Jan 30, 2020

Krav Maga

After six sessions of Krav Maga I can escape a choke hold and slap a break board in two - a thin break board, the kind for wimps. I have trouble remembering defensive knife blocks, so my sparring partner, a mom with killer bones, has to cue me before each attack.

“I’m going to stab you in the neck, okay?”
“Will that be right side or left?” I ask.

Another woman is ready to shin kick her buddy. She blows a huge pink wad of bubble gum, cracks it, and asks, “Are y’all ready?”

When I’m dressed, waiting outside in the dark for my taxi, I feel like James Bond. I relax easily against a tree. I imagine my body language. It says, “I dare you.” 

I am so into Krav Maga that I sit with my cat Becky and watch videos of the stuff on YouTube. I’m keen to test tonight’s class against the pros. Becky jumps on my lap, tummy and head facing the PC, her blue mouse pinned in her paws.

In front of the camera, Krav Maga guys talk a lot, as though they want respect for being geniuses of physics and not merely kick-ass warriors; the women too. I have to fast forward to the action. Here’s Doug, ex-Army from the States training in Israel, whimpering under the sting of sensei Avivat Cohen.  Doug’s been downed by fighters training under her wing.

Doug’s pal, Jim, goes to the IDF, Israel Defense Forces. The IDF developed Krav Maga; its black belts export it to the outside world.

I’ve watched many videos from Israel; tonight I surf other countries.

Here’s an IDF SWAT team drilling a gang of Poles. Here, an Israeli sensei is training Greeks to attack no-holds-barred. I watch black belts teaching classes in Dubai, Thailand, the US. A muscled Filipino mangles a gun. A little blonde girl in Holland defends herself with a shimmery backpack. An Australian local: “We’re going to move on now to byse-bawl bots.” 

When Avivat pounds the denizens of Judenburg Austria, (“Jew’s Borough”, home of a sister of the Mauthausen concentration camp) then rolls on to the Czech Republic the humor stops. The YouTube irony police are off duty.

Anyway, I want to focus on knife blocks.

We surf, until I find two men on a hill, lunging and fending against a backdrop of slate peaks and grey impasto clouds. The subtitles are tiny so I just follow their moves and easy Italian narration. As the camera pans left to the gladiator wielding the knife something illogical is coming into view. My phone rings. I hit pause.  

For the first time in decades, it’s Brenda, a friend from high school, assigned the task of informing me of a once in a lifetime class reunion. How she got my phone number in Israel I don’t know and don’t ask. I don’t ask Brenda why she axed her blatantly Jewish surname from Facebook; it would end our conversation pronto. I tread lightly.

We catch up on her milestones, which do not include anything that could be called ethnic.
Then it’s my turn.

“What’s up?” Brenda asks.
I tell her about Krav Maga.

“Sounds like Judo.”
Jiu-Jitsu? No? Not Taekwondo? Then what – MMA?”
No. It’s contact combat.
“Really! Is there a ceremony?”
No, it’s not Sumo, there’s no ring, no salt.
“Too bad, the ceremonies are interesting. Tell me the rules.”

Don’t get killed, don’t get hurt, blow your attacker away.  

Her mind is grinding, trying to picture what something is from what it’s not. “It is MMA – and it’s from Japan, or maybe China.”

I tell her. It was devised by a Hungarian Jew to defend against Nazis gangs. He taught it to Jews in Czechoslovakia, then to the elite Palmach, and eventually to the IDF for defense here in Israel, where he came to live. I tell Brenda that my neighbor, one door over, one flight up, is a grandmother and a brown belt who, after watching her daughter get knifed, took up Krav Maga. I think to myself, a lot of good it will do her, a lot of good it will do us.

There’s long static silence.
Her tone is as flat as a phone off the hook.

A headache stabs the bones between my eyes. My lids droop. An aura, a piece of cinema, is mid-reel.

Hulk-like, the monster in the nightmare of the Book of Daniel, the monster of our current, Roman Empire exile, with its estrangement and agony, stomps the house where I grew up then turns east, heading for my apartment in Israel.

…I looked on in the night vision, there was a fourth beast—fearsome, dreadful, and very powerful, with great iron teeth that devoured and crushed, and stamped the remains with its feet...[i]

Stand down Hulk, stand down. We can destroy ourselves without you.

I hang up, wiped. I resume YouTube.

The Italian tells us where an attacker will aim.

In this position you can protect your throat, chest area and the central part of your body.” His dukes are up.

You have to step diagonally to the side.”

As he does, his back fills the camera. I hit pause and full screen. The guy’s wearing a black tee shirt. Emblazoned on it in white are two Hebrew letters, some kind of logo.

[i] Sefer (The Book of) Daniel https://www.sefaria.org/Daniel.7?lang=bi

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