Friday, December 31, 2010

An Empowering System That Transforms Lives by Jacqueline Mendez (JAX)

Krav Maga Worldwide  Logo
In Krav Maga, the letters K and M are both represented in Hebrew on the Krav Maga logo. They are both surrounded by an open circle. Imi Lichtenfeld, the Grand Master of Krav Maga, said of the logo that good things can continue to flow into the system and flawed exercises can flow out. This is why Krav Maga is a system that is open to adding techniques, exercises, and training methods that work and eliminates those that don’t. It’s very dynamic, like the flow of water that travels through a stream leading to a river and flowing out to sea. It is fluid, molding, ever changing and adjusting to its environment as it maneuvers itself around obstacles. It can run slowly or swiftly through small pebbles, make its way around massive rocks or explode down towering waterfalls. Bruce Lee, martial arts philosopher, practitioner, and proponent of discovering self defense techniques that worked, loved encouraging his students to empty their minds to be formless, shapeless - like water. He illustrated the use of water adjusting to its environment through the use of a cup, bottle, and a teacup. When it went into a cup it became a cup. When it was put into a bottle, it became the bottle; when put into a teapot, it became the teapot. It could flow or it could crash. “Be water, my friend,” he encouraged. Krav Maga takes that same approach when it comes to self defense.

To many practitioners, Krav Maga is such a fighting system that adapts and shapes itself as easily as water to provide an effective self defense method. But I truly believe that the logo represents much more than that. It symbolizes a belief system that affects and changes a person’s outlook in life.

Such a person is Herb Abrams, a quiet and somewhat reserved young man who was profoundly affected and transformed by joining Krav Maga Worldwide here in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Abrams reached a point in his life when he wanted to eliminate the things that were no longer working about himself, and he became open to learning a new way to adapt and change to the things that would—a feat not easily accomplished. After all, as humans we become creatures of habit and it’s so much easier to stay with what’s comfortable than go through an unknown and possibly uncomfortable process, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Mr. Herb Abrams.

Herb Abrams Before
306 pounds

A history buff and travel enthusiast, this man has quite a tale to tell. In October 1, 2009, he weighed in at 306 pounds. I had the pleasure of interviewing him and detailing the story of his triumph and the challenges he had to face as he eliminated the things that were no longer working for him in his life:

Me: Tell me a little about yourself.

HA: Well, I’m a history teacher and I love to travel. I’ve visited places like Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, which to me was one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve always been overweight as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with diabetes, Type 2 at age twenty-one.

Me: What contributed to your weight gain?

HA: I’ve always been heavy. Life wasn’t easy. I was always teased in elementary and middle school was the worst. I tried tennis in high school, but I couldn’t keep up with the athletic, varsity type molds, because of my size. I think I just simply fell into a pattern of accepting that I was always going to be this way until the day I died of some type of heart attack or of something else from my disease. Of course, I lived a very sedentary life, with very poor eating habits. Funny, there was so much I wanted to do, but I was limited to what I could do because of my size.

Me: What made you want to lose weight and do things differently?

HA: I’ve always had a sense of adventure but there was only so much I could do because I was so big. I think the breaking point came when I went to China. I was at my heaviest of 306 pounds. You know in China, you hardly ever see any overweight people. It was pretty embarrassing. Everywhere I went people called me Buddha, took turns rubbing my stomach, some asked to take pictures with me, and the worst part was that I was always holding everybody in my group back because I couldn’t keep up. When I came back to the states, I started questioning why I could accomplish everything else in my life, but always failed when it came to weight loss. It was then that I made a choice to get it done.

Me: How did you do it and what was your regimen like?

HA: It was a very slow process in the beginning, but once I became determined I began to change everything in my diet. I got rid of red meat, fried foods, simple carbs like white bread and potatoes. I measured everything and downsized on my portions. I even took out cheese and mayo. It was hard. I literally felt like a drug addict going through withdrawals the first couple of weeks. I even had to wean myself off the radio and TV. If I so much as heard a commercial about food, I started salivating. It was challenging. I bought lots of gum so I could have something to chew on. Then I set an attainable goal to take three cardio classes a week. I was sore all over after every workout and literally felt like I had to drag myself to my car.

I lost nine pounds the first week, and then I started losing a pound or two a week. There was one moment I will never forget. I was doing a cardio bag class, and my instructor Pete Hardy kept saying that if we could imagine somebody we were angry with, we should hit the bag as hard as we could. I remember being really angry at myself and I punched the daylights out of that bag. It was such a stress reliever to let all that go.

