I’m already breaking the first rule of Fight Club by talking about this, but then again Urban Krav Maga isn’t your average fight club, writes Laura Burgoine…
Really, I’m just calling it Fight Club to boost my street cred on the mean streets of Peckham but in actual fact Patrice Bonnafoux’s Urban Fit and Fearless group is a course of self-defence classes and they don’t take place in some seedy basement bar, they’re held in a scout hall on the least Peckham street in all of Peckham: Bellenden Road. I arrive at the scout hall hoping to get my badge in kick ass. However, with a martial arts history consisting of little more than Boxercise classes at the gym I’m painfully aware that if I ever have the misfortune of finding myself in an actual street fight, there’s zero chance I’ll be able to throw anything more than a peppy air-punch, and that’s only if a techno remix of Michael Jackson’s Beat It is playing in the background.
Patrice’s new class is all about reacting to an attack in a way that will give you the best possible chance of survival and escape. Time, he insists, is everything. Most fights last no longer than a minute but you need to be able to give it everything you’ve got in that one minute and false moves can ultimately be game-changers. “You never want to get to the ground because in most street fights that’s where people die,” Patrice warns. It’s alarmingly but as an instructor the former soldier and semi-pro baseball player is very responsible about what he’s teaching because, as he reminds us, it could be a matter of life and death.
Patrice learned the strategic and technical element of fighting in the French army where he says they were trained for publicity and legal reasons to mobilise aggressors –like journalists- with a quick jab in the neck rather than knocking them to the ground with a punch in the face. He also teaches not to punch with a fist, but an open palm, because people will almost certainly break bones in their hand and wrist by punching with a fist.
Originally developed for the Israeli army, Krav Maga has roots in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Muay Thai and Kick Boxing. The Urban variation of Krav Maga is based around real-life situations and using the best possible solutions for problems you encounter. Patrice points out that in a real-life scenario there won’t be warning of an attack so his training is based around replicating the adrenaline a victim would experience as well as increasing stamina to be able to fight until the end. It’s for this reason we begin with a number of high-intensity drills, sprints up and down the scout hall, running lunges, and the like.
From there we move onto technique. In a demonstration Patrice gets one of the boys in the class to stand in front of him and with a seemingly slight nudge to the back of the boy’s kneecap, he fell to the floor spectacularly. In another demonstration he shows us how to react when you’re attacked from behind, to hook your foot around that of the attacker’s, push your weight against them until they loosen their grasp and then flip their arm until you’re standing behind them and have their shoulder completely locked. Done fast it’s particularly impressive though the co-ordination takes practise.
The final drill is the evening’s most simultaneously terrifying but intense. In groups of four, one person has to play the victim while the other three are the attackers. The victim has to do two minutes of high-intensity punches and kicks against boxing pads until they’re completely exhausted and then Patrice yells “attack” and everyone turns on them. As the victim you use the few moves we’ve learned to fight off your attackers and as soon as one finishes, the next person approaches you; it’s a long three minutes until Patrice finally calls time, then we stretch and I walk home in the dark wondering if I could ever possibly implement any of the lessons I learned that night.
Urban Fit & Fearless classes are held at the Scout Hut, 212 Bellenden Road, SE15 4BY, on Wednesdays from 7:35pm-8:50pm. Cost: £10 pay as you go / £60 for ten classes. Phone: 0771 746 6916. http://www.urbanfitandfearless.com/p/classes.html