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Self-defense classes introduce New York women to martial arts

Fitness Fight Camp
Laurel Holloway (at right) and a Fitness Fight Camp participant

After a series of assaults in Brooklyn over the last few months, women in all five boroughs are feeling threatened.

But rather than stay off the streets and subways, many are learning to fight back, and maybe discovering a new martial arts-based fitness routine in the process.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook,” says Tracy Hobson, executive director of the Center for Anti-Violence Education in Park Slope. “Interest has more than doubled.”

While some come for just one class, Hobson says the majority of the women regularly practicing martial arts at the center originally came for a self-defense seminar, and stayed because of the physical and internal strength the practice created for them.

Eve Gold, the co-owner of Krav Maga NYC and director of the Krav Maga Federation, said that women’s interest in Krav Maga always peaks when attacks occur. And out of ten women who took a recent introductory self-defense class, seven signed up for continuing classes.

Krav Maga
Women practicing Krav Maga

“Self-defense is a practical measure you can take to make your life a little bit safer and to feel a little bit more confident,” says Amy McPherson, a graduate student who recently took a free class at CrossFit 718 in Park Slope. “And getting a little taste of the method made me think I would really enjoy it as a workout.”

It also works the other way around. At Fitness Fight Camp, a Muay Thai boxing-based workout program, the focus is on calorie burning. But women learn techniques to defend themselves by default.

“Once women realize how hard they can hit or kick or knee, and how great they feel doing it, it makes them feel bad-ass and strong and empowered,” says Laurel Holloway, co-founder of Fitness Fight Camp. “Realizing their own strength makes them feel more confident about walking home at night.”—Lisa Elaine Held

Feeling inspired to pack a punch? Where to get some safety skills and fitness drills:

Center for Anti-Violence Education, 327 Seventh St. (at Fifth Ave), 2nd floor, Park Slope,

CrossFit 718, 712 5th Ave. (between 22nd and 23rd Sts.), Park Slope,

Fitness Fight Camp, Sheep’s Meadow, Central Park OR Pearl Studios NYC, 500 Eighth Ave. (between 35th and 36th Sts.), Midtown, (Currently transitioning to indoor location for the season—check website before going.)

Krav Maga NYC, 164 W. 25th St. (between 6th and 7th Aves.), 3rd floor, Chelsea.