Hello, it’s been a while. I do hope you can forgive me, but it turns out doing a Masters is actually pretty hectic. Who knew? Anyway, this is a bit of a different tone to my other pieces as it was something I wrote for Uni. As long as you keep reading, I promise to keep updating this site. Enjoy.
Hand grasped around my throat and adrenaline pumping through my veins, I grappled with my attacker, vehemently fending off his onslaught. Before I had time to take stock, another strike came my way. I summoned all my energy to survive his assailment before the next attack. Fighting off three burly men in a cold gym hall is not how I imagined my Wednesday evening to pan out. I never thought I’d pay for the privilege either, and yet this is where I find myself. Then again, this is no ordinary work-out.
Yes, I said work-out. As in, I paid good money to put myself through hell. And you know what? I’d do it again. Far from being attacked by an unruly mob, I was actually being put through my paces by the instructor in a bid to help me quickly learn the self-defence tactics he’d taught me. And boy, was it a steep learning curve.
I’d signed up for a Krav Maga class at my local gym as I wanted to add something different to my work-out routine. Not only did I want to try something new, but I felt like it would be just the confidence boost I needed.
I’d been battling depression for months, and although the thought of a self-defence class was hardly an enticing prospect, I hoped it would give me the strength to fight back.
Krav Maga was developed in the Israeli military as a system of self-defence. It combines various different techniques from disciplines such as boxing, wrestling and Muay Thai. So yeah, not for the faint hearted.
Walking into the gym hall I was confronted by a circle of some pretty formidable looking fellas. In my introduction the instructor, Paul, explained how I was new to Krav Maga and how he wanted me to get a good experience of the discipline. I couldn’t help noticing a tattooed specimen maintaining eye contact with me whilst punching his fist into his palm. I knew he was joking, but I started to reprimand myself for not choosing something less intimidating for my ‘trying something new’ idea.
After a pretty intensive circuit warm-up (which subsequently left my shoulders aching for days) we started learning some techniques. We were taught proper punching techniques, which seem to involve a lot more concentration on exhalation than I would’ve guessed, whilst I tried desperately hard to appear less like I was performing contemporary dance.
Luckily Paul seemed pleased with how quickly I picked it up and soon enough I was saying “Hi there, can I grab your throat?” to a pleasant middle aged man from Somerset. He was a newbie as well and apparently was there because his wife had taken up Pilates and he too wanted to try something new. We tried a floor technique in which I had to fend off my attacker (aka pleasant man from Somerset) from on my back and escape quickly. This involved pretending to kick and punch my opponent from the floor whilst keeping him at a safe distance by swivelling on my back.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get the fact that I must have looked like an upturned turtle out of my head and I erupted in nervous laughter.
Following what should now be known as ‘Turtle Gate’ we moved on to learning some techniques in a more vertical position. Part of this involved utilising a ‘monkey grip’ to fend off the attacker’s grasp around your neck; apparently this is the strongest and most impenetrable hold.
We took it in turns to be the attacker and the victim, the victim with their back against the wall, deflecting the attack using the techniques we learnt. We were taught to aim for the throat and the crotch because these spots would ensure the greatest amount of pain to the attacker, and least to yourself.
To amp up the pressure, we switched partners. This is where I really got into my stride. My new victim – I mean partner – stood with his back against the wall and his eyes closed. Ready to strike I startled him with a bit of an overzealous grab to the throat which made him jump out of his skin. Soon enough I was fending off three blokes in a free-for-all. I wasn’t perfect at the moves and, sure, I laughed the entire time but clearly I wasn’t as bad as I first thought. In fact, I was feeling pretty kick-ass.
This feeling of empowerment is why many women are now taking up classes such as this. There’s a bit of a feminist fitness wave which is brewing on the internet and it would seem that many women are now wanting more from their exercise routine. One of the champions of this movement is Caitlin Constantine, founder of Fit and Feminist, who actively rejects our culture’s obsession with thinness and instead values strength.
She says, “Cultivating your body’s physical strengths and abilities can give you a sense of empowerment that is so visceral and immediate that it can’t help but bleed into the rest of your life.”
So as far as self-defence being a great addition to your weekly routine, its impact could transcend into every facet of your life. For feminists such as Caitlin, the pursuit of an unattainable ‘perfect’ body shouldn’t be the aim of exercise.
She explains, “When you stop focusing exclusively on what your body looks like and start taking all of the things your body is capable of doing into consideration, you cease to be an object. Women are still way too often equated with being weak and vulnerable while physical strength is seen as something that’s reserved only for men, this is a false dichotomy.”
The instructor shouted for the role-play to stop just as I was gasping to catch my breath. But I couldn’t help grinning, I felt exhausted but the adrenaline was addictive. And mentally? I felt the strongest I’ve felt in a long time. If you’ve been feeling a little bit flat, get to a self-defence class and start feeling a bit more Beyonce quicker than you can say Independent Woman Part 2.