What is “functional fitness”? Functional fitness includes exercise that typically focus on enhancing strength, agility and/or flexibility for purposes beyond simple fitness, but to also help us to better complete everyday or other specific kinds of tasks. A perfect example of functional fitness are various types of martial arts or self-defense.
Krav Maga is one such type of functional fitness. Originally developed as a self-defense system for the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli security forces, Krav Maga classes and trainings are now available around the world for laypeople, at gyms or Krava Maga-specialty studios. (In the Portland, Oregon area, check out Krav Maga Portland.)
Ross Cascio, an expert level instructor with Krav Maga Worldwide with more than a decade teaching Krav Maga self-defense, fight, and fitness classes, was generous enough to share the following core Krav Maga movements with accompanying directions. This can all be practiced at home (solo — no hurting any partners here!) as a means of both exercise and learning useful self-defense approaches. Here’s what he had to share:
- Krav Maga Fighting Stance – Stand with your feet just a little further than hip-width apart. If you are right handed, take one step forward with your left foot; if you are left-handed take one step forward with your right foot. Keep a little bend in your knees. Keep your hands open and out in front of your face (palms away). Keep your elbows in and your chin tucked. Practice moving in your stance by always stepping with the foot closest to where you want to go, and pushing with the opposite foot.
- Krav Maga Straight Punch – From your fighting stance rotate your body so that your shoulders and hips turn and your arm drives straight out in front of you. Imagine striking the target with your top two knuckles (pointer and middle finger). Remember; when you punch involve your whole body. If your hips and shoulders aren’t turning behind the punch you aren’t making the strongest strike possible. Recoil the punch back to the original position in a straight line.
- Krav Maga Hammer Fist – From your fighting stance, rotate your hips and shoulders exactly like you would for a straight punch…instead of making the strike with your knuckles, send the bottom of your closed fist (bottom of your pinky) toward the target, as if you were going to hammer a nail into a board directly in front of you. Recoil your strike directly back to the original hand position in fighting stance.
- Krav Maga Front Kick To The Groin – From your fighting stance, drive your hips and back knee forward, then let your lower leg unfold, with foot flat and your toe pointed forward (not up) as if you were going to cut a person in half, through their groin, with the top of your foot. A flat foot provides the widest striking surface, and offers the best chance of doing damage to the target. Recoil your leg to the back position, and the original fighting stance.
- Krav Maga SPRAWL! – From your fighting stance, bend your knees until your hands can touch the ground. Supporting yourself with your hands, jump your feet back as if getting into a push up position, let your hips drop low to the ground while your head and chest stay up and you look to the ceiling or in front of you, not down. Pop up directly to your fighting stance. A sprawl is used to defend against someone grabbing your legs and lifting you off the ground or tackling you. If you drop your hips fast and explosively when someone tries to grab you around the waist, you can free yourself from the grip and smash that person down to the ground. The movement is similar to a burpee when practiced alone.
- Move around in your fighting stance, do 100 punches, 100 hammer fists, 100 front kicks, and 20 sprawls and you’ll get your heart pumping pretty well!
Try it in front of a mirror to get started. Krav Maga is certainly something worth considering in-person instruction for, especially if you are just beginning to explore this and/or want to advance your training. But the above pointers may offer a helpful taste of what to expect with Krav Maga… and if nothing else, may help break up your day and get you moving around your living room or office with some new (and functional) exercise inspiration!
As with any type of fitness regimen, especially when starting something new-to-you, work within your comfort and abilities and always check with a healthcare provider about any concerns or questions.