Saturday, 6 May 2017

Greatly Increased Cardio

 On April 15th I finished the first half of Krav Maga Global’s General Instructors Course. 

This was 12 days of 8 hours per day of solid training. We kicked off at 8.30am every day, broke for lunch at 12.30, continued at 2pm and finished (usually) between 5 and 6.

I had been told, way before I even applied for it, that this was a Generic Instrument of Cruelty. Designed to test you to your physical limits and make certain that you not only knew the Krav Maga syllabus from P1 to P5 almost perfectly BUT that you were of a level of ability equal or greater to a G1.

I had kept fit in the weeks leading up to the GIC. Running, moderating & monitoring my diet and going on lots of lovely long walks. The Greater Intake of Carbs that I was told to be expecting once the training started, had me weaning myself off sugary treats, ice cream and fast food. I tried very hard to get into a system of living that would Give Intensive Care when it came to crunch time on April 3rd.

I had also signed up to the Krav camps in Gold Coast, that were due to run in the 3 days leading up to the GIC. This got cancelled due to Cyclone Debbie** and I then had 72 hours to kill in Broadbeach Waters, just up the road from where we would be training. I decided to Get Into Cycling, buying a 99 dollar bike from K-Mart and trying to keep everything on an even keel before we met Expert level 4, GIC instructor Rune Lind.

A friend of mine who has taken and passed the GIC said to me that “If you get up on day 3, then you know you want to continue”. While day 1 was hard, I left feeling satisfied with how the day had gone. Day 2 I was still buzzing and only slightly sore BUT true to predictions…day 3 was where the pain began.

The body needs time to recover from a serious beasting and the ONLY guy I know on the course who claimed to have relatively little problem with the regime was a bloke who had been training 3 hours a day for the 6 months prior to GIC commencing. Going Isotonic Crazy, wasn’t my way of prepping for this, however I wished that I had after a little while.

Day 4 and onwards my body and mental state fluctuated between abject pain and a determination to continue. This course is HARD.

Getting Into Character on day 5 and I was tired beyond belief. One good thing about having the bicycle was that I could cycle to and from training, loosening up my sore muscles a little bit before we got stuck in. 

Learning Krav Maga while also pausing for lectures on how to teach it, means that your mind and body are both being pushed to limits as you have to be able to sit, listen and take notes while sweaty, bruised and tired

The age range of the guys on the course ranged from an amateur boxer aged 21 to a retired soldier aged 56. Levels of ability were P1 to G3…and that was just KMG or IKMF certifications. Some people held high ranks in other disciplines and martial arts. There was only one female attendee.

In the early days we were joined by several existing, recently qualified GIC instructors who were utilising the “free top ups” factor of the course, meaning anyone who’s graduated may come back to take parts 1 or 2 again…as often as they want. 

Grinning Instead of Cursing when the workouts and techniques became painful, proved to be a slog. I’d known this course would be tough but I had never imagined just how much.

Some of the candidates would sleep after lunch, just a light nap. I tried this only once, fearful of having a Genuine Insomniac Collapse, and realised it wasn’t for me. Getting Into Character after 90 minutes of eating and sleep…not something I could get used to.

Lunch consisted of two cups of filer coffee from the local 7-Eleven plus a big, fuck-off salad with a jumbo sized tin of tuna mixed in. Some of the other guys were eating meals that would have satisfied two or three “normal” human beings.

As we moved through they days there were markers used to tick off the passage of time. Day 3 was the Determinator. Days 4 or 5 was where Rune had joked that we had the right to bring in a “bag of wingeing” as the soreness and potential injuries would be at a peak by this point. Day 6 would be where our bodies began to get used to what we were putting them through. Day 6 was also the much anticipated “halfway point” (until some sod pointed out that it was technically only the “quarterway point”) while Day 9 meant 3/4 gone and Day 10 was double figures.

By Day 11 we hadn’t done any sparring and I thought we’d got away with it. Bringing my 16oz Gloves In a Carrier bag every day, this was the one piece of kit I’d not used. Then, at about 5pm on the 11th day, Rune casually told us to get gloved up. We then had about 20 to 25 minutes of full on fighting, with variations being thrown into the mix. First partners had to choose one to defend only, while one attacked. I was with an amateur kickboxer who’d trained for about 15 years. As I was the defender I kept getting booted in the head and he basically handed me my arse. The numbers being odd, we had a “free radical” who could walk up to any existing pair and choose one of them to fight with, while the unwanted protagonist would then assume the FR’s mantle and bugger off looking for someone else to have a scrap with. 

After the exhaustion factor had been reached, passed and then reachieved…Rune then put on Robbie William’s song “Let Me Entertain You” and said brightly “Fight until the song finishes, do not change partners”.

I can safely say that this experience has finally cured any and all phobias I had about sparring.

