A group of East London residents meet twice a week to punch, kick and wrestle as they learn how to take their power back from criminals.
Self-defence classes – offered by Jason Iveson using a Hudson Park High School hall – are teaching everyone from housewives to trained security guards how to handle a confrontation with a criminal and walk away from it with their lives.
Iveson teaches a form of self-defence known as Krav Maga, a combat style that originated in Israel. This is the training style used by the Israeli military and special forces, and covers a broad spectrum of training from self-defence through to tactical skills.
According to Iveson, he is affiliated to the Israeli Contact Combat System (ICCS) after successfully completing a competency training course over 10 years ago. Refresher courses are available in Israel on an annual basis.
By using Krav Maga techniques, Iveson teaches his students how to throw a proper punch, how to block a punch, how to safely disarm someone carrying a weapon, how to block a rape and how they can protect themselves from an attacker using just their hands.
Making use of gym mats to cushion blows to the body, Iveson creates a variety of different scenarios for his students based on possible real-life danger situations and physically demonstrates how they can overpower their assailant, recover possible weapons and escape.
Plastic knives and guns are used as props. Iveson said the techniques are suitable for all age groups.
Although the classes have been ongoing for years, Iveson said the demand had increased in the past few months as crime levels in the city increase.
“A lot of people don’t know this but crime evolves all the time as criminals learn new techniques. Housebreakings have evolved and muggings have evolved,” Iveson said.
“I think it’s because of this that I’ve had people coming to ask me what they can do to combat growing crime levels and learn how to protect themselves.
“The classes actually began when I started inviting a few guys around to my place for sparring matches about two years ago.
“They told their friends about it, who also told other friends and before long I had so many people interested in learning I just decided to turn it into a class.
“The moves are designed in such a way that they teach people how to defend themselves from everyday attacks such as a knife attack.
“Through the classes, a student is equipped on how to prevent themselves from being stabbed with the weapon, how to disarm the attacker and, most importantly, how to get away to safety.”
Iveson, who used to sell cars for a living until he became a full-time instructor two years ago, said his love of martial arts began at the age of seven with karate and kick-boxing lessons.
But it was 17 years later that he was introduced to Krav Maga, which he immediately loved.
Itching to teach as many people as possible, Iveson said he gave up his full-time employment to offer lessons.
A few women who were interested in learning, but feared being in a class full of men, has given rise to exclusively female classes, which begin next week.
Iveson said he now also trains security officers from three different security companies in the city.
“I’ve had ladies come in and I find that they’re nervous to come to a big or a mixed class so I’m starting ladies’ classes.
“The ladies are usually very reserved at the start and their main interest is how they can learn to defend themselves against a rape or a mugging.
“I’m also training security personnel at the moment. These guys are wearing uniforms worth a few thousands of rands like the bulletproof vests and they are carrying firearms, so the criminal’s intention is to try and get that away from the guy.
“I’ve gone in and I’ve taught them how to defend themselves against that situation and how to disarm the criminals.
“I’ve also taught them proper arresting procedures and techniques,” he said, adding that he had celebrated a success story recently.
“An armed response officer, who heard about a robbery in progress via Crime Spotter, rushed to the scene. Using what he has learnt from the training, he managed to disarm a knifed attacker and wrestle a gun away from second attacker and the arrests were made. He walked away with his life and prevented his gun from landing up in the criminal’s hands, so his success is far-reaching.”
Iveson warned that the self-defence classes are very physical.
“It can also get very personal because I’m in your space. When I teach a woman how to escape a possible rape I don’t just tell her about it, we get on the floor and I show her.
“I get punched, scratched and kicked every single week, especially by the ladies.
“Once the ladies get a pair of boxing gloves on and throw that first punch they realise just how strong they are and they usually can’t get enough after that.”
Student Eugine Chipps, a Beacon Bay visible policing commander, said such training was an invaluable skill – useful to everyone from child to trained police officer.
Chipps, who starting attending classes two years ago, said he also found them informative.
He said: “This is very relaxing, especially after a long day at work.
“The best part is that this is not a class where you have to cram all of the moves into your head at once. Once you’re in a situation then all that training automatically comes back to you.
“I know that all police officers go for training when they join the force but I think this is something valuable which they could add to their existing training.”
Fellow student Delane Heath said she had recently heard about the classes and, because she usually walks to work and the home journey is in the evening, wanted to know how to defend herself from a possible attacker.
“So I decided to come and see what it’s all about and I must say, so far so good. I find this fun and informative at the same time.
“This is not one of those classes where you are told what to do – you are actually shown what to do, which makes it even better,” Heath said.
Iveson said many people harboured misconceptions about what self-defence classes are about.
“The important thing for everyone to know is that I don’t teach you to be Rambo, where you can take 20 people out, mop the floor with them and still manage to run away. No.
“I teach people the reality of what they can expect in an attack. I teach people to accept that they can be punched, they can be stabbed and that they can be bruised. But I teach them how they can control that situation and how to get away from it with their lives.” — firstname.lastname@example.org