Sunday, 31 May 2015

Jacek's Fantasy Counterpart

This is from the sequel to my magical fantasy novel THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN. Entitled THE SUNDER OF THE OCTAGON, it contains a character based on Polish KMG instructor Jacek Walczak.

The character is called Alaskadie, a badass of the first order. In this scene he is threatened by a gang of thieves in a tavern.

Enjoy.

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The room was dark and smoky. Very few people were there and the aura of the place was one of sleepiness and age. Snoring with his head on the table was Old Ben, drunk as usual after his lunch time session. At another table sat two men playing a dice game. Their faces were old and leathery, lacking expression. Occasionally they took swigs from the large metal tankards by their right hands.
There was little sound in the room and the figure in the far corner liked it that way. Peace and quiet. The chance to drink in solitude and reflect on the world. His blue eyes saw the room in clarity, his mind wandering to memories of his past. His training, his life, his childhood. Forever waiting for a signal he knew would never come. Not in his lifetime, or five generations before him. He knew that his life would be constant anticipation of a call to duty that wouldn’t come.
Alaskadie was very, very bored.
He glanced to the bar. The barman was looking at him quizzically. At the crystal gaze from the blue eyes the barman’s face momentarily flickered with fear and he looked away.
The barman Steren, had never seen the man before. A well built fellow of well over 6 feet. His hair was cut to the scalp. He wore a loose shirt, the buttons open to the navel due to the heat in the room. He could tell the man could handle himself. He considered himself able to judge people within seconds and his brief conversation with the stranger had made the hairs on his neck prickle. Muscles rippled in his arms as he walked, his shoulders broad and all he’d asked for was a bottle and to be left alone to enjoy it. Quiet yet there was something frightening about the man.
Oh well, he thought. At least the stranger meant no harm. Steren turned back to the bottles behind him and reached for one to brush off the dust. There was a loud crash and the door the tavern burst open.
“Hey, heeyyyy. Back in town again. The boys are here!”
Steren winced and composed himself before turning round. The Aaron brothers. They’d been gone for weeks and he hoped they’d decided never to come back.
He smiled as he turned round. “Morning lads, what can I get you? On the house of course.”
Unik Aaron was facing him. His two brothers either side and four of their friends behind. Unik was a scrawny man of about five and a half feet. His hair was shoulder length and lank, the stubble on his face partially hiding the pock marks and blemishes. Half his left ear was gone, the result of a fight he’d had several years ago. He grimaced at Steren and tutted loudly. “Now now, let’s not forget who you’re talking to fat man”, he chided as if talking to a child. His brothers simply glared at Sengen but the other four tittered loudly. “Of course the drinks are on the house. You don’t expect us to PAY do you?”
Steren swallowed hard, trying to control his shaking. “No offence meant boys, take a seat. I’ll bring a few bottles right over.”
Unik moved forward slowly, his brothers flanking him. He lunged and grabbed Steren by the lapels of his shirt, pulling him halfway over the bar. He whispered slowly, “You call me sir you fat idiot. You understand that?!!”
Steren was terrified but he nodded slowly then added, “Yes sir”. The Aaron brothers had clearly had a bad time, whatever they’d been doing while they were away. He glanced at Malik and Doren, the two younger brothers. They were taller than Unik, their wide brimmed hats battered by wind and rain. Their long leather coats faded. All were armed with swords and Steren prayed to his personal gods that they would simply get drunk and then leave.
Unik smirked and let him go. He turned to where the two men were playing dice. They were looking at him with wide eyed fear in silence. Unik smiled amiably and said, “You two chaps won’t mind buying us a drink will you? And that table is mine I think you’ll find.”
