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.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

No Dessert


I recently got accepted on to the General Instructors Course for Krav Maga Global.

This one is running in Australia with part 1 in the Gold Coast and part 2 in Melbourne.

After many years of doing Krav (7 to be precise) I have already attained both P5 and done the Kids Instructor Course but felt it was time to take things to the next level.

I trained with SGS Krav Maga in Sydney from November to January and the club’s owner Steven Kratsas agreed to endorse my application. Later on, I met the head of KMG Australia & New Zealand, Adam White who said it was a ‘go’.

Super excited doesn’t describe how I’ve felt since my application was accepted. 

The chance to attain not only G1 but to actually be a qualified instructor…something that as recently as a year ago I would have considered beyond my capabilities. 

To wear the “INSTRUCTOR” T-shirt and fulfill my dream of being able to teach Krav Maga to children as more than an Assistant KIC Instructor (the official title given to those who hold KIC without GIC).

To feel proud at what I’d achieved and know that I had reached a pinnacle that I had once considered to be as remote as the summit of Mount Everest.

So…I booked my flights and accommodation around part 1. Booked my flights but not the accommodation (yet, anyway) around part 2 and started revising the curriculums for P1 to P5 and also making sure I stay fit (I’m currently backpacking so am not attending Krav regularly and have to be creative in my fitness regime). I’ve also started making notes on what I eat each day and how much food I shove down my cake hole.

I’ve heard GIC described in many way. An instructor I know in the UK said it was like “university meets a car accident” and one said that “if you get up on day 3 then you know you intend to continue”.

All in all I am ready yet nervous for the upcoming 12 days of GIC part 1.

But…

Just before the GIC starts there is a P & G camp running in Gold Coast. Run by Rune Lind and Adam White this is a 3 day training camp where people from P0 to G4 can be immersed in Krav Maga. 

I consulted Adam White as to whether it was OK to do this as well and he said it was up to me.

So, I thought about it and procrastinated and then booked the course. As a P5 I’m eligible for the G camp and have never trained at G level before. 

Now….

The online booking form had various bits to fill out such as whether you wanted accommodation (nope) or what size T-shirt you required (M). The big question for me though was “do you want to grade?”

Having taken P5 only 4 months previously to the G camp I am ineligible to actually test for G1 but I mulled over the idea of doing it as a “dummy run” in preparation for GIC. After all, the extra tuition would be great and it would be superb to get an assessment of my abilities up to that point.

Then I thought about it a little more objectively.

After 2.5 days of training at a G camp (with the other half of day 3 for the grading) my body will be tired and I will have worked hard. My P5 grading was incredibly hard work and I’ve no doubt that G1 will be even tougher.

I’ll get invaluable G level tuition from 31st March to 2nd April and then on the 3rd, will jump into even more immersive training. I have no desire to prove that I’m “hard” or that I’m a Terminator-esque warrior of the mats in order to make it through everything on offer. 

End of the day, Krav Maga is about being level headed and being able to walk in peace, not limp home in pieces.

I want to be tired yet happy to face a new day when we wrap up G camp. I don’t want to risk getting injured or knacker myself out in a grading that is superfluous to what I need right now. As awesome as it would be to do a ‘dry run’ and be told that, had it been a real test, I would have passed, it is a toy that right now I don’t need to play with and can be left in the box.

I want to start GIC fit and ready, not fighting sleep and yearning for coffee.

The G camp is the main course, the grading is the dessert.

As much as I love dessert, this time I think I’ll skip it and have an early night.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

NZ Self Defence Academy, Wellington, New Zealand

Nomadic Kravver

New Zealand Self Defence Academy
Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday 9th February 2017



When I got to New Zealand there was only one Krav club in the whole country that was affiliated to the organisation I belong to, Krav Maga Global. However, while training with Aaron Moore he told me that a new club in Wellington had switched allegiance from IKMF to KMG that very week, called the New Zealand Self Defence Academy.

I got the number of the club’s owner, Andre Maritz and gave him a bell once I flew to Wellington a few days later. He said he was more than happy for me to train with his club and gave me the address for the Thursday session, in Johnsonville.

Looking at the timetable on the club’s website, it showed a Junior Krav class at 4.45 so I offered to help out, what with having qualified as a Kids Instructor under Zeev Cohen in Israel last summer. Andre replied that was great and if I wanted to I could actually teach the class.

Oh yes!

I got there about 4pm and we chatted at the club premises. Andre has his own dojo, with focus mitts and strike shields stacked up in one corner. There were also two large punch bags that needed hanging up and Andre said the mats to cover the floor were on the way. The place is relatively new and the KMG logos and posters were on the most prominent windows for passersby to see.

