Sept. 16, 2015
I have been writing this blog post about krav maga in my head since March. I wanted to share my enthusiasm about this martial art, but I didn’t know what to say other than, ‘it’s so amazing!’
Six months later, I still find it amazing, but now I have also amazed myself. Eight of us took a 4 hour long test and passed to achieve our yellow belt on August 22. Hooray for us!
The Yellow Belts and our Instructor
our instructor George Mowod.
We train at USA Professional Karate Studio on Murray Ave. in Pittsburgh, PA. The studio also offers Aerobic Kick Boxing, Karate for all ages, self-defense, bully awareness seminars and so much more. It is one of a very few places to learn krav maga in this region which is associated with Krav Maga Worldwide. Check it out at http://www.usaprofessionalkarate.com
Krav Maga Worldwide is the organization which follows the mandates of the creator of Krav Maga, Imi Lichtenfeld. “It is the official hand-to-hand combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces and is widely regarded as the best self-defense system because of it’s efficient, no-nonsense, tactics that emphasize instinctive movements, practical techniques, and realistic training scenarios. Krav Maga Worldwide™ offers the highest caliber of Krav Maga self-defense instruction to thousands of people, including law enforcement agencies and military units across the globe. Krav Maga Worldwide™ is the largest reality-based self-defense organization in the world and we are the original leader of the Western Krav Maga movement.” (Krav Maga.com 2015) See them at http://www.kravmaga.com
To understand why this is a big deal, you have to know that my mantra regarding exercise was a phrase I learned from my college roommate Connie; “I only run when someone is chasing me.” This means that I didn’t enjoy anything deemed “exercise” even though I liked sports somewhat and was fairly good at some.
My Dad taught me all the important basics, treating me and my brother the same in that department. We both learned to ice skate, swim, dive, throw a spiral on a football, shoot a lay up and a free throw, throw and hit a baseball, shoot a bow and a gun (gun safety was imperative), bait a hook, take a fish off the hook and clean it, and how to go camping. Looking back on my childhood, I learned so many skills that I now appreciate knowing, but didn’t really put to use. My Dad was interested in sports of all kinds and he transferred his knowledge and enthusiasm to his kids the best way he knew how.
I still enjoy swimming a great deal, as well as ice skating. I am not terribly interested in the rest, but it’s kind of fun to pull out one of those skills and surprise people. I did track and cheerleading in high school too, but once I hit college I was on the creative arts path and didn’t spend much time on any type of cardio except the occasional bike ride. This lack of interest in physical fitness lingered on well into my late 20’s and once I had a baby, all bets were off. I chased the kids around and we went swimming, but the idea of exercising didn’t appeal to me still.
I started doing what we all do at a certain point, buying videos and DVDs of exercises guaranteed to tighten your abs, butt, thighs, etc., around the time of my divorce (early 30’s). None of these helped me in any long term way because I couldn’t figure out how to commit to a lifestyle change and I also couldn’t afford to eat organic and only fresh etc. Most of the videos were frankly not inspiring either. It’s hard to watch people with perfect bodies exercise when you look down and see flab and jiggle. I harbored the suspicion that most of these “gurus” were born with thin body types and therefore couldn’t relate to my issues. When you exercise daily for 3, 4 or 5 weeks and see no improvement, it’s difficult to find a reason to continue.
My daughter has a chronic pain condition called RND, Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy, which caused a huge upheaval in our lives. The short version is that she had 2-4 appointments per week and missed a lot of school, so I missed a lot of work. She started physical therapy among other things and worked really hard. My wonderful daughter persevered and maxed out of the physical therapy program. She had to find some way to stay active. She tried karate and it was just what she needed. She would leave karate and her back didn’t hurt! What a miracle!!!!! She learned about self-defense and respect and responsibility and gained so much confidence. This school year she stood up to a bully on her 2nd day of school! I know this was thanks to karate. When her sensei started a krav maga program, I decided to try it. I had been interested in it from certain movies I had seen (think Jason Bourne).
I had turned 42 and I was trying to do new things that year. I felt like it was a year for exploration. I ended up performing in several plays at new theatres and met so many new people. I decided to quit diet Dr. Pepper and all soda and most caffeine. I used to joke that I had Dr. Pepper instead of blood, so you can imagine how hard that was for me. I also cut way back on my sugar and artificial sweetener intake. Also difficult. I still struggle with sugar. It’s an addictive drug.
The first few weeks of krav maga were very difficult, because I was so out of shape on a cardio vascular level. I huffed and puffed through the warm ups and thanked my lucky stars when we were done. I’m not saying I love cardio now, but I don’t dread it like I used to. I pushed myself to keep going especially when it was hard; especially when that’s all I wanted to do. I would not be the first person to break. I had survived so much adversity in my life, THIS was not going to beat me.
Why did I finally have the will power to stick with something? Partly because going to a class that you pay for and participate in with others holds you accountable in a small way to other people. If you miss, the next time people tell you they noticed. After a while you develop friendships and start to care when someone is absent. Your favortie work out partner misses and you notice. Making payments on a program you don’t use forces you to show up or quit. In the rest of my life I am not a quitter. I was determined not to be a quitter with this either.
Eventually I began to sleep better, although after a particularly hard work out sometimes laying down was not the most comfortable position. Muscles ached that I didn’t know existed. However, my insomnia and sleep apnea both started to clear up a little. One day I put on a pair of pants and they were loose. I wasn’t sure if they were just worn in or what, so I tried on a different pair that had been tight and they fit me well. Holy moly, my muffin top was shrinking! Now that’s motivation!
I also really like my instructor and everyone in the class. We are all serious about training, yet we can crack a joke, usually about ourselves. The studio is a welcoming place and the instructor’s wife, Vicki, is so warm, friendly and one of our most ardent cheerleaders. This was important for me. I didn’t want to work out in a place that I felt intimidated or that I couldn’t talk to people. I also didn’t want to do a fluff class. I wanted to work hard, challenge myself, and enjoy it. I have found that place. This is another huge motivating factor for me.
As I finish writing this, my daughter is again struggling with her RND. Going to a new school this year is stressful for her and stress is a trigger. I missed krav maga this week for a film event and because I didn’t feel I could leave my daughter alone. In the past, taking a break of any kind would make me want to exercise less, but since I have committed myself to krav maga, I find that I can’t wait to get back to it. I exercised at home to make up for missing and I’m using the strength I have found within myself to persevere through this rough patch.
I titled this “How Krav Maga changed me.” I hope you see that it’s more than just a physical change. Yes, my legs and arms have more defined muscles and I’m slimming down a little, but the change in my inner self is more remarkable.
Here’s a 1:37 video of me during our 4 hour test. This was at the end and I notice my form is getting sloppy, but I’m still proud of the fact that I did Krav Maga for 4 hours and was able to “fight off” a group of attackers after all that! Enjoy!
Thanks for reading!
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