Being bullied at school was one of the best things that ever happened to Krav Maga Prague instructor Miklos “Mike” Handa. “I started practicing various types of Oriental martial arts since the age of 8 but after two years of training I was beaten up at school and switched to boxing then kickboxing,” says the now certified Krav Maga Global instructor.
His devotion to the martial arts would eventually transform Handa from a bullied kid to a competitive kick-boxer in high school and finally a devoted practitioner of the military self-defence and fighting system, Krav Maga:
“In 2012 I saw a documentary about two American guys travelling the world and trying all the different martial arts in their authentic setting. One of them was Krav Maga. They concluded that it was the most effective of all the different disciplines they tried because of its simplicity and no-nonsense realistic military style approach. I signed up for a class the next day and the rest is history.”
In 2017, Handa completed his instructor’s certification course and then set up shop in Vinohrady where he began offering personal training, “rumble” groups, and kids lessons that teach this hybrid martial arts technique, developed by the Israel Defense Forces, which combines boxing, wrestling, Aikido, judo, and karate, along with realistic fight training.
While the majority of students at Krav Maga Prague are foreigners living in the Czech capital, the sport has become increasingly popular among Czechs due to its historical associations — Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld used it to defend the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, during the mid-to-late 1930s. A memorial plaque was recently installed in Slovakia in his honor.
Handa says the rising popularity of Krav Maga (Hebrew for “contact combat”) can be chalked up to other reasons as well. “Krav Maga encourages above all prevention, de-escalation, and conflict management. That can apply to different types of attacks from domestic violence to robberies,” he says of the system’s diversity. He adds that the general public’s desire to be able to protect themselves also seems to be on the rise.
While Krav Maga may sound brutal or strenuous Handa emphasizes that it is actually about preventing a conflict with practitioners learning how to detect and identify potentially dangerous situations and effectively avoid them. More importantly, he says: “They also learn to neutralize their attackers and to get themselves to safety, in case there is no chance to avoid a fight.”
Due to the psychological nature of Krav Maga, Handa says that the majority of his students are professionals and office workers who apart from the self-defense skills and improved physical condition also benefit from increased stress tolerance and becoming more assertive in their professional lives.
So what can newcomers expect on their first visit?
“Students first learn basic offensive and defensive techniques and the pressure is gradually increased over a period of time to enable the practitioners to grow into dealing with attacks. In the meantime, they improve their fitness level and build up resistance both physically, emotionally, and mentally,” says Handa.
If the physical conditioning aspect of the sport seems daunting, Handa promises the rewards of Krav Maga far outweigh the sweat factor. “When you feel your stamina and confidence increase thanks to the training, that’s a pretty good buzz.”
All Krav Maga Prague classes are conducted in English and held in convenient pre- and post-work time slots (7:15-8:30 am and pm). The gym in Vinohradská tržnice is well-equipped and Handa and his colleagues deliver the most up-to-date and highest quality civilian self-defense training currently available on the Czech market.
For anyone looking for a new start to the new year, Handa shares a quote from Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld: “Krav Maga heightens perception and transforms fear into something more productive.”
To sign up for classes visit kravmagaprague.cz.