Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2013, 11:43 pm

Israeli self-defense training emphasizes no-nonsense strategy

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By Anthony Watt, awatt@qconline.com

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Photo: John Greenwood
Krav Maga instructor Jeff Wood demonstrates various methods to defend yourself while working with Tim Stalf of Andover. Krav Maga is a self-defense fighting system which originated in Israel. It incorporates street-fighting techniques and martial arts.
Jeff Wood's self-defense training emphasizes a basic, no-nonsense strategy -- pay attention to your surroundings and react appropriately if threatened.

Mr. Wood teaches Krav Maga -- an Israeli self-defense art developed for Israel's military and intelligence community. He is an instructor for Krav Maga North America, 426 37th St., Moline.

Mr. Wood said there are several steps he tries to drill into students about potentially dangerous situations. First is to avoid them if possible -- know who and what's around you, try not to get cornered, talk your way out if you can or just get away.

"Get to a point of safety, that's what we want people to do first," he said. But if that fails,then stop the attack. In practice, that translates into swift, and sometimes violent, action.

Mr. Wood and one of his students, Jim Stalf, 58, of Andover, recently demonstrated several possible scenarios, including an attacker with a knife, an attacker with a gun and an attacker with a club or blunt instrument.

Mr. Stalf would try to strike or threaten Mr. Wood with a mock weapon, and Mr. Wood would respond with a blur of hands and feet -- hitting arms, hands, face, chest or other parts of his opponent before restraining or pinning him, either turning Mr. Stalf's weapon against him, or making a swift escape, sometimes taking the opponent's weapon with him.

Even after retreating how, he scanned his surroundings for other potential assailants.

"Our goal, obviously, is to maintain that critical distance," Mr. Wood said, explaining that critical distance is the space to maintain between yourself and a threat, and varies depending on the type of threat.

Other tricks include being able to improvise by using what's around you to your advantage, he said. Is there something you can put between you and your attacker? If necessary, is there something you can use as a weapon?

"We're talking about using your purse to shield something, we're talking about using your belt if you can get it off," Mr. Wood said. "We're talking about using a chair. A chair is a fantastic weapon."

He said Krav Maga is a broad-based system that encompasses armed and unarmed attacks in a variety of scenarios, including a bar room and dark parking lot.

Much of the movement in the martial art is based on a person's reflexive responses such as bringing the arms up to protect the face from an incoming blow or object, he said."That's what help us at least lay a foundation in a reasonable amount of time."

Mr. Wood said anyone can learn Krav Maga."We get people from all different fitness levels."

Training includes general fitness and class safety, technique drills and knowing what level of force is appropriate in a given circumstance based on the law, he said.

General classes are for ages 16 or older, but Mr. Wood said he's planning other more specialized classes, including women's and children's self defense classes.An introductory class is scheduled to begin Feb. 16.

For more information, contact Mr. Wood at train@thekmna.com or (309) 764-5544, or visit thekmna.com.