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Krav Maga protects Israeli soldiers and now Highland Lakes residents

Irene Dauphin (left) and Mindy Ramirez trained Dec. 8 during a Krav Maga combatives fitness class at Marble Falls Athletic Club, 2312 U.S. 281. Coordinators, who conduct both fitness and self-defense sessions, are offering classes from 10-11:30 a.m. Dec. 13 focused on gun and knife self-defense. An introduction to Krav Maga is 6 p.m. Dec. 15. All first-time participants can attend for free. To find out more, call the club at (830) 693-9393. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — Ryan Hardy believes every female 12 and older should learn something: how to defend themselves.

And he and his wife, Shari, are bringing that message and mission to the Highland Lakes starting Dec. 13 at the Marble Falls Athletic Club in the form of Krav Maga. While on the surface, Krav Maga might appear to be a martial art, Hardy pointed out it’s something much more.

“It’s a complete self-defense system,” he said. “It’s about giving people the tools to defend themselves and their families. It’s about changing their mindset and giving them the attitude to do just that.”

Krav Maga (which means contact combat in Hebrew) is an Israeli self-defense system used by that country’s Israeli Defense Forces, Israeli police and security services.

“And they’re always refining it,” Hardy said. “And with what the Israelis face on a daily basis, you have to understand, they need something that works.”

Unlike traditional martial arts, Krav Maga doesn’t incorporate “katas” or require students wear gis.

“We’re not allowed to compete in any tournaments, even (Mixed Martial Arts),” Hardy said, adding it’s because of Krav Maga being purely self-defense.

On Dec. 13, from 10-11:30 a.m., people can take a Krav Maga class focused on gun and knife self-defense. An introduction to Krav Maga is 6 p.m. Dec. 15. Then on Jan. 10, 2015, Hardy and his wife are hosting a women’s only self-defense class from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. with general Krav Maga classes starting Jan. 17 from 10-11:30 a.m.

“I really believe any female from 12 and up should attend (the women’s self-defense class),” he said. He and his wife are working with the owners of Marble Falls Athletic Club, Rick and Rhonda Coleman, to get local crisis centers and women’s shelters to participate as well.

Hardy’s road to Krav Maga actually started several decades ago as a youth growing up in a violent-prone area of Florida. Every day, he said, people in the community witnessed or were victims of assault. As an athletic youth, Hardy grew stronger through basketball and football, eventually becoming 220 pounds of “solid muscle.”

“But even at 220 pounds, I knew there were 150-pound guys in my old neighborhood who could kick my butt,” he said.

After years as a pilot, Hardy decided it was time to find something not so travel-oriented. At one point, he heard about Krav Maga, but at the time, there was only one certified program in the United States — in Los Angeles. But he decided to fly out and give it a try at the invitation of Darren Levin, who learned it from Israeli instructors. It only took a brief introduction into the program to get Hardy on the phone to his wife that they needed to do this. So for a period of time, Hardy shuttled back and forth between his home and L.A. to study with Levine and other instructors.

“It was brutal training,” Hardy said.

Seeing the benefits, both physically and mentally, Hardy knew he had to introduce the practice to more people.

Hardy and his wife eventually opened a series of Krav Maga centers in the north Austin area, including Cedar Park and Round Rock. Over the past several years, the couple began planning for retirement and shedding some of the sites, consolidating most of their operations at the Round Rock facility.

Along the way, they bought a home in Granite Shoals.

But as Hardy drove around the Highland Lakes community in his truck that is labeled with the Krav Maga name and information, people inquired about it, including the Colemans. Realizing their mission wasn’t done, the Hardys agreed to begin offering Krav Maga locally.

While Krav Maga training brings tremendous physical benefits (Hardy has had students lose 100 pounds), the main mission is teaching self-defense that works in real-world scenarios. Hardy said they start beginning students out in the gym setting. Instructors teach a variety of ways people can defend themselves – sometimes very violently.

The toughest part, Hardy said, is getting people to change their mindset.

“What we try to do is teach you that no one has the right to harm you or your family,” he said. “And if they touch you, they’ve given you permission to hurt them. But that takes a change of attitude because we’re taught to be ‘nice,’ even at times when somebody is trying to attack us.”

Once a student becomes proficient in the gym setting, instructors move the lessons outside.

“We’re going to take you outside, in a parking lot, at night, between parked cars and do it,” Hardy said. “We’re going to teach you and train you in all kinds of environments and scenarios. We’re going to make it as realistic within safety parameters as we can.”

Hardy said everybody is invited to check out a class for free but emphasized that if a woman needs the program but can’t afford it, he and his wife — along with the Colemans — want her to come anyway.

“We will never turn away a woman who needs these skills,” Hardy said.

The Marble Falls Athletic Club is located at 2312 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls. Go to www.marblefallsathleticclub.com for more information or www.selfdefensetexas.com for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com