by Jessica Ireland
24 hours over three days with six men over one weekend. I voluntarily signed up for this scenario to complete, on my own terms, the Urban Krav Maga Instructor’s course – first time it’s been done in Canada. And I would do it again in a minute.
About 4 years ago, I signed up for a 3 hour summer session of krav maga. Having always wanted to learn to fight (I got a heavy bag for Christmas when I was about 13), I finally had the time to seriously look into it. One Google search later, I had emailed the instructor and was ready to go. I showed up that day hungover and having crushed a Subway breakfast sandwich on the way, naively believing that I was in really good shape so I’ll be just fine. Two hours into the class of three other men and just me, I was pale, blue-lipped and trying not to puke. And I still haven’t stopped. I was the only girl for a long time in the class. Girls have come and gone, and some I have become excellent friends with. But I’ve forged the longest-term relationships with some of the men. Have I come up against complete, disrespectful assholes? Yes, but in the sense that they were guys who felt threatened by an angry girl, but I have never felt violated. What I have learned from the class is that I can call people out, and I’m okay doing that. In krav, I am a crazy bitch, because if I wasn’t, I’d be still on the floor from getting knocked down the first time.
Which brings me to why I chose to do this course, to spend the money, and a whole weekend in a concrete gym with no windows and garage-like lighting. Besides doing it for the physical and mental challenge, I was inspired by the women in my life who are afraid – of making changes, of branching out, the ones who literally afraid for their lives…the ones who I want to encourage to be brave and also fiercely protect. By doing this, I wanted to encourage them in a small way, for the love of themselves, to always stand back up.
And what I loved was that the guys respected that.
They will never fully understand what it’s like to be a woman in a course like that, or her reasons behind wanting to learn this type of fighting (to get over the fear of attacks, to learn how to think instead of freak out, to feel strong, etc.) – but they respect the reasons, and that’s all I ask for. It allowed me to open up a conversation, and a conversation can help shift perceptions, and that’s a start I can get behind.
So the nitty gritty: Every day we started promptly at 8am, and would work through a series of techniques throughout the day – testing periodically and having teachable moments where we would be given a specific technique and would have to break it down for the group. Our final test on the Sunday was about 10-15 minutes of a teachable moment, and then sparring and responding to attacks.
How I prepared: In the weeks leading up to the weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of intensity so I upped my cardio (adding steep hills to my runs), did at least one or two HIIT workouts a week and strength workouts in between. Epsom salt baths and daily stretching were also key. Nutrition-wise, I stuck to what I usually eat – I’m plant-powered and for the weekend I ate minimally through the day (listened to my body), then at night I’d have a big fueling veggie burrito or burger. And SLEEP. All of these helped me feel pretty tuned and awake for the weekend…sore muscles happened but because of my overall self-maintenance, I was able to bounce back from the weekend and into normal life relatively easily.
Outside of the fighting cage, Jess has been dancing for the past 20+ years of her life, the last few years as part of the Breath in Mvmt. dance company in London, Ontario (involving some of the most amazing humans in the city). The company recently performed as part of the Flux Dance Festival this past summer. She also loves running, hates lunges, is a practicing (but not perfect) vegan, and generally an open book. She’s a bit of a crystal-astrology-peace loving hippie sometimes, she laughs too loud, swears quite a lot, and generally feels pretty damn lucky to be spinning around on this big blue ball with everyone else