“I will die here today, any time now!”
So ran my thoughts during the first 10 minutes in the Dojo. For the next 80 minutes, I wished I was dead. Thus began my first Krav Maga class.
Krav Maga had caught my attention quite a few years back when I chanced upon a video on YouTube by martial artist Roy Elghanayan. Curious, I researched a little more.
Krav Maga, literally “contact -fight” in Hebrew, is an Israeli self-defence system combining various martial arts forms from across the world, including Ju-Jitsu, Aikido, Muay Thai and wrestling. Developed by Hungarian-Israeli martial artist, Imi Lichtenstein, Krav Maga was initially meant as a defence against anti-semitic thugs in Hungary during the dark days of Hitler’s reign.
Born on the streets of Hungary and perfected in alleys of Jerusalem, what sets Krav Maga apart from the other martial arts is the lethality of the strikes. Krav Maga is pure street combat with the focus on ending a fight as quickly as possible. There are no rules!
The relatively simple yet deadly efficiency of Krav Maga is what really caught my attention. Like most kids I have had my run in with bullies, oh what will I not give to turn the table! But first came the procrastination and the excuses.
The only certified Krav Maga centre in Hyderabad is in Jubilee Hills, about 20 km away from where I stay. This became a convenient excuse. Also the fact that the classes are held on weekends, the two days when you want to rest, didn’t help.
When about one and a half years ago, I quit my job to essentially restructure my life, Krav Maga was on top of my list. Sadly quitting my job also meant clamping down on my expenses, which again impeded my decision.
Towards the end of June, after a lengthy and enlightening conversation with my colleague, I made up my mind (Thank you!). Finally yesterday I forced myself out of the bed at 6 am (on a Sunday!), washed, procrastinated a little more and said, “Fuck it, let’s go and enroll!”.
The plan was to just hang around the centre for a few minutes, talk to the instructors, complete the formalities, pay the fees and come back next weekend for the class. To that end I even had breakfast. Bad idea!
As I entered the Dojo, there were a few practitioners already. I met the instructor, Captain Ajit Varma. Before I could say anything else I was asked to attend the class. Slightly taken aback, given my original plan, I nonetheless complied. More out of politeness than any real urge to go right there and then.
Apart from me, there was one more chap who had come for the demo class. The thought that I was not the only noob was somewhat comforting, especially so when it transpired that both of us had a Deloitte connection. Apparently, a lot of Deloitte chaps are regular students, leading the instructors to joke how the class was being overtaken by Deloitte. Hah!
The class started with the salutation ‘Kidah’, a salute to our fellow practitioners, to the instructors and to the Dojo itself. After stretching, the first 10 minutes were warm up beginning with that Godawful pushup-jump-pushup. And there were 20 of those!
The last time I did a proper pushup was more than two months back and even then I could barely do 10. Yet here we were asked to squeeze out 20, and there was a jump between every pushup. Hence the thoughts of imminent demise.
It was with a grateful heart as I heard the instructors finally call out 20. If I was thinking the worst was over, I soon changed my mind. The next step was to run around the room as everyone else tried to touch your head. Our goal was to thwart them. The instructors did show us the basic deflection, after which it was open season.
This was followed by another “game”. This time, we were segregated by colours…of our t-shirts. The blacks on one side, the rest on the other. The game was simple, one side was to clasp their hands like a club, hold it straight up and try to push into the chest of the other group.The other side had to dodge, deflect and follow up with strikes as demoed by the instructors.
After a few minutes, we switched roles and so on it went, followed by an ‘on-the-job’ lesson on tackling a basic grasp using our body weight. Same thing, except everyone was now frantically trying to grasp the other while busy dodging the third dude who was sneaking behind.
This was more activity in 45 minutes than I had in the last 6 months combined. I don’t know if I am articulating it adequately enough, but it was intense, at least for me in my current shape. So when the water break came I dashed for it immediately. Water has never tasted this sweet.
After the water break, we were introduced to another drill. The instructors brought in the bags. The drill was to jump on the bag and hit it with our fists until the instructors told us to stop. Simple yes? So they threw in a twist, there were six of us and only five bags. Anyone who missed out had to start giving out squats. The first to miss started with 60 squats, and so on it went. By the time I missed we were four down and I had to do 20 squats.
Anyone who missed out had to start giving out squats. The first to miss started with 60 squats, and so on it went. By the time I missed we were four down and I had to do 20 squats. Believe me you, after the bags, the squats were very welcome!
And the Krav Maga lessons hadn’t even begun. It was only after the bags session that one of the instructors took me and the other new chap aside to finally begin our lesson, while the senior practitioners moved on to more advanced moves.
Our first lesson was the stance. The passive stance or natural position, the semi-passive stance, when your alarms are up but you are not in the fight yet and finally the active stance which essentially means shit’s hit the fan and it’s time to fight.
The next half an hour or so were spent learning how to make a fist, how to hit with your palm, stance, moving with your stance – forward, side, back and change. We finally wrapped up with another session of stretching exercise and Kidah!
By the time I was on the way back, I was a famished, drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted. Needless to say, the lunch was extra delicious following which I dropped off to a 2-hour long sleep. Overall a weekend well spent!