Israeli martial art Krav Maga boosts fitness, safety and self-confidence

For Howard Magazine

When Hannah Young, 27, of Jessup walks to her car, she’s paying attention to her surroundings. It’s a habit she learned when she started training in Krav Maga, a military fighting and self-defense program, in 2012.

“One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is being aware of what’s around me and not to get scared or panic,” Young says.

After taking a few years off, she’s back in the habit, training at Columbia’s Krav Maga Maryland since last fall.

Krav Maga, originally developed for the Israel Defense Forces, has gained popularity among civilians drawn to its practical fighting techniques, which are a hybrid of other martial arts, boxing and wrestling.

Jeff Mount, 35, director of operations for Krav Maga Maryland and Capitol Hill, grew up practicing traditional martial arts but became hooked on Krav Maga after he started looking around for a new fitness routine.

“I had a couple of friends becoming social workers, and they asked me to train them. And I tried to train them in karate-type stuff, and it was impractical and didn’t make them feel very well equipped to defend themselves,” he says.

Mount started training in 2005, became a Krav Maga instructor three months later, and started teaching at Krav Maga Maryland when it opened later that year.

He says the training is designed for both men and women and is effective for all ages. The center has students from ages five to 74.

The classes involve drills to make students think instinctively and include a lot of interval training and sprinting.

“The real reward is seeing people gain strength that they didn’t know they had. It makes them realize that wherever their sources of fear are in life that they have the capacity to fight through those,” Mount says.

Young started at Krav Maga Maryland to learn self-defense. She thought it would help her navigate potentially dangerous situations she encounters in her job as a nurse. To her surprise, she discovered that the classes taught her a lot more than defense tactics.

“It turned into a way of exercising that I actually enjoy. I hated working out at the gym or running, and now I look forward to going to class,” Young says.

She says Krav Maga has also changed her frame of mind.

“When I first started, the classes [were] really hard, and before a drill I was telling myself that I couldn’t do certain things,” Young says. “I’m excited to take part in class now and I have stopped telling myself I can’t. That has transferred to other areas of my life, too, and now I have confidence that I’m able to defend myself if needed.”

Krav Maga Maryland

8865 Stanford Blvd., Suite 141, Columbia


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