Kicking and punching are great for boosting one's heart rate and toning muscles. But add some self-defense and street-fighting techniques and the adrenaline really starts to flow.
Krav Maga is the Israel Defense Forces' hand-to-hand fighting and self-defense system, taught to ordinary Joes and Janes who want to be able to handle themselves if attacked. This challenging, full-body workout will also get anyone in shape.
"With Krav Maga your focus is on defending yourself, so you're working out without realizing you're working out," says Marcus Kowal, general manager and instructor at Krav Maga Worldwide Training Center in West L.A., which has franchises across the country.
The good news is that there's no boot camp to weed out the couch potatoes. Everyone is welcome to learn the technique, Kowal says. "We work you at your level, and you'll still get a workout."
Since the objective is to "eliminate danger by any means necessary," according to Kowal, the focus is on becoming an aggressor when attacked, not a victim. Students learn to punch, kick, elbow and knee their way out of being choked, grabbed or threatened with weapons. It's a full-body workout with anaerobic cardio. "Everything we do is explosive, aggressive and high-impact but in a safe setting," Kowal says. An added bonus: All that pounding helps build bone density.
Focus is required, but staying calm is too, and students are taught to keep their cool in potentially violent scenarios. Although there is a belt system, they're not worn to class as with other forms of martial arts.
In a gym, Kowal says, it doesn't take long to become familiar with every piece of equipment. "If you want to get into shape, you need to sweat and get out of your comfort zone."