Through stick defences, groundwork and seemingly endless drills, the Guttural Intense Cursing got louder and more profane as we soldiered on. 

Something that occurred with the predictability of jet lag was the “brain overload” meltdown that occurred on numerous occasions. This was basically when you would be able to do relatively complex or new techniques…but forgot the basics. Illustrating very clearly the importance of drilling stuff over and over again to integrate it into muscle memory I found myself suffering from amnesia over how to do a forward roll, a backward roll and an outlet stance. For the outlet, Rune actually had to take my left hand and move it to the correct position. I felt like sneaking off and having a little cry in a corner somewhere but recovered, carried on and after a few minutes asked Rune if I could have a “word”.

When I confessed my Girly Intention to Cry he smiled and said “It’s not just you. There’s at least one other person in here who feels the same way. It’s day 12. your brain is full, it can’t take any more information”.

Injuries were minor but present in about 2/3 of the assembled crew. I messed up my neck doing the joyful Rebirthing exercise (basically the shield wall attack from Battle of the Bastards in Game of Thrones…but without the spears) and had pain in my left hip and left knee. Other guys were wearing sports braces & bandages and as we lined up for the initial Kida each morning, it started to more and more resemble the “after” photos from a St John’s Ambulance medical journal. 

Even on the last day we didn’t get a respite from the regime. Breaking earlier than normal due to a public holiday affecting public transport, Rune had us spend most of the time doing grading-esque drills, asking us to perform specific techniques. By the end of it we were all running on fumes and met Rune in the back of the room for private feedback before heading out.

That night I fought off the Genuine Intention to Crash and went out with the guys for a meal and some beer. Everyone was sore, everyone was tired but we’d had a good time and had made it through without anyone having to drop out due to injury or fatigue.

Pain and exhaustion and only half done.

Was it worth it?


Friday, 7 April 2017

On The 5th Day...

On 3rd April 2017 I started to study for the Krav Maga Global General Instructors course.

This is a 23 day training programme in how to be a Krav teacher. 

It’s something I had occasionally dared to dream about in recent years but several factors had put me off applying.

For a start it’s expensive. Nearly a month of tuition doesn’t come cheap. Secondly it was something you had to be recommended for…you couldn’t simply pay your money and turn up. Thirdly and most importantly, I had heard stories from people who’ve attended and passed the GIC that it is bone achingly, bruise inducingly, energy sappingly….HARD.

My confidence both on a social level and with regard to fighting were never that high. My instructor back in the UK actually laughed when I asked him if he’d put me forward for the GIC in March 2016 (as I recall, his exact words were “You’re not ready”) and it was only after flying to Israel in June to do the Kids Instructor Course that my confidence was boosted. After we’d finished the 5 day tuition in how to deliver Krav-based lessons to little ‘uns, the Deputy Director of KMG, Ze’ev Cohen beckoned me over for a little chat. Nervous and wondering what heinous crime I may have committed, he said with a smile “Your ability to teach, especially to children is outstanding but you need to work on your striking”. 

I went backpacking in August of last year and headed off to Australia, taking in New Zealand for a visa run from January to March. After training with a few clubs in both countries I got the national director Adam White to endorse my application for the GIC that was starting in April and waited impatiently, like a 7 year old on Christmas Eve, for the first day of the course.

Now…I’ve heard GIC described as many things. My favourite quote is that it’s like “university meets a car accident”. Another is that “for the first five days we looked like refugees”. The course has a reputation of being HARD.

It has two parts, the first being 12 days and the second 11. Depending on where you are, the break between them can be anything from a week up to three months. You are given tuition in fighting and how to teach in the initial phase, and will be given 3 tests in the second. Theoretical, teaching and a Graduate level 1 grading (as only G1s and above can teach, with G4 being the earliest point where you can actually grade Practitioners). 

On day 1 we started at 8.30am, broke for a 90 minutes lunch break at 1pm and finished at about 6 o’clock that night. 8-ish hours of Krav Maga. The day was hard but I felt like it was a good, albeit full-on introduction to what we would be doing. However, by the morning of day 2, the pain had started. 

I woke up sore and stiff, my arms and legs bruised. Still full of energy though, I had a big bowl of porridge and a filter coffee before cycling off to the training. 

Day 3 and I was in more pain. Carpet burns on my arms, my left knee hurting like a bitch (had ACL repair in September 2015) and my energy flagging. 

Every night I would come home, take a shower, eat a huge amount of food (with the backbone of the diet being meat pizzas) and then go to sleep. 

On day 4 I was beyond tired. My body hurt when I arrived to start the day’s lesson and after about an hour I was distracted by just how achey and exhausted I was. The fact we were doing ground releases (throwing someone off/ away from you who is attempting a chokehold on the ground) and I was partnered with an ex-army guy who has biceps the width of my neck didn’t help.

