Domestic violence is a misnomer. It sanitizes a reality that both women and men face – one that leaves scars far below the surface of a discrete name.
What is domestic violence? The Ministry of Labour defines it as “… a pattern of behaviour used by one person to gain power and control over another person with whom he/she has or has had an intimate relationship. This pattern of behaviour may include physical violence, sexual, emotional, and psychological intimidation, verbal abuse, stalking, and using electronic devices to harass and control” (http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/wvps_guide/guide_6.php).
This is not something to be glossed over in tidy jargon. When we talk about “domestic violence,” we are really talking about ongoing patterns that daily undermine a person and rob him/her of the confidence to act in defence of self. It is insidious, trapping a person in circumstances that often develop so slowly, they become apparent only once they’re all-encompassing and very difficult to escape. Domestic violence is a harsh sentence.
How does a system like Krav Maga interrupt a process like this?
There are obvious ways in which a self-defence system based on quick, effective neutralization of physical threats can help a person suffering from abuse. Krav Maga emphasizes the importance of blocks and counter-attacks being used simultaneously; this ensures that a) an initial attack is deflected and b) further attacks are eliminated. This is especially important in angry confrontations in which one party is motivated by rage, jealousy, or a sense of entitlement, as many assailants are in “domestic situations,” and when this party does not anticipate resistive behaviour.
Of course, physical abuse and physical methods of self-defence are the most visible. Watching any video on Krav Maga, one grasps immediately that it’s a physical system. What isn’t immediately obvious is the fact that this training requires a huge amount of mental training as well, and this is one of the most useful tools in its arsenal.
Just as one can memorize a song in a foreign language, one can parrot another person’s physical movements. Think about a child watching a music video and imitating each step perfectly. Simply repeating a string of words does not imply fluency – you can sing along and have no concept of a language’s grammar or wider vocabulary. Similarly, there are elements of Krav Maga that require mental training in order to give the physical techniques meaning and applicability. It’s not a matter of “monkey see, monkey do” – this system has to be internalized. For those who have suffered abuse, this is an especially important component of training.
Krav Maga, above all else, teaches us to value life. Those in situations of domestic violence have oftentimes been convinced over time of their own worthlessness, reminded more of their failings and failures than their successes. There is no room for this in a system that affirms the importance and the preciousness of each person’s life. As Imi, Krav Maga’s founder, insisted, Krav Maga itself is designed to ensure that “one may walk in peace.” “One” is not exclusive – it stands for all of us.
Krav Maga classes show us, sometimes in exhausting and draining ways, that we are capable of far more than we believe. A true instructor will go beyond impeccable technique and will use classes as forums to bring each student to his/her anticipated limits and show him/her just how false those limits are. A true Krav Maga class will be a life-changing event that empowers mentally as much as it does physically. As much as victims of abuse require physical tools, they need an opportunity to re-establish and rebuild their self-confidence. As any seasoned student can attest, involvement in Krav Maga has a habit of making a person stronger in a variety of ways, some quite unexpected, and as many of them subtle as visible.
In recognition of the importance and value of each life, and in recognition of the inalienable right of each person to live that life freely and happily,
The Academy Team