Stacey Margaret Jones: Fitness Odyssey – Krav Maga


I told my Pilates teacher I was going to try Krav Maga, and another student in the class, asked, “Is that something you do or something you eat?” This is a legitimate question and similar to the one my husband asked when I invited him to join Angel and me on our latest Fitness Odyssey adventure.

Krav Maga (Krahv Muh-GAH) is a self-defense discipline that draws techniques from boxing, Judo and wrestling and is taught with fight scenarios. Its designer, Imi Lichtenfeld, used his technique to defend the Jewish quarter in Bratislava, Slovakia, from fascist groups in the 1930s and ‘40s and later provided lessons in his strategies to the Israeli military after he had immigrated there. It’s now taught worldwide for civilian, military and police uses.

The civilian Krav class is what Angel, Jay and I experienced in a beginners session at Krav Fit in Little Rock. I had never taken any kind of self-defense training before, and the idea of combining it with a rigorous workout was appealing. Angel had taken the class a couple of times and wanted me to see what it was all about. I made Jay come along. (On his sign-in sheet, when asked how he heard of the class, my husband wrote, “My wife made me.”)

Angel and I have tried Jazzercise, Pure Barre, Pilates and adult beginner ballet as part of our Odyssey. This was a little different.

We walked into what felt like a boxing gym, with suspended punching bags, pull-up bars, mats and other equipment suitable for assaulting. Krav Fit is in a new facility in SoMa, with ergonomically soft floors and a large, open central area. I loved the energy when we arrived. Many people were there early, practicing, loosening up and sparring.

When the class began, we all lined up for a pep talk, instruction and brief calisthenics, then separated for the “warm up,” a high-intensity 30-minute session of exercises in various stations, such as sprint sit-ups and pull-ups, which we did in sets of 10. This was demanding, but fun and self-directed. If something was too much, participants could do fewer or modify the form to suit their needs. (I recommend that students who aren’t in really good shape definitely modify this section of the class. It was intense.)

I noticed quickly that the teacher, David, and the two supporting teachers, John and Carol Ann, were moving through the room assisting the class members and demonstrating form or spotting participants. For a beginner like me, this was really helpful.

After about 30 minutes the Krav Maga instruction began in earnest. Members of the class were given fingerless padded gloves for sparring and separated into pairs (this was why it was nice to come with a friend). Angel and I paired up and Jay sparred with another member of the class.

We then practiced “hammerfist” punches in various iterations, such as front and side. Angel and I took turns holding the sparring pad, and as we practiced, we had the assistance and guidance of one of the three teachers.

This is good, because there is a lot to guide. Though it feels wonderful to just HIT SOMETHING, there’s a lot more to Krav Maga than punching out your aggressions. Krav Maga builds on natural reactions to attacks and then adds powerful technique to those inclinations to help an individual defend him- or herself. For example, if an attacker reaches to strangle you and pushes you backwards as he is doing so, you are likely to throw your arms up and stumble backwards. Krav Maga trains you how to use that upward arm movement and backward motion to get control of the situation, defend yourself and get away.

Students do these things by pivoting their weight strategically, protecting their heads and faces and attacking the vulnerable areas of their attackers. There’s a lot to think about to successfully execute a Krav Maga move.

“Some people seem to need permission to fight back,” said John Crowley, of Krav Fit in Little Rock. “Whatever we teach you, the main thing to learn is to just do something.” After only one class, I felt significantly more equipped to do just that.

After practicing various punches and a strangulation-defense scenario, we were put into a multi-part scenario in which we punched on command – Front! Back! Side! Side! Side! Back! – and then we had to ram our way through a phalanx of  pad-holding opponents. Finally we were to punch the spit out of a “prone” punching bag. Somehow, I – a newbie! – ended up running the Krav Maga gauntlet first. I made it through, and it was fun.

The class was a great experience in every way. It was intense. I learned really good, helpful stuff. I expressed aggression in a healthy way.

What was Angel’s verdict? “Krav Fit is the most challenging and most fun exercise I’ve had since elementary school recess, but that doesn’t mean Krav is child’s play,” she said.

“The workouts vary with each class, and thank goodness you can work at your own pace, because they aren’t kidding around with those Burpees!”

She values the self-defense component the most. “It teaches valuable skills, so I feel like I’m learning important personal safety techniques, not just exercising for the sake of it,” she said.

The most important attribute of the class was that the instructors were incredibly helpful. They were encouraging, knowledgeable and expert without giving me too much to do at one time. Every time David, Carol Ann or John came around, they watched my technique, praised what I did well, then gave me the next thing to work on to improve. They didn’t overwhelm me, and as the class went on, I could already feel myself incorporating more knowledge into my technique.

And, my husband, who sat out a few activities to rest after the intense opening warm up, told me later that while he was watching the class, two instructors came to check on him and make sure he was fine and didn’t need any help.

“I’ll definitely be back,” said Angel, “and I plan to introduce more of my girlfriends to Krav Fit as well.”

It is a great way to work out and learn about defending yourself in an expert, yet supportive, environment. I benefitted from a single class, so it is exciting to think of what I could accomplish if I spend more time at Krav Fit.

What:  Krav Fit
Located: 1324-B South Main, Little Rock
450 Broadway, Hot Springs
What to wear: Comfortable fit-wear, cross-training shoes. Leave your jewelry at home.
Degree of difficulty: The warm up is very intense (30 minutes); the Krav Maga lesson (45 to 60 minutes) is more accessible to various fitness levels. A teacher and assistants help students during the classes with technique and form.
Price: The first class is FREE. Single-class fee is $25, a 10-class punch card is $150 and a 20-class punch card is $250.

All photos courtesy of Guy Galloway

If you have a fitness studio or teach an exercise class you would like Stacey Margaret and Angel to try, send an email to and invite them!

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