The four other mean surrounded them, hands resting on the hilts of their swords. The menace was palpable but no one spoke. Slowly the two men took leather purses from their belts and placed them on the table with a loud jingle. Unik chuckled and the two men stood up and moved to the door, the wall of men parting to let them out.
“Splendid,” Unik said grinning. Some of his teeth were missing and his smile was far from pleasant to see.
“What about him?” one of his men said, pointing to where Old Ben still sat snoring, head on the table.
Unik chuckled. “Old Ben’s a good lad. Just leave him. He was a friend of my father’s.”
They pulled chairs up to the table and Steren arrived with two large bottles of rum.
“That the best you can do old man?” Unik snapped angrily.
“No, no. Not at all,” Steren said quickly. Just getting you some more.”
“Good man,” Unik replied, not looking at him. He pulled the cork with his teeth from a bottle and took a big swig. Steren returned with two more bottles and put them on the table, then returning with a tray of small glasses.
“Well lads” Unik said looking round the dimly lit room, “Never thought I’d see this place again. Good to be back don’t you think?”
The others sniggered and one poured rum into the glasses and they raised them in a toast.
“To taking whatever you want!” Unik said, glancing at Steren who looked away.
The others shouted back, “WHATEVER WE WANT!” and swiftly downed the drinks.
Unik looked around the room, his eyes finally fully adjusting to the gloom. He saw the stranger in the corner. His brow creased. The man was simply staring at them, one hand holding a glass. As he looked at the stranger the other man made no attempt to look away or acknowledge him. Unik’s anger riled and he said loudly, “Well, well boys. Looks like we’ve got a new friend in our tavern. Why don’t we say hello.” He stood up ,his chair scraping back as he got to his feet.
He sauntered over to where the stranger sat. The man simply stared at him levelly as he approached. His brothers flanking him and the others one step behind.
“It’s polite to introduce yourself when your betters enter a room,” Unik said grinning.
The stranger simply looked at him, then the others, then slowly raised his glass to his lips and took a drink.
“Cat got your tongue?” Unik asked. His brothers smiled and the others giggled again. “I must say you’re a quiet one. Still I’ll forgive your lack of manners if you buy us all a drink. Can’t say fairer than that can I?”
The man’s expression didn’t change. He slowly finished his drink, put his glass on the table and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He looked past Unik to the bar, his expression one of complete disinterest. He took the bottle and filled his glass again, ignoring all of them.
Unik found his temper fraying. He got respect wherever he went and this man wasn’t even acknowledging him. His cheerful fa├žade slipped. Through gritted teeth he hissed, “I’m talking to you. Now you put down that glass and pay attention to me.” He looked at the stranger’s wrist and saw the bracelet, a many sided, multi coloured jewel encased in strands of silver over a chunky leather strap. “I think we can start by you handing over that bracelet if you want us to forgive your rudeness.” One of his brothers laughed loudly.
Finally the stranger spoke. His tone was weary and cracked, as if he didn't speak very often and his voice was rarely used.
“Everywhere I go, I meet people like you,” he said, staring at Unik again.
Unik felt his anger overflow. This man wasn't even afraid of him.
“Well, maybe you won’t go anywhere else my friend.”
Alaskadie eyes were impossible to read and a look of utter fury began to form, like black storm clouds on the horizon. He slowly took his hand from the table and a short, wicked looking blade was revealed that his palm had been covering.
He glared at Unik and said slowly. “If you can take this knife from the table, then you may take my bracelet.”
Unik grinned once more. “Oh, you want to play silly games do you?” He snarled and lunged for the dagger with one hand while his other lunged for his sword. At this range he could take the stranger’s head from his shoulders in one swipe. He grasped the hilt and began drawing the blade, felt it slide from the scabbard, halfway out, more.
Then…suddenly the stranger vanished.



