Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Want Me To Kick Him Where?!

“You want me to kick him, where?!”

“Aim for the b***s,” he told me for what seemed like the fifth time.

I looked at the shield and hesitated. “Can’t he raise the shield a little more?” I asked.

“No! It has to be at groin level,” he responded with a grunt.

“Isn’t that cheating?” I questioned once again. I know… I was pushing it… I have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth quite often, and I knew I had it coming when he gave me a sour look.

He drew in a deep breath. I could tell he was on his last nerve, and I was officially volunteering to get on it. He leaned in. “Do you think a criminal is interested in scoring for points? You’re small. He thinks you’re weak, and your only defense is to hurt the only thing he’s got between his legs. That’s what’s gonna give you that chance to breathe because he’s got you in his grip.” He drew nearer. I gulped.

“So you have to ask yourself, do you wanna die or do you wanna live? The way you train in here is how you’re going to react out there. So go for the b***s I’m telling you?!" The vein on his temple seemed to come alive, staring at me fiercely, if it had an eye, I would say it would be giving me the STINK eye.

I braced myself and lowered the height of my kick. I felt uncomfortable and a bit apprehensive. And then they told us we were going to do it without the shield. Although my partner was wearing a cup, I shrank back at the thought of going there. Yikes! Is he for real? I asked in an undertone. Our instructor assured us that the cup was there for a reason, so there was no need to fret. I didn’t want to do it. I scanned the room for the nearest exit sign. Perhaps if I tip toed my way out of there, he wouldn’t notice. No dice! I imagined his temple vein coming to life and tipping him off. The drill started; my partner’s hands gripped tightly around my neck. Something inside me exploded, and I burst with a full blown kick to the crotch. Immediately his hands flew off. Woah! This stuff really works, I thought to myself. But instead, the first words that flew out of my mouth were, “I’m sorry!”

“SORRY?!” Yelled the instructor. I grimaced sheepishly and shrank back, wincing. “There’s no SORRIES in Krav Maga!” he said, throwing his hands up in the air, before gripping the roots of his hair as if ready to tear off his scalp.

And then I realized. This was the real thing. I had found a system that leveled the scales between men and women, and like an addict, I was hooked and wanted to learn more.

Have I always been comfortable with this? I haven't gotten completely used to it, yet, but it makes alot of sense. Krav Maga has clearly shown me time and time again that size isn't always advantageous. Women, in particular, have a tendency to feel defenseless because the assumption is that there is nothing they can do against a perpetrator bigger than them, so what’s the point?  Not the case with Krav Maga, and aside from the tremendous health benefits, I have learned some crucial life-saving skills. It is very possible to survive an attack. I see the instructor ladies at my center do it all the time. I personally know female instructors who have had to spar with men three times their size.

One instructor related her experience when when she went to California to get certified: “I told them…hope you all brought your cups, boys, cause I’m using elbows and going for b***s.” Then she continued, “You’re small, their arms are much longer and your reach is much shorter, so remember what I’m telling you, because when it comes down to it, it’s going to be your best defense,” she advised.

See how a simple technique of learning how to kick to the groin, in this case knee to the groin, can bring down an assailant twice your size.
When the choke comes on, the immediate danger is the passageway, so it's important to pluck the assailants hands off. In one fast motion, step to the side and strike the groin as hard and as many times as it takes for the hands to release the choke (see picture demonstration to the right).
The assailant's immediate response will be to lean forward and a swift, hard elbow to the chin is enough to stun him and to give you the opportunity to follow-up with more combatives.
Immediately turn into the assailant and throw a hard knee to the groin area and make your quick escape.

So, points I need to constantly remember when working with people twice my size, which is 99.9% of the time: One, I can’t apologize… and two, it has to be done. I have to go for—well—you know. But maybe I will say I'm sorry to my partners... as long as temple vain is not within ear's distance away. *WINK*

Monday, August 9, 2010

Facing Fear Head On: Self Defense Seminar Empowers Women to Go from Victim to Survivor

Somewhere in this country a woman is walking through an isolated parking lot late at night unaware that watchful eyes are fixated on her, waiting for a moment of weakness to take her down. Suddenly, that someone tackles her from behind and she crashes into the ground. She feels the dead weight of his hips mounted on her back and the blows behind her head are taking a toll on her state of consciousness. In another part of the country a woman walks into the comfort and security of her own apartment, ready for what she thinks is a night of peaceful slumber. After slipping into her nightgown she crawls into bed out of sheer exhaustion and lays in total darkness. Someone rushes toward her and mounts over her hips. Strong hands vicegrip around her neck and she has only seconds to react before that sleep becomes permanent. Sometime just about now, an abusive husband is slapping and beating his defenseless wife. She can only place hands in front of her face to try and cushion the blows. No, I'm not making this up, and this isn't the workings of a fiction writer's overactive and paranoid imagination. Incidences like these happen on a daily basis every minute of every hour. It's easy to disconnect ourselves from the reality of such violence. We all seem to fall for the old personal fable that something like that could never happen to us, but the reality of such a possiblity becomes probable when you come face-to-face with a victim who actually lived it.

