Krav Maga literally means, “contact combat.” The Israeli martial art might be a good workout, but it’s really about self-defense.
“It’s emphasizing on striking the weak spots of the body. The eyes, the nose, the groin, anything that will give you results very quickly,” Roy Elghanayan, owner of Krav Maga L.A., said.
As the official defense system of the Israeli military, Krav Maga has to be effective. Sensei Imi Lichtenfeld developed the technique in the 1930s and ‘40s, and his disciples brought it to the United States around 1985. Elghanayan, an Israel native, trains marines there and teaches American civilians at his Santa Monica studio. He says American schools tend to modify the training for civilians.
“The majority of Krav Maga schools have become more of a fitness, cardio Krav Maga. It’s not really the same Krav Maga that we do in Israel with the military,” he said.
But for the average civilian, it’s certainly still intense enough. It takes about five years of training to earn a first degree black belt in Krav Maga. High level black belts can be so lethal, that in some countries they’re required to register their own bodies as weapons. But with the right training, instructors say anyone can master the techniques.
“My youngest student at one time was six years old, and my oldest was 73,” Pietro Piumetti, an instructor at Focus Krav Maga in Culver City, said.
Still, the emphasis on fighting means Krav Maga hasn’t gone mainstream in the workout world.
“I jog, and I’m usually more of a yoga girl,” said Jessica Borutski, a Krav Maga student. “This is really different because it’s more about body contact and protecting yourself on the streets.
But that ability to defend oneself is what keeps the faithful coming back.
“I definitely feel more confident now that I’ve done this,” Julia Vai, a two-year Krav Maga student said. “I don’t have to feel scared when I’m out with my friends, what if a guy pulls a knife on us.”
Unless he knows Krav Maga, the guy with the knife is the one who should be afraid.