FEKM
BRIXTON KRAV MAGA
Scenario Based Self Defence Training

Many people worry about whether they have the fitness levels required to start Krav Maga. This anxiety puts them off from joining a class, even when free taster sessions are on offer.

This is a shame because almost everyone is fit enough to start. In fact, there is no pre-determined level of fitness you need to begin.

That doesn’t mean that fitness is not important in Krav Maga.

Far from it. Given the same ability, those students with high levels of strength and stamina will be more effective. However, Krav Maga classes themselves are designed to improve your fitness levels, so there is no reason to put off joining until you ‘get yourself in shape.’

In fact, if you are looking to defend yourself on the streets, it is a bad idea to delay starting Krav Maga while you spend six months at the gym. You will learn simple, easily deployable techniques from your first Krav Maga class. This will be far more valuable to you in a hostile situation than a few extra pounds of muscle.

Speak to any Krav Maga instructor and they will likely tell you that they have taught a lot of students who arrived at their first-class overweight and out of shape. They may have never before managed a proper pushup or struggled to perform a squat. Many of those students will have gone on to become lean, toned, and powerful, with the added benefit of an arsenal of effective self-defence techniques.

Age is also irrelevant.

There are plenty of octogenarians (and above) who have decided to take up Krav Maga to feel more secure in their homes or while out and about. The combination of simple, easily deployed techniques and physical activity has left them in a position where they can ably defend themselves. In some cases, they are in a physical condition that would put some young gym goers to shame.

Even if you live with a physical disability, such as a missing limb or impaired vision, Krav Maga is still open to you. So, if there’s a Krav Maga class in your area, don’t be afraid to turn up, ‘as you are’. Fitness will come as part and parcel of your journey.

Core fitness and flexibility

One of the most important areas of fitness that Krav Maga will work on with new students is core muscle strength (1).

Your core stability muscles include the abdominals (rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, external and internal obliques), multifidus, quadratus lumborum, iliopsoas, and erector spinae. The Latin names are not important. Just understand that the purpose of these muscles is to support your trunk.

With good core muscle strength, you will prevent injuries and improve your balance, posture, and flexibility. Core muscles also play a role in recruiting other muscles during exercise. In fact, there is little point in strengthening your major muscle groups (pectorals, quads, biceps, etc.) with weak core muscles. You will be unable to correctly isolate the muscles you need, leading to poor technique and potential injury.

Strength, balance, and coordination

A common myth is that some people have naturally better balance and coordination than others. In many cases, poor balance and coordination is simply down to weak core muscles – and these can be trained.

You can assess your current level of core strength using exercises such as lunges, plank hand changes, single-leg squats and simply standing on one leg. If you find these exercises difficult (i.e. you wobble or move around a lot), you should incorporate some basic core exercises into your fitness schedule. These include planks, plank to single-leg raises, side plank raises, gluteal bridges, and single-leg stands.

When these become comfortable, move on to more advanced core muscle exercises. Once you have achieved a good level of core fitness, you can start adding strength exercises such as chest and shoulder presses, cable rows, bicep curls, leg extensions, and the rest.

To keep all of your muscles in good shape, it is important to warm up and cool down properly before and after every session (inside and outside Krav Maga). Include gentle stretches for the muscle groups you are working on. Nothing slows down fitness training more than an injury.

Cardiovascular fitness

While strength training is important for building muscles and making them work more efficiently, you can only achieve your strength goals if those muscles have a steady supply of energy.

Cardiovascular fitness training is designed to optimise your lungs and heart – the engine of your body – through exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, and using the cross-trainer. Sparring, an important part of Krav Maga, will also improve your cardiovascular fitness and vice versa. So, if you include a weekly run, swim or cycle into your exercise regime, you will find that it pays off in those punishing few minutes of a sparring bout.

Good cardiovascular fitness not only improves your power and stamina, it helps you to focus more easily on the correct technique. This can be difficult if you are constantly out of puff.

Since cardiovascular and strength training works your muscles in different ways, you should schedule your sessions for different days.

Mental fitness

Although you may be feeling anxious about being ‘the unfit one’ in your class, the act of showing up proves that you have the capability to rise above your fears and move beyond your current limitations.

As with all activities though, you get out of Krav Maga precisely what you put in. Whatever your physical fitness levels, approaching your training with a positive ‘can do’ mindset and the willingness to push your limits will maximise the benefits. Your body will quickly become a powerful, strong, and agile weapon that will support you when needed.

Those who turn up rippling with muscle but unwilling to put in the work will soon find themselves falling behind.

Medical fitness

While you won’t need to be physically fit to start Krav Maga, you will need to be medically fit. The vast majority of potential Krav Maga students will have no issues, but if you have any doubts, you must speak to your GP. For example, you may be recovering from a serious operation or have recently had a heart attack.

In such circumstances, only a doctor can advise you on whether it is safe for you to carry out exercise or not. It is your responsibility to obtain that advice. You will have to declare yourself medically fit when you register for a Krav Maga class, for insurance purposes, so please be responsible and get checked out if you have any concerns.

Some notes on nutrition

There is no getting away from it. When it comes to fitness, exercise and nutrition are two sides of the same coin. If you are overweight going into your first Krav Maga class, as many students are, your training will only get you so far. To maximise your fitness levels, you will need to attend to your diet.

The good news is that you will still be able to eat all the foods you love. You might just need to adjust your eating patterns to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need in the right proportions for optimal health.

There is plenty of advice out there on nutrition, but here are some basic pointers:

  • Food can be broadly divided into macronutrients (those you need a lot of) and micronutrients (those you only need a small amount of).
  • Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates (sugar and starches), and fat.
  • While advice varies by source, you should aim for around 45 to 65% carbs, 10-35% protein, and 20-35% fat in your diet. Higher amounts of protein will help you to build muscle more quickly during training.
  • Carbohydrates can be further broken down by how fast they cause your blood sugar to rise. In most cases, it is better to eat foods that are low on the glycaemic index (GI). This will give you a steady supply of fuel, like throwing logs onto a fire.
  • Micronutrients are the many vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. Make sure you are getting the recommended daily amounts of these.
  • A diet high in fibre will help you to absorb the nutrients you need and will also help protect your heart.
  • Always keep yourself well hydrated by drinking plenty of water or juice throughout the day.

So, how fit do you have to be?

Hopefully, this article has calmed any fears you might have had about turning up to your first classless fit than you would like to be. If you are still concerned, contact your local Krav Maga centre and explain your situation.

A good Krav Maga instructor will be sensitive to the fact that some students will have lower levels of fitness relative to the class as a whole. They will make sure that these students are made to feel just as welcome and comfortable as everybody else.

As long as you come to training with a positive attitude, you will find that Krav Maga will help improve your fitness. In turn, your improved levels of fitness will make you better at Krav Maga.

Links

Fitness Training, Wadsworth, A., Anness Publishing Ltd., 2009