Our general, co-ed classes are the hallmark of student training, and are the foundation upon which we’ve built our reputation in Canada. In these group classes, students work hard toward the complementary goals of developing fighting fitness and learning Krav Maga techniques. Both fitness and technical skill are critical, for reasons that are based on an understanding of physiology…and street smarts.
If you’ve ever experienced or witnessed a fight in real-time, or undergone an incredibly stressful experience (perhaps in your career or family life), you know that rapid changes take place in the human body and mind. Our pulse and respiration speed up, adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol levels rise, muscles tense, and even our vision can momentarily change. Psychologically, we can become panicked or enraged - we don’t think clearly, and we can’t strategize well because it involves too much rational thought and long-term analysis. Imagine trying to anticipate ten moves ahead in a chess game while you’re being choked. Ultimately, the result is that, if you’re untrained in a dangerous situation, your nervous system is doing you no real favours in terms of tactical decision-making. This is where realistic and strenuous training become important in a variety of ways. One benefit of a program like ours, which involves a significant amount of cardiovascular and muscular-endurance training, is that your physical capacity to handle the stress-induced physiological changes that occur during a fight or other strenuous event is exponentially greater. If you have developed a good degree of aerobic capacity, you will find yourself less winded in an altercation. This makes an enormous difference: you’ve likely seen the result of fighters who have neglected this element of their training - they “gas out” early and are easily overcome by their opponents. You do not want to find yourself in this position. Similarly, while Krav Maga is not a system based on muscular strength, muscular conditioning allows students to sustain effort for longer periods of time, with less injury. This is vital when physically engaged with an opponent, because you will not be hampered by muscle fatigue or failure when you most need to perform a technique. It may be somewhat clearer now why conditioning is an integral part of our program; you can be perfectly knowledgeable about techniques, but if you don’t have the basic fitness to fall back on when you most need it, you won’t be able to perform those techniques that you know so well.
All of the above makes sense when taken outside of the context of self-defence as well - it’s just good, overall advice to remain as healthy and as fit as you can. Even something as simple as proper breathing technique (yes, you can learn to breathe efficiently, too!) can make a world of difference to how we perceive and react to various situations. Rafi remarks upon the fact that when you breathe well in class, you tend to sweat less - and this is true outside the studio as well. Controlled breathing, for example, alters your physiological and psychological responses, often buying you extra time to react appropriately. As students of yoga can attest, paying attention to the small details like breathing can hugely impact your well-being. All of our bodily and cognitive systems are interconnected and benefit from targeted training. This is why we work on both technique and what we call “fighting fitness.” Gym fitness is an excellent way to maintain good health, but it’s easy to become focused on achievements that are limited to the gym environment. Put another way, if your aim is pure hypertrophy (development of large muscle mass), but you don’t perform multi-joint movements frequently, you may find your coordination, agility, and balance lacking. We concentrate on functional fitness - the sort of fitness that translates not only into achievement of health goals, but promotes well-being in day-to-day life as well. The dynamic movements that we emphasize help students to develop an overall package: agility, strength, coordination, balance, endurance, and bursting force. These are the capacities necessary when dealing with threats outside the studio, and they’re what we focus on in general training, alongside technique.
In terms of Krav Maga techniques themselves, we make use of levelled curricula. In each level, a number of related techniques are outlined, and students must demonstrate competence in performing these techniques before they can test for the following level. As a general rule, a student must attend at least two classes per week for a six-month period before he/she can attempt a level test. We offer “level camps” in addition to our regular classes to help students to consolidate their knowledge of the techniques before a test.
Our strength lies in flexibly teaching techniques from different sections of the curricula. As Rafi has often said in class, “you can’t say to your attacker, ‘wait! I haven’t learned a defence for that attack yet! Come back next week!” We teach more organically, by concentrating on “families” of techniques - skills that relate naturally to each other. This assists in quick absorption of the material. The reality is that you can’t pick and choose the gravity of the situation that you may face on the street - there’s no selection protocol for the type of aggressor whom you’ll encounter. It’s incumbent upon you to be as prepared as possible for a wide variety of scenarios and challenges.