Some time back in July last year, I was introduced to Krav Maga by a trainer introduced through a mutual friend. Krav Maga is a self-defence contact combat system developed in Israel.

When my friend first told me about this, I had no idea what it was all about. I wanted to make sure that the trainer knew what he was in for, since I would not be able to see and hear what he was teaching and he would have to use alternative ways to communicate. She assured me that she had shown him some of my Facebook videos on my workout sessions and he was keen to teach me. 

Subsequently, we arranged for a trial session. To prepare her friend to coach me, my friend taught him a few haptic gestures such as indicating "Yes" and "No". 

For me to understand what the various moves like striking and hitting felt like, the trainer explained via text what I was supposed to do. He then demonstrated the moves by directing my limbs towards the padded guard that he’d hold up. My friend then assisted by spelling alphabets on my palm to form words like "faster", "harder", "water". Over time, my trainer also picked up the manual alphabets!

After the trial session, the trainer expressed his interest to continue to teach me Krav Maga and I have been learning since then. He would set aside once every two or three weeks depending on his schedule. However, right after the trial, there were changes to the COVID-19 restrictions, which caused studios to be closed in August. We only resumed our second session in September. Since then, I do Krav Maga training once every three weeks or so.

How does each session look like?

Siew Ling’s trainer is typing while kneeling on the floor, while Siew Ling sits beside him on a chair to read what he shares

Before every class, my trainer would type to me to explain what we would do for the day.

Typically, we would start off with warm-ups by running around the studio, running on the spot, then some stretching. 

We would also revise what we had learnt previously. Then, the trainer would explain the moves that we’d learn for the day.

After I am familiar with the moves, the trainer would launch a series of simulated attacks. 

We would be walking around the studio and the trainer would be attacking me from different directions. In response, I have to push him away so that I can defend myself and my friend.

A sequence that I learnt (after being in the ready stance with clenched fists) is:

  • Hammer fist — To swing the arms as far as the shoulders can go, keep forearms parallel, hit the attacker (the padded guard). Everyone kept writing "Harder", "Faster" to me!
  • Using the palms to strike the attacker
  • Grab and pull the padded guard, give it a ‘knee-kick’ by pushing my knee upwards
  • Then pushing the pad away!
Siew Ling and friend doing their training together with the trainer
Siew Ling lock arms with her friend while learning Krav Maga from her trainer.

To end off the session, we would be doing a few more rounds of attack and response, before returning to running on the spot.

I always joked with my trainer that no attacker would be so obliging to stand stationary at one spot  and wait for me to respond. As he used the tactile method to share his feedback, like tapping me on my arms, shoulders and even my knees, my friends said they could no longer tap me to identify themselves because I would strike them! 

Krav Maga is really a fun technique to learn. It is also a test of my reflexes as well as speed, because I need to respond immediately when I am attacked. In a real attack, there’s no such thing as waiting — because every second counts.

Tan Siew Ling is fully Deaf-blind, having lost both her sight and hearing to a neurological condition, Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). She carries a screen reader with a Braille display, which she fondly names it as “Bear Bear”, everywhere she goes. Her humour, wordplay, and love of puns keep friends on their toes. She enjoys reading books in her free time and loves to pen down her thoughts, often on a whim, which can be entertaining at times, on her social media. When she is not writing or reading, she can be seen doing insanely 72kg leg presses or swinging a 20kg kettlebell to and fro. You can find out more about Siew Ling and her journey here.