Kahn '94 teaches New Yorkers self-defense
Until recently, hailing a cab at rush hour and finding a rent-controlled
apartment were the major survival skills learned on Manhattan's
Upper West Side. No longer. At Makor, a community center a few blocks
from Central Park, David Kahn '94 teaches krav maga a self-defense
system developed for the Israeli military to young urbanites.
Kahn, who played football for Princeton until he suffered a shoulder
injury junior year, discovered the fighting technique while attending
law school in Miami; he liked it so much that he went to Israel
to study with Haim Gidon, the world's highest-ranking instructor.
Now he sits on the board of the Israeli Krav Maga Association and
has been designated Gidon's East Coast ambassador.
Krav maga, which translates to "contact fight" in Hebrew,
was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld in prewar Czechoslovakia. He refined
it further in Israel during the late 1940s. It's taught throughout
Israel, but remains fairly unknown in the U.S. Krav maga, says Kahn,
stresses the practical aspects of self-defense. After all, when
it comes to a street fight, there are no rules, and the ultimate
goal is fairly straightforward: survival. So instead of the ritualized
moves and poses seen in other martial arts, krav maga teaches defenders
a range of responses to an attack, including fingers to the eye,
biting, and head butts to body parts you'd probably rather not have
touched. At more advanced levels, students learn how to disarm assailants
who have guns, knives, or rocks.
Civilians can pick up the techniques relatively quickly, says
Kahn, who has also started teaching police departments. In the basement
of Makor, beginning students pair up and take turns throwing practice
punches and reacting to them. By the end of the class, they're sweaty,
exhausted, smiling and more confident. "That's terrific,"
Kahn told one of his students recently. "Do you feel empowered
yet? You should!"
By Katherine Hobson '94
Katherine Hobson is an associate editor for U.S. News & World