A Fitting Defense


Tucked away in a parking lot off South Oyster Bay Road, day laborers, physicians, plumbers, electricians, nurses and law enforcement of all kinds come together to do one thing: fight.

Blitz Krav Maga, which has been Long Island’s premier self-defense and specialized training facility since 2001, may not be known by the whole community. But Long Island men, women and children who have discovered krav maga—Hebrew for “contact combat”—have learned its many benefits.

A member executes a high-rising scissor kick

The self-defense system was developed by Hungarian-Israeli martial artist Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930s as a way to defend the Jewish quarter in Czechoslovakia. A decade later, he began training the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in what would be labeled krav maga, tactics focused on neutralizing threats and executing spurts of aggressive counter-attacks.The training involves learning response methods to a bevy of extreme situations, including what to do with a gun to your head, a wire around your neck or how to fight an attacker who could have a variety of sharp weapons.

“We train for the worst case scenarios, not the best case,” said Michael Blitz, the founder and chief instructor of Hicksville’s Blitz Krav Maga. “And that’s why we’re really not like a martial art. There are no rehearsed movements.”

Blitz has worked as a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice since 1988, and was faculty advisor of the martial arts club in 1994 when he discovered what would become a huge part of his life. One of his students came in bruised and began talking about krav maga. Blitz, who had a background in Jiu Jitsu and Judo, had never heard of it, and was eager to try something new.

“That very first class, I took such a punch to the ribs, I mean like a brutal punch to the ribs,” Blitz said, “And I loved it.”

For the next six years, Blitz said he trained an average of five nights a week, and in 2000, his instructor informed him that Grandmaster Haim Zut—the world’s highest-ranking krav maga instructor—would be coming to the U.S. to train a select few people. After a grueling 21 days of 12-hour sessions that included a series of intense tests, Blitz, along with nine others, was awarded his instructor certification, tearing a calf muscle and breaking two ribs along the way.

“I would come home and I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything and [my wife] would just get out the ice packs,” Blitz said.

Blitz upgraded to a black belt instructor certification under U.S. Chief Instructor Darren Levine and began teaching at the East Hills Jewish Community Center, growing a base of students willing to learn. He then started his own program at a dance studio in Syosset, moving to a few other places in the area before ending up at the current 7,000-square foot facility which Blitz and his partner Michael Cohen have had for 14 months.

The center offers unlimited training to its hundreds of members after they sign up each month. Blitz and his instructors, which are all trained by him, offer five levels of krav maga classes, along with women’s workshops, boot camps, private instruction and children’s classes. Though Blitz has trained police and corrections officers, firefighters, Federal Air Marshals and Madison Square Garden security, a majority are simply civilians.

A member practices getting away from someone with a knife
A member practices getting away from someone with a knife

“Some people are just bored of going to the gym,” Blitz said, “and they want something that you don’t realize, ‘Wow, an hour has gone by and I’m exhausted and I’m bruised but that was fun.’”

New members entering a level one class would learn the fundamentals, including punches and kicks, defenses against them, along with escaping chokes, headlocks and grabs. As one reaches higher levels, the training is more rigorous and testing to earn belts could include taking on multiple assailants with various weapons.

There are many fitness components involved as well, which is part of the philosophy at Blitz Krav Maga.

“We want to train tired so we will exhaust ourselves to the point of body failure and then start some serious training,” Blitz said.

Though such combat training could be dangerous, protective gear is worn, especially in the lower levels, and though the fighting in class is intense, Blitz Krav Maga instructors must take a 60-hour course to prove they are ready to regulate safety. More advanced members look out for new members as well, and Blitz said the most common injuries are bruises, with the occasional nosebleed or broken finger.

“We’re so respectful here of anybody that walks in the door, because you’ve chosen to do something that’s going to be very, very tough,” said Blitz, who has taken notice to the friendships that sprout in classes between different walks of life. “I think it’s because we train in something so aggressive that we take care of each other on and off the mats.”

Blitz Krav Maga is at 1 Enterprise Place in Hicksville. For more information visit www.kmli.com or call 516-935-5728.


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