PENSIONERS will be going from “bus pass” to “kick ass” thanks to free lessons in a form of unarmed combat favoured by the Israeli Army.
Leith Community Centre is holding a self-defence and personal protection session hosted by instructors from the Krav Maga gym on Newhaven Road, who have taught moves to stars such as Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs, 49, and comedian Alun Cochrane, 34.
Krav Maga, which means “contact combat” in Hebrew, combines a number of different fighting disciplines and builds on a person’s natural reactions to a perceived attack.
The brutal art is favoured by elite Israeli Mossad agents and combat troops. But instructor Lawrie Clapton, 22, told the Evening News it can also help OAPs become more confident when they’re on the street. He said: “Krav Maga is a great technique for staying safe in the modern world. It’s not difficult to pick up, and you don’t need to be amazingly coordinated or at the peak of fitness, so it’s well suited to older people, who I personally feel are rather overlooked by society when it comes to self-defence. Everyone is always surprised when they hear stories about pensioners fighting off muggers. We all applaud but what are we actually doing to help more older people protect themselves?” Lawrie, who lives near the Meadows, is hoping to generate more interest in the discipline among those generally classed as vulnerable.
He explains: “I’m doing the lessons for free because I want to get as many people as possible involved, and I’m hoping that with a bit of funding we’ll be able to expand out further. I’ve also instructed homeless people on how to defend themselves against attacks and keep themselves safe out there.”
Krav Maga has its origins in street-fighting techniques developed in the 1930s by a Jewish Hungarian called Imi Lichtenfeld. Lichtenfeld, whose father owned a gym, was a successful boxer and wrestler, but when fascist gangs began attacking his neighbourhood, he found real-life fighting to be anything but sportsman-like. With this in mind he created practical self-defence moves designed to counter life-threatening attacks by neutralising an opponent as quickly as possible.
After the war Lichtenfeld settled in Israel and eventually became Chief Instructor of Physical Training in the Israel Defence Forces. Krav Maga, as the discipline came to be known, is still used by the IDF, and by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and Israeli security agency Shin Bet.
Rhona Hyslop, Facilities co-ordinator at Leith Community Centre, said: “Every term we ask those who attend our social club for older people if there is anything they want to try out and this time someone suggested a self-defence class. I had heard good things about Krav Maga and the guys at the gym have been very accommodating. I was quite surprised by how enthusiastic the group have been about the class, they’re all really looking forward to it. Most of the people who come here are already quite independent, but hopefully they will tell their friends who maybe do feel less secure. There are a lot of elderly people who simply don’t go out after dark because they don’t feel safe and it would be great to be able to give them back their confidence.”
The class will take place next Thursday. For more information call Leith Community Centre on 0131 554 4750 or visit www.kravmagaedinburgh.com.