Sep 12

Krav maga update + intentional laziness

I passed my yellow belt test! For excruciating detail, go visit my krav maga diary.

I was so tired after my 4.5 hour test that I was falling asleep in front of the TV by 9:30. But after I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I got up at 10:30, and by 11 was dozing again. This time when I went to bed, I was able to drift off.

This morning I lazed in bed till about 8:30, then had a well-deserved vegan donut and a lot of of coffee. Now it’s 11 and I’m still in pajamas with no intention of working out. I finished a scene for a short story I’m working on and did that krav maga blog post. Will also get another blog post ready and work on my novel. Maybe I’ll do some yoga.

Such a relief the test is over!

Jul 12

New blog: Punching and Kicking

Because I don’t have enough distractions from my writing, I’ve decided to start a new blog dedicated solely to krav maga. I’ve moved my krav maga-related posts over there, and also retroactively added a bunch of filler posts called “Today’s class,” which track the different combatives and defense techniques I learned that day.

I’ll probably also post about women and fighting, like 17-year old girl boxer, “T-Rex,” who is headed to the Olympics. If this interest seems sudden, it’s actually not. I’ve been a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan from way back, and have always enjoyed martial arts movies. Now I’m even more interested in the intricacies of the fighting, especially since I’ll (probably) test for my yellow belt in September.

Anyway, hope you enjoy some Punching and Kicking!

Jul 12

Krav maga check-in

It’s been almost six months since I started krav maga, and I think I’m ready to test for my yellow belt. Emphasis on think.

In case you didn’t know, krav maga was first developed in the 1930s by martial artist “Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler, as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislavain.” After he immigrated to Israel in the late-1940s, “he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the [Israeli Defense Forces, or the Israeli army], who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga.”

I keep hearing that you have to go at least twice a week to get anything out of it, and that three times a week is ideal. When I started back in February, I went twice a week almost every week. I didn’t go at all in March (vacation and laziness), went only once a week in April, and only started going twice a week again in May, which became a habit in June. I went three times in one week once last month, and once this month.

What’s tough about going three times a week is that the class times aren’t ideal for me. I prefer to work out in the late morning or noontime. The weekend times, 11 AM, are excellent, but during the week is tougher. I usually work from home Tuesdays and Thursdays, and krav maga isn’t till later in the afternoon, which means sitting around unshowered for most of the day.

But now I really need to suck it up and go three times a week because like I said, I think I’d like to test for my yellow belt in September. I’m much better than I was in the beginning, but I still suck at a lot of things. Luckily they’re very transparent about what I’ll need to know for the yellow belt.

There are five sections for testing: 1) Fighting Stance and Punches; 2) Kicks; 3) Punch Defenses; 4) Choke and Headlock Defenses; and 5) Ground Positions/Movements/Kicks. Under each of those sections, there are four to seven things I need to know. Today let’s look at my Fighting Stance and Punches.

Fighting Stance and Punches

  • Fighting Stance and Movement

I’m pretty good at this. At first I had no idea how to move in fighting stance. I kept stepping out with my front foot when it’s really pushing off with the rear and closing the distance.

You should avoid doing things that would make it easy for your opponent to knock you off balance, such as crossing your feet (a big no-no) and lifting your foot too high. At the same time you don’t want to drag your foot on the ground because that will slow you down.

  • Straight Knuckle Punches

I’m erratic at these, sometimes good, sometimes terrible. I have the tendency to strike with my lower two knuckles on my left hand. You’re supposed to strike with the upper two as there’s less chance of injury that way. I also sometimes forget to lead with my lower half. In other words, the power starts in the sole of your foot, you turn your foot (a little or lot, depending on which foot), and pop your hip forward, following through with your arm and fist.

I also forget to follow all the way through with my right, which is my cross. The jab, your left hand, is supposed to be fast and just to stun your opponent; with the right you imagine punching a hole through the person. It’s the knockout punch.

  • Palm Heel Strikes

I’m pretty good at these. It’s the same body mechanics as the straight knuckle punch. You just hit with the heel of your hand. That way you don’t have to worry about hurting your knuckles (which I have done, at least with the skin).

  • Hammer Fists (Front-Side-Back)

I’m also pretty good at these. With the side and back, you have to remember to first look at your target before striking. It could be your friend or some innocent bystander. Newbies, I notice, have a tendency to just strike without looking.

  • Advance and Retreat Punch Combos

I felt like a clumsy idiot when I first started learning this. It’s like when do I step forward? when do I punch? I’m better now but I think I still have a tendency to step first, then punch, instead of at the same time.

  • Elbows

There are seven elbows. I’ve learned one, two, three, and six (which I think my instructors call seven, but whatevs). One is to the front, two to the side, three to the back, and six, straight down (as though your opponent is bent over and you’re aiming for their back). Four and five are backward so I guess we don’t learn that till level 2, and the last one is like an uppercut with your elbow.

Next time, my favorite: Kicks.

Feb 12

Krav maga: What I’ve learned so far

This weekend I had my eighth krav maga class. I still get butterflies, and I still sometimes feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I have fun every single time, and I’ve learned a lot.

The classes start with 10 to 15 minutes of conditioning. Doesn’t sound like a lot but I’m always dripping with sweat afterward. Conditioning can involve any of the following:

  • Jogging around the room or in place
  • Jogging and trying to kick your own butt
  • Jogging with knees high
  • Fast running in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • Crunches
  • Push-ups
  • Handshake push-ups
  • Elbow push-ups
  • Standing sit-ups

We did standing sit-ups for the first time this weekend. When the instructor started to show us, I thought they were regular sit-ups with a one-two punch. Then he said, “Then stand up.” Everyone was like, “Whaaaat???” I was able to do maybe five. Luckily my partner held me down tight. Surprisingly, I can do the different kinds of push-ups, and not on my knees, woot! I guess all those planks, chatarungas, and burpees have paid off.

