Krav Maga and the Stars: The Sky’s the Limit

Linda Hamilton: Breaking New Ground With Krav Maga

For audiences the world over, the moment when Linda Hamilton first appeared on screen in Terminator 2, completely transformed from lithe lass into lean, mean fighting machine, was a defining moment in the history of women’s fitness. The 1990s had just kicked off and ‘it’ stars of the previous decade included the sultry Kim Bassinger, curvaceous Melanie Griffith and altogether fragile Michelle Pfeiffer; the heroines they played were worlds away from the kickass heroine whose flexibility and strength made her a more than credible nemesis to a powerful enemy sent back from the future.

To get into shape for the film, Hamilton worked out for three hours a day, six days a week, mainly in her own garage, with the help of personal trainer, Anthony Cortes. When she met Cortes, the beautiful actress was having difficulty shedding unwanted weight from her recent pregnancy. The beautiful body she achieved in just 13 weeks, was nothing short of a testimony to the transformational power of fitness. “All summer, I couldn’t wait to take my clothes off. I’d pull my little crop top up for anyone who wanted to see. It’s just wonderful when you fall in love with your body,” she said.

You, too, may have been secretly wishing you had greater muscle definition, but perhaps the intensity and difficulty of many Hollywood-style workouts have put you off; most of us work an eight-hour job, so three hours daily sounds more like a holiday than the average 9 to 5. An additional excuse is lack of mentorship; who wouldn’t look good enough to star in Terminator if they had Anthony Cortes or Tracey Anderson motivating them and pushing them to new limits? Linda Hamilton’s workout, incidentally, involved a mix of running, swimming, stair-climbing, biking, free weights, trampoline work, walking lunges and abdominal drills. Does it all sound like a bit too much? We’re not surprised!

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The Krav Maga Craze: Ready to Get Addicted?

If your fitness goal involves putting on muscle and reducing body fat levels, expect to notice a positive change in three to six months, using a blend of cardiovascular and weight/resistance training exercises. If the typical spin or Zumba classes sound a bit too ‘old millenium’ for you, why not take up an amazing fitness movement that has a history spanning almost a century, but is only now becoming an ‘it’ sport for urbanites seeking a competitive edge? The movement is called Krav Maga (KM) and it is changing the lives of thousands of people around the world, inviting them into a community that embraces, supports and encourages beginner and elite athletes alike to achieve their individual goals. It’s definitely worth giving up your couch potato status for; your favourite film or series will still be there when you get back after your first KM workout, though you’ll probably be so tired, you won’t be able to keep your eyes open for more than a few minutes!

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Krav Maga and the Stars: The Sky’s the Limit

Krav Maga is the official self-defence method used by the Israeli Defence forces, and US law enforcement agents are also taught techniques derived from this system. KM was also Angelina Jolie and Hillary Swank’s chosen method to achieve the strong, muscular yet lean look they sported in Tomb Raider and Million Dollar Baby, respectively.

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What’s In a Class?

A Krav Maga workout is nothing like the typical aerobics class, which changes very little from day to day (at some gyms you’re lucky if your instructor actually bothers to change the music every few classes). A typical session begins with stretching exercises, followed by a cardiovascular warm-up, whose level of difficulty will probably depend on your instructor’s mood that day… is he feeling naughty or nice? On a tough day you may be running up and down flights of steps, doing push-ups or tough abdominal drills; if you’re are a beginner, you’ll probably be led through simpler exercises like jumping jacks and sparring with a partner.

The core part of a KM class consists of different ‘combatives’ (where particular strikes are learned and perfected) and ‘defences’ (designed to stop an assailant from injuring, kidnapping, robbing or assaulting you). A popular move is the 360 Defence, which is used to defend against attacks to the outer body. The move involves using the arms to create seven different blocking positions. The surface that ‘blocks’ the assailant’s attack is the blade of the forearm, running all the way down to the fingertips (hands are open and extended). The key is to ‘meet the attack’ with your blocking move, instead of simply defending your body from a blow.

If you are being attacked overhead, for instance, the blocking position involves raising your arms about your head, crossing your forearms and bringing your biceps in towards your ears. Your head lies within the defensive triangle formed by your arms, and the assailant is attacked with an outward motion. When you are practising the 360 Defence with a partner, the aim is to keep your body in motion at all times, your arms speedily defending your body against various angles of attack. Your opponent’s blows are deflected down the angle of your forearm, which reduces the blows’ force. Also popular at Krav Maga classes are drills performed on a tombstone pad (punching, elbowing, using the knees) for intense 45- or 60-second bursts.

In the last part of the class, the instructor will often teach you how to react in specific situations of aggression; for instance, if someone comes at you with a baseball bat, grabs you by the neck or takes you by the shoulders. These simulations are left to the end of the workout because by then you will most probably be incredibly tired. The idea is that if you can defend yourself in this state, it should be much easier when you are feeling fresh and rested. You will learn to defend yourself against everything from side, back or front chokes to punches (high and low), kicks (roundhouse kicks and spinning heel defences, for instance) and attacks with sticks.

Most students love the ‘closed-eye drill’, in which one person has to close their eyes and defend themselves against attacks from three different assailants coming at him/her from various angles. At advanced levels, students will learn to defend themselves against knife and gun attacks, skills we hope you will never actually need to use!

The Proof is in the Pudding

For a stomach as ripped as Hillary Swank’s or abs as tight as Linda Hamilton’s, you’ll need to support your KM workout with a diet bearing the right balance of protein, carbs, essential fats, vitamins and minerals. Fitness buffs often highlight the importance of protein when it comes to building muscle, but without a sufficient intake of carbohydrates, you’ll be hard pressed to muster up enough energy to complete challenging resistance and weights-based exercises, which should complement your KM classes if you aim to build muscle mass. The key to proper carb intake is to find the right sources; avoid refined carbs and sugar-rich foods and stick to complex carbohydrates like potatoes, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, and brown rice. Space out your carb intake during the day to avoid dangerous insulin spikes and dives, and make sure to include a carbohydrate-rich snack in your after-workout snack, since sugar levels are considerably lowered by a hectic workout. Finally, try to consume carbohydrates and protein in the same meal, since carbs help transport protein to muscle cells, a process which is crucial to muscle growth.

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Beyond the Physical: Krav Maga and Inner Power

One of the best things about Krav Maga is its strong sense of purpose; more than an exercise routine, it is a set of life-saving skills which will always come in handy, regardless of your sex or age. Actor Tyler Perry recently said that Krav Maga not only helped him shed 30 pounds for his latest movie, Alex Cross; it also helped him overcome the confidence he lost during his difficult childhood. We often focus on the benefits of exercise for our physical health (better bone health and cardiovascular health and a lower risk of diabetes spring to mind) but for many, fitness means so much more; it is that last grasp at positivity; that small glimpse of a silver lining that inspired Bradley Cooper’s character in the heartfelt film, Silver Linings Playbook.