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When Michelle Gallacher decided to get fit and follow in the footsteps of Hollywood diva Jennifer Lopez, she never dreamed her exercise class would lead to her learning to fend off airline hijackers.

Now, just one year on from joining up for her first Krav Maga class, the Glasgow charity worker has completed a 10-day intensive training course in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv.

There she learned techniques showcased in the Bourne films and used by crime-fighting forces like the FBI, and now the 29-year-old from Motherwell says she’s determined to encourage more women to sign up to learn the no-holds-barred techniques.

Michelle, who attends Glasgow classes run by the Institute of Krav Maga Scotland in the city centre and Petershill, said: “I started Krav Maga just over a year ago because I wanted to improve my fitness, but I also wanted to learn something that would be useful if I ever had to defend myself.

“I was so nervous going to my first class, so I would never have imagined I’d end up in Israel learning from some of the best Krav Maga instructors in the world –and doing some really crazy things.

“It was an amazing experience and I learned so much. I was one of only two women on the course., but even in the Glasgow classes women are very much in the minority.

“Maybe they think Krav is for men, but it’s the ideal self-defence system for women because it’s not based on being strong – it’s all about knowing the right technique to use.

“I’d love to see more women coming along to classes and we’d like to establish women-only classes if we get enough interest.”

Michelle said: “I actually first heard about from Krav Maga from a Jennifer Lopez film, Enough. At the time there was no-one teaching it in Scotland, but after seeing a story in the Evening Times last year I found out about local classes.

“I spent the first few months alternating from wondering what on earth I was doing, to having a fantastic time.

“In Krav you learn defences to all kinds of common street attacks and do what we call “pressure testing” to get used to reacting under stressful conditions.

The course was a really intense experience but I learned so much

“However when I was in Israel the pressure was really ramped up. I was put in all kinds of stressful situations, like defending myself against six attackers and having a knife put to my throat in a car.

“There were simulations of what to do in a car or flight hijacking situation and we also practiced defending ourselves against attacks in the sea and on the sand.

“Kicking is basically impossible in the water, so we had to very quickly adapt what we knew to defend ourselves and escape.”

Michelle added: “My favourite part of the course was defensive driving where we were taught how to get away from another vehicle in a chase situation.

“The strangest, scariest part was shooting a gun. We learn how to disarm people with guns in Krav and on the course they had us fire a gun so we realised just how quickly someone could pull the trigger.

“The course was a really intense experience but I learned so much.”

Michelle said: “Our instructors always say that you know it’s really working when you never have to use it.

“Krav Maga is about being aware of your surroundings and making sensible choices. We are taught that if someone tries to attack you the best thing is to run to safety.

“If that’s not possible then you deal with the attacker and then get away as quickly as you can.

I’d like to think now that if I was in a situation where I was threatened I could defend myself, and that gives me a lot of confidence.”

Krav Maga, Hebrew for “contact combat”, was created in the 1930s by a Jewish man called Imi, a champion boxer, wrestler and martial arts expert, in response to the rise of fascist gangs in his home city of Bratislava.

The skills Imi taught were later adopted by the Israeli armed forces and has now spread worldwide, being used by military and law enforcement agencies across the globe.

An estimated 200,000 people worldwide practice Krav Maga, including Cameron Diaz, Russell Brand, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon, who learned it for his role in the Bourne trilogy of films.

* For more information on Krav Maga or to find a class visit