More to it than muscle
How would you react if someone attacked you? Is your instinct fight, flight or freeze?
If you are being assaulted you don’t need to be bigger, faster or stronger than your assailant. You just have to be smart and skilful. Krav maga — a selfdefence system developed for the Israeli military — trains students to avoid confrontation, or get out of threatening situations with moves based on instinct and brutal efficiency.
The Darwin krav maga mob are regular men, women and children who don’t look like hardcore fighters. Each began to learn the art for their own reasons, united under a common purpose: “So one may walk in peace.”
Krav Maga Global is more than a self-defence business for Dannie Green and Jack Cooper. They pretty much run the Darwin branch for love.
They hold after-hours training sessions inside the airconditioned gym at Sanderson Middle School — with highjump mats, a climbing rope and a solid obstacle course — where the vibe is they’re more a family than a club.
There are government workers, cops, doctors, nurses, teachers, military personnel, mothers, stay-at-home dads, teenagers and small kids.
Dannie, a remote housing officer and former Navy chef, has had a crack at most martial arts, including a decent amount of Muay Thai training in Thailand. He said he started krav maga after a man armed with a machete punched and mugged his dad Ray Green, a former cop, outside the Nightcliff shops.
“Dad wasn’t jumpy, but that messed with him,” Dannie said.
“We always watched kungfu movies and Chuck Norris when I was a kid, but he was never one to train.
“After he was attacked he did some research and asked me to try krav maga with him. I was like, ‘I ain’t going to your karate class’.
“He told me it’s what Jason Bourne does, so we went. I haven’t done Muay Thai since.”
Now both qualified and experienced krav maga instructors, Dannie and Jack — a 23-year-old electrician — were both there for the first KMG training session led by their predecessor Adam Gulla at the Alawa Hall in October, 2012.
“Adam is the best krav-ist I’ve met and he set us a standard,” Dannie said.
“Back when I told him I’d do an instructor course he’d be texting me at 6am to do extra training, to prepare.
“If I said I wasn’t up for it he’d be like ‘well I’m downstairs patting your dog’.
“It paid off. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The club had hundreds of members by the time it moved to a studio in Coconut Grove two years later.
In a devastating blow to the krav maga family Ray, who at 68-years-old had achieved a high grading of Practitioner Four, died of cancer in 2015.
Months later the club disbanded when Gulla moved to Sydney.
But some of the old crew wanted to keep training so Dannie decked out an arena under the troppo house where he lives with his wife Jacqui and their baby daughter Harlee. He also has a bar next to the training space dedicated to his dad.
“It got real busy around here,” he said.
Setting up the club was a big commitment for two blokes working full time, but they were spurred on by the memory of Ray. It started small, with a core crew of about 10 people from the old guard who just wanted to train.
Everyone chipped in for rent and insurance back at the place where it all began — the hall in Alawa — and spent 2016 brushing up on basic techniques to ensure there was an experienced team to provide the club’s foundation when they opened to the public earlier this year.
Krav Maga Global Australia boss Adam White, who reports to Israel, gave Dannie and Jack the thumbs up to expand.
“We have our club back,” Jack said. “We have quality.”
More than 80 men, women and children are now on their books, named Four Pillars Self Defence — or 4PSD.
As the name suggests they focus on four aspects of training: “technical, tactical, mental and physical”.
Dannie and Jack, who have previously connected with adolescents in the NT child protection system through krav maga, want more women and teenagers to get involved.
Young, old, fit, unfit, pro or inexperienced — new people are always welcome.
“Krav maga is reality-based training,” Dannie said.
“In no other self-defence system will you do a pressure drill where you’re told to close your eyes and react naturally to someone doing something really scary to you.
“It builds you up to realise it’s OK to be vulnerable, angry, sad, happy, whatever, as long as you channel it.”
“You work on determination, fighting from disadvantage, multiple attackers, but the most important thing is trying to avoid physical altercation in the first place,” Jack said.
“It’s harder to explain than it is to teach, so people should come and try it.
“I’m not good at talking, but I’m good at krav.”
Grand Master Imi Lichtenfeld founded krav maga — Hebrew for “contact combat” — in 1948.
The Hungarian-Israeli fighter, who used his skill as a boxer and wrestler against fascist groups in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s,
migrated to Israel where he developed the defence system for the military. It was later adapted for anti-terrorism units, police and civilians.
Lichtenfeld’s protegee Eyal Yanilov established Krav Maga Global to teach across the world in a structured format, to maintain a high level of training.
In Darwin, all the adults train together, which is useful for women who want to learn to fight off a bigger attacker.
“You don’t need brute force,” public servant Mikala Magrath, 41, said.
“You use what you’ve got — quick responses and a quick out, because you want to get to safety as soon as possible with minimal effort.”
Ms Magrath, whose two young sons William and Ethan also do krav maga, said she joined the former club in Coconut Grove to improve her fitness and confidence about three years ago.
For the kids it’s about hand-eye coordination, correct decision making and preventive behaviour.
For her, strategic thinking about safety has become second nature, ingrained through her training.
“I’m always mindful of what is happening around me,” she said.
“I know my kids are safe and I can do everything in my power to protect them. With (Dannie and
Jack) you are always surrounded by experience and encouragement that helps you to dig a bit deeper, to train harder and push yourself outside your comfort zone, in a safe place.
“And that’s when you discover how strong you
Above: Dannie Green and Jack Cooper want more women and children to take up krav maga Left: Mikala Magrath and her sons William and Ethan all do krav maga Far left: the class in action