I have been learning Krav Maga, a system of self-defence developed by the Israel Defence Force, for over a year. Krav Maga is very practical, designed to finish a fight as soon as possible using whatever is necessary to protect yourself from harm. Part of the system involves mastering a series of punches and kicks, which we then try out on each other while wearing boxing gloves and shin pads in an activity euphemistically termed sparring.
Each round lasts for two minutes and involves protecting yourself from your opponent’s blows while at the same time trying to land some of your own. It is free flowing, mentally demanding and thoroughly exhausting. For me, it has also been quite a novel experience. I do not consider myself particularly aggressive and have not been in any kind of fight since I was in school, so I was considerably surprised at the emotions these sparring bouts stirred within me.
The people I sparred with were not my enemies. Some of them I knew reasonably well, having trained with them for some months and have, under normal circumstances, no desire to do them harm. However, in this sparring environment it is almost like someone has flipped a switch in my brain releasing something ancient and primal.
Nothing teaches you to duck or protect your face more than someone hitting it. As well as pain this also releases an intense burst of adrenaline along with an enhanced need to hit back. The whole thing quickly escalates in both speed and intensity and it becomes a real force of will to keep it somewhat contained. As we are not wearing helmets we are instructed to hit with only half our maximum power. This still ends up with combatants battered and bruised and, in one case, in definite need of a sit down.
It is an odd mix of fear of being hit, anger at being hit and aggression to hit back. Oddly, at the end of the round, I feel eager to head back into the fray, mentally armed with a new series of tactics designed to lay my opponents low. I find these alien feelings to be quite disturbing (and exhilarating) especially because, as soon as the class is over, everyone rapidly returns to normal. It is a bit like a real life Fight Club.
I now have a new appreciation for how a crowd of normal, rational people can metamorphose into a frenzied mob capable of untold destruction. It is not too dissimilar to a dog or cat fight where normally placid Fido or Puss will rapidly whirl around to sink his teeth into your hand, should you try and drag him away from his adversary. He too has flipped the switch and become lost in the heat of battle.
Dr. F. Bunny