On a typical day, Kevin O’Dell heads to his White Plains law firm, Raneri, Light & O’Dell, briefcase in hand, to prepare for legal battles that can range from automobile defects to product failure to dog bites. A personal injury lawyer for more than 30 years, his work includes litigation on a variety of subjects. “There’s no case that is the same,” he explains. The Pace Law grad has seen his fair share of difficult cases, but like any successful veteran attorney, he’s not one to shy away from a challenge.
“I like to consider myself a formidable adversary. I practice with honesty and integrity,” he says, adding that many of his opponents are his good friends. “I take cases that other people turn away. In one particular case, I shut down the lower level of the George Washington Bridge for almost six and a half hours to do an accident investigation and reconstruction. Nobody ever thought I could do it — and I did it.”
“Unfortunately the world does contain bad people, and you need to be able to have that type of training in your memory bank, and in your arsenal.”
O’Dell’s tenacity and dedication to a good defense transcends his legal career: He has been practicing self-defense for decades. In his teens, he practiced karate, and as an adult, Filipino martial arts, before seeking to progress his practice with a more pragmatic approach. In 2013, he turned to Krav Maga: “I wanted something different, something that was a bit more practical and street-applicable, and I found Krav Maga. I never knew anything about it. I went [to Krav Maga New York in Somers] and took an introductory class. Not only did the facility provide the Krav Maga self-defense and martial arts training, it also incorporated CrossFit. It was great.”
The Mount Pleasant resident spends three evenings a week practicing the self-defense system developed by the Israeli Defense Forces, which stresses survival tactics with the intention of disarming an attacker and using the surrounding environment to the practitioner’s advantage. (Think Denzel Washington in The Equalizer.) Incorporating deadly techniques, Krav Maga focuses on versatility and improvisation. Practitioners can partake in a class wearing street clothes and shoes (martial arts students are typically barefoot), or a suit and tie, to simulate a real-life scenario.
O’Dell has been trained on how to react during active-shooter situations and in scenarios in which multiple attackers approach from various vantage points. “It’s not a discipline that goes looking for trouble. In fact, we try to do something so we can get away safely,” he explains. He mentions it is beneficial to know the practice considering his profession as a personal injury lawyer: “Sometimes you make adversaries in the business that I am in,” but he maintains that knowing the self-defense system is beneficial for everyone. “Krav [trains you to have] an explosive reaction that takes people off-guard, especially people who are trying to hurt others. You’ll never know who is trained in this discipline or not. It can be used and learned by everyone, regardless of physical fitness.” He continues, “Unfortunately the world does contain bad people, and you need to be able to have that type of training in your memory bank, and in your arsenal.”