With the Bosnian War now more than two decades in the past, one of its survivors has set up a new life in America and is using his experiences and lasting memories of the conflict to teach others how to defend themselves.
Anis Heremic escaped Bosnia with his parents and sister in 1998, just three years after the conclusion of the Bosnian War, which he described as “the worst thing to happen in Europe since the Holocaust.” Now 20 years later, Heremic, 31, is harnessing the terror that he experienced during the three-year war to teach others Krav Maga—an Israeli-founded self-defense system. To do that, he set up Ratnik Defense Combat in January and teaches classes three days a week at the Virginia Medical Center building along Maple Avenue in Purcellville.
“I realized that everyone should learn how to defend themselves because bad things happen to good people all the time, even in peaceful societies,” he said. “Living through all of that makes you realize how vulnerable people are.”
What sets Heremic’s Krav Maga classes apart from others is the mixed martial arts that he throws in. He said that many Krav instructors in the U.S. neglect to teach fundamental fighting techniques, which can help students learn proper application methods if they ever find themselves in a compromising, real-life situation. “It’s Krav Maga, but with my own twist to it,” he said.
Heremic said that he also strives to help those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, like himself, by giving them an outlet to overcome their anxieties. “The byproduct of training helped and pretty much got rid of my PTSD, which made me become an advocate for others,” he said.
While he invites people of all ages and backgrounds to try Krav Maga, Heremic encourages them to stick around for a bit, since it takes “a lot of repetition” to turn the education aspect into an effective form of self-defense. “Everybody deserves a fighting chance,” he said.
Heremic’s transition from a nation caught in the middle of a genocide to a life of instruction in America’s most affluent region began when he was a teenager, idolizing Muhammad Ali and just kicking off his martial arts training. He said that it was Ali’s humanitarian work and ability to captivate people from all different cultures that inspired him to learn Krav Maga and teach it to others.
Heremic was even nominated for the Muhammad Ali Center’s Humanitarian Award in 2017. Although he didn’t win, he said that he still might collaborate with the center in the future.
Heremic now teaches his classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings at the medical center—the building that the town’s fire company used to call home. For those interested in signing up, Heremic offers not only military and law enforcement discounts, but also a one-week trial period. He said that his rates are also lower than that of many other area Krav Maga classes, at $150 per month. “I want to make it really affordable,” he said.
Looking toward the future, Heremic said that he would like to move his classes into his own location before eventually expanding to operate multiple locations in the area. He’s also in the process of applying for a government contractor license so that government agencies can hire him to give them self-defense lessons.
“I’d love to be able to give back to the community in any way I possibly can,” he said. “I love what I do.”
To learn more about Heremic’s Krav Maga classes or to sign up, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org