Alaskadie appeared in the room. The room that had been used by his predecessors. The secret room, hidden deep below the palace and known only to a handful of people, the room where the protectors of a multitude of worlds could be called. For over a hundred years no Octagon sentinel had been summoned. Four priests of the Guardianship stood in a semi circle around the dish in the middle of the room. Their white robes were dazzling and perfect. Six guards stood in shining armour, hand picked for this honour that would doubtless not happen again in their lives or the lives of their children, or their children’s children. Their armour was gleaming as they stood nervously awaiting the arrival of a legend so secret that it was a fairy tale for generations. A protector of the Octagon.
With this one secured and the formalities out of the way, the summoning of the remaining sentinels could take place. The Prime Guardian calmed his nerves and despite the gravity of their situation, was immeasurably pleased to have the honour of being present at such a historic event. The three available would assemble here and be despatched together to return the crystals that Scious had so stupidly stolen. A simple task, but one that required a very complex set of protocols and magic to invoke. To see such a secret order of people in one room was something few men knew could ever happen, let alone dream of seeing.
As Alaskadie fully materialised Jakoban began to recite the lines, last spoken generations ago, to formally welcome the most exalted guest. “It is an honour to be present at your most…” his voice faltered as he realised something was terribly wrong.
Instead of a man materialising before him Jakoban could only see a chaotic weaving of clothing and flesh. It was as if someone was shaking the man inside the Shimmer dish like a dog with a rat. With a final flash of bright light the sentinel fully appeared.
The figure before them wasn’t a man but a pure blur of motion, impossible to focus upon. Before anyone could speak the blur moved incredibly fast from the stone dish and the nearest guard went flying into the wall, armour crashing loudly. The others didn’t have time to react before the blur moved to them. In the space of a few seconds all five were thrown like rag dolls into the walls of the room. Jakoban made to move away but the blur turned towards him and through a scattered staccato of speech, the terrifying vision swarmed on him, high shouts and yells emanating from the spinning smear of violence. Jakoban felt himself lifted and hurled backwards, landing heavily into the crystals set out so lovingly for the summoning of the sentinel’s fellow kind. The precious glass smashed as it collided with the wall and floor. The other priests scattered to the far end of the long room. The haze snarled in anger and made towards them but suddenly purple light erupted from the doorway and cocooned the hazy form. It continued to thrash violently but the cocoon morphed until it held the man in an oval prison. Alaskadie howled in frustration and the priests turned to stare in fright at the doorway. Jakoban raised his head and stared in frightened awe at the spectacle.
Sophie stood there, Mordalayn beside her. Her hand was raised, the purple light emanating from her outstretched fingertips. Alaskadie continued to thrash and blur inside his tiny cell, screaming with rage. Mordalayn stared at the spectacle, his brow furrowing in concern, for the first time in a long time, not knowing what to do.
Sophie spoke, her voice quiet but carrying in the narrow room. “Octagon sentinel, we are not your enemies. We summoned you because we need you. Please trust us.”
Alaskadie beat against the walls of light holding him. The oval cocoon stuttered and Sophie muttered some words and the spell was reinforced, pinning the furious, screeching man once more.
“Please, Alaskadie. We need you, we are not your enemies, please trust us.”
The blur began to slow and Alaskadie became visible to the entranced audience. As the blurring slowed more they could see the sweat lining every visible piece of skin on his body and soaking his clothes, his shirt stuck to his muscled chest and heavy arms. As his body stopped hazing he staggered and fell to his knees with a thud, breathing heavily, palms open to support him as he panted and gasped.
“I will release the holding spell now, we are not your enemies,” Sophie said once more.
Mordalayn’s sword was instantly in his hand. “My Lady!” he growled, moving to stand in front of her.
She turned to stare up at her bodyguard. “Takoba, he is not a threat. Look.” With that she lowered her hand and the purple light vanished. Alaskadie remained on his knees, his breath coming in ragged gasps. Slowly he raised his head and looked at them both, saying nothing.
“What, what is he?” Mordalayn asked in bewilderment, staring at the man.
“He is a rage dancer, he can harness the power of warping . A power known only to few and used very rarely. He is now exhausted beyond endurance. The guards are lucky they did not draw their swords. If they had he would have killed them.” She turned to Alaskadie. “You are my guest here but we have need of you Chosen One.”
Slowly Alaskadie stood up, almost falling as he staggered upright.
“Are you calm now?” Sophie asked gently, her face full of concern
After a long pause Alaskadie took a deep breath. “You are the Emerald ruler?” he asked still panting, his breath slowly returning to normal.
Sophie looked at the man then replied. “I am. Why were you warping when we summoned you?” she asked looking puzzled.
Alaskadie smiled. “In over 100 years, no sentinel has ever been named  for summoning. The fates decreed that you called me to you just as I was about to teach some cut throats a lesson.”
Sophie smiled too and Mordalayn resheathed his sword and stood back. The priests moved hesitantly forward and the guards sat up groaning and painfully stood. Alaskadie turned to Jakoban and winced when he saw the devastation he had wrought upon the crystals. The only way of summoning the most elite of warriors. “My apologies. My actions were not malicious. Can you still summon my brother and sister kind?”
Jakoban shook his head and with a wheeze, the bearded man replied. “The crystals were priceless. They can be replaced but not in time. I am afraid that you now are our only hope.”
Alaskadie shook his head sadly and reached down to help Jakoban up. His hands were soaking with sweat. Once the priest was on his feet Alaskadie turned to Sophie. “Emerald queen. Please tell me what you require of me. I, Alaskadie, guardian of the Octagon , am yours to command.”