I limped home wondering if and when the magical moment would come when the pain ebbed and my body got used to it.

Lo and behold…that happened.

This morning for day 5 I woke up decidedly non-achey, non-grumpy and eager to start the day. My alarm was set for 7am but I woke up about six thirty and just decided to get up anyway. I no longer hated the traffic on the way in and did not wish genocidal thoughts upon other road users. I didn’t forget anything (day before, I had almost set off without that most necessary of tools, the groin guard) and felt energised and ready to get stuck in.

The instructors of this course had told us (and Facebook comments had backed it up) that it is usually around the fifth day the body adapts to the regime and the pain buggers off. Being cynical by nature, I had decided to take all stories with a pinch of salt. This one however, turned out to be true.

Through all the pain and exhaustion (my fitness levels are good but not up to Olympic athlete standard) I had held out that the event horizon was not too far away. Persevering when you are ready to drop is something that requires a certain mindset and that is clearly what Krav Maga Global want from their now and future instructors.

We are not only doing training in the physical side of how to fight, we are also making notes and having discussions in our group with regard to  what we’re being shown each day. The process is mentally AND physically demanding.

Day 5 was where the GIC summit was reached and I began to run down the other side. There’s still a long way to go (18 days in fact) but from now on it’s a pleasure and not something I do with gritted teeth.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Little Voice

As I posted last blog, I have recently been accepted to take the General Instructors Course in Australia.

Excited doesn’t describe how I feel as I get ready to do what I once considered an unobtainable dream. I’ve been doing yoga every day. Stretching. Push ups (tricep ones, not those fairy ones with your elbows poking out) and a LOT of walking.

I’m basically getting ready for one almighty big training session lasting 12 days…and that’s just part one!!!

As confident as I am about going for this, and as relaxed as I was about applying to do it there has been a little voice going off like a gossiping fishwife in my head for about a week now.

Basically the problems arose when I realised that the pain in my left knee and lower back AND left hip were not going to simply bugger off after a brisk walk or three. They remained. I need to be at the very least, physically fit for this training and back problems twinned with knee ache are not good omens.

In September 2015 I had my left knee’s anterior crusciate ligament rebuilt in surgery that lasted about 4 hours. It hurt like fuck for about 2 weeks after and hurt like a bitch for a good few weeks after that. Finally, months later, the knee was deemed fully fit and I went back into training for Krav Maga. 

Since I’ve been in Australia & New Zealand I’ve been doing a lot of running to try and get my cardio levels up. Problem was that last week I went on a 7 mile run and my knee decided to throw a tantrum. 

For the last few days there’s been an acidic pain in it and research has led me to believe this is something torn in the knee itself, or alternatively aggravation of something that was already a bit wonky. 

I realised that the yoga I was doing was only partially helping as a position called Full Pigeon was putting too much stress on the knee joint. Also, by trying to assume the Lotus position I was also stretching it further than it wanted to go.

For a little while now I’ve had this type of monologue going off in my head.

“You should bail now. Think of all the money you’ll save. It’s going to cost you over £2000 just for the course and then there’s accommodation on top. Then you have to come back to finish part 2 in June which means another £700 for the flight. It’s better if you just do the P&G camp the days before and then change your flight to go home about the 10th. You can see your Dad in Greece earlier and you can catch up with friends in the UK. It’s nice but think of ALL THAT MONEY and what if you end up crippled? I mean how are you going to get home? You’ll have a month of being stranded before your flight on May 2nd. Best to leave this. You weren’t cut out to be a General Instructor. Best stick with the Kids Instructor Course you already have. After all, you could use that money for other things. Play it safe.”

This goes on most of the day and I analysed what it was telling me in its whiney, nasal tones and most of it is just scaremongering. My self preservation skills are kicking in and part of me is not the fearless adventurer who set off in August of last year with a backpack and a bandana. Part of me realises that I’m 24 hours MINIMUM from home, in a time zone of 12 hours difference and am very far from what I knew and felt comfortable with. While I have a safety net it is one that it takes a long time to set up and activate. 

Today I told my inner voice to go fuck itself, and I went to a medical centre. The robotic receptionist told me that it costs $50NZ just to see the doctor so instead I went to a little Chinese guy who does massages and paid him $30NZ to look at my back and knee. He put that tingley, electrode thingy on my back and kneaded the hell out of the sore bits. Afterwards he said that if the knee didn’t get better his recommendation was that I didn’t do the GIC, something I knew anyway. 

I went home, drank at least 2 litres of water (ever seen piss after a deep massage, not nice, best to flush it out) and am now feeling more positive about it all.

Bailing if I’m injured is something I knew I’d have to do and had prepared for it. Bailing in anticipation of it…that’s just paranoia & insecurity. 

Thanks little voice but I’m now switching you off.