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How Krav Maga Helped Me Reclaim My Body Image

When I was 20 years old and many of my friends were starting to get into different flavors of martial arts, I did some research and became immediately attracted to Krav Maga. After nearly 15 years of standing in front of various AKMF Krav Maga studios muttering “Go in there, just go in there, you know you want to do this, just go inside and do the thing,” it happened-- I became a Krav Maga student. No, seriously, you read that right-- I stood in front of both Master Mark Cox's America's Best School in Chatsworth, CA and the AB Krav Maga School in Simi Valley, California, telling myself to go in there and train. I had no idea these schools were part of the same organization. Additionally in 2004, I was a student in Mr. Nathan Carlen's Karate class at Pierce College for maybe 3 sessions before I dropped out (because I was an insecure mess). Those in the know are aware that Mr. Carlen is a lead instructor at America's Best in Chatworth. To say that all of this can be regarded as a weird stroke of destiny is clearly an understatement-- I really think I was meant to be here.

My first day wearing a white belt and I was stoked!
My first day wearing a white belt and I was stoked!

Since early October 2019, I have been training at Citadel Krav Maga under Mr. John Veverka, where I was literally sent by my tattoo artist, Danny Black. He is a man well versed in Tang Soo Do, Krav Maga, and heavy lifting. Citadel had just opened its doors and Danny told me to stop screwing around and go train-- it was time to be a warrior. Without hesitation, I can say with absolute confidence that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I am so in love with and dedicated to my Krav Maga training; as of this writing I am going through my kids’ instructor apprenticeship and I completed my Orange Belt test on April 10th, 2020.

Krav Maga is difficult, stressful, and satisfying in a way I didn’t know my life was missing. Okay sure, I may be 34 years old now, but it’s not like I’m less spry than I was in my 20s. If anything, I’m stronger and in better shape than I have ever been. My entire life, all I ever wanted was to be strong. You know, physically strong. The kind where you flex your muscles and people are impressed, if not perhaps a touch intimidated. The kind of strong where you can walk into a room and people “know not to mess with you.” Macho, I know, but that’s just the way some of us are built.

Passing the Yellow Belt Exam with the CKM Fam December 14th, 2019

But it wasn’t always the way I was built, in my head at least. When I was an early teenager, I didn’t like my height. I am 5’8 and just…a lot of person. I’ve always hovered somewhere in the 210 pound range and I’m naturally strong and muscular “for a girl”. In typical form for many young women entering puberty, I wanted to be short and petite. I wanted to be someone that people looked at and thought they were worth taking care of, worth protecting. I also thought that maybe my body type made it so I wasn’t someone worth protecting. Maybe I didn’t have enough feminine curves to be someone to protect. Maybe my chest was too small. Maybe my butt was too flat. Did I look like a man? Maybe I wasn’t delicate enough. Maybe I was too bossy or loud or outgoing or extroverted or saucy or sassy, or…wrong.

The truth is this-- women are at an automatic disadvantage and are more likely to be targets of physical attacks and violence than men. Body type, height, and size hold no prejudice to what a woman can experience in her home and out in the world. Which is why I think it is critical for all women to have some Krav Maga training. The art is intuitive, powerful, and will automatically make anyone, male or female, feel like they have a fighting chance to survive and fight back should they ever find themselves in a physical altercation. But for me, speaking from my personal experience existing in this body, there is an extra layer than I didn’t actually expect to discover.

My height, weight, and shape are an advantage.

Krav Maga has been the only activity, hobby, and discipline I’ve ever taken part of where my size only helps me. My instructor, training partners, and classmates call me big and it’s a compliment. For the first time in my life, I am large and heavy and it’s like…I’m lucky to be this way. Early on, when I was first learning how to punch, I hit that pad like a sloppy novice and I still saw my partner budge. I kicked the pad for the first time and I saw someone stumble. Sure, it may have been because my training partner wasn’t properly based-out, but to my newborn fresh Krav Maga eyes, I felt strength flowing through my body.

Belt exams are serious!

And once we entered the grappling portion of the curriculum, and I was told to press all of my weight onto my training partner while on top of them in side-control to crush the weight out of their lungs? I didn’t want to; it was scary at first. I’ve never even sat in someone’s lap because I didn’t want to hurt them. People sit in my lap! But I pushed through, pressed down my weight on my partner, and done—I, for the first time in my life, felt like a warrior babe whose body was part of the weapon.

My body, the one I lamented in my youth for being too big, too strong, too muscular, too…not perfect…is now the perfect vehicle to protect me, my children, and anyone who needs a little extra help. Sure, I will never be a small, delicate, petite person that needed protecting simply based on their size (which is also an incorrect stereotype or assumption to make because there are plenty of small, strong people capable of protecting and defending), but I finally had the strength to save and defend my people. Simply put, it’s the mindset. And I finally have the right one.

Bowing to myself for the virtual Orange Belt Exam - קידה (Kida).

Krav Maga taught me to appreciate and love the way I was built, by birth. But it has also taught me to be more confident in my abilities to take care of myself and not be helpless. Or at least, not completely helpless. Krav Maga has showed me that I have the will to live, that I want to stay alive, and if something unthinkable were to happen to me, especially if my children were present, that inside of me there is an indominable spirit that doesn’t want to give up. I want to stay in the fight. I want to survive. I want to do more than just live. I want to do more than just breathe. I want to train for something bigger than myself and to give that knowledge and skill back to the people that matter. Now, I have it. Krav Maga and everyone involved in this world has given me that.

And really, the truth of it? I’ve learned that the best me is the one learning these lessons, the one that is present for this journey. There is only forward from here.

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