“Come” she said and they left the room.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Mordalayn and the Bully

This is from my novel THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN. Aimed at readers aged 10+ it's a magical fantasy set in another world. While not specifically Kravvy, this chapter has anti-bullying themes and shows that sometimes the only thing that can stop a bully is an even bigger bully.

Recently I've wondered if the outcome would have been different if Maria had done Junior Krav. But then I'd have had to find another way to show just HOW much Mordalayn hates bullies.

Artwork by Paul Rose.

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As they began to bed down for the night Stone spied that Blautin hadn’t put his flute in his backpack. He made a snatch for it and Blautin span round. 
“Give it back,” the younger boy snapped angrily as the older child grinned and held on to the flute, dangling it out of reach of the frantic swipes of its owner. 
“Come and get it,” Stone said, jumping up and dancing around. The others barely took notice but then Blautin stood still and started to cry.  
Stone didn’t stop and instead started to laugh. “Hey, what are you? A little…” 
“ENOUGH!” 
Everyone jumped and looked at Mordalayn who was sitting opposite the two boys across the fire. There was a horrible silence and Stone stared at the warrior, embarrassed and scared. Blautin stopped crying and wiped his wet cheeks with the back of his sleeve. 
“Give it to him,” Mordalayn growled.
 “I was just messing…” Stone began but was interrupted.
 “You are a bully and bullies are despicable,” Mordalayn said with limitless menace. Everyone was looking at him. Challandra was scared, knowing the Caracalic’s reputation. Leppard glanced from Mordalayn to the boys and then back. Stone handed the flute back to Blautin and then sat down, his cheeks burning with shame. He hugged his knees and looked away. 
After a long pause Mordalayn spoke again. This time more softly.
 “Bullying is vile. Would you have liked it if he’d taken something you loved?” 
Stone shook his head mutely. Blautin sat down, putting his prized flute in its silk cloth and wrapping it carefully before putting it in his pack. He sniffed the last of his tears away and looked at Mordalayn, at the same time frightened and reassured. 
The Caracalic had everyone’s attention and he spoke calmly and quietly, the only other sound in the forest the crackling of the fire.
 “To make someone weaker than you a victim only for your own pleasure is beyond vileness.” He glanced around slowly at everyone as he said this. No one could meet his eyes, even Bue and Leppard lowered their gazes. 
“Recently I saw this.” 

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Mordalayn had been shadowing Jared for four days in Warwick. The spell he’d placed on Queen Sophie would prevent their enemies from finding her now. However, she was still vulnerable and as long as Jared was trackable they could, if they could get to him before she came out of her death sleep, use him to find her. Mordalayn had followed him and his parents this night to a house where a woman holding a baby had answered the door. The house was in an area that Mordalayn had not explored before. He looked around. The sun was going down and he glanced at his wrist band. The crystal was still a murky shade of green. He needed to eat. He’d smelled food about quarter of a mile east from here and decided to break off to find rations. Drawing his hood over his face and pulling his robes tight around him, he leapt from the roof he was on to the adjoining one and then shimmied down the drain pipe to a path between two houses. Behind them was some coarse ground and he vaulted the fence and ran along the edge of the copse of trees, keeping to the shadows. Shortly he came to a junction and turned right keeping his back to the walls. Leaping up again he climbed silently and fluidly to the roof of a detached house and ran soundlessly across the tiles to the peak. He knew the stores here would certainly have bins out the back for disposing of unwanted food that he could forage for. He was about to move along the roof when he looked down and something caught his eye.

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“Oooh sissy dolly,” Aiden snapped at Maria nastily.
 Maria was scared. She’d gone to the shops to buy some milk for her mother and Aiden was there. She didn’t like Aiden. He was older, bigger and bullied her and the other small kids at every chance he got. The shops were only round the corner, she could see the front garden of her house from here. She hoped someone would help her but there was no one around.
 Aiden grinned at her, his smile not even remotely reassuring and held out his hand. 
“Give it to me and let me look at it.”
 Maria gripped the doll even tighter and shook her head. She knew that if she gave it to him, even for a second, she’d never see it again or he’d break it. 
Aiden moved forward, backing her up against the wall and looked both ways in case any adults were around or that nosey Community Support Officer who occasionally wandered round the estate.
 “Let me hold it for a second and I’ll let you have it back,” he said. 
Maria was on the verge of tears and didn’t want Aiden to see her crying. “Let me go Aiden,” she pleaded. “My mummy will be wondering where I am.”
 “Best give me the doll then you stupid cow,” he said trying to snatch it from her. 
Maria bolted and ran and Aiden followed her laughing. “Go on run little cow!” he whooped, easily catching her up in about three steps. 
Maria screeched as Aiden tripped her up, pushing her down on the paved slabs outside the shops. She skidded and fell, the milk carton going flying and bursting open.
 Aiden reached down and grabbed her doll in his grubby hands. She screamed as he tore it free from her grip and shook it in front of her triumphantly. 
“See what happens when you don’t do what you’re told?!!” he shouted at her.
 Maria had skimmed her knees as she fell and she started to cry. Aiden grinned and grabbed the head of her doll and pulled hard.
 “No!” Maria screamed at him as the head came free with a pop. Aiden laughed and dropped it on the floor and put his filthy trainer on it, stamping up and down on the plastic body and twisting his foot. 
Maria bawled loudly, looking on helplessly as Aiden ruined her toy. The doll was a present from her nana, who had died last year, and it was her favourite. Giving the doll one last twist with his foot Aiden turned around and walked off laughing.
 Staggering to her feet Maria looked around and ran wailing into her home, shouting for her mother.
 Aiden walked down the alley between Maria’s house and the precinct of shops. Whistling a happy tune with his hands in his tracksuit bottoms he failed to notice the cold, furious eyes that watched him silently from a rooftop across the square.

