A loud and sharp THWACK echoes through the second floor of Burdick Hall. A tall bearded man gives the order again, and Jenna Singer delivers a knee strike to a punching bag. Behind her are three others intimating the technique against an imaginary opponent. The instructor signals for the students to practice the combo leading up to the knee strike. The students thrust out with a flat palm strike, following up with quick swing of their elbow, and finish the pretend opponent with a sharp knee strike. The students practice the combo again
The instructor Moshe Katz signals for the students to stop, and picks up a plastic gun. He calls over Jenna to hold the gun sideways ala “gangster” fashion. Moshe slowly raises his hands in a faux surrender motion only to thrust his hands upwards, deflecting the gun to the ceiling. Moshe, in a single motion, then twists the attacker’s wrist immediately disarming her. The students follow suit, and in only a few tries do it just as easily and as quickly as Moshe.
These students just began their training less than hour ago.
In only a few hours the students were able to quickly disarm guns, and knives, escape from several grabs, and learned key places to strike that will subdue any attacker despite size. These students have taken their first steps into the martial art known as Krav Maga.
Krav Maga, meaning “Combat Contact”, is an Israeli means of self defense developed by Imi Lichtenfeld. Lichtenfeld, who had a background in several martial arts such as boxing and wrestling, saw the rise of fascist gangs in 1930’s Europe. Finding that some techniques worked more than others in street situations, Lichtenfeld began to take techniques from several styles and began to use them together. Creating the basis for Krav Maga.
“He wanted to separate techniques that work in sports and competitions and techniques that work on the streets,” Moshe explains.
Unlike traditional martial arts, Krav Maga has no set stances, forms, or pre-choreographed moves. There is no set clothing to wear such as the gi, and instructors encourage students to wear shoes during practice.
“Instead of being focused on traditions, we’re focused on the street,” Moshe said. “Because let’s face it, you aren’t going to be in a horse stance when faced with a street situation.”
Along with disarms and take-downs, the session also provided the students with a small, portable, but very effective weapon known as the kubotan. A 5 inch black metal stick that looks like simple keychain decoration, Moshe quickly demonstrated how in the proper hands in can be the best thing one can have on their keychain.
Grabbed from behind into a rear choke hold, Moshe takes the kubotan and presses it on the attacker’s forearm muscles and tendons. With only two or three twists from the small stick, and the attacker immediately lets go.
“These little things were made to go for an attacker’s vulnerable areas,” he said. “The eyes, the throat, the forearm, the knees, the groin, the fingers, the wrist, basically anywhere you can reach. But that isn’t its only use.” He slips the kobtan into his pockets allowing for his keys to hang just outside of his pocket.
“If you feel you’re in a bad area you have easy access to your car keys, as opposed to fumbling around out of panic, which just makes you into a bigger target.”
The kubotan has no blade, pepper spray, or any other hidden weapons. As such it is legal to carry everywhere save for the airlines.
“People can just never believe how useful this little thing is until I actually show them.”
Moshe Katz has been teaching this style since 1993. And has a background in several other martial arts such as the Chinese style of Wing Chung, full contact Karate, Shotokan Karate, and holds a 4’th dan (level) black belt in Krav Maga. He has taught FBI and several police departments.
When presented with such a resume one would think Moshe as a hard lipped, always on guard instructor. But Moshe is a very easy-going, cheerful, and self-assured, who never has had to use his Krav Maga save for demonstrations and fun.
“It really makes you feel better about yourself,” he said with a smile. “Its the confidence and positive attitude that I get from it that has allowed me to stay out of real danger. And that’s the same confidence I want to pass down to everyone who wants to learn.”
As the session wears down, Moshe begins to clean up and sees his students off with smile. As they go he says to them,
“May you never have to use this knowledge, except for fun.”