Self-defense and fitness guru Paul Szyarto, co-founder of VMMA, a growing chain of high-intensity interval training martial arts facilities, will travel to Israel later this month with award-winning author, videographer and Krav Maga Master David Kahn. Szyarto’s and Kahn’s visit is by special invitation for advanced training from Israeli Krav Maga Grandmaster Haim Gidon. Szyarto is just one of a handful of Americans to receive such a prestigious invitation. Because of his specialized military background, he, along with Kahn, are also making the trip to assist in training U.S. Military personnel, while developing material for a documentary film on the roots of Krav Maga – the acclaimed Israeli self-defense system.
Traveling through Israel from Oct. 18 to 24, under the auspices of VMMA and the original Israeli Krav Maga Association (IKMA), Szyarto and Kahn will study with Gidon and interview Aldema Zirinsky, who was the first-ever student of Krav Maga founder Imi Lichtenfeld, in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Krav Maga began with Lichtenfeld in Bratislava as a means for Jewish youth to protect themselves against anti-Semitic attackers. When Lichtenfeld emigrated for Israel after the Nazi invasion, he began training young Zionist pioneers in anticipation of the War for Israeli Independence, which ended 1948. After Israeli statehood, Krav Maga eventually became a crucial part of IDF commando training.
The system allows one to train their mind and body in order to be more alert and instinctual in reacting to dangerous situations. The training includes visualization and scenario planning that boosts confidence, reduces fear, and helps one cope with unanticipated or hostile situations. It is rooted in the philosophy that defense and attack moves must occur simultaneously and with a mindset that emphasizes a barrage of quick, rational and decisive strikes, while also trying to de-escalate the situation in order to avoid – if at all possible – permanent injury or death to the other combatant.
Because of Krav Maga’s practical application – physically and mentally – to other areas of life, Szyarto and Kahn have gained notoriety in the U.S. for training thousands of law enforcement and military professionals, NFL teams and business executives.
“The Israeli people are incredibly resilient,” Szyarto said. “Their history, for thousands of years, has been one of survival, whether in places like Bratislava or the Jerusalem Hills. They hate fighting, yet they often face no choice. And if they must fight, they do so with a sense of ethics and fearlessness that prevents bad decisions and outcomes. We can apply the same Krav Maga principles to everyday situations in our own lives as police officers, soldiers, athletes and executives.”
Szyarto added: “Krav Maga is a self-defense system that perfectly encapsulates the three-fold mindset that is the Israeli way of life: Lethal violence only as a last resort, meticulous preparedness, and fearless, purposeful, constant action under great pressure. This approach to life has also led to the development of some of today’s most important, game-changing technologies.”