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When Aiden got home his mother was in front of the huge plasma screen TV in their lounge. She turned as he came in, her half smoked cigarette clutched in her fingers. “Get yourself some dinner, there’s microwave corned beef hash in the freezer.”
 “Whatever!” Aiden said disinterestedly and slunk off upstairs, leaving his mother in a cloud of smoke watching television.
 He went up to his room and opened the door with the sign, “Aiden’s Den. Keep Out or be Dead,” on it with a black skull and crossbones. 
He switched on the TV in his room and turned on his games console. He fell back onto his bed and picked up the control pad while a war game started to load. As the game began he became engrossed in the action, not noticing the squeak on the stairs that meant someone was coming up. 
As his door opened he hit “pause” on the pad and cursed loudly. “Mum! I told you to knock when you….” then looked up and his voice trailed off abruptly.  
Mordalayn stood glaring at him in the doorway. His rage at what he’d seen the boy do to the little girl was barely controlled as he silently closed the door. 
Aiden stammered. “What, wh..who are YOU?” 
Mordalayn moved forward and stood towering over him silent and terrifying, his hood thrown back to reveal his face. Aiden gulped, the game controller forgotten in his hands, his eyes flicking over the huge sword on the stranger’s back and the figure’s cat face, whiskers bristling angrily. Glancing around the room Mordalayn saw the chaos of a young boy’s bedroom with old sweet wrappers and magazines on the floor amongst old clothes. He looked around slowly and his eyes finally rested on Aiden.
 “The necklace you’re wearing. Give it to me,” he said flatly.
 Aiden’s hand went up to the chunky, gold necklace he wore. It was a present from his father for his tenth birthday. “What? No way. Get lost!” 
He scrambled to his feet and made for the door but Mordalayn grabbed him by the collar and hauled him back, clamping his gloved hand over Aiden’s mouth to stifle the boy’s yell of fear. He tugged hard at the necklace which snapped free with a jerk, two of the links clattering to the floor and Aiden yelped. 
Casually placing the chain into a pocket of his robe Mordalayn tossed Aiden back against a pile of dirty clothes in the corner of the room. As he reached for the door handle Aiden found his voice.
 “Don’t take that. Please! My dad gave me that.” He started to cry. 
Mordalayn paused for a second then turned. He glared at Aiden and his green eyes narrowed. “You laughed at that little girl’s tears today,” he said slowly. “Remember how this feels.” Then he opened the door and closed it behind him. He lithely crept down the stairs and walked past the lounge doorway, Aiden’s mother was still engrossed in her TV show and never noticed as Mordalayn made for the open kitchen door and vanished into the back garden.

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Maria’s mother Sylvia kissed her forehead as she slept, heartbroken about what had happened. She’d disinfected Maria’s grazed knees and cuddled her while she cried herself to sleep. “That boy Aiden is utterly vile” she thought, but the police either couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything about his behaviour. Each time they either failed to return her calls or simply sent that useless community support officer round to deal with it. The officer had tried to visit Aiden’s home to discuss the matter with his mother but she had simply screamed at her to go away. The only advice the police were willing to give now was “tell Maria to keep away from him.” 
She stroked Maria’s hair and pulled a stray lock away from her face, tucking it behind her ear. Sighing, she stood and pulled the door half closed, the landing light casting a subdued beam into the room. Taking one last look at her sleeping daughter she went downstairs into the kitchen. 
Making for the rubbish bin Sylvia pulled the white bin liner free and checking there were no holes in the bag she tied the yellow string tightly at the top and opened the kitchen door. She walked the ten or so yards to the large wheelie bins on her driveway and opening the nearest one she tossed the bag inside. Before she could close it a thick voice spoke quietly. “Don’t be frightened but please don’t turn around.”
 Sylvia jumped with fear. “What do you want?” she stammered. “I haven’t got any money on me.” 
“I’m not here to hurt you,” the voice replied. “I just want to give you something.” Sylvia twitched her head but there was only a shadow behind her, the low light on the driveway was not enough to see by. She closed the dustbin lid and rested her hands on it. After a pause the voice continued. 
“The boy who hurt your daughter today will never do that again. He is sorry and he wants you to have this to make up for his actions.”  
Sylvia glanced to her right as a paper bag was placed on the lid of the wheelie bin next to her. The gloved hand withdrew and after a long silence she slowly turned round. The driveway was empty. Breathing out heavily she placed one hand on the wall to steady herself. Then she delicately picked up the bag and walked into the kitchen to see what was inside.

