Before reading this post take a moment to read this article.
Done? Good. On with my take of this. I am all for fitness. We in the U.S. (and many other parts of the world, I bet) have grown very sedentary over the past few decades. We are couch potatoes who generally are more interested in sitting on our ever-expanding butts than getting some exercise.
Now I get that this isn’t actually a very revolutionary thought. But look around — hell, look in the mirror. Odds are you fall into this category since, according to the CDC, a third of adult Americans are ‘obese’ and another third are considered ‘overweight’! We are becoming a society of porkers. For those who want to change that quality of themselves they’ll try just about anything. This includes but isn’t limited to fad diets, running for week (before quitting with plantar fasciitis or shin splints), liposuction, going to the gym for a month or two (before mysteriously getting “too busy” to continue), and, for some, taking Krav Maga.
There’s nothing blatantly wrong with seeking out fitness by way of Krav Maga. I think, to some extent, I was looking for fitness by starting last year. And, don’t get me wrong, I am also in no way, shape, or form the authority on who should and shouldn’t take Krav Maga and for what reasons. That said, I have noticed an interesting take on Krav Maga in the media (as noted in that representative article above) and in a good number of people joining class over the past several months.
There are many ways you could split a class of students. One way that conveniently serves the point of this post is to consider what category a student falls into when it comes to their primary goal, fitness or self-defense. Yes, as I noted above, you can and probably do want both but one of these will dominate. For me it’s always been about self-defense first, fitness second. For others it’s the opposite.
So what, right? What’s the point? Well, first off, let me say that it hasn’t anything to do with machismo or a feeling of superiority over folks in this other category. Someone who’s fitness-centric has just as much right to the dojo as someone who’s self-defense oriented, for sure. But there has to be a consequence to this when you have a mix of the two groups. I find that fitness-centric students have a far different training ethic. They very often lack aggression in their attitude and oftentimes go through the motions and completely wuss out on many of the more intense drills.
We were doing “hammy sprints” back and forth across the dojo the other night. You very likely know the drill but just so we’re all on the same page, this is the drill where you pump your legs up to waist height, landing on your toes, and pump your arms in rhythm. The pace is slow and eventually agonizing. The blood pumps, the heart is thumping, and the sweat flows within a few minutes of this intense drill. If you do it properly you progress very slowly across the length of the dojo, far slower than a walk. Your leg pumps are assertive, violently mimicking the thrust of a driven knee to your unfortunate attacker. By the time you reach the opposite side you are beat. You jog back and start another lap. If you do this drill as a fitness nut you gleefully sprint across the dojo with a grin on your face and silently congratulate yourself for making it across quicker than anyone else.
Another example to prove my point is any drill involving striking the pads held by your partner. The self-defense oriented student will wail on the pads with violent abandon, grunting, glaring, and glowering. Sweat flies and they are winded to the point of exhaustion at the end, often having to take it down a few notches at the very end because of just how hard they are pushing themselves. They see the attacker in their mind’s eye and are “in the moment”, fighting for their lives in that drill. It’s real, it’s serious, and they never take it easy. On the other hand, generally speaking, the fitness-centric students I have seen or partnered with, see this drill as a fun workout. Their punches are weak, there’s no intensity, and most of the time you won’t see them staggering off the corner to quietly barf or faint from exertion.
Lastly, the overall demeanor of the fitness vs. the self-defense centric student is very often the different during any “downtime”, meaning time between drills, quick rests, or the beginning/end of class. There is a marked lack of intensity in their attitude as many act like it’s a Zumba class. That’s not to say that self-defense oriented students don’t joke around once in a while, talk, or enjoy themselves but overall I think it’s safe to say that Krav Maga is something they take far more….well, seriously as a martial art. It’s something that teaches discipline, makes them more confident, and just maybe might save their lives some day.
As I’ve said, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all good. Who am I to suggest who should or shouldn’t come to class or question their personal motivation? If someone’s got the guts and the dedication to join and stick with it, whatever their reason, I applaud them.
But, at the risk of sounding elitist, if you are here solely for fitness and aren’t going to give it your violent, sweat-flying, brutal all, partner with that guy over there. I’ll be getting my butt whooped over here with another person dedicating themselves to some self-defense.