On a rainy evening, about 30 women, most wearing high heels, gathered in a midtown Manhattan rehearsal space and engaged in a series of brisk maneuvers: hammer fists, elbowing out of chokeholds, fierce kicks. “The idea is to lock in muscle memory,” said the leader, Avital Zeisler, a former ballerina with posture as straight as rod. Ms. Zeisler, 26, is not a model or an actress; and her students were not engaging in some gimmicky, trendy exercise class like pole-dancing. She is an expert in hand-to-hand combat who has trained combat members of the military and law enforcement, as well as actresses like Keri Russell, Megan Boone and Amanda Seyfried.
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