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The Israeli martial art of Krav Maga helps practitioners take charge of their own safety


It is a typical Monday night: You are the only one left waiting to get picked up after practice. You know your mom is minutes away. A van pulls up to you, but it is not your mom. The door slides open, someone reaches out, grabs you and struggles to pull you in. What do you do?

Perhaps you are not alone. In fact, you are having fun at a long-awaited concert. You are dancing and singing along to your favorite song when you hear several large booms.

The music stops and people are frantic. They are screaming and pushing and shoving to make a mad dash out of the building. People are falling and getting trampled. You do not even know what is going on but you know you need to quickly get out. What do you do next? Could you survive the stampede? The attack?

These are horrifying situations to think of. No one ever expects to encounter them. No one even wants to think about them.

But they most definitely can happen.

Do you ever wonder, "Could these situations happen to me?"

The answer is yes. We are all at risk of such unfortunate events. So the real question should be, "If something like this ever happened to me, would I be prepared to handle the situation?"

To avoid becoming a victim, you need to take charge of your safety. There are no guarantees but actively tuning your thoughts and actions toward crime prevention and self-defense can help lower your chances of becoming a casualty.

Krav Maga is a form of martial arts that seems to be the latest trend in Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise are some of the many celebrities that have been known to train in Krav Maga. Many of them began learning the fighting style to improve their stage combat scenes but they soon realized the incredible fitness and psychological benefits from it.

Krav Maga is a great skill to have in order to protect yourself from the situations mentioned above.

However, it is not just for physical protection, but it is also used to build character and confidence.

You do not have to go to Hollywood to learn Krav Maga. It is here in Western New York at the Training Edge in Clarence. The Training Edge was the first facility to bring Krav Maga to Buffalo, and it was the only one in the area for quite a long time.

NeXt recently sat down with Steve Spoth, owner of the Training Edge, to hear more about this training program.

Question: Can you tell me: What exactly is Krav Maga?

Answer: Krav Maga was developed for the Israeli military in the late ’40s by Imi Lichtenfeld. He wanted to develop a self-defense system that could be very effective in hostile environments and be easy to learn in a short period of time. It also had to be effective for both men and women, because everyone had to serve in the military for two years at that point in time.

Krav Maga was brought to civilians in the ’60s and quickly became popular for the same reasons it was successful in the military: It was quick to learn, effective in all self-defense situations, and easy to retain.

The words Krav Maga mean "Contact Combat" and is still used today in the Israeli military as their base for hand-to-hand training.

Q: Who can take Krav Maga?

A: Krav Maga can be learned by anyone, because it was originally designed for ages ranging from 18 to 50 years old. At our school, we have students doing Krav Maga from age 13, as our youngest, to age 75, as our oldest. As long as someone has the right attitude and can physically do the classes then they can do it.

Q: Does law enforcement ever take Krav Maga?

A: Yes, Krav Maga is very popular with law enforcement, correctional officers and the military.

Q: What are the top three reasons why people take Krav Maga?

A: To learn practical self-defense, get fit and gain confidence.

Q: What are the benefits of taking Krav Maga?

A: It will teach you a very efficient and effective way to defend any street attack. It will build both the physical and mental toughness. It will get you in great shape.

Q: Is there a level of fitness one needs to have before taking Krav Maga?

A: No, the classes are designed to take someone who has very little, if any, fitness level and methodically train them to get in great shape.

Q: How is Krav different than other self-defense classes?

A.: Because of it origins in Israel, it is one of the most battle-tested self-defense systems. Therefore, people can rest assured that what they learn has been proven to work.

Q: What is your "story"? Who did you learn from?

A: I started Kung Fu in 1992 under Sifu Dean Economos and Grandmaster James Sun.

I opened up my first part-time school in 1996. I went full time in 1999.

I started my Krav Maga training with Darren Levine in Los Angeles in 2000. In 2002, I became the northeast regional training center to help grow Krav in the northeast region.

I stopped that in 2005 to dedicate all my time to running the Training Edge.

I started training in Haganah/Krav Maga under Mike Lee Kanarek in 2006. I became a level 3 Kru Muay Thai instructor under Master Hung Tran in 2013. I received my Blue belt in Brazilian Ju Jitsu under Professor Chuck Anzelone in 2011. I got certified in CT 707 Israeli Krav Maga System in 2012 and 2014.

Q: How does someone become a "master" in Krav?

A: The same way you become a master at anything: by putting in many years of practice and teaching to perfect the skills that you have.

It is also doing continuing education to improve yourself. I believe that "Master" can just become a title if you do not commit to constant growth and change.

Q: Do you think there is more of a need for Krav now than there was when you first got involved?

A: Most definitely! When I brought Krav Maga to Buffalo 16 years ago not only did no one know what Krav was, but there was no sense of urgency to learn how to defend yourself.

That has changed dramatically because of what is happening in the world and in our communities. More and more people want to have some sort of self-defense skill to be able to protect themselves and their families.

I look at it this way: Swimming is something everyone feels they need to learn because there is so much water around. If you ever fell in, you need to know how to swim to save your life.

I think more and more people are looking at self-defense in the same way: They don’t necessarily worry about being attacked, but with all they see going on in the world they want to learn how to defend themselves just in case they need to.

Q: Do you have any student stories of success you would like to share?

A: We have heard many stories over the years, but the one that sticks into my mind is of a female student that started with me in our Kid’s Karate program, got her black belt, and then went into our Krav Maga program. She left and went to college, and one night while getting out of her car she was approached by a male who tried to attack her. She defended herself with her Krav skills and got away. Her mom called me and thanked me for teaching her Krav. That is what makes everything we do worthwhile. I will never forget that phone call!

Q: Lastly, what is your goal/mission?

A: My mission is to use the martial arts as a vehicle to strengthen the heart, mind and body of all our students. Empowering people one belt at a time!

Camryn Clune is a junior at Christian Central Academy.


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