Robert Clark, left, and his son, Robert Jr., demonstrate how to defend against an attacker who comes from behind using a self-defense method developed in Israel. Both Clarks are bounty hunters and students at the Israeli Krav Maga center, which opened recently in Hamilton. Photo by Chris Sturgis.

By Chris Sturgis

Krav Maga, a self-defense system born of anti-Semitic violence in the streets of Slovakia in the 1930s, has come to Hamilton.

David Kahn, who has taught the system New York City, said he got the idea to offer Krav Maga training in Hamilton when he saw the perfect location for it in some office space behind Champion Fitness at 127 Route 206.

Kahn has trained law enforcement officers in the defense system named for two Hebrew words meaning “contact combat,” which is also used by the Defense Forces of Israel.

Kahn said Krav Maga differs from other martial arts used in self-defense because it is was developed to serve Israeli military, where service is compulsory for both men and women and the age range is from 18 to 55. A karate kick to the head is impressive but impractical, because most people can’t kick that high, Kahn said.

Krav Maga is “about self-preservation. We teach people how to fall without hurting themselves. The elderly are learning this so they can fall without breaking anything, especially their coccyx,’’ he said, referring to the tailbone.

Kahn said his school, Israeli Krav Maga, will teach anyone 13 years old and up. Students younger than 13 are barred because the techniques should be used only by someone with maturity and judgment, he said.

Krav Maga emphasizes avoiding confrontation whenever possible.

“We do this only for self-defense situations. We don’t teach this so people can show how tough they are,’’ he said.

When attacked, students are advised to strike the assailants’ vulnerable most vulnerable areas, the eyes, throat, kidneys and groin.

“If you get into a dire situation, you do everything to survive,’’ Kahn said.

The training center is offering an introductory course at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays that teaches the thinking behind the training, such as avoiding being struck or breaking an assailant’s grip if grabbed by the arm.

Other levels are beginner and intermediate, where students learn the curriculum to earn various belts ranging from yellow to black, as in the Japanese martial art of Karate.

Bob Sasse of Florence has studied Krav Maga with Kahn at the Princeton Regional School District’s continuing education program. He found Krav Maga because he was looking for an activity to share with his two sons, Kevin, a sophomore in High School, and Dan, now a freshman at Cornell University.

Sasse said he liked Kahn’s course because it didn’t require uniforms or teach impractical stunts, yet provided practical information about self-defense for himself and his sons.

“I was always concerned about them getting in a confrontation. I didn’t want them to go out and start a fight, but I wanted them to be able to defend themselves,’’ he said.

Another of Kahn’s students, Robert J. Clark Sr., said he is studying with Kahn because he a private detective and bounty hunter with an office in Trenton.

His martial arts resume includes aiki jujitsu, shotokan karate and bare-knuckle kickboxing, but he said he was impressed by the practicality of Krav Maga and the emphasis on avoiding trouble by developing a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings.

“I lock up people for a living,’’ he said.

Yet, one case, Clark was searching a private home in 2001 when a drug dealer attacked him with a sledgehammer and bit him on the leg. The assailant surprised him in a doorway, he recalled.

“If I had that kind of training, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten hit by the sledgehammer,’’ he said.

For more information about Israeli Krav Maga in Hamilton, visit or call (609) 585-MAGA.Kahn wrote a book in 2004, Krav Maga: An Essential Guide to the Renowned Method for Fitness and Self-Defense, and a second book is scheduled for publication this fall.