I recently assisted a women's only self-defense seminar at the center where I train at San Antonio, Texas, Krav Maga Worldwide. The owner, First Degree Black Belt, Pete Hardy, whom I can best describe as a tough-talking, Full Metal Jacket, Sgt. Hartman type figure, but with a good heart and a soft spot for empowering women, holds these seminars every couple of months. I walked in thinking that I was physically prepared for this, afterall, I write to empower women, and this was just another avenue in which I was contributing to what I love to do. I was wrong!

What I wasn't expecting was the emotional toll it was going to take on me when we ran the self-defense drills: defense from guard position laying down; defense from a mounted position, laying face up with a choke; and defense from a mounted position with a choke laying face down. Assisting with demonstrating the assault defenses went smoothly. We were low in female instructors due to a training they had to attend, so one of the instructors asked me to step up and help. I did so willingly and loved every moment I saw the ladies gain in their confidence when they performed moves that were simple and easy to learn. As part of the last drill, Mr. Hardy gathered the instructors and assistants in the biggest room so the men could suit up in padded gear. I was to be one of my husband's spotters and my job was to ensure that both victim and attacker were safe. As soon as the first round of women came in, the air grew tense. I felt weird but shook it off as a bad case of nerves for my husband who was about to get the beating of his life, over and over (what a trooper!).

Realizing what was happening overwhelmed me. Certain women were reliving violent experiences and the tension was coming from the look of fear in their faces as they stood in front of their attacker, once again, and were asked to FIGHT-- fight for their lives. This moment was not just a simulated drill to them. This was real. My husband's hand on their necks was real, his weight on their bodies, was not just pretend, IT was happening-- all over again. I had to use every ounce I had to keep my cool, suck back the tears, swallow the lump that was forming in my throat. Memories of an experience I had with a family member who attacked me many years ago were triggered and it was tough to handle, but I had to put a brave face for their sake, because this wasn't about me. This was about getting them to free themselves from the prison of their own mind imprinting self-defeating thoughts that told them throughout the years that they were helpless--weak--and that they deserved to get what happened to them. They needed to face that demon and as Mr. Hardy pointed out at the training he gave us the day before: "Help free them from captivity!"

One woman broke down and froze right next to me. I held back tears as one of the counselors from VASA (an organization based in San Antonio that stands for Voices Against Sexual Assault) gathered round and asked, "Were you raped?" She could only nod. I had to think of a happy place, focus on my group and keep going. Another woman came to our group from a counselor who coached her and said, "We're going to do this again, and this time you're gonna fight. You can DO this!" I could only watch as her lips quivered and her closed eyelids twitched, awaiting my husband's chokehold from a standing position. I saw that woman open her eyes and unleash a firestorm on him as she kicked, kneed and battled her way out of my husband's grip. It was amazing to watch what the simple techniques of Krav Maga did to this fearsome lady. Yet, my excitement was bittersweet since it was my husband who was taking a beating.

After it was over, we cheered for her and high-fived. She let out a deep breath of relief. I couldn't have been prouder for her at that moment. I didn't know what she experienced, but I could only imagine that it must've been something violent and tragic, but she faced fear in the face, head-on that day and won. This happened over and over throughout the drills, and when the last one was done, I think I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I felt honored and inspired to have been part of this moment, and thankful, ever so grateful that I found a fighting system that did so much for victims of sexual assault. I think I learned much more from these women than what I was able to teach them about Krav Maga. They showed me that you can look fear in the face and say, "VICTIM, NO MORE!" Surviving is the only option when you're willing to learn the skills you need to defend against an assault. If you have been a victim of such an attack, are you, dear reader, willing to look fear in the face and say, "NO MORE!"? The choice is yours.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Who Am I and Why Should You Care?

Welcome to Krav Maga Mama!

My name is Jax, I am a mother, freelance writer, author of my own urban fantasy young adult novel, and practitioner of the self defense system called Krav Maga. Phew! I actually said that all in one sentence. I decided to start my own blog about Krav Maga because, let's face it, I simply couldn't say everything I wanted to say about this wonderful and exciting journey in under 125 characters. I needed to be at liberty to ramble about my progress, challenges, defeats and victories on another platform, hence the blog.

So what is Krav Maga you may wonder? Krav Maga is a fighting system that was developed by the Israeli military in the early 1940's. Its creator, Imi Lichtenfeld, was handpicked by the government to create a practical, highly effective self defense and hand-to-hand combat system for the military such as the Israeli Defense Forces, National Police, and Secret Service. It was based on one's natural reflexes and body mechanics which made it quick and easy to learn by men and women, because it was not dependent on size or strength.

I originally joined this style as a way to lose weight, but soon discovered that Krav Maga became a way of life for me. The challenges I faced every time I went to the gym translated into my daily life, and it helped me respond to any obstacles I faced, dead on, without regrets. My purpose is to inspire and encourage others, especially women, to take charge of their lives and help them release the warrior that remains silently hidden within the depths of their souls. I also hope to amuse and entertain you with stories of my progress and failures, as I embark in unknown territory, living my new life in this paramilitary-like environment.

Thanks for reading and come back soon or subscribe to my blog to get posting notifications!

Love and blessings,
JAX, Author of Heart of the Jaguar
Heart of the Jaguar also on Kindle