Story by Jo Casamento as it appeared in the Wentworth Courier
In a world where one woman dies at the hands of a partner every week, where a homeless woman is murdered on the streets and coward punches still strike fear in the heart of every parent of a teenage boy heading for a night out, ex-Israeli Army lieutenant Saar Markovitch may just have the answer when it comes to violence.
The motivated and inspiring Krav Maga instructor, who taught the brutally effective yet practical self-defence system in the Israeli Defence Force for five years, has a plan.
Now heading up classes at X Fighting gym in the middle of Bondi Junction’s Oxford Street mall, he reckons it starts here in the eastern suburbs community he embraced three years ago. And the buzz about Krav Maga — which is Hebrew for contact combat — is gaining popularity. The gym opened two months ago and classes are filling up.
The technique, which was invented by Hungarian Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1940s, is now used in special forces around the world as well as in every high school in Israel. Markovitch, who has been implementing the program in Moriah College to students, is in talks to expand to domestic violence shelters locally to teach women and their children and hopes to bring his program to nurses, to mental health workers, to taxi and bus drivers and even to local police stations in the area.
“My mission is to live in a world where my future daughter, where my mother, where my wife can walk around safely.
“To create a community of people who stand up for each other, and call violence and bullying out. Imagine the change if we do? ”
He says the system empowers its students and would lead to a more enlightened world.
“This is not us teaching violence,” he is quick to say. “We are not a martial arts system, there is no beauty or art. We are not teaching how to fight for the sake of it, we are teaching how to defend.
“We talk about timelines, when you leave your home what you do, how to disengage, how to end a situation as quickly and as swiftly with as minimal damage to yourself and the other person … I teach how to de-escalate violence.”
He says in an ideal world education is obviously the key. But that’s not the reality. “That’s a long-term solution. At the moment we have something that can save and end the problem now. Krav Maga are the tools to end it now.”
He grew up the youngest of three boys with a single politically active feminist mother — who had herself experienced sexual assault
— and who had him working in domestic violence shelters as a young boy,
Markovitch says he felt helpless. “It breaks me, knowing women who have faced rape as a 12-year-old and are still carrying that pain at 25.” He is convinced classes in our schools is the answer. “These kids they don’t know their own value.
“Bullying is enough to ruin a person. I can’t accept it … The statistics say one out of four women face sexual assault and violent abuse. It’s ridiculous. It scares me. I can’t rest knowing these things happen.
“I can teach you skills you will carry for life”.