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Next morning Maria came downstairs for breakfast bleary eyed and grumpy. She was still upset and was surprised to see her mother making pancakes at the cooker, singing softly to herself. As Maria came in she smiled broadly.
“Hello my little angel” Sylvia said, wiping her hands on a tea towel, hugging Maria then kissing her cheek.  
“What’s the special occasion mummy?” Maria asked, looking confused and taking her seat at the breakfast table. They only usually had pancakes on special days like Shrove Tuesday or sometimes on a Sunday.  
“Well my sweet, today is a special day because your grandmother has bought you a new doll.” 
Maria thought about this and even though she was only 7 she wasn’t stupid. “Mummy, how can nana buy me a doll?”
 Sylvia smiled again, barely able to contain herself. “Look in the bag darling,” she said, nodding to the white paper packet on the table. 
Creasing her face in confusion Maria leaned over the table and took hold of the packet. She placed it in her lap and opened it. Reaching inside she pulled out the contents and gasped.
 Inside was her doll, but different. It had golden, curly hair down to its waist. which shone in the morning light from the window.
 “Oh mummy, it’s beautiful,” she exclaimed, holding it up and smiling. Sylvia put her arms around Maria and laughed. “Yes my dear, it’s lovely,” She saw her daughter’s face light up with joy and wondered who had been the one who’d put things right.

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“So, remember when you tease or bully someone else you cause them pain that can usually not be taken back.” 
Stone, who’d taken the flute, bowed his head in shame and after another long silence Leppard said, “I think we all need to try and get some sleep now. We have an early start in the morning.” 

The boys began silently arranging their packs as pillows. No one spoke and no one would look directly at Mordalayn in case they met his steel gaze.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Call of Duty: Ghost Fighter



Via Adrenaline's Wayne Hubball I found out about a different type of boxing discipline, Ghost Fighter. In a nutshell it is about avoiding getting hit, while being able to hit.

The blurb on the advertising states "Ghost Fighter Central (developed by Phil Norman)- Offers the latest in stealth fighting, a stand up fighting system which enables you to strike with minimal return from your opponent. This unorthodox system teaches you dynamic striking angles whilst utilising evasive movement, leaving the person in front of you hitting thin air and feeling like they are fighting a GHOST!"

Hmmm....

My cynicism was whispering in my ear. This sounded a lot like the Gun Kata from the Christian Bale movie "Equilibrium" (mathematically predicting where an opponent will fire at in a gun fight so you can move just before they shoot). I checked the Ghost Fighter website and their club T-shirts have the slogan "Now you see me...." on the front. In a list of reasons to try Ghost Fighter was the paragraph:

"No more toe to toe. Gone are the days of using our heads as conkers taking hit after hit. The elusive movement of Ghost massively minimises hits".

Double hmmm....

But as I have some tiresome psychological stuff that prevents me from fully enjoying the sparring or fighting side of Krav Maga I thought I'd give it a look. I spoke to a guy named Ade on the phone. He's the only certified Ghost instructor in the Birmingham area and I was welcome to attend for a free lesson. I made my way over to Acocks Green in Birmingham the following Monday and met him and his club members at a small gym. Ade is also a Krav Maga instructor of G2 level and splits his time between the two worlds. I chatted to a couple of guys who were warming up. They told me that the principles of Ghost have boosted their confidence in Krav, and the skills it teaches have given them an edge they didn't have before when fighting.

Talking to Ade he told me there are 4 rules in Ghost.

1). Don't enter No Man's Land.
2). Get off the track.
3). Continuous motion.
4). Don't get hit.

As we formed up in a line we did the Ghost version of Krav's "kida!" which was left foot forward, punch left fist into right palm and shout "respect!" Then we did some warming up to get a sweat on before splitting off into pairs. Ade got us to work on some striking, pointing out that in Ghost there is no sparring until you are advanced in the discipline, mainly as the whole point of Ghost is to avoid getting punched.

He then had one of each pair close their eyes and the partner stand within their reach. The "blind" one had to then throw punches while the other attempted to block. After we'd all had a go Ade explained that if you get too close to someone even a blind man will be able to land at least one punch on you. Therefore it's better to stay out of reach and not enter No Man's Land.

After some more workouts on striking we then moved to a specific technique designed to thwart someone attempting to use jabs. It took me and some of the others a while to crack this but I could see and feel the difference afterwards. The idea is that as someone jabs you, you move your head back, you twist your upper body and "load" your left arm. You then switch stance by swapping your feet and duck around the jabbing fist, stepping to the left of your opponent. You are then in a blind spot and can deliver a hook punch to their face before stepping behind them to come full circle. I really liked this technique and with a lot of practice I could see that it would be useful.

I chatted to Ade afterwards and he broke down what the 4 principles are about.

