Chaos Krav Maga brings real-life edge to self-defense training

Instructor Sidney Lawrence is demonstrating a hold with students Caito Ormsher, left, and Shayna Kinzie at a Krav Maga class at Just Dance on Wednesday.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Walking into the Chaos Krav Maga on Wednesday night, the atmosphere was sort of built to shock and felt, well, a bit chaotic. 

The classes are at 7 p.m. at Just Dance, 408 E. Victory Way in Craig. Inside, the environment is typically designed to host higher-energy activities, and instructor Sidney Lawrence ups the ante for the self-defense classes. 

Heavy rock played through a speaker in the studio, and Lawrence packed in several bags of equipment, including one bursting with baseball bats, fighting sticks, plastic knives and tomahawks, and dummy handguns. 

Lawrence said he tries to be intentional in creating a stimulating environment for his Krav Maga self-defense classes, because it forces the students to practice techniques in a similar mindset to what they might experience in a real-life situation. 

“What keeps you up at night? I want you to think about it for a second,” Lawrence said. “Is it being attacked in a dark parking lot after work or being kidnapped?” 

Lawrence said his whole goal is that students walk out of every class with a few simple skills they can use if someone tries to attack them. The class is dedicated to running through scenarios that can and do happen in the outside world.

“You can walk into a situation anywhere,” Lawrence said. 

Krav Maga is a self-defense and fighting system that was developed in the military. Lawrence, who is an Army veteran, said Krav Maga is really thievery because it incorporates concepts from other modalities that work.

Krav Maga draws from techniques used in aikido, boxing, judo, Taekwondo, jujitsu and wrestling. The system is best known for its focus on real-world situations and its extreme efficiency.   

Lawrence said the litmus test for the techniques is that they should work for both the smallest and the largest people, and everybody can practice these skills. 

The class attracts a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds. The group includes teachers, tattoo artists and writers, as well as retirees. 

Cath Park has been attending the class for several weeks now, and she said her reasons for starting are twofold. 

“I look like an easy target, and I don’t want to let that happen,” Park said. “I don’t want to be a victim.” 

Park also said that she wanted an activity where she could get out of the house and get some physical activity. An hour of continuous drills and practice will make you sweat. 

The class builds upon itself, first focusing on basic skills and slowly increasing the intensity, so students are practicing under a little bit of physical and mental stress. Lawrence is naturally a high-energy individual, and he brings that energy to his teaching style. 

Throughout the drills, Lawrence will ask questions designed to make students think quickly and critically, just like they would have to if they needed to use these skills to defend themselves. Lawrence also challenges the students to see how people react instinctively to certain moves, and how they can use those reflexes to their advantage in self-defense.

Many of the scenarios are geared toward women, who make up the majority of the class, and teach them to handle situations where they might be outsized and or have a physical disadvantage. 

Lawrence said that most of the time that women are assaulted, it stems from a domestic violence situation or is by someone they know. One of the most common ways for women to be attacked is for someone to grab their hair from the front. The class covers a drill to defend against a hair grab that doesn’t require a significant amount of strength, just technique.

Krav Maga uses some techniques with control holds of the fingers and wrist, and twists of the elbow or shoulder, which don’t require a lot of force to administer. 

“Some people are bigger or stronger than others, but everybody breaks the same,” Lawrence said.

With lots of repetition and practice, he said, these techniques become second nature for students. 

Someone does not have to have experience in martial arts or self-defense techniques to join these classes. In fact, Lawrence said sometimes it’s easier to teach people who are a blank slate. 

“Everybody is new at this. I would rather take someone who doesn’t have any experience because then we don’t have any habits to break,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said the classes are suitable for students who are 16 years old and up because of the subject matter. Because the classes are training for real-life scenarios, Lawrence talks about more serious topics like, kidnapping, sexual assault and gun violence.

Even though the classes openly talk about violence and what happens in violent situations, the training emphasizes how to defend oneself against violence in ways that cause only the necessary amount of harm to an attacker. 

Lawrence said he takes pride in seeing his students gain confidence and how they carry themselves. The classes are designed for students to come regularly and practice between classes. Lawrence has a monthly rate of $60 to attend classes. 

For more information about classes or the techniques, you can find Chaos Krav Maga on Facebook.

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