October 16, 2018

Putting Krav Maga on the Map in L.A.

There are many martial arts, but somehow Krav Maga, the self-defense and fighting discipline created by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has emerged as a huge hit worldwide. 

Amir Perets, a 44-year-old self-defense and defensive-tactics expert who holds a fourth-degree black belt in Krav Maga, is the man who has been instrumental in popularizing the discipline in Los Angeles. 

Perets, who has lived here for the last 22 years, told the Journal that despite Krav Maga literally meaning “contact combat,” the description is misleading.

“[It’s] a self-defense system that lives by a very simple, basic rule: Don’t get hurt,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a civilian, a law enforcement officer or a soldier. [Krav Maga] doesn’t promote violence; it’s just the opposite. It’s so one can walk in peace.”

According to Perets, 80 percent of Krav Maga is preventative measures, while 20 percent comes down to tactics should you come under attack. In order to protect yourself without ever going into combat mode, Perets said it’s important to be situationally aware. “A little bit of awareness can be the difference between life and death,” he said.

“Krav Maga is a self-defense system that lives by a very simple, basic rule: Don’t get hurt.” 

— Amir Perets

That awareness can include simple things like not looking at your phone when you’re walking to your car. When you do, “you’re distracted and oblivious, and that makes you an easy target for an attacker,” Perets said. “If instead you come out, eyes up, you are better able to recognize potential threats.” Also, he said, the attacker is more likely to realize you’re not an easy target and move on.  

Perets said he became interested in how people protect themselves at an early age.  “I didn’t like the whole concept of being in a position of disadvantage,” he said. “It spiked my curiosity about the concept of well-being. It started with interest in [general] life-enhancing methods and then it went through life-saving methods.”

In 1992, at the age of 18, Perets became Israel’s full-contact heavyweight martial arts champion and received awards of distinction for physical education. That same year, he began his compulsory IDF training, where he excelled in Krav Maga and combat fitness. He then went on to instruct infantry and special forces, honing and reshaping the Krav Maga training that we see today in local studios.  

After completing his military service, Perets spent a few months in Thailand, where he learned Thai boxing. When he moved to the United States in 1996, Perets began teaching Krav Maga and gradually started to build a name for himself. 

“Always in my mind was, ‘What are the best answers to the threats of today? How can someone keep himself safer?’” he said. That, he added, was coupled with the bigger picture of well-being: “How do you overcome emotional and physical hurdles? How can you grow and form a better version of you?”

Today, Perets is called on to train those in the military, federal agencies and law enforcement. 

“[Krav Maga] boils down to balancing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual concepts that constitute the person,” he said. “I call this the philosophy of four horses. Imagine you are tied to four horses and each horse is running in its own direction, so it pretty much tears you apart. But if you are disciplined and they are all running in the same direction, then you can run full force and do your tasks in a more efficient way.”