When In Manila, we can often forget that we are in a major city. After all, Filipinos are notorious for being friendly and welcoming. But while this is true, the fact is that most of our Manileño lives are spent in an urban jungle, close to very jungle-like dangers. Snatchers and pickpockets are the most “common or garden” variety of these, and, in a sense, we may have their presence for granted. After all, with a bit of added vigilance and some common sense, we can more or less avoid them. In fact, most of us in the Metro will go through life without having to get into a physical altercation.
…Or so we think.
The fact is, violent crime is a very real threat in metropolitan areas, a fact I realized recently when, on the way back from Shangri-la Mall (a routine journey I make on foot), I and a friend found that we were being followed by a rather menacing-looking man wearing a bulky jacket. (Pretty cliché, but frighteningly true.) We managed to lose him by walking really fast into in the crush of people on the sidewalk headed towards San Miguel Avenue, but the adrenalin rush of fear was enough to convince me of the risks of being unable to defend myself.
While I am definitely not afraid of throwing punches and swinging kicks, it’s hard to imagine me (five-foot-three, 120lbs, not exactly “athletically inclined”) holding my own against an opponent twice my size and, what’s more, with less-than-noble intentions. What, then, is a girl like me to do?
Enter Krav Maga.
Most people know about Krav Maga from Jennifer Lopez’s movie Enough or behind-the-scenes reports of Matt Damon’s training regimen for his stint as Jason Bourne. In those movies, however, it can look a lot like another martial art, comparable to MMA or muay thai in its form and ferocity. The reality, however, is quite a bit different.
For starters, Krav Maga is not a martial art at all, but a “self-defense system.” Fancy words aside, it means that there are no illegal moves. Hit and hurt anything, so long as you get the job done. For example, while in MMA or karate, kicking someone in the groin is considered a no-no, whole sessions of Krav Maga training are devoted to the most effective groin kick (yes, there is such a thing). The point is to harness your instinct and aggression so that in a fight, you get the upper hand, regardless of your comparative height or size.
Given my aforementioned height/size limitations, and my (admittedly) spitfire temper, it sounded perfect.
Introduced in 2004, Krav Maga is still relatively new to the Philippines–a fact that is both a blessing and a curse. The “curse” is that getting a handle of a good krav maga training school can be rather difficult, seeing as there are so few of them. The blessing, on the other hand, is that since there are so few schools, it’s easier to trace them back to their source: Krav Maga Philippines (an affiliate of the pioneering Krav Maga organization Krav Maga Group). Founded nine years ago by Kenneth Asuncion, Krav Maga Philippines is the original Pinoy Krav Maga group, with direct backing by Eyal Yanilov, who was, at the time of Krav Maga PH’s founding, the head of the International Krav Maga Federation (the official Krav Maga organization formed by the disciples of Krav Maga’s founder, Imi Sde-Or). What began as a grassroots operation has since grown into a sophisticated organization, offering not only krav maga classes, but also personal security courses and special weapons training: basically a one-stop shop for how to survive in the urban jungle.
After being assured by both Kenneth and by Krav Maga Philippines’ marketing officer (and my schoolmate) Lean Villanueva that I would not die, I decided to give Krav Maga a shot. Could it transform an un-athletic, slightly flabby teenager into a killing machine?
If I had any doubts about that answer, they were cured in day one, when I found myself on the floor, being choked by a two-hundred-plus pound guy.
Not the actual 200-pound guy, but this was the position I was in.
I kid you not. I was actually choked.
Said choking was in fact part of an anti-rape module which formed the first training session I had with Krav Maga Philippines. Under the guidance of Tuesday Alipon, I learned how to escape from being pinned to the ground and choked from the side, from full-mount (or what I like to call the bangungot pose), and from between the legs. After an hour and a half (training sessions run from five-thirty to seven and from seven-thirty to nine), I could actually “throw” a guy twice my size with a series of quick and coordinated movements which were, best of all, not unnatural–they worked in tandem with my instincts to get away as fast as possible.
The next few days of training were no less a surprise. Used as I was to sparring with girls (my PE course in university was gender-exclusive), I found myself thrown into a Hunger Games-like scenario, fending off both girls and boys, during our “eight common objects” training.
In Krav Maga, the belief is that you are never without a weapon. This is because it classifies all daily items into eight common objects, based on their use as weapons. An object is either stick-like, knife-like, stone-like, rope-like, shield-like, liquid/aerosol, small (coins, sand, etc.), or an “other” (an object you can’t take with you but which happens to be there and can be used as a weapon, such as a wall or a flight of stairs). For instance, my wide collection of scarves make for handy “rope-like” objects, and can be used to strangle or whip opponents, while my G-Tec pens are knife-like items whose pointed metal tips make for maximum stabbing potential.
Burying the hatchet: Eight Common Objects training with KMP!
Of course, learning the theory is one thing. Practice is quite another. After going through a briefing on how to use and block the eight common objects, our instructor, Edmundo Ongsiako, split the class into attackers and defenders and, well, told us to go all Battle Royale.
Briefing before the battle…
Unsurprisingly, no photos exist of the melée that ensued (as my camera would have made for a handy stone-like object), but since Krav Maga training is all about being prepared, not necessarily being experienced, no one was actually hurt. Still, having to fight off more than one person at a time is no mean feat, and it is a common occurrence in Krav Maga training. Size isn’t an issue either. When learning how to effectively push and punch, I was actually set upon by two, two-hundred (or so) pound Krav Maga seniors, who held me against the wall with kick-pads until I figured out how to push and claw them away.
Am I a killing machine yet? Probably not. But after three weeks of Krav Maga training, I may be well on my way to becoming one. So far, I’ve learned how to break choke-holds, kick groins, punch, push, and even take hits (though this resulted in literally flying across the room), as well as use the stuff in my handbag as effective weapons–skills that could prove essential in the hopefully off-chance I should find myself in a dangerous situation. And being combat-ready isn’t the only benefit of Krav Maga training: after four ninety-minute sessions, I had a more visibly sculpted waistline and toned shoulders. Apparently, learning to fight has some aesthetic advantages.
The best part of working out with Krav Maga Philippines is that there’s a different “theme” with every session. The mixture of trainings I got were pretty much basic personal-attack scenarios, but there are also weapons courses and even “Supercharged Saturdays”: intensive, eight-hour boot camps for those who dare push themselves to the limit. Krav Maga Philippines also offers “Request Fridays,” where any student can give their instructor a particular scenario (carjacking, rape attempt, zombie apocalypse), and receive a blow-by-blow of how to use Krav Maga to get out of it.
So When In Manila, if you’re in search of a good workout that will also make you combat-ready, why not give Krav Maga a try with Krav Maga Philippines? The sessions may be arduous, but they’re definitely worth the effort. Most of all, you’ll feel a lot safer.
Krav Maga Philippines‘ main branch is located at 20 E. Maclang St., near P. Guevarra, San Juan City. For inquiries, call (02) 7265021 or email:[email protected]. For more information, visit their website.