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Archive for May, 2011

**Originally published at the student-run website, East Paradise.

When an attacker is on the prowl, a ninja assassin won’t be there to save you. Sometimes your only weapon is your own body and Israelis have transformed the body into a lethal weapon.

Krav Maga, Hebrew for “contact combat,” teaches citizens to defend themselves against real-life assault and rape scenarios. This style of self defense equips the body and mind with tactics that inflict pain upon the attacker and allows the victim to escape with their life. Las Vegans can train at two facilities Monday through Saturday, one located at 7035 W. Sahara Ave. Suite 500 and the other at 9310 S. Eastern Suite 123.

Chief Instructor Donavin Britt has been teaching Krav Maga for over five years, having learned his skills from the Israeli military through his servitude with the U.S. Army’s

Chief Instructor Donavin Britt & Instructor Heather Mongie demonstrate eye-gouging

Psychological Operations team. Britt, along with a team of trainers, teaches students how to use the human body as a defense mechanism against physical attacks.

“At this school, we encourage the student to become proficient with empty-hand, knife, stick, and various guns,” Britt said. “We tailor the system to the student, not the student to the system. That’s a huge factor.”

Anyone of able body can train. Students of every age, shape, and size are taught to use their physical attributes to the best of their ability to fend off a foe. Britt and team utilize tactical advantage by implementing skills into the students that will be retained by muscle memory and introducing teachers who are well-versed in their respective fields.

“We bring in people who are in-country, experienced, who have led teams, who have actually cleared buildings, because the students need to have that level of expertise and be exposed to it,” said Britt.

But with weaponry aside, the school’s most important aspect is its emphasis on realism. Unlike most self-defense organizations, Krav Maga is not a competition based event. There are no belts or prizes to be won. Lessons provide an element of stress not found in traditional self-defense courses which enables the pupil to respond appropriately and efficiently to assault scenarios.

“We’re trying to build their response, not their reaction,” Britt said. “You’re born with the ability to react. You train to respond. The more realistic and the more adverse the training environment is, the easier the student will be able to deal with an attack because they’ve been there before.”

Trainers push students to their breaking points and then push even harder. Though rigorous, the techniques learned are basic in nature, including: biting, kicking, scratching, and an emphasis on the highly effective groin kick.

Students practicing "the Hammer"

Heather Mongie, a pre-school teacher and mother of two, became the first female Krav Maga instructor in Las Vegas about two years ago. She fell in love with the empowering practice and never looked back. Mongie trained directly under the tutelage of Chief Instructor Britt and was eventually asked to become an instructor herself.

“I was a complete fiend for Krav Maga,” Mongie said. “I teach level one and two classes which include punching, fight stances, and basic combos, but we also teach you to be dirty! Boxing ears, gouging eyes, cutting, biting…anything to hurt them.”

But apart from contact combat, Mongie emphasizes awareness and preventative action. She stressed the value of being alert while out and about, removing any preoccupation that might create an environment of victimization, such as headphones.

“The very last thing you want is the ground,” Mongie said. “It’s important to understand range and take preventative measures against victimization.”

Britt and Mongie, both trainers at the Sahara facility, watch timid people grow confidence and self-assurance throughout their training. And in an effort to simulate a real attack/kidnapping, the Krav Maga school is hosting a “Fight for Your Life” program on May 7th. For a fee, those who sign up will be bound, gagged, blind-folded, and driven to an unknown location by the instructors. Their objective is to fight by any means necessary in order to escape the realistic scenario, during which time, the entire struggle will be filmed for later review by the student. These techniques prepare students to deal with the unimaginable.

Outside of training facilities, military veterans retain basic knowledge of these combative techniques. Eden Ben-David, UNLV student and former Israeli Army Commander, spent the first few years of her adulthood learning the ins and outs of Krav Maga.

“Part of my job was to teach soldiers Krav Maga. It was part of training,” Ben-David said. “I went through serious courses before I could teach [others].”

Throughout her military service, Ben-David encountered two types of Krav Maga training, basic and weapon. Weapons training involved the use of an M-16 rifle as both a firearm and blunt weapon. But Krav Maga does little for its students without repetition and practice.

“I haven’t practiced in a few years, so I don’t know if I could remember the moves,” Ben-David said. “I don’t know if it’s enough to take a few courses. You just need to practice.”

Without the appropriate training, the risk for assault and rape is much higher.

“If you take one class with us, you walk out of that room equipped with some very basic skills that can keep you alive. We build a warrior’s mentality,” Britt said. “If you’re not training, you are your attacker’s accomplice.”

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