I began this story in a number of ways and then crumpled each sheet of virtual paper and tossed it in the bin. That’s because I couldn’t find a way to approach the story in a manner that was respectful and honest without being blunt, repetitive and preachy... But I couldn’t do it. And so here it is - earnest advice that will be blunt, repetitive and yes, a trifle preachy.
Some time ago I had recounted Aruna Shanbaug’s tragic story. For forty years, Aruna has been lying in a vegetative state on a hospital bed after she was brutally sodomized and nearly choked to death with a dog chain. And poignant though her story be, the unfortunate truth of the day is that today I could pick up a new story of sexual assault, as vicious or worse, every other day.
But in that same story, I had written about Nishtha, a woman I had met in my first ever Krav Maga class who had actually used her skills to survive an assault against not one but two attackers. And that really still is the point of the piece.
In a world where cultures collide every day, violence often smoulders under the polished veneer that masks our primal instincts and fears. But a few steps here, a wrong turn there and we risk crashing into the molten magma of road rage, rape, street brawls and murder. The long arms of the law are ponderous and slow, and justice is nearly always delayed if not denied. In a society that is thus, there are no deterrents for bullies and the depraved, nothing that arrests the bristly brutish hand of lascivious rage from groping, grabbing or crushing that and those you hope to preserve and protect in the innermost private sanctums of your world. Nothing, indeed nothing but the little strength that you hold in your hands and they hold in theirs…
It is time you empowered yourself, and those you hold dear. And I don’t mean it in the metaphorical sense of the word but in its very real and physical avatar. You, even if you are too slow for golf and too tired to walk, and too busy to breathe, yes you too ma’am, even if you are usually always at home and have a chauffeured car to call your own, and yes your children too, be they boys or girls, even if they are only five years old... Yes, you, even you, and especially if this isn’t you… I urge you all to strengthen your mind, body and spirit, because sooner or later, this world of ours, the real red zone that flows below the flimsy innocuous crust we have constructed our toylands over, will break out and touch us, and when that happens, we better be ready to fight for our lives and the lives of those we hold dear.
And when that moment comes, I assure there is no system, no martial-art, no training that is better designed to protect your world than Krav Maga. There are systems that are better at building the muscles or even character perhaps. But when it comes to learning how to train to use your bare hands to defend oneself, there are few systems, if any, that come close to the battle tested moves of Krav Maga.
Born out of the desperate need for unarmed Jews in Central Europe to learn how to defend themselves against marauding groups of anti-Semitic hooligans, Krav Maga’s techniques were reviewed and refined after each encounter. After the end of the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel, Krav Maga became the handto- hand combat system of choice for the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Today, counter-terrorist units, special operations operatives and sky-marshals all over the world are trained in this system of combat.
But don’t let the fact that such hard core professionals find Krav Maga invaluable dissuade you from recognizing the value of this system. Krav Maga was created to empower a motley group of middle aged men and women with the wherewithal to defend their own selves and their children against multiple attackers armed with sticks and clubs. From there it evolved into a system that allowed newly recruited soldiers drawn from all walks of life and levels of fitness, with little time to train in a hand to hand combat system, to become proficient at handling a great range of highly stressful combat situations. On many occasions, soldiers are taught specific and relevant Krav Maga techniques just the night before an operation. And since the techniques are natural and based on the body’s instinctual responses, each technique becomes easy to retain and easy to trust even under extreme stress and even in a state of disorientation, with minimal repeat training.
Do you see the value of the system now? Every time you step out of that mall and onto the street; every time you walk back alone to the car park late in the evening, your footsteps echoing in the empty basement; every time you are chased by a car or a bike while driving back home at night; every time you wished you weren’t alone and had someone to lean on, someone to hide behind, someone to protect you; every time, you will feel a little safer, a little stronger, a little more sure of yourself, with a little bit of Krav Maga under your belt.
It is the only system I know that has specifically designed systems for women and children, helping them identify threats and hopefully avoid them without engaging in a confrontation. And as the degree of assault escalates, the system provides relatively easy techniques to counter each level of threat. Most importantly, it prepares the mind to believe that it can find a way to fight, even if there is pain, even if there is fear, to not give in, to not give up but to keep fighting and looking for an escape route. That alone is more than half the battle won in most cases because the attacker isn’t expecting a fight.
Independence for both men and women - the freedom to roam, alone, while at work or play - can only be truly ours when not accompanied with fear or trepidation. Learning to defend oneself against a reasonable range of threats when on one’s own is a small price to pay for that freedom.
I urge you all to earn that freedom, for your own sake and for the sake of those who love you, by learning how to defend yourselves, through Krav Maga or any other form of protection training. The notion that our world is safer than it used to be is a notion that shall never be true, because as long as society is weighed down by unequal opportunities and unequal abilities, there will always be attempts to redress the balance, surreptitiously, systematically and at times violently.
It may at times be beyond us to make our world a better place, but it is definitely within us to make ‘our world’ a safer place.