Two students spar during the Krav Maga club’s practice. Krav Maga is an Israeli martial art that focuses on redirecting the attacker. Photo by Kyan Mahzouf.

“When people come to me asking me for a specific defense move, I tell them to go out for cross country, so that they can run away,” said second-year Zack Schick, co-founder of the UC Santa Cruz Krav Maga club. “I get a lot of stupid questions outside of the class, like ‘What happens if you get hit?’”

Schick and Cynthia Friedman, also a second-year, began UCSC’s first Krav Maga club last spring in an effort to educate fellow students as well as improve their own skills.

“We both really missed [Krav Maga] and we didn’t feel that there was anything parallel to it in Santa Cruz,” Friedman said.

Krav Maga, or “contact combat,” was developed in Israel after World War II and was used mostly by the Israeli army. Since then, the fighting style has expanded and is now a common form of self-defense across the world due to the effectiveness of its movements and attacks.

“It’s 100 percent practical fighting,” Friedman said. “There are no Krav Maga tournaments. It’s based on situations where you are at gunpoint or at knifepoint: How do you survive and get out with your life?”

New club members learn the basics of fighting and defending themselves.

“It’s practical. I learned how to punch properly,” said first-year Ben Lilly, swinging his arm to demonstrate how it is “just like grabbing milk from the back of the refrigerator.”

The more advanced students work on situations in which they practice defenses against armed attackers. The play knives and play guns are used by the attacker and the goal of the exercise is to redirect the weapon and counteract the offensive move

“The goal is: When attacked, become the attacker,” Schick said, while demonstrating a move to break his attacker’s nose and successfully gain control of the bright yellow rubber gun.

Schick’s and Friedman’s club has grown since last spring and it now has about 15 regular participants.

“It’s grown through word of mouth,” Schick said. “It’s become more goal-oriented. We get to learn more.”

Last Friday, the group’s lesson began with a warm-up. Then Schick and Friedman focused the day’s work on ground work, a rarity in Krav Maga.

“The motto of Krav Maga is ‘Don’t go to the ground,”’ Schick said. “If you do, get the fuck up.”

The group split off into pairs, doing two minute wrestling-on-your-knees-sorts of stunts — pushing, shoving and trapping opponents in between legs and then elbowing at the attacker’s crotch in order to get free.

“It’s a mentality of doing whatever you can to get out of there. If you could get away by kicking in the groin, then we teach you to do that,” Friedman said.“If your attacker has you in a dangerous situation, then you should hurt them.”