Tyler Buck, a first-level Krav Maga student, practices defending himself against second-level student Alana Mizrahi, posing as an attacker with a knife, as Omri Serper, instructor, watches Buck’s technique during a Krav Maga class last month. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Israeli military-style self-defence comes to Nanaimo

Former soldier teaches Israeli Defence Force Krav Maga close-combat system

Anyone who has ever wanted to know how to defend themselves, even against an attacker with a knife, can now learn military-style self-defence in Nanaimo.

A former member of the Israeli Defence Forces is teaching that military’s hand-to-hand combat system in Nanaimo.

Sgt.-Maj. Omri Serper, who served with the IDF infantry for seven years, began offering Krav Maga, the IDF’s self-defence system, classes in Nanaimo in July.

IDF Krav Maga is designed to be an efficient fighting system that people can quickly be trained in and competent in defending themselves.

“Krav Maga is close combat or contact combat,” Serper said. “In the army we call it close combat.”

Military service is mandatory in Israel. Serper did his mandatory three years and then stayed on with a “special unit” – Israeli national security orders prevent him from sharing particulars – for an additional four years, during which time he also taught Krav Maga.

“The military was one of the best periods of my life so I still carry my Sergeant Major with me,” said Serper, 39.

All told, he said he has 27 years’ experience working with Krav Maga and teaching the system to military personnel and civilians. Serper also said he is the only IDF-certified Krav Maga instructor in Canada and teaches weekly classes at the Cedar Heritage Centre on MacMillan Road and at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre.

The Krav Maga fighting style is what is sometimes referred to as a “one-beat” system, in that every defensive move to block an attack is applied simultaneously with an offensive or counterattacking strike. The idea is, if a fight can’t be avoided, it must be ended as effectively and quickly as possible. The results can be dire for the person or persons who initiated hostilities and Serper doesn’t refer to Krav Maga as a martial art.

“It’s practical for the street. You know, as much as I love martial arts, they’re amazing, but at the end of the day they’re art. They’re nice. They’re beautiful … They also have discipline, but they’re very nice,” he said. “Krav Maga, especially IDF Krav Maga, is not nice, but it’s very, very efficient. It’s very straight to the point.”

Serper said most people will never find themselves in a situation where they must physically defend themselves from an attacker, but should it happen, the response must be instinctual.

“We work on a warrior mentality and I explain to [students] that we are not fighters and we don’t come to self-defence classes to learn how to fight. We become warriors, meaning we love peace and we love, you know, tranquility and serenity, but once you need it you become the warrior and once it’s over, it’s over,” Serper said.

The physical training builds stamina and learning the techniques builds confidence. Serper said it’s “amazing” to see the transformation in students as they learn the system.

“The change for the better in their mindset, goals and actions, as an instructor, it is a great feeling to know you had something to do with,” he said.

To learn more, visit http://www.idfkravmaga.ca/.

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