My father retired out to Crete in about 1997 and for the last few years I have paid him a visit in the summers, having a wonderful yet usually booze-fuelled time in the sun kissed, beach paradise that is Plakias.
Last year I thought about training with a Greek Krav club while on holiday but the nearest one was on the mainland in
This year I was more fortunate as Dimitris Kontekakis recently converted from Pure Krav Maga to KMG in November 2014. His club has about 50 members, including a small kickboxing club and a junior Krav Maga club of children. When I contacted him he was more than happy at my suggestion that I pay him and a visit to train with them.
Plakias is fairly isolated and about 60km from Chania so I planned out getting there the day before and also laid off the beer in preparation for Kravving abroad. It took two buses to get to the city and when I rolled in, the hotel was a pleasant walk from the coach station and I checked in before phoning Dimitris to touch base. He offered to pick me up on his motorbike about and advised me to chill out with a coffee and get something to eat. When he arrived to pick me up I think it's the first time I've had an in depth conversation about Krav Maga, while riding through the streets of a city on the back of a motorbike.
We got to the club to see some guys already there, stretching and warming up. The heat was strong, which I assumed was the reason for the late start time, and even with two ceiling fans, the heat was something I knew I'd need to try and manage. After being introduced to everyone I got changed and we lined up for the initial Kida. We did some group warming up and more of the ever necessary stretching and then Dimitris formally introduced me to everyone and said that out of respect for "our guest" the lesson would be conducted in English, with him speaking in Greek after for the students who didn't understand it. This was decent of him as I'd imagined he would translate for me, not the other way round. Dimitris then said we would be working on blocking kicks, covering most types of both kick and defence and said he would appreciate my feedback on anything I felt like adding to the mix.
We worked as both attackers and defenders and despite going "light" during the drills (I had left my shin guards at home) me and my partner banged bones a couple of times and were hopping about, silently cursing.
I was finding the heat in the room oppressive but as we hadn't been told to take a water break, and no one else had asked to, I was determined not to be the first to ask. After about 30 minutes Dimitris told everyone to get a drink and I chugged about half a litre. I then jokingly mentioned not wanting to "wimp out" and, in the spirit of true Krav Maga common sense, he told me that I should have done as I wasn't used to training in this heat.
We moved on to blocking stomp kicks with arms and hands, and he used my wonky finger (from incorrectly blocking a kick in training with an open hand last October), to warn the others of the necessity of correct technique.
We switched to striking focus mitts, with a group of 6 in the middle and another half dozen guys holding the pads in a circle. You had to go full out on the pads with the guy holding them dictating what strikes were required by changing positions.
After this we had a pressure drill doing choke hold releases...but with the added twist of it being in the dark with the lights off. I hadn't tried this before and it got the adrenalin flowing to be fighting with shadows while INXS's "Suicide Blonde" was playing loudly over the gym's stereo to further up the mood factor.
Finally we moved on to some bag work to wind down, and then lined up for the final Kida. I was soaking wet with sweat and so tired that I was rummaging in my backpack for the Krav Maga Midlands T-shirt I'd brought as a gift, that it took 2 minutes before I realised it was someone else's bag. Finally locating it I handed it to Dimitris who grinned and said "I have one for you, but you beat me to it."
He then invited me back in 2 weeks to train again and have a meal with him and the club.
So...I get to do this again in a fortnight.
Watch this space.