Krav Maga allows a man to walk in peace
“Krav Maga is not necessarily a fighting system but a problem-solving system when the problem is violence,” says Paul Noreau.
Noreau, 50, lives in Ankeny and works downtown in the insurance industry. Seven years ago, as he entered middle age, he felt the need to feel safe in what he saw as an increasingly violent world. He found a self-defense system called Krav Maga. The name is derived from Hebrew words meaning “contact” and “combat.” Noreau says the martial art was constructed by Hungarian-Israeli Imi Lichtenfeld to help defend the Jewish quarter against anti-Semite fascist attackers during the 1930s in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.
As a youth, Lichtenfeld was a successful boxer and wrestler. But while fighting in the streets, defending his people, he realized real-world combat differs significantly from the objectives of competitive sports, which are designed to score points and win judging.
“Krav Maga is about pure self-defense,” says Noreau. “It’s not about points; it’s not about style or form or anything like that.”
Israel’s military concentrated Lichtenfeld’s work into a grouping of extremely efficient techniques derived from boxing, wrestling, aikido and judo, these techniques are geared for handling real-world situations.
“People practice Krav Maga so that one may walk in peace,” Noreau says, referencing a famous quote by Lichtenfeld. “I’ve found that by practicing Krav Maga, I feel less concerned by things and less threatened by things. If something were to happen, I feel OK.”
Krav Maga encourages the avoidance of confrontation as the first and best option. Its goal is self-defense, not unnecessary violence.
“The best self-defense is what we used to call the Nike defense,” says Noreau. “If you can get out of there (by running), then get out of there. But in situations when you are cornered or you’re a woman and they’re going to grab you and throw you in a van, then you have to be able to deal with that kind of thing, and that’s what Krav Maga teaches.”
If conflict becomes inevitable, Krav Maga advocates and teaches aggressive techniques designed to finish fights quickly by using precise, targeted strikes to the most vulnerable parts of the body. No holds are barred in these brutal counter-attacks, and the techniques can inflict severe injury, permanent harm or even death to the attacker.
“The philosophy is to go home alive,” says Noreau.
The Ankeny resident moved to central Iowa from Kansas City in 2013. When he did, he quickly found that he had trouble finding people to train with.
He says he’s been driving to Minneapolis the last few years to train. He enjoys his workouts in Minneapolis and Kansas City, but no one wants to travel several hours for each trip to the gym.
His decision landed him on a plane to learn from renowned instructor Alain Cohen — the senior coach at the Wingate Institute in Israel who teaches in the states once a year. Noreau has obtained his instructor’s license and is set to share his peace with local residents.
He cautions that no one he trains with is likely to become a skilled Israeli commando, but they may be able to “walk in peace.”
“The Israeli military teaches a different variation,” he says. “Basically, this is scaled down for civilians.”
He adds that the practice helps him health-wise, as well.
“It keeps me in shape,” he says.
Locally, Noreau now trains only with his wife, but he is looking to start a small group with enthusiastic training partners to share his passion with.
“I’d like to be the guy who brings Krav Maga to the area,” he says. “And I’m sick of having my wife choke me.” ♦