At 4.45 two Chinese lads turned up. Brothers at High school, they had been doing Krav for a month or two and I got them doing some basic striking work and moving about. Both needed a little bit of confidence on their punching (a mistake most of us made when we started is hitting with the wrist relaxed, something that can cause painful and serious problems in a real situation). We then worked in some knee strikes and then I put in my own personal favourite, the Adrenaline training.



Adrenaline was something I encountered in 2014 at the Eyal Yanilov world tour. Me and 9 others were selected by Eyal to fight what are known as the Bullet Men. I had never felt so scared in a very long time but the whole experience was a lot of fun and over the next year or two I did 3 separate courses connected to Adrenalin, organised by Wayne Hubball and KMG UK head, Jon Bullock.



The preliminary stage before the fighting starts is a ‘verbal only’ confrontation where the Bullet Men (also known as Predators) will walk up to you and be aggressive but without resorting to violence. This is known as “woofing” because it’s similar to a dog asserting authority. In the seminars I did, they also wear sunglasses so you can’t see their eyes and will say some of THE most offensive and insulting things in order to try and elicit a fearful or aggressive response. Your task is to remain calm, stand still without adjusting your feet to a fighting stance, and hold your palms up. At the point where you feel the situation is no longer comfortable (as the Predators will sometimes be merely polite, e.g. “You got the time mate?” as they know you are expecting them to be aggressive from the start), you are to shout “BACK AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!” and refuse to engage in conversation. You do not answer their questions or respond to their provocation and you must not gesture with your hands (as this can be insulting and/ or aggressive…which is what they want). If you tick the boxes then the Predators will back off.

Having done this myself I know it’s nerve wracking and quite frankly feels horrible until you have done it a few times. As Jon Bullock pointed out on Adrenaline 2, it is not fear of being beaten up, it’s fear of looking foolish that is the main reason your heart rate spikes.

With children the scenarios are obviously turned down considerably and the main ‘aggression’ comes from shouting, not from the language itself. I pointed out to the two lads that if, at any time they felt uncomfortable and did not wish to continue, then they should raise one arm above their head and say “STOP!”

Both lads handled it really well, despite both saying they felt scared at first.



Afterwards Andre asked if I’d mind taking the next two classes as well, as he liked how I’d taught the Juniors and wanted to try “new thing” from somebody outside New Zealand. I was flattered to be asked and agreed straight away.

As the Beginners class began arriving I was introduced to a few people including Jeremy, a big guy who works as a bouncer in bars and clubs. The class had three women also and once Andre introduced me I got them doing the warm up my instructor Bartosz at Krav Maga Midlands UK had us doing. After about 15 minutes of that we then moved into some basic punching and striking with the elbow. This got everyone working really well and we then moved into a striking drill where, in groups of three, one person had to repeatedly punch a strike shield held by one of their partners, while the third person tried to “bracket” them in. This was fun as it got everyone being aware of what was around them and the golden importance of scanning.



We then had a quick chat about situational awareness where I pointed out that one of my biggest hang ups in a public place is people texting on their phones while walking. I cited an example of when I’d seen a little kid walk up and snatch a woman’s phone in London when she was doing exactly that.

We then moved on to Adrenaline with this version being slightly more tense than the one I did with the children before. I pointed out that once again, they could simply raise their arm and say “stop” if they didn’t wish to continue.



Nearly everyone made the mistakes that nearly all of us make when trying this for the first time and let me get way too close, didn’t use a loud voice and engaged in conversation in response to my aggressive questions (e.g. “OR WHAT?!”). After everyone had been through once, one of the women asked what they should do if me or a real assailant keeps asking questions. I replied that you do not ever engage in conversation and simply keep repeating “BACK AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!” I also pointed out that this tactic is not infallible but bullies are usually looking for someone to prey on and being confidently aggressive in response will give you a better chance of them backing away.

One lady then had another go, doing it correctly and I backed away as per the scenario’s check list of behaviour. 


video


Comments I got later were that they’d enjoyed it as it gave a fresh perspective of how to deal with confrontation and fitted into Krav’s methodology of avoiding confrontation if possible.

The Advanced class then arrived, with two guys from the Beginners staying on for it. One lad was a P2 with IKMF, the patch on his training trousers was something I hadn’t seen before and is quite different to KMG’s.



We went through the same 15 minute warm up as the Beginners and then moved into striking before concentrating on choke releases. Side, front, and back were used and I then got them to try on each other with their eyes closed. After that we moved to one person stood in the middle with their eyes closed and the others would walk up and try one of the three chokes on them. 

Finally we got into a pressure drill of a choker, a stick man