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Krav Maga will kick your ass – in more ways than you think

Boredom with a current fitness regimen, or a desire to get a big calorie-burn, is what typically draws people into Israeli hand-to-hand combat Krav Maga classes throughout Central Ohio.

“Along with learning how to protect yourself and loved ones, you’ll be amazed how many calories are burned during an hour-long Krav Maga class,” wrote Buckeye CrossFit owner John Lovins by email. Various websites report at least 300 calories — some up to 800 calories — per hour, depending on your body weight. “I’ve trained people starting at 280 [pounds], and with proper diet/training, they have lost 80 [to] 100.”

Krav Maga can kick your ass into shape, no doubt. And Lovins’ gym can boost your ability to kick someone else’s ass through strength and weight training in his CrossFit classes for kids and adults, as well as Olympic lifting and a “SEALfit” class for mental toughness and martial arts.

“The added strength means harder punches/kicks/knees,” he said about the Krav Maga techniques that call on your sharp body parts to do damage. “The attitude of ‘never give up’ during a CrossFit workout translates well to our stress drills during our Krav Maga class.”

But unlike other martial arts, Krav Maga – a self-defense technique taught by the Israeli Army to recruits since the 1950s – is not a sport, said Ohio Krav Maga owner Terri Rosen, who has three Central Ohio locations in Hilliard, Gahanna and Lewis Center. “It’s not for competition.”

Try mixed martial arts if you want to compete, Rosen said, but if you want skills to take down an attacker, take Krav Maga. About 10 percent of her clients are motivated by a previous unsettling incident. 

“Most have had an experience that prompted them to want to learn self-defense,” Rosen said. “Stories like, ‘Someone followed me to my car and it really spooked me.’”

The words “Krav Maga” actually translate from Hebrew to mean “contact combat,” and the technique is based on three principles of striking, including striking as hard as you can, protecting yourself while striking and striking until you can get away safely.

“What’s unique about it, when you talk about martial arts, you can think of people who studied martial arts all their lives. Krav Maga, on the other hand, was designed to be learned quickly and without the need for a lifetime of practice or a lifetime of experience,” Rosen said.

Lovins and Rosen both said their classes are chock full of a variety of people of all ages, shapes and sizes.

“All ranges of people take Krav Maga—from former professional athletes, stay-at-home moms, CEOs, couch potatoes who want to change their life,” Lovins said. “Classes aren’t limited to one type of individual.”

Added Rosen, “It’s self-defense, so it has to work for you if your ankle hurts, if you’re overweight, if you didn’t eat — we can’t be running a system that says, ‘You have to be an elite athlete to defend yourself.’”

Krav Maga uses your natural reaction to a stressful situation and turns it into combat. 

“If I throw a ball at you right now, you’ll either put your hands up, move, or you would freeze and the ball would hit you in the forehead,” Rosen said. “In Krav Maga, we’re trying to get you to stop that third one, but the first two natural reactions — we’re trying to build those. We work on forward aggression; you’re going to defend once and start hitting back with such fervor that [the perpetrator is] overwhelmed, and you become the one that can get out of there.”

In other words, kick ‘em in the balls, or put your elbow into their face, or gouge them in the eyes so many times that they’re overcome by your sheer force, and you get home safe.

“I tell people they have a body full of weapons,” Rosen said. “We try and focus on gross motor skills; put blunt force trauma to vulnerable points of the body. Center-mass targets like the face, throat and groin — they’re usually exposed when someone is attacking you. There’s no specific technique you’re being taught to use, you just use what works for your body.”