Northwestern students learn Israeli self-defense

Oliver Ortega

At a Krav Maga seminar Monday night, 15 Northwestern students learned self-defense techniques used by Israeli soliders.

Students were taught strategies and moves to defend against an attacker with a knife. The event, held in Parkes Hall, 1870 Sheridan Road, was sponsored by Northwestern’s Hillel Center and the Women’s Center.

Krav Maga combines elements from other combat disciplines including boxing, judo and wrestling. It is taught to Israeli Special Forces soldiers and used in real combat, said instructor Paul Plotkitn.

Plotkin and his partner, Alex Abramovich, taught the two-hour session. Both are former Israel Special Forces Soldiers who learned Krav Maga during their military service and later in academies in the U.S.

Paz Barzilay, an Israel Fellow at the Hillel Center, came up with the idea to host the session and contacted the two instructors. The event was advertised through a Facebook event and in emails sent out from the Hillel center.

Barzilay said the seminar gave students tools to defend themselves and feel safe on campus.

“There’s a need, for women especially, to have things they can use for self-defense,” Barzilay said.

Weinberg sophomore Stephanie Kahn attended the session. Kahn, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, said the seminar was helpful in reinforcing similar defense methods she had learned before.

“I thought it was great,” Kahn said. “I had worked knife defense at school over the summer and this was a great way to follow up.”

Plotkin said although a seminar can be helpful, learning self-defense is a long-term process.

“Seminars can open your eyes and (give you) the awareness, and if you’re really interested, then you have to go and learn.” Plotkin said.

Plotkin and Abramovich are instructors at KAPAP Combative Concepts, a gym that offers classes in Krav Maga and other combat disciplines in Highwood, Ill.

The instructors demonstrated different strategies to help students assess dangerous situations and defend themselves during the first part of the session. Participants practiced different striking techniques on striking pads as a warm-up. Afterwards, participants were shown different maneuvers to defend against knife attacks and drilled the techniques in groups and pairs of two with plastic knives.

Cara Bell, director of programs at the Women’s Center, said she thinks self-defense sessions are useful to teach participants techniques, even if they don’t continue the training.

“If you know some tactics to help you defend yourself or fight off your attacker, you’re in better shape than if you don’t,” Bell said.

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