Now that everything from sports to cuisine has gone "extreme," it was only a matter of time before Israeli anti-terrorist fighting techniques became a fitness craze in Los Angeles.

Krav Maga was first popular with law enforcement types who wanted to defend themselves. Now celebrities and regular folks are flocking to the West L.A. Krav Maga Center at 11500 W. Olympic Blvd., which claims to be the only place in the country where the military survival maneuvers are used to tone up the general public.

Krav Maga Hebrew for "contact combat" is a martial arts form created for Israeli troops 50 years ago and is said to be the official Israeli self-defense and fighting system used by the police, the military and the Mossad.

Unlike most other martial arts, Krav Maga has no combat philosophy and trainees wear sweats. It's a system based on reflexes and instinctive movement. In Krav Maga there is only one rule: Use everything you've got. Students are allowed, even encouraged, to elbow, butt heads, pull hair, bite and gouge.

But the owners of the West L.A. club insist that this is not a violent sport, or even extreme, "We're not a group of violent people," says Michael Margolin, a co-owner and general manager of the center. "We're passive in nature, but if someone attacks us, we will fight back violently. It's a violent system. The idea is, if an attacker attacks you on the street, he is not going to abide by any type of rules."

Jolie Gorchov

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