After conditioning, we learn stances, kicks, and punches, and run through those several times with our partners. So far I’ve learned:

  • Fighting stance
  • Footwork
  • Straight punch
  • Hammer punch
  • Side elbow punch
  • Groin kick
  • Knee kick
  • Blocks

This is when I feel like an idiot. My form has improved, especially with the tips that MB has given me, but I still feel awkward most of the time.

Then we learn how to put certain punches and kicks together, and defend ourselves in difference attack scenarios, like:

  • Choke from the front
  • Choke from the back
  • Headlock

I’m best at getting out of a headlock. This weekend my teacher even gave me a pat on the back! But I’m still terrible about getting out of the chokes, which involves something called plucking.

When I come home, I’m always excited to show MB what I’ve learned. He corrects my form and teaches me a little more. Then we spar for a bit. Last week he told me how to do blocks, namely how to keep your eyes at the center of your opponent’s chest and use your peripheral vision to see the oncoming blow, rather than look at the person’s hand. So this weekend when we practiced blocks in class, I kind of knew what I was doing. I still sucked, but was able to tell my partner to not look at my hand but my middle and to use his peripheral vision, which seemed to improve his blocking.

MB also had me practice footwork. This is much harder than it looks, at least for me. When you step forward, you don’t just take a step with your front foot. The higher you lift your foot, the more easily your opponent can trip you up. What you do is push off with your back foot, move your front forward, keeping it low to the ground, and sort of slide your back foot to close the space. When moving to the right, push off with the left foot, shift your right foot, close the space with your left. Etc. And never cross your feet. You could trip or be thrown off balance.

The only downside to class is if you don’t get paired with a good partner. It’s totally by chance – whomever you happen to be standing near. Some women gravitate to partnering with other women, but this is only good for me if the woman is pretty good. I don’t like getting partnered with someone who’s afraid of getting hurt, not that I’m whaling on people, but when I’m the one holding the punching or kicking pad, I suck it up (as a result I’ve gotten some bruises and abrasions, but they’re sort of like badges of honor).

I’ve found the best partner for me is a short strong guy who’s a krav maga beginner. Don’t know how the guy feels to have me as a partner, but oh well.

Feb 12

Fitness update + krav maga

First up, I met my January goal, which was “to continue what I’ve been doing [twice a week yoga class, three times a week hard cardio, walk to and from the train station on my work days] and also to do burpees/weights/pilates at least once a week.” I did burpees and weights (if not always pilates) once a week, every week. I got up to 78 burpees. Not in a row: I do 12 in a row, rest for 30 seconds, 11, rest, 10, rest, nine, rest, etc., down to one.

Also, recently and unexpectedly, I’ve started taking krav maga.

I’m not sure why.

Maybe because I’ve never taken a self-defense class, or because MB is well-versed in martial arts. Maybe I’m just curious. Or maybe it’s because I’m almost 40 (YUP) and I want to try something different.

Mid-life crisis.

Why krav maga and not another martial art? Sheer laziness. There’s a krav maga place two blocks from my apartment. I’ve passed it before but never thought about taking a class. Then I got the bug up my ass about it, checked their website, and saw they were offering a free 3-day pass for January.

I’d try one class, I decided. It was free and one hour of my life. It’d be a beginning class. No biggie.

When I first got there, I was nervous. There were mostly men. But once class started, I saw there were a few women, at least one who looked as nervous as I felt.

And you know what? It was totally fun.

We started with conditioning, ie, running around the room, lifting stuff above our heads, punching, doing push-ups alternating one-handed (so glad I’ve been practicing plank, chatarunga, and burpees, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do it), and some stretches (again, yay for yoga!). Then the instructor taught us stances, kicks, and punches. We practiced those facing the mirror, then with partners. (Some poor guy ended up as my partner and had to make do with my incompetence. But he was really nice about it.) Then we took turns pretending to attack each other and practicing a series of moves our instructor had taught us.

I’m not sure I knew what I was doing, but it was fun as hell.

Plus it helped that the teacher was terrific – energetic, positive, and patient, unlike the teacher this past Thursday. He was all right but a lot more blunt and not very clear with his instructions sometimes, so that when I did something wrong, and he was like, “No, that’s wrong,” I wanted to snap back, “Well, then tell me how to do it.” I held my tongue though and just went with it.

So far what I like best about krav maga is the conditioning at the beginning. I kind of like having someone yelling at me to run! run! run! now do burpees! now do crunches! MB, who was in the military, just shook his head at me. “Angela’s playing army!” I guess I am. It’s sure more fun than running on the treadmill.

I’ve prepaid for a six month membership (there was a special discount) so I have a six month commitment. However, the gym offers other classes. Yoga, conditioning, etc. I’m tempted to switch to all conditioning, but I know just a few classes isn’t enough to give krav maga a chance. MB says I should give it three months, which I’ll try to do, but my shorter term goal for the month of February is to go to krav maga twice a week every week.

Here are all my February fitness goals:

  • Go to krav maga twice a week every week
  • Go to yoga class twice a week every week
  • Hard cardio twice a week every week (dropping from three because of krav maga)
  • Burpees/weights/pilates once a week (this will be a challenge in addition to krav maga)
  • Walk to and from the train station on work days

My knuckles already have scrapes and scratches, which I kind of like.