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How krav maga changed me: one woman’s mind-body transformation

Instructor Rita Matty on how she discovered krav maga, as told to Alice Birrell.

About six years ago a friend of mine was mugged outside our apartment. Somebody suggested self-defence so we decided to go to krav maga together. I went to support her and fell in love with it.

Women come in for different reasons; there are women who have been victims of domestic violence, women who are in lines of work where they don’t feel safe, and some to get fit. Everyone has a different mentality but the end goal is the same: you learn to defend yourself.

It was the first time I had encountered something that wasn’t just fitness. I have been fit for most of my life but attending a class and learning a skill was the best thing to come out of it because it’s a mental and physical challenge. What you learn becomes muscle memory. If you’re under duress or panicking it all comes to you because you do it so often, you repeat it – so you don’t freeze, you react. It teaches you not to falter in that moment.

It’s the philosophy that the Israeli Defense Forces adopted. A lot of women in Israel do krav maga and I like that it’s very inclusive of women. You do a lot of boxing, striking, but ultimately it’s self-defence. It’s not like taking karate where you have a pressure point: it grows and changes as scenarios change.

I was completely uncoordinated when I started, but as I picked up on the little things and movements I became a lot more coordinated, more toned. I felt stronger and fitter and my reaction time increased. It has also had a wider impact on me: I’m a lot calmer now in life when something doesn’t go right. I just take a second to think: ‘Okay, this is what I need to do.’ I have a better understanding of what I’m capable of.

It’s good to be pushing through the physical difficulty of doing something like hitting or striking, or being aggressive, which isn’t a natural thing for a lot of women. Channeling that aggression and using it constructively is important. You don’t go in there with the intent of hurting others. There’s no ego in the gym. There were a lot of men in classes so it was rewarding to be one of the very few females who got to a higher level.

I know I’m small and I’m petite but it never comes down to just size. It’s not just about physicality but de-escalation. [Sydney’s] Krav Maga Defence Institute runs classes called She Fights Back for women only and it teaches skills for the workforce or on the street. It’s having the confidence to tell people that you’re not comfortable and raising your voice so they understand. I like that it’s very inclusive of women. I would say to women, don’t be afraid to do it. It’s not a boy’s club and it’s not about being big and strong. You learn to use what you have.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in we offer Krav Maga classes 3 times a week in Miami Shores. You can read more about our Krav Maga classes online at:

You can see our schedule of classes at:

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