Self-defense class hits home

This is a republication of an original article written by Matthew Borysewicz in the Collegiate Times on Monday, November, 15, 2010.


This past Thursday, I punched myself in the face.

This wasn’t anything I had planned or even intended to do. It wasn’t some attempt to make a friend laugh. It was merely a rude reminder of my own lack of coordination during my first Krav Maga self-defense course.

a young female in gym clothes wraps her arm around an older male in street clothes

Lauryn Singer, diary science major, learns how to disarm an attacker from Krav Maga instructor Moshe Katz.

The only time I had heard of Krav Maga before this week was an episode of “Manswers,” which was trying to answer the question, “Can you kill a bear with your bare hands?”

I learned Krav Maga is an Israeli martial art developed by Imi Lichtenfeld and employed by special forces and police units around the world. It is an effective close combat fighting technique which, unlike most eastern martial arts, focuses on function over form with staggering results.

Hokies for Israel invited Krav Maga instructor Moshe Katz from Israel to teach self-defense classes to Virginia Tech students. There were a few specialized classes for women and the Corps of Cadets, but I was fortunate to make it to one of the open sessions.

We started out by learning how to defend ourselves if we were ever to be knocked onto our backs. Katz revealed a lot about Krav Maga with a single sentence. He let us know they had a saying, that a Krav Maga practitioner is never “down and out” but “down and dangerous.”

We learned how to protect our heads from attacks while being able to retaliate with our legs. It was at this point I realized how very out of shape I had become.

When the mock firearms came out, I realized this was not the same kind of martial art I so fondly remembered from my elementary school stint in Tae Kwon Do.

Katz began showing us how to disarm someone holding a gun to you. We learned it from a variety of positions — standing, seated, pointed at your chest, head and back.

Two things ran through my head at this point. First, I was glad I was never mugged in my many nights spent walking to 7-Eleven in Richmond. Second, if someone did have a gun pointed at me, I would probably hand them anything they asked for, likely with a side of unintentional fear-leakage.

This is something Katz endorsed; if someone is after your wallet, just give it to them. However, the reality of the situation, especially in Israel, is that a Krav Maga practitioner has to be ready to defend his life, not just his bank account.

This is about when I punched myself in the face. The fluid motions Katz was pulling off require years of practice to execute perfectly.

In my hour-and-15-minute Krav Maga career, I didn’t master any of the techniques. However, Katz armed me with knowledge and more importantly a non-victim attitude as well as a desire to learn more about this uniquely Israeli style of self defense. There aren’t any Krav Maga centers close by — at least none I have been able to find — but I’m positive I’ll be joining one if I ever move to the appropriate area.


About the Author

Matthew Borysewicz is a features reporter for the Collegiate Times.