Taking the blows

There’s nothing like having your own punchbag. I’ve just bought a “man-shaped” one, “man-shaped” here having the expanded definition of men with no arms, legs, or head and whose bodies resemble an upturned skittle. (And who are capable of levitation.)

The fundamental skills common to most boxing-derived fighting styles – stances, striking, and keeping your guard up – can be practiced with any weighty object. You can even have a go on a wall if you think you’re ‘ard enough. But the one I’ve just installed in my garage is the best kind for Krav, because it swings around: it’s a moving target.

Set it swinging, and you’ve got something marginally resembling the kind of big drunken bloke you’re most likely to be randomly attacked by, allowing you to practice all the basic blows against its marked targets.

The jab. The uppercut. The roundhouse. The hammer. The sucker. The open fist. The closed fist. You can headbutt it, elbow it, block it with your forearm; this guy just hangs there and takes it.

But because it’s suspended, you can practice kicks too. (My weak point; I’m so inflexible at the moment I can’t form a right angle with my legs.) The forward kick. The back kick. The roundhouse kick. The kick and spin. Even blocks. You can set it spinning and fight around it, a basic Krav technique. You can even go down on the floor, spinning on the small of your back, fighting upwards.

It’s been a long six months of injuring ankle then shoulder; this thing will help me get back to a strength and speed that approach something respectable before I return to Krav class.

There are only two things you can’t practice with it: escaping from locks and holds, and taking on multiple attackers. Wonder if I should install two?

Delivering a swift kick to the groin: why I love Krav Maga

As any fan of martial arts cinema knows, all you have to do to become the baddest mofo in town is acquire a “secret training manual”, perform a few comic interludes getting the moves wrong watched by your faithful sidekick, and by sunrise you’re storming the Shaolin Temple and kicking some serious monk ass.

I’ve been studying Krav Maga (not a martial art; it just looks like one) for a while now. (Badly). And have just had a few months out on injury time. So I thought that before I return to class next month, I could get an edge by acquiring their “secret training manual“!

There aren’t many good books on Krav, largely because it’s about doing not learning; a basic tenet is honing the body’s natural reflex movements by turning them into useful defences. Krav is practice not theory. But this out-of-print volume, translated from the original Hebrew of KM founder Imi “Sde-Or” and Eyal Yanilov, is a cracking read. Defence against knife attacks, defence against attackers holding a gun, use of everyday objects to counterattack, yada yada yada. There’s even a lesson on what to do if someone’s chucking grenades about, especially valuable on the streets of south London.

But ultimately the techniques of Krav are few and their delivery simple. And that’s what I like about it: its beautiful simplicity. No 99 basis stances or 48 positions, none of this crap about Sitting Dragons or Prancing Tigers or Monkeys Sitting On The Delicate Branch Of The Ancient Googah Tree. Krav has 3 stances, one of which could be accurately described as “standing normally.” Most of the defences against knife attacks seem to be variants on “deliver a swift kick to the groin” (after executing a forearm block of course.) It’s full of micro-cases written in complete deadpan:

“…The security officer then delivered a kick to the groin, stepped backwards, cocked his weapon, and shot him.”

Time to go and whack my punchbag for a while.

Ankle spanking in Baker St

Now THIS I don’t believe. I’ve made it down safely from over 13,000ft twenty times this year after stepping from a moving aircraft, and I sprain my ankle doing Krav Maga?

Yup, sprained. I just don’t get injured in the normal-human-being sense, and I think my dumbfounded amazement is equal to the (agonising) pain. Ten minutes from class end and we’re chasing around trying to stab each other in the back (life imitates krav) and I do a quick 180 to avoid a guy with a glint in his eye, my rubbersoled foot stays glued to the ground, and something twists deep down.

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK is the extent of my conversational skills for about three minutes. Icepack! Icepack!

OK, so I hadn’t been to Krav class for a month thanks to a skydiving holiday and prep for a triathlon, but I haven’t been properly injured in years. I was beginning to think it just didn’t happen to me. Then something like this happens, and maybe it’s a good thing to be reminded of your own mortality occasionally.

Home after a £32 taxi ride (I’ve been a student recently enough to care about that) and there are two lumps the size of golf balls on the outside of my ankle; the ankle bone’s sticking-out bit is buried under a mass of necrotising flesh. I’m going to feel this one for days.

And even worse, the class took place in front of some new recruits waiting for their induction. I mean, they’re going to think Krav Maga is dangerous or something.


Krav Maga: Hebrew for ‘getting the crap kicked out of you’

OUCH! Is there ANY muscle that isn’t aching today? No WAY was that Israeli guy a lowly P1.

It’s surprisingly hard to ‘slow fight’ – fight in slow motion so you can practice moves; the tendency is for both parties (or, since this is Krav Maga, three or more parties) to speed up and land a few extra blows. This one guy I was partnered with on Saturday was, er, a bit quicker than the exercise really called for. It’s all good; you wouldn’t get what you expect in a street fight, and ‘real’ situations are what KM is all about. But 90 mins of punching and kicking has seriously worn me out; for once I’m feeling like the thirtysomething I am. Gotta heal up in time to jump out of those planes on Saturday; stiff arms are no excuse at 15,000 feet…