Last October in Highland Park, Kimberly Mor and Sue Garstki opened Krav Maga Illinois with the hope to educate the community about self-defense and its importance.
Photograph by Helen Berkun
From the day they’re born, women only have a 15 percent chance of surviving a violent attack. Men, on the other hand, have a 35 percent chance. Neither odds are in their favor. After self-defense training for about a year, a woman’s chances of surviving skyrocket to 85 percent and a man’s to 95 percent. Kimberly Mor and Sue Garstki strongly believe that all people have the right to defend themselves—particularly women. With this in mind, they opened Krav Maga Illinois (KMI)—the only officially licensed and certified Krav Maga Training Facility on the North Shore. Krav Maga, which translates from Hebrew as “contact combat,” is the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces. In the United States, it has been taught to hundreds of law enforcement agencies and thousands of civilians. Hype has even grown in Hollywood with celebrities like Hilary Swank and Angelina Jolie practicing it. Jennifer Lopez brought it to the attention of the public while defending herself from her fictional abusive husband in the movie Enough. Krav Maga is a simple and effective system based on your body’s natural response to a threat. It is taught through realistic training scenarios and is easy to retain. It can be utilized no matter what your age, size, or physical ability may be.
While many residents of the “super-secure” North Shore might think they don’t need such training, the two owners want to dispel that myth in an effort to make sure everyone is safe. Sue compares self-defense training to life or health insurance. “You can’t guarantee something horrible isn’t going to happen to you. You may as well be protected from it,” she explains. Kim also points out that while people think the North Shore is a safe community, there’s actually quite a bit of crime that happens here. Recently, there have been more home invasions, and due to the current economic stress, even more spousal abuse. “It’s one thing to defend yourself from someone you’ve never met before who is scary and horrible, and it’s another to defend yourself from someone you love and have to go to sleep with at night. We need to learn to defend against both scenarios,” Sue adds.
They both underscore that Krav Maga can truly mentally and physically empower women. Even after one class, participants leave feeling stronger and more confident. “When you come to Krav Maga, you see the change in yourself immediately,” explains Kim. “You never leave here without feeling that you gained something positive that will affect your life and the life of your family.” The two of them strive to create a place where women feel safe and comfortable, with an emphasis on respect and nonjudgment.
On a regular basis, KMI offers women’s self-defense seminars in which women are taught how to protect themselves against the most common physical and sexual assault scenarios, including attacks using weapons. To desensitize participants, they undergo rape scenarios and attacks where someone bigger comes after them. “We want you to act rather than react if you’re in a real-life situation. These realistic training scenarios take away from the trauma of such an experience,” says Sue. They provide these seminars to women in some of the most crime-ridden areas of the city, such as Humboldt Park and Pilsen. “Although our facility is in Highland Park, it doesn’t restrict us to just this area. Anyone who needs us, we want to help,” assures Sue. They also help those who are in need but can’t afford instruction, through scholarships and payment programs. KMI works with their students according to their specific needs and situation, to help build confidence, awareness, reaction, and fighting spirit.
All of KMI’s instructors are licensed through Krav Maga Worldwide and the Ministry of Education in Israel. Each instructor goes through an intensive training program in California. “Every technique taught is also being utilized by the Israeli Defense Force; nothing is made up here,” says Kim. KMI offers more than 50 classes, which are all available to both men and women. They even have classes for children and teenagers. Other classes that complement Krav Maga are also offered, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, and kickboxing.
Krav Maga Illinois is located at 2200 Skokie Valley Road in Highland Park. For more information, call 847-433-0405, or visit www.kravmagaillinois.com.