Street Talk

Do not mess with Derek Poon: The 42-year-old per­sonal trainer and gym owner is also the Hong Kong di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Krav Maga Fed­er­a­tion. A form of mar­tial arts devel­oped for the Is­rael De­fense Forces in the late 1940s, krav maga was in­tro­duce

HK Magazine - - UPFRONT -

HK Mag­a­zine: How did you be­come a krav maga ex­pert?

Derek Poon: In 2010, I passed an exam that in­volved top­ping off a five-hour test with 300 push-ups, 300 squats and 300 sit-ups. But I al­ready knew I had a knack for mar­tial arts when I did taek­wondo as a teen. I went on to prac­tise other forms of fight­ing, such as Thai box­ing and Chi­nese mar­tial arts. Krav maga is ac­tu­ally a mix of mar­tial arts in­clud­ing judo, taek­wondo and wing chun. Krav maga stu­dents can ap­ply their new moves: In Chi­nese mar­tial arts, for ex­am­ple, it can take months to learn one move, but our stu­dents learn a new move ev­ery les­son by be­ing put un­der stress. For ex­am­ple, I might tell them to do pushups and then at­tack them when they get up. I used to hit stu­dents with a stick be­cause they didn’t fol­low in­struc­tions to pro­tect them­selves. But I don’t hit as hard now, partly be­cause Hongkongers can’t take too much dis­ci­pline.

HK: Sounds like se­ri­ous busi­ness!

DP: It is se­ri­ous busi­ness. To most learn­ers, krav maga is just a self-de­fence skill, or even a form of ex­er­cise—but for train­ers, krav maga is about coun­tert­er­ror­ism. Ev­ery year, I go back to Is­rael to train for two weeks with other in­ter­na­tional train­ers. That’s when we learn new moves, be­cause the bad guys are al­ways up­dat­ing their meth­ods of at­tack. In South Amer­ica, for ex­am­ple, they’re now stick­ing knives in your butt in­stead of your neck.

HK: So do you fight ter­ror­ists?

DP: I wouldn’t tell you even if I did. But right now my mis­sion is to teach krav maga to as many peo­ple as I can

“So that one may walk in peace.” That’s our motto. I’m also try­ing to groom more train­ers here—there are only about four right now. We’re care­ful about choos­ing in­struc­tors be­cause we don’t want our skills to fall into the wrong hands. And not ev­ery­one’s got what it takes to be a trainer. For one thing, stu­dents chal­lenge us from time to time to prove krav maga re­ally works. Once, a stu­dent tried to throw me to the ground while I was grab­bing him by the neck dur­ing a demon­stra­tion. I didn’t let go, so he got hurt.

HK: Have you al­ways been this fit?

DP: I used to weigh al­most 200 pounds. I ran my own cloth­ing com­pany and had to make fre­quent trips to the main­land, where I drank a lot. So I de­cided to get back in shape by go­ing to the gym, picking up mar­tial arts again and even­tu­ally get­ting cer­ti­fied as a per­sonal trainer. Af­ter I got cer­ti­fied I started work­ing full-time at a clinic for di­a­bet­ics to help pa­tients man­age their weight. I just felt it was more mean­ing­ful than the cloth­ing busi­ness.

HK: Have you ever been se­ri­ously in­jured?

DP: I’ve got­ten a slipped disc in my lower back from not warm­ing up prop­erly be­fore teach­ing. When it hap­pened I couldn’t even walk, but I re­cov­ered in a few months by train­ing tar­geted mus­cles. Another time, while I was train­ing in Is­rael, my train­ing part­ner went at me full force and was on the verge of break­ing my neck.

HK: What’s your best self-de­fence tip?

DP: Avoid con­fronta­tions as much as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially since you don’t know who you could be against. One time, a mug­ger asked me for money, so I gave him $20 and he left with­out giv­ing me trou­ble. Vi­o­lence should not be the so­lu­tion, but when push comes to shove, krav maga gets the job done: We don’t have any rules. Kick your at­tacker in the groin, bite him, strike the back of his head, break his fin­gers… Be as vi­o­lent as you can. Then run.

Want to pick up a few krav moves? Drop by the In­ter­na­tional Krav Maga Fed­er­a­tion booth (G25) at Arnold Classic Asia, where Poon will be hold­ing work­shops and demon­stra­tions on Aug 20-21. $150 from arnold­clas­si­ca­sia.com

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