"Don't enter No Man's Land. Which means don't enter your head into anywhere where you can get hit. Get off the track means if you stay on the track with someone there's going to be a collision, someone's going to get hurt. Continuous motion means that a stationary target is a lot easier to hit than a moving target. And the fourth principle... if you forget about all of that just don't get hit."

From what I could see the basic benefits of Ghost Fighter to me would be that I would be able to approach my reluctance to sparring in a "David and Goliath" mentality as opposed to trying to emulate stronger, more experienced fighters. By that I mean that there are ways to solve problems that require lateral solutions and not direct confrontation. There are several guys in my Krav Maga club who are fast, strong and skilled when sparring. Meeting them head on is a mixed bag at the best of times. Working on my cardio from six weeks before my P5 grading helped me to sustain energy during the milling we had at the end (7 rounds of 2 minutes, full on. Then 10 rounds of 4 against 1. Two as the defender, eight as an attacker). By being fit enough to go the course I was able to keep slugging away and ended up with a score of 8 out of 10 for my sparring, despite failing the grading itself. One thing I noticed during this grading was some guys simply locking up tight by keeping their faces protected but not hitting back in the later rounds. One bloke told me afterwards that he was "blowing out my arse" by about round 5 and felt unable to fight so just gritted his teeth and hung in till the end.

By having suitable cardio fitness levels plus an ability to be "sneaky" and work around other people's frontal strength I believe I would be able to stand my ground much better. The best example would be the tale of a double decker bus that came to a low bridge and was 6 inches too tall to go under it. Various methods were discussed as to how they could get the bus through. Turning it around or dismantling the bridge plus many other suggestions. After a while someone simply said "Why not let the tyres down and drive slowly under then inflate the tyres again?" I don't feel I will ever be able to face some fighters that I know head on and win. However, by adapting my fitness levels to have better endurance plus learning how to get on their flanks, I would feel a lot more confident about my future.

Overall the Ghost Fighter discipline is like an expansion pack on the Playstation or X-Box franchise "Call of Duty." You can buy extra levels featuring new battles with soldiers or even zombies. You can buy maps and equipment and cheat codes but none of them will mean anything unless you have a copy of the main game. Ghost will be useful to me as a bolt-on for my main Krav training.

I'll definitely be back.


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Chav Maga



In the 4-ish years I've been doing Krav Maga, I've only had to use it twice in "real life". Once was this incident while I was on holiday last summer in Crete. Very minor, no harm done and being drunk I fumbled what I intended to do but it worked anyway.

Today it happened again and like before, it wasn't a heroic battle between good and evil with me standing howling over the twitching corpse of my vanquished foe. It was solved through the lower scales of conflict resolution that we are taught in Krav training.

I was at work (I deliver stuff) and met a particularly unpleasant woman who refused to sign for a parcel for her neighbour and got lippy about various trivial stuff before marching back indoors with the words "I'm not arguing with you about it."

As I finished what I was doing I pulled the communal door to the apartments shut and it closed with a loud bang. Not my intention, but shit happens.

As I got to the street there was an elderly couple standing near my van and the woman asked if I'd mind posting a letter for her.

"Well we don't normally but no problem my dear, I don't mind doing...."

"DO YOU MIND NOT SLAMMING THE FRONT DOOR LIKE THAT?!! THE BABY'S ASLEEP!"

I turn to find the gobby woman standing fuming in the driveway leading to her flat. The old couple look embarrassed and I feel my temper fraying.

"I'm not talking to you, go away." I turn my back on her and resume my chat with the old couple.

"DON'T SLAM MY FUCKING DOOR LIKE THAT, I'M REPORTING YOU TO YOUR COMPANY!!"

She slams the communal gate harder than I shut the front door, presumably determined to make certain her baby stays awake. I lose my rag, and yell after her:

"Piss off you fucking silly cow!!!"

As I turn back to the old couple who are now silent with confusion and embarrassment, the gate creaks open again and I'm confronted with the sight of her boyfriend. He has a baseball cap on, baggy shorts, and a large, faded tattoo on his neck. He's also got his right hand stuck to the depth of his wrist...down the front of his shorts.

"What'd you say?" he mumbles.

I take my earphones from around my neck and put them in my pocket and sigh "You ARE joking me?!"

"What'd you say? The baby's sleeping, don't slam the fucking door like that!!"

His atrocious missus then starts the predictable mantra.

"Leave it babe, babe...leave it...come inside babe!"

"You mind not holding your dick when you're talking to me?!"

He moves closer, still with his hand firmly gripping his knob and I take one step back with my right foot and put my arms up in the best 'Geoff Thompson' stance, left arm forward, right arm half extended, palms up.



"Back off, just stay away."

