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Krav Maga classes teach techniques in case of attack
Hal Herndon, left, founder of Georgia Mountains Krav Maga, demonstrates how to disarm an assailant during a self defense class Wednesday evening in Cornelia. - photo by SAVANNAH KING

Georgia Mountain Krav Maga

When: 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday

Where: East Hall Community Center, 3911 P. Davidson Road, Gainesville

How much: free

Contact: 770-561-0812 or

Karen Mewborn jogged along the road alone early one morning and began to wonder: What would she do if someone tried to attack her?

Would anyone hear her call for help? Would she even have time to call for help?

As a sales representative, Mewborn said she often travels alone to strange towns. She has spent many nights alone in a motel room wondering how she would defend herself if something were to happen.

"My wheels started turning and I thought ‘No, really, what would I do?’" Mewborn said. "It got me looking for something that would help me protect myself."

She decided to sign up for an Israeli self-defense class at Georgia Mountain Krav Maga in Cornelia.

At first, she admits, she was timid. Her classmates and instructors teased her, saying she "couldn’t punch her way through a wet paper towel."

But that didn’t last long.

"The more I started doing it, the more confident I got," Mewborn said. "I can protect myself. I can do something if somebody grabs me. I don’t have to be scared. I can do something and live through it, not be a victim like that and get through it."

Since beginning the program almost a year and a half ago, Mewborn now can confidently slip through an attacker’s grip and inflict some damage of her own as she tries to escape. She’s also more aware of her surroundings than she ever has been.

The class teaches students survival principles for up-close combat situations. It covers everything from escaping an attacker’s grip to unarmed combat against guns, knives and other weapons.

Hal Herndon, founder of Georgia Mountains Krav Maga, said the class doesn’t necessarily teach people how to fight but how to escape and survive. In his class, running away from danger is highly encouraged.

"It’s aimed at reality," Herndon said.

Unlike most martial arts, the program doesn’t teach through memorization but through instinct. In fact, the first rule of Krav Maga is there are no rules.

The class is highly personalized. If a person has certain strengths or weaknesses, the instructors show students how to use them to their advantage.

Herndon said you won’t see such techniques in the movies because they’re not flashy. But they’re effective.

"These techniques were designed to where you do them in a sloppy fashion and they’ll still work," Herndon said.

The idea is to give the attacker what he least expects: aggression. Instead of being a defenseless victim, students are taught how to catch their attacker off guard and possibly buy themselves enough time to get away from danger.

During one session, assistant instructor Rob Wallace pinned Mewborn to the wall while he gripped her throat. Mewborn has practice the technique enough times to know that her best defense in the situation is to knock Wallace off his center of gravity and push him into the wall. After a few quick movements, Mewborn had Wallace catching his breath against the wall. It was clear that had she intended to hurt her attacker, she could have.

"We’re not telling you how to practice these things by rote, doing it over and over," Wallace said. "You’re getting immediate feedback when we work out with our partners. You see whether or not it works. If it doesn’t work, we’re not sticking with the same technique. We move on to the next."

Herndon said the class covers just about every situation imaginable, yet sometimes students come up with their own scenarios. Herndon often makes student practice their drills blindfolded so they get to feel how the move works.

"If you can feel the technique work, you can do it anywhere," Herndon said. "What if you’re in the dark or had sand thrown in your face? Even if you don’t need the technique, if you know what it feels like, you can tell if it’s going to work or not. The second you feel it’s not going to work, you can start to do something else."

Classes are currently offered at Popham Athletics Gym in Cornelia for $85 a month. Law enforcement and fire services employees can take the class for $50 a month.

Classes in Hall County are set to begin April 2 at the East Hall Community Center in Gainesville, and at the Mulberry Creek Community Center in Flowery Branch beginning in mid-April. A free introductory class will be offered from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the East Hall Community Center.

Wallace said he believes that if more people learn to defend themselves, the community will become a safer place. He said he wishes more people would take ownership of their personal safety rather than taking the "wait and hope" approach that someone will come to their rescue.

He said it’s never a good idea to assume that someone else is going to do the protecting.

"If there are more people in our society safe, then our society is going to be safer," Wallace said.

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