the style. No kidding- this stuff works. Even when paired as an ‘attacker’ with Kim, who’s not as tall or heavy as I am, I constantly wound up writhing on the ground in defeat despite trying my best to be difficult and screw up the exercise.I’ve always been skeptical of martial arts, since so many seem caught up in unconscious nostalgia for the times before gunpowder. Because of this, I was especially interested to learn how Krav Maga deals with firearms.

According to Moshe, Krav Maga is one of the premier arts to use guns in a melee context, with advanced techniques for everything up to assault rifles. In the workshop, we practiced with facsimile handguns, learning to gain control over a pistol pointed at our heads or bodies at different heights and from different angles. The techniques usually worked regardless of disparities in size or strength; and when they didn’t work perfectly, the gun still ended up where it was supposed to. Had the scenarios we practiced been real, at least one of my errors would have gotten me shot in the lower leg in the process of disarming my opponent; but then again I’d happily take a gunshot to an extremity if the alternative was a bullet to the brain.

Overall, the workshop was a blast. The people were friendly, the food was good, and Moshe Katz incorporated a lot of humor into his teaching. We were laughing the whole time, even while getting absolutely pawned. There are lots of events happening all the time at Richmond, and I was happy to take advantage of the opportunity to meet new people and learn a few things. P.S.- In case you were wondering, I have it on good authority that Hillel plans to bring Moshe back in future years =)Published on November 8, 2007