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Life, the Universe & Everything

Shrimping

I’m taking a Krav Maga class. Apparently everyone knows what Krav Maga is now, unlike a few years ago, when just knowing what it was made me feel like a bad-ass. Now I’m taking the class and I hesitate to tell people what it is. Krav Maga has, somehow, become trendy.

When I went to yoga regularly, I studied Ashtanga yoga. Yoga is trendy in a broad sense, but Ashtanga is still esoteric enough that the average Joe hasn’t heard of it. Yoga people have heard of it, and as yoga goes, Ashtanga is bad-ass. Orthodox ashtangis practice six days a week for about 90 minutes a day. When I was doing Ashtanga regularly (as in, for me, 2-4 times per week), I had the physical stamina of a farm ox. It was awesome.

I was halfway into my first Krav Maga class when I realized the parallels between Ashtanga and Krav Maga, and why I was attracted to both. I have been described by a mental health professional as “intense.” Despite their notable differences, Ashtanga and Krav Maga have several things in common: physical and mental intensity, charismatic founders, dedicated adherents. Both are pragmatic disciplines based on a deep understanding of What Actually Works. And both attract people who want to Do This Thing. Attitudes towards violence notwithstanding, both traditions appeal to people who push to the edge.

So today I’m on the floor shrimping, which is not as nautical as it sounds. It involves lying prone, on your back, then twisting and pushing your body to escape an attacker. I’m wearing a tank top, which I’m accustomed to wearing to yoga, and I’m discovering why everyone else in the Krav Maga class is wearing a T-shirt. That reason is: road rash. After shrimping across the mats a few dozen times, I’ve got wicked scrapes down my shoulder blades. They’ll burn like the dickens when I take a shower after class.

But right now, in this moment, I’m happy about the road rash. I’m happy about the elbow to the eye earlier in the class, and the scratches and the fading tightness at my throat from the choking drills. I’m weirdly happy to be in simple, authentic physical pain. And although I wear out quickly during the drills at the end of the class, I still give that punching bag every bit of force in my body. I’ve learned how to put my body weight into my punches, how to rotate at the hips, how to break out of a choke hold and a bear hug and how to throw someone off my prone body and get the hell out of there.

Ancient reflexes. Adrenalin spikes, flows, is burned clean. The body is not confused by stresses that have existed for the merest of evolutionary moments. It faces the simplest, clearest, dearest objective: to survive.

I think of the satisfied smiles of the bloodied men walking away from their firstĀ Fight Club.

Yeah. That.