Kick Butt 101

Israeli Safety & Defense Training employee Ashton Bennett (right) wrestles a piece away from Barry Kalar, self-defense instructor.

Israeli Safety & Defense Training employee Ashton Bennett (right) wrestles a piece away from Barry Kalar, self-defense instructor.


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Some people take karate. But two unique Sacramento self-defense instructors will not only teach you how to shoot an attacker with a firearm—without accidentally shooting a loved one, getting your gun taken from you or clamming up and missing—they will also instruct Krav Maga, an Israeli hand-to-hand martial art. Former West Sacramento Police Chief Barry Kalar and his partner Tarl Yarber run the classes at Israeli Safety & Defense Training, a local school that specializes in special forces badassery. The staff of ISDT also consists of a federal agent, who is a firearms instructor, and former special forces members and Krav Maga instructors from the United States and Israel. Kalar and Yarber took a few minutes to explain how they teach ordinary citizens extraordinary fighting techniques.

Describe what ISDT classes are designed for.

Yarber: It’s mainly for safety and home defense. It’s not to teach [you to become] commando Rambos. We also teach movie myths and how to get rid of that; most people believe they can just pull out a gun and shoot it and be totally fine and run around and dive around corners and stuff. [This is] not paintball. Our biggest class that we want to talk about mainly is our women’s self-defense class.

Why should women learn this stuff?

Yarber: A lot of classes, especially martial arts, are ineffective for self-defense, in a sense, because they teach sport. They don’t teach what it’s actually like being held up in a real situation. A lot of martial-arts classes are very macho, very, um, not women-friendly, I guess you would say. So we’re trying to be women-friendly. A lot of the Israeli styles … are trained from blood; they’re highly effective and highly used, and that’s what we really want to teach.

A lot of people are against the right to bear arms. What would you say in response to those people?

Kalar: Any clue what the safest country in the world is?


Kalar: Well, it’s Switzerland. Everybody has a gun in Switzerland. Everybody is part of the national militia, if you will, and they go through training—men, women, everybody, and are given a rifle by the state they keep at home. They have to go back periodically to retrain and recertify themselves. They don’t have much crime.

Yarber: I’m a big believer that the best way to become more safe is through education, not ignorance, and not through removal of the situation. A lot of people say to be safe, we should get rid of guns. But that breeds ignorance on how they work, and they’ll still be accessible somehow.

Why should someone take your class instead of just reading a book about gun safety?

Yarber: [It all comes] back to instincts. Depending on what your muscle memory is, that’s how you’ll react. If you hear an insanely loud noise and just curl up in a ball and cry, then that’s your instinct. If someone has a baseball bat coming at you, what you did in a trained situation, you’ll be able to do in a real situation. So we want to untrain the initial instinct and replace it with muscle memory that they can use in real life.

How do you reteach people to react?

Kalar: For the women’s classes, there are three things we’re going to try to emphasize: planning, thinking ahead, avoiding bad situations. [And] awareness. When you’re out, be aware of your surroundings, know what’s going on around you instead of being in la-la land. And the last one is empowerment. Making yourself empowered so you can take action and are able to defend yourself, and know it’s OK to defend yourself.

So some women don’t feel that it’s OK to defend themselves when attacked?

Yarber: You hear stories about people that just freeze up and let themselves get stabbed like a deer in the headlights, because it’s their instinct not to do anything. So again, we have to untrain that.