by: Alicia Lu
I’ve been taking Krav Maga on and off for four years. The first time I tried it, I was 26 years old, a strange outlier of a year for me. I was in a dead-end job, single, untethered and wandering aimlessly through life. Clearly, I was going through a quarter-life crisis, and I needed something to ground me, help define me. Krav Maga was exactly what I needed. I signed up for a six-month membership with the Krav Maga Academy in New York City and dove in headfirst. I didn’t know it then, but I was to learn that, like any weapon, Krav Maga can be misused, but maybe if the wielder gets her shit together, she could use it wisely.
So there I was, 26 and seriously lacking in self-identity. After becoming obsessed with becoming a female Jason Bourne, I was excited to at least get to know the more aggressive side of myself. However, after just one or two classes, during which I learned some simple punch defenses and counter-attacks, the thrill of learning self-defense for the first time seemed to fuel my unchecked ego.
Now that I learned how to defend against a punch, I was dying to try out my new skills. You know the feeling — admit it. The one where you wish someone would provoke you, look at you wrong, or even attempt to mug you so that you can unleash your newfound techniques and make them really sorry. It’s the thought process of a severely insecure, possible insane, individual who feels the need to prove something in order to feel fulfilled. That was me in a nutshell.
I lived in Bushwick at the time — before it became the new Bedford Avenue — so the possibility of being mugged wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. But now that I was taking Krav, I walked down the street with an air of “I dare you to fuck with this” about me. It wasn’t confidence; it was foolish bravado. At bars I would lock eyes with someone who bumped me a little too hard and shoot dirty looks at people who I thought might be talking about me. (They probably weren’t.) It was like everywhere I went I courted confrontation. What’s the use of knowing how to fight if you don’t get to prove it? I thought. If a girl learns Krav Maga and nobody is there to see her kick someone’s ass, did she really learn it?
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was disregarding one of Krav Maga’s most crucial and fundamental principles: prevention. AKA try not to fight. Imi’s philosophy was that Krav Maga was created so that one may walk in peace, not walk around trying to start a fight like an idiot. Imi may not have said this, but he certainly would have agreed with what I consider to be one of the wisest quotes ever uttered: “Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.”
Luckily for me, my membership at the Academy expired before I got myself into any real trouble. Over the next two years I would change jobs, settle into a serious, grown-up relationship, and make strides with finding myself. I realized that confidence came from within and it colors your actions, not the other way around. I no longer felt like I constantly had to prove something, because I was finally truly confident with myself.
So by the time I tried a Groupon deal with the Krav Maga Institute NYC in 2012, I was ready to really learn Krav, the way Imi intended for students to learn it. I went into class with my new humility and found that I was able to retain so much more. Recognizing Krav as a way to fortify your inner strength and not a way to prove yourself made it so much more meaningful. That Groupon deal turned into a one-year membership, which turned into two. Two grueling tests later, I am now a level-2 practitioner — practically a world away from where I was four years ago.
So maybe a telltale sign of maturation is being able to walk away from a possible confrontation instead of giving into it — even if you know you could wipe that guy’s sleazy grin off his face with one swift knee to his balls. Again, if Krav Maga is a weapon — and it can be a powerful one — use it to keep the peace, not to encourage violence. That is what Imi ultimately intended to do by creating Krav Maga, so don’t embarrass him, or yourself.