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So You Wanna Street Fight?

You can become a master street fighter with a few simple skills.
Saturday Feb 14, 2009.     By Danielle Braff
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

photo: courtesy of POW!
I work out on a regular basis, but I know that if anyone ever attacked me, my muscles would go limp and I'd simply start to cry. Not the best reaction, I know.

So on a recent afternoon, I dragged myself to martial arts school POW! to learn Krav Maga, Israeli street fighting. It's a hand-to-hand combat technique that was originally developed to protect Jews from Nazis. In present-day Chicago, use Krav Maga to fight back against the crazies we unfortunately encounter in other situations, like robberies, abductions and rape. Sure, I'm talking about some heavy stuff, but when you're tucked inside a gritty boxing studio with punk music blasting from the stereo, you'll be a world away from all the badness.

The skinny: Krav Maga steals moves from boxing and various martial arts genres. The end result is a fighting technique best suited to outdoor violent incidents. While you'll learn how to punch, kick and elbow someone correctly, you'll also do drills that will boost your adrenaline and really mirror a true-life scary event. So, instead of simply kicking the punching bag, you'll do a sprint, turn in a circle three times and then punch, because in a real attack, you'll most likely be running.

The experience will make you dizzy, and the adrenaline running through your veins may incite nausea. Welcome to Krav Maga: The fighting class that manages to make you want to throw up while burning calories.

The getup: Tattoos, a shaved head and a wife-beater shirt will make you look tougher—always a plus—but sweats and a T-shirt are perfect attire for class.

The payoff: Punching, kicking and running burn a whole lot of calories—about 400 to 700 per 50-hour class according to POW! staff. The motions will also leave your muscles more toned and flexible in no time. Need proof? Angelina Jolie took Krav Maga classes to get in shape for "Tomb Raider," while J.Lo mastered the skills for her role in "Enough."

Wear and tear: You're sure to walk away with scratched knuckles after any class. But if I had to choose between that or losing a fight—it's a no-brainer. If you do the moves incorrectly, it's also possible—though unlikely—to break your wrists or feet.

The commitment: The folks at POW! recommend you take class two or three times a week to build your fighting skills, get in top shape and be ready to protect yourself from an attack at any time.

The cost: Get an unlimited membership at POW! for $129 per month, as long as you sign up for 12 months. Or, sign up for two workouts per week at $110 per month. Memberships include access to any of POW!'s classes, which range from boxing to circuit training.

The skill: Anyone can fight; visit a first-grade recess, and you'll watch 6-year-olds go at it. But if you want to consistently beat your opponent—or at least feel like you'd be able to defend yourself—then you need to learn how to punch correctly, how to elbow someone behind you while not falling over and how to kick without breaking your toes. That said, Krav Maga is a little more relaxed than most martial arts classes because the concept is to fight back when you least expect to have to brawl. Form obviously goes out the window when someone grabs you from behind and tries to throw you in their car. So the point of the class is to get your worst fighting skills better, rather than make your best punch look beautiful.

The payoff: Since most people have thrown a punch or two before, they understand the concept. It's easy to catch on and pretty soon, you'll be kicking that bag like a maniac—a huge stress reliever and fat burner all in one.

The verdict: Thrill seekers, natural born fighters and anyone who wants to feel more secure when they're walking home from the bar at 3 a.m. will appreciate the skills they learn in this class.

For more information or to sign up for a free trial class, go to


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