"Babe, come in. Leave it babe!"

"What you gonna do?!" he smirks, getting closer, when he makes contact with my left hand I shove him away.

"FUCK OFF!!!"

He backs off but continues making threats as he moves away towards the gate. "What you gonna do?"

"Seriously mate, just get lost. What YOU gonna do anyway? Wipe the hand you've had your cock in on me?"

He glares at me from the gate with his hand still cuddling his genitals and then mumbles something more about what I think I'm going to do then disappears.

I turn back to the old couple, who have their mouths open silently.


"Sorry about that ladies and gentlemen. More than happy to post your letter for you my love, you have a good day."


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Patience




I found out in 2002 that my left knee was bereft of its anterior crusciate ligament. I was doing kickboxing and fighting with the instructor of the club. I tried to pivot on the left leg and instead of using the ball of my foot I kept it flat, meaning a noise like a lettuce being hacked with a steak knife reverberated through my body. I limped off to the side and had a knee the size of a grapefruit for about a week.

In 2004 I went for an operation at a hospital in London and the consultant surgeon (a bloke I'd only seen at a distance up to that point) turned up in his gold watch and Saville Row suit and manipulated my leg. After asking that old chestnut "Does this hurt?" a few times, he then pronounced that my leg was perfectly healthy, I didn't need surgery and to go home.

Happily I skipped home, smiling like a spoiled child on Xmas morning, as I naively believed the ACL had somehow grown back of its own accord.

It turned out that because I was doing a shit load of cycling in London, the knee had compensated for the missing ligament by growing lots of muscle and the leg was stable enough to not warrant the operation

Basically, that prick of a doctor was saving a a few quid.



Years later and the issue turned up to haunt me. I was rejected without interview for both the Postal & Courier Regiment of the Logistics Corp of the British Army and the RAF Reserves for this. As soon as my medical history was seen, they didn't want to know. The TA major in charge of recruitment spoke to me at length on the phone and said "Once you're in, you can get as injured as you want... but if they let you in with an existing injury you might sue them...and they don't want that."

I can't go jogging because the next day the knee is sore and swollen. A physio I go to occasionally said not to run but cycle instead and compared my knee to tectonic plates below San Franciso. They grind together and occasionally that causes issues on the surface.

In Krav Maga the knee has proved to be a nuisance. If I grade then it's swollen like a bastard but I have learned to adapt by taking painkillers before and after (including anti inflammatory pills like Diclofenac) and also wearing not one but TWO knee braces (a medical one and a Poundland blue/black thingy). This has meant the knee is manageable in the short term BUT my flexibility is fucking awful in my lower body and kicks from my left leg can be like Bambi trying to stand up, especially if I'm tired. I can't kneel on my heels as it is beyond painful.

It's basically kind of sucky.

Recently I went to a doctor who referred me to hospital, who sent me for an MRI scan who then called me in to see a nurse in the Fracture Clinic. She said the knee can be repaired, the operation waiting time is a maximum of 15 weeks and I will be discharged the same day. The knee will then be healthy and I can go jogging, do yoga like a boss and have the flexibility I've missed for 13 years.

However there's a downside.

When I get this done I will be out of training of ANY variety, be it Krav Maga, cardio or yoga...from between 6 to 12 months. The nurse specifically said the timeline would be:

2 weeks complete rest. 6 weeks no driving. 6 to 12 months no combat or training.

I failed P5 in March of this year and the next grading is in October. I've recently read about a discipline called Ghost Fighter, which maximises ability to hit, while minimising the chance of being hit back. That's right up my alley and I will attend my "taster" class next Monday to see if I like it. I've kept my cardio up to speed to deal with the abject misery that is the sparring of a P5 grading (last time we did 7 rounds of 2 minutes, followed by 10 rounds of 4 against 1) and have Wayne Hubball's Adrenaline coming up on June 6th.



Problem is that the hospital have offered me surgery and will only postpone for 6 months. That means I can go on my summer holiday from June to July for 4 weeks but I will have to then ask to go back on the waiting list...or lose my place completely. The operation will happen by September so if I have it I will miss my P5 resit.

Thing is... there are a multitude of factors FOR doing this and a lot less for not. If I get my knee repaired I will (later) be stronger, fitter and have more endurance. My kicking from the left leg will be more powerful and I will be able to fight without worrying if my knee will go "click" at the wrong moment. I will have to wait until at least March 2016 for my P5 exam, remembering that I passed my P4 in March 2014.

Ultimately it's a question of priorities. I know that I need to be fully fit for a grading and for training and by being patient I can come back and aspire to G level and beyond. The brief satisfaction of getting my five bar patch with repairs pending, will not happen.


There's a time to be patient.