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At Krav Maga Raleigh, students are trained by the very teachers who instruct U.S. special forces, and they learn many of the same moves as the elite fighters. Owner Ken Richstad moved to Raleigh in 2008 and opened the studio that same year. Two years ago, he partnered with Fayetteville-based The Range Complex, a military contractor founded by former members of the Army’s Delta Force. Since then, Richstad says Krav Maga Raleigh has trained hundreds of special forces fighters in addition to their civilian clients.
According to Cassie Rhodes, Women’s Program Lead Instructor, the curriculum for public classes is very similar, although special forces training is packed into one intense week.
“That’s one of the things I love about Krav Maga,” says Rhodes. “It works and it works across the board. We use one technique, or one kind of approach to lots of different situations. We don’t want you to have to reprogram your brain entirely and we don’t want you to have to remember 50 different things.”
Krav Maga is Hebrew for “contact combat.” The hybrid fighting style, developed in the 1940s for the Israel Defense Forces, mixes techniques including martial arts, boxing and wrestling and teaches both defense and counter-attacks. But its the combination of self defense and fitness that has driven its appeal in the United States.
“It’s a great workout,” says Richstad. Your confidence will go up. Your decision-making will go up. Stress will go down.”
Students learn a variety of moves, including the “Krav Maga handshake,” a sharp kick to the groin, and train through scenarios like a choke from the front or a bear hug from behind.
Classes at the studio range from Level One basics to advanced Level Five, where students learn weapons defense and third party protection. They also teach a monthly, women-only self defense class, which covers how to react to the most common threats.
“I was nervous going in,” says Raleigh resident Caroline Leitschuh, who attended a workshop this spring. “I’ve never done any martial arts before, but I found the material really accessible. I left feeling confident and empowered.”
Krav Maga student Michelle Conner began taking classes after volunteering at a women’s crisis center.
“After hearing so many stories of violence and horror, I wanted to do something to feel safer,” she says. “I go now at least four times a week, and I keep getting stronger and better!”
The two-hour women’s self-defense workshop is held one Saturday a month; self-defense and fitness classes are offered daily in downtown Raleigh.
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