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Don’t Mess With The Mesa

Don’t Mess With The Mesa

If you were robbed at gunpoint, would you know what to do? What if backed into a corner by someone waving a knife? Or choked from behind in a bar fight?

Until recently, my answers would’ve been: no, no, and heck no.

But after training for the past six months at Krav Maga XD, this Costa Mesan is no longer feeling like a pushover.


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My hunt for a martial art’s studio began with a desire to teach my two young daughters self defense. Should I start my Mini Mesans in Karate, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, what?

The name “Krav Maga” kept showing up in articles like this and this as an extremely practical self-defense style, especially for women.

Further investigation revealed Krav Maga means “Contact Combat” in Hebrew, and was founded by Imi Lichtenfeld in the wake of anti-Semitic street riots in the 30’s. Krav Maga is now taught to the civilian Israeli military, as well as special forces and law enforcement around the world.

Krav Maga XD Instructor, Brooke Evans, demonstrates how to punch. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

America started to take notice when actors like Jason Statham, Daniel Craig, and Tom Cruise began incorporating Krav Maga into their fight scenes.

But just because it’s good for a Jack Reacher movie, doesn’t mean it’s right for my Mini Mesans. So as someone always willing to be a guinea pig, I suited up as ‘Mister Mesa’ and signed myself up.

Krav Maga XD – ‘XD’ for ‘Xtreme Defense’ – is run by Joey Karam, a member of the Krav Maga Global National Team. His Costa Mesa studio is located at 1635 Superior Avenue, in a non-descript building next to Beach Cities car wash and behind the Boathouse Collective.

Like the fighting style itself, Krav Maga XD’s space is functional, not flashy. The studio is shared with DSC Performance and Golden Block Fitness.

Inside, you’ll find shelves of kicking shields, racks of plastic knives and pistols, a green AstroTurf floor and roll-up door that opens to an alley, where crowded classes spill onto the asphalt.

Here’s what you can expect at your first class: You’ll pair up – about a quarter of the class will be female – and start with a warm up, circling in a fighting stance as you attempt to touch your partners’ shoulders. Sounds easy… but after a few minutes, newcomers are already breathing heavy.

Then it’s punching combinations, one partner with gloves, the other with focus mitts. Jab, cross, hook, cross – bam, bam, bam, bam!! Grunts and impact strikes echo over the driving hard rock music. At this point, newbies are realizing that no matter how much you were ‘in shape,’ nothing prepares you for throwing rapid-fire punches.

Just when you’re about to collapse, it’s on to the day’s Krav Maga techniques. It might be countering punches, escaping a choke, or defending against a baseball bat. You can bet groin kicks, eye gouges, and ear slaps will be involved – anything that’s illegal in UFC is highly encouraged in Krav Maga.

Krav Maga XD Instructor, Justin Blankenship; Founder, Joey Karam; Instructor, Brooke Evans. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

And this is where Krav Maga XD truly shines… with the people giving the instruction. Founder Joey Karam was trained by Eyal Yanilov, the highest-ranked instructor in the history of Krav Maga, who helped refine and systematize Lichtenfeld’s techniques.

So receiving training from Karam is like having a pipeline to the founder of Krav Maga. And his co-instructors – Brooke Evans and Justin Blankenship – have been with Karam since he opened this Costa Mesa location three years ago.

Every step in their demonstrations is broken out, repeated and refined. The goal is to modify your body’s natural reactions to stressful situations – so your instinct is to counter-attack, not cower. And the overwhelmingly-positive Yelp reviews speak to the quality of these lessons.

Krav Maga XD instructor, Brooke Evans, in pink boxing gloves. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

Instructor Brooke Evans is a badass, but she has a soft spot in her heart for Costa Mesa’s Taco Mesa:

There was about a solid year where I went to Taco Tuesday every single week  — didn’t miss it. I walked in and they knew my name and my order… it was wonderful. Their green sauce just makes my heart happy.

Krav Maga XD instructor, Justin Blankenship, at his Costa Mesa studio. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

Instructor Justin Blankenship is like the bouncer that should’ve been in ‘Roadhouse’ instead of Patrick Swayze. After living in Costa Mesa the past three years, he’s become a fan of The Triangle. But his Mexican-food allegiances are a different story:

I grew up in Corona, and one of my favorite restaurants from Corona, Miguel’s Jr., just opened over here in Costa Mesa.

Krav Maga XD founder and owner, Joey Karam, in Westside Costa Mesa. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

Krav Maga XD’s Founder Joey Karam has a message to the people of Costa Mesa:

You need to learn self defense. If there’s ever a problem, you have to be able to defend your family. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to help people get the confidence to be able to defend their family members. It’s that simple.

After your first class at Krav Maga XD, newbies will exit with hands shaking and muscles moaning. Keep it up, and in a few weeks, you’ll be able to get through an hour without gasping for oxygen. In a couple months, you’ll start to feel like a badass yourself – looking forward to every class, noticing how your muscles are tightening, feeling more confident and aware of your surroundings.

The studio also offers teens classes, kickboxing, and tactical shooting.

“When I made XD I really wanted to focus on the three components of self defense,” Karam said. “There’s fitness, you have to be in shape enough to fight for your life. Then self-defense, learning how to actually fight. And with the shooting aspect, you need to know how to use a gun – especially because we teach you how to take a gun away from somebody and you’ve got to know how to use it.”

Plastic guns and knives make for realistic attack scenarios at Krav Maga XD in Costa Mesa. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

Krav Maga XD will hold occasional seminars for its members, like how to protect VIPs or survive a carjacking. “On that one we all got our cars out,” said Karam, “and trained in how to fight inside. We had guns to the head, knives to the head, kidnapping situations. You’re fighting in close quarters, you’ve got your seat belt on – it’s a lot more difficult than standing up.”

What Krav Maga XD won’t do, however, is train younger children.   Karam likes to wait until kids are about 12… old enough to distinguish between self-defense situations, fighting like a bully or hitting someone for no reason.

“It’s hard to teach kids a violent self-defense form,” said Karam. “We’d have to water it down a lot, which would make it not really Krav Maga anymore. Then you start going down this rabbit hole of teaching a fake Krav Maga system. Then it turns into a daycare system. Then it turns into a money system because most martial arts for kids are generally built to generate money from parents spending on their kids, like testings and belts. We’re not really into that model.”

To get the younger set prepared for the day they’ll be ready for Krav Maga, Karam usually directs them to Art of Jiu Jitsu in Costa Mesa.

So while our Mini Mesans might be too young for Krav Maga XD now, Mister Mesa is convinced this is the self-defense training our daughters will get when they’re older.

Should their prom dates get too handsy when they’re teenagers – bam, bam!!

Krav Maga XD hearting Costa Mesa. // photo: @byoungforeverphotog

Krav Maga XD normally operates as a flat monthly membership fee for unlimited classes. But for a limited time, the studio is offering 3 classes for $20. You can contact them here. Be sure to let them know you heart Costa Mesa too.

And if you see Mister Mesa in a future class, please make sure to give a warning before practicing your groin kicks. ♥

About The Author

Mister Mesa

"Hey, Mister!" Mister Mesa is our human guinea pig, and he’s up for anything. When he's not adventuring, Mister Mesa is busy loving family life, beach volleyball, stand-up comedy, street tacos, Irish music, Krav Maga, Morning Becomes Eclectic, Nathan Fillion, Fletch novels, and mediocre baseball teams (aka the San Diego Padres). If you have an idea for something - in Costa Mesa - he should try, send ideas to:

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