It stinks of sweat and human essence in studio as the day reaches its peak. Grunts and rapid exhalations are the sounds of the room as kicks are thrown and lobbed in rapid fire combonations. The hand-held punching bags snap and pop from the impacts, as their holders cling to them tightly as they try to keep a grounded stance.
These are the sights and sounds that greet you upon entering Valencia Martial Arts for the first time.
It is here that they practice a relatively new form of martial arts called Krav Maga; and amongst the smell of perspiration and sound of bodies in motion, we find Dave Burgett the head instructor and owner of Valencia Martial Arts.
Dave is of medium height and build, with semi-longish hair and a disposition so cheery that it makes a Labrador Retriever look depressed. As he casually walks between the different working groups, he offers adjustments and corrections to stances and techniques. He has lived and worked here in the Santa Clarita area for just over 5 years when he moved his business from Burbank up to the Centerpoint Plaza just off of Golden Valley Road.
“Well Krav Maga is a system of defensive tactics developed for the Israeli military, the Israeli Defense Forces,” says Dave casually, “It has been adapted for civilian use, but it’s really a nuts-and-bolts system of self-defense. [It’s] based on and instinctive movements and quick to the point, no fancy forms no fancy frills. Just street effective self-defense that anyone can learn.”
Martial arts like Kung-Fu and Karate have hundreds of years of history behind their forms and styles. But only in the last 50 years, the fighting style of Krav Maga has become more well known to the general public as an effective self defense course.
Literally translated from Hebrew, Krav Maga means “Contact Combat.”
Before Krav was even officially established, it went by the name Kapap. This early form of Krav Maga was devoloped in the late 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld in response to anti-Semitic riots which threatened the Jewish community in Bratislava.
During World War Two, Imi taught this early combat system to those of the Haganah; which was an underground Jewish army located in the British Mandate of Palestine–this group would later become part of the first ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Imi along with several others used their skills as wrestlers and boxers to develop a self defense system that incorporated the basic fundamentals of wrestling, along with striking and grappling techniques found in boxing. Skills found in other martial arts such as Jiu-Jitsu would be added later.
The main philosophy behind the fighting style, is one of threat neutralization; where aggression and simultaneous offensive and defensive maneuvers are emphasized.
Once the war was over, Imi immigrated to the newly formed state of Israel where he refined the Kapap style and renamed it Krav Maga. He then signed on as the hand-to-hand combat instructor for the Israeli Defense Force(s).
Fast forward 50 years, and organizations such as the Mossad (Israels National Intelligence Agency), Shin Bet, the FBI and branches of the United States Spec Ops Forces include Krav Maga within their training regimens.
Since then, Krav has been adapted for civilian and police use and has been instituted internationally. Krav Maga Worldwide and the Krav Maga Association of America is based in Los Angeles where it is led by founder and LA assistant district attorney, Darren Levine.