Get Fighting Fit With Krav Maga

From Bourne to Bond, Krav Maga has appeared in loads of recent action movies. This deadly art will put you a cut above the rest and make you a walking hitman. Not only does it give you the upper hand in most confrontational situations, it's a fantastic workout during training sessions. Check out this article from Men's Health about how to kick some ass!

Maga destruction

We all love a good kung fu movie – but as much as Jet Li's backflips and sword fights look awesome, chances are your living-room impersonations won't do much good in real life. Enter Krav Maga, the kick-ass fighting style used by everyone from the FBI to Matt Damon in the Bourne films and Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher. The gloves are off, and MH is here to teach you everything you need to know to protect yourself – while getting fighting fit, too.

Write off your assailant

Developed in conjunction with the Israeli defence forces in the aftermath of WWII, Krav Maga (Hebrew for ‘contact combat') isn't like other martial arts. "There are no competitive or sporting elements, or any complicated movements to learn," says Jon Bullock, expert level instructor at The Institute of Krav Maga UK. "It is a modern system designed for problems that are faced in the modern world."

Sorry Mr. Miyagi, there's no kindly bows here – only deadly efficiency. "We use the body's natural weapons: palm, fist, legs, knees, elbows, head – as well as other more extreme measures that may be necessary, such as biting," Bullock explains. "Krav Maga also promotes using the environment and common objects for self defence where appropriate – such as bags, chairs, keys, and pens." Forget the nunchucks, for a Krav Maga expert, the pen really is mightier than the sword.

Dark ops

Don't expect them to go easy on you though; after all, the bad guys never do. "Krav Maga uses stress inoculation in order to prepare trainees for a violent situation," he says. "We practice in all manners of situations; from standing, to sitting, in the dark, or with loud music, in order to demonstrate the effects that the environment have on our performance and what we are capable of doing when it really matters." If that sounds a bit painful, fear not: MH has learnt the best moves from the UK's leading experts and is on hand for a crash course in kicking-ass.

Use your environment

In some situations, such as a busy commuter train, there may not be much time to react or room to manoeuvre. However, Krav Maga teaches you to use everyday items to your advantage. "If someone tries to attack you, use your briefcase or rucksack as a shield," says Nick Maison, UK director of the International Krav Maga Federation. "Keep it up at eye level – this will both protect you better and obscure their vision. Because your hands are being occupied, counter attack with a straight kick to the lower body underneath. While they're down, scan the area for other threats and plan your escape."

Stave off a knife threat

If you are unfortunate enough to face an armed assailant, the first option is always to avoid risk, comply with any demands and try to de-escalate the situation. "Don't look at the knife or into the attacker's eyes. Watching the chest area will increase your peripheral vision," says Maison. If the situation becomes violent, it's important to act quickly. "With a fast motion, slap the back of the hand that holds the knife, sending it up and away from the centre line of your body," advises Bullock. "It's important to change the mindset of the attacker to prevent them from continuing – immediately move your upper body in the opposite direction and deliver a strong kick to the groin, whilst keeping your hands up to protect your throat." Now run like hell.

Stop a bag snatcher

If a thief is trying to snatch your bag, whether it contains top secret documents or your lunch, don't pull away. Krav Maga shows the effectiveness of surprise. "Don't resist – go with the direction of the pull," recommends Maison. "Using their momentum, burst into the attacker with a swift knee to the groin and pull the bag away."

Long live gaming

For the chance to dish out some Krav Maga justice without the potentially tricky legal issues post-brawl, try Splinter Cell: Conviction. As if you needed any other excuse to break out the Xbox, researchers at East Carolina University found that two hours of casual gaming a week will cut your blood pressure by 16%, lowering your risk of a stroke. What's more, scientists at McGill University found that playing video games can reduce your stress-inducing cortisol levels by 17%. They obviously weren't playing on Veteran difficulty.

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