There were also two other instructors who really motivated me: Bridget De la Rosa and Edie Davis. I loved how tough they were because it was so difficult to go through their classes, but they encouraged me to never give up, and I didn’t.

Me: So what are you doing now to stay challenged?

HA: Krav Maga has opened up so many doors. I did a Tower of Americas climb and run. I increased my cardio classes from three times a week to five. I did a 5k run with Bridget (one of STW's instructors), which was a huge milestone because I could never even run a mile. I participated in the Rock-n-Roll marathon, and I completed the Half-Iron Man Triathlon recently, which consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run on October 17th, 2010. I’m currently training for the Full Ironman Triathlon on November 20th, 2011 which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. Next month I’ll be participating in a fifty mile trail race. Also, I plan to lose enough weight to go skydiving. It’s always been something I always wanted to do.

Me: How has Krav Maga changed your life?

HA: Aside from the weight loss, I could never call myself an athlete. I’m proud to say that Krav Maga made me an endurance athlete. I’ve surrounded myself with a new group of friends who encouraged and supported me, and I’ve decided to teach cycling classes on Tuesday nights from 6:30-7:30 p.m. starting January.

Me: Wow! That’s quite an accomplishment. I spoke to the two instructors who motivated you. Here’s what they had to say about you:

Edie Davis: We call Herb the “Herbinator” because he never quits! It was only last year he said he could only run one mile and today is training for his first Ironman. He has the “can do” and “never give up attitude” that others can learn from. When the training gets tough, he digs deeper and finds the strength and motivation to keep pushing himself. Herb is fearless! He is constantly challenging himself and is an amazing inspiration to anyone developing their own fitness goals. Herb has taught me that the only person stopping you from your goals is yourself.

Bridget de la Rosa: Herb is the reason why I teach. It’s so inspiring to see someone who was so heavy take on such a huge challenge and succeed. I am so proud of him. He inspires me to be a better athlete and instructor.

Me: When I first started doing Krav Maga I was five pounds shy of 200. I would always see you doing the cardio classes, and you liked to be way up at the front. I’d come out of a class feeling beat up and drained. I wanted to give up. All I had to do was look into the room and see you giving it your best. It became impossible for me to give up as well. I figured, if you could do it, I had nothing to complain about. Do you have any idea how many people you have inspired?

HA: No. I never thought myself as inspiring others but I am glad that I have. What Edie said is true. I never give up now. I like the feeling of pushing my body to its limits and succeeding in a new challenge. Also, if you want to change yourself you have to want to do it. Nobody can make you change. It was not easy completing a marathon just as it wasn’t easy starting down the path towards weight loss, but if you want it, you can do it. Now that I am becoming a fitness instructor at Krav Maga I hope that I can help other people as much as Bridget helped me. I hope I can challenge others to succeed like Bridget did for me. I originally did this for myself and my health. It really surprises me when people come up to me and tell me that I inspire them. People I went to school with are shocked when they see me on MySpace. It feels good to know I’ve accomplished this one thing I’ve struggled with for so many years. Krav Maga changed my life.

Herb Abrams Today
194 pounds
Me: Wow, so I have to ask, how much weight have you lost?

HA: Today I weigh in at 194 pounds and my goal is to lose thirty-eight more this year. I know that I can do it.

Me: I’m sure you can to, and I wish you well on your accomplishment!

Mr. Lichtenfeld’s philosophy regarding the Krav Maga logo about the open circle representing the flowing of good things in and the throwing away of those things that no longer work, reminded me that sometimes we go through life, struggling with the obstacles that have a real stronghold on us, which keep us from moving forward. We wonder why we struggle with it so much and nothing ever changes? Krav Maga teaches us that if we remain open to change and we are proactive about exploring and learning what works, there’s nothing we can’t do to accomplish our goals. The only thing holding us back is truly ourselves. Mr. Abrams knew that he couldn’t blame his environment, his past, or even his set of circumstances. He took action. He became a man with a mission to embark on an incredible journey committed to personal growth and positive change. I wish him all my best. I’m confident he will accomplish his goal towards losing those thirty-eight more pounds this year so he can participate in the Full Ironman Triathlon and fulfill that one thing he always wanted to do: go skydiving. The sky is the limit Mr. Abrams, perhaps even more—go for it!

Rothery, M. (Director). (1971, Dec 9). Bruce Lee- The Lost Interview. The Pierre Berton Show.

No comments:

Post a Comment