This age is one of instantaneous, world-at-our-fingertips information, where we can simultaneously grab coffee, cash a check, load our newsfeeds, and drive our cars. Our age is one of options, our calling card: progress. We have even become innovators of our own health. We stay active, we read labels, we keep our bodies the way we keep our phones: updated, in as good a condition as we can.
As a result, there is a plethora of ways for us to keep in shape. We can customize our workouts the way we customize our running shoes. Yet so many options need not lead to exclusivity. In fact, the body responds best to a range of movement practices and cross training. I’m talking to you, the Yogi who shuns the weight room, and you, the martial arts enthusiast with a distaste for stretching. We can learn from the fitness practices of others, and incorporate a variety of strength, stamina, and sensibility training into our daily lives.
Let’s take our aforementioned friends as an example. There is a tendency to stereotype yogic practices at one end of the spectrum and martial arts practices such as Krav Maga, an Israeli hand-to-hand combat technique, at the other. On closer examination, however, the two forms originate from similar needs. Both strengthen the senses and teach participants to harness an inner availability and openness. Both forms require a finely tuned awareness of one’s body — in yoga through internalized sensations, and in Krav Maga through external encounters with an adversary. Each form requires strength yet emphasizes the importance of “this moment,” not the next one or the last, but the one at present. In yoga this functions as a way simply to be with yourself, whereas in Krav Maga this moment could literally mean the difference between disabling your opponent or not.
Many of us already understand the gist of yoga due to its recent and sweeping influence in America. Krav Maga is a practice less well known, yet just as influential to those familiar. The form originated as a training technique for the Israeli army. Born from street combat, an arena without law, Krav Maga teaches the art of disarming, be it an adversary with a weapon or any other advantage over you. Hebrew for “contact combat,” Krav Maga teaches self-defense paired with immediate offense. Quick responses and confident counter-attacks allow individuals to flip the tables on their attacker. The quality of one’s technique is proven by the efficiency of a single strike, not by brute strength. Even if an attacker may have certain advantages — a weapon, tremendous size, strength or physical ability — what Krav Maga provides to students is much more valuable and cannot be diminished. Featuring short yet highly precise, tactful strikes, the form centers on the most vulnerable parts of the body: eyes, throat, groin, and the illusive yet effectively paralyzing pressure points. The goal is to disarm and control completely, but not injure unnecessarily.
The training of one’s senses is often overlooked in favor of more overtly physical practices. By nature we are a rapid-fire culture; we seek out the most efficient options available to us. There is an art to balancing this drive for self-improvement with self-awareness. Krav Maga and yogic philosophies both teach this equanimity while refining the physical body. If you are unconvinced of the benefits of cross training in such practices, there’s always the classic celebrity endorsement: Ashton Kutcher, respected actor and obviously fit human being, has described his workout regime to include daily running, Bikram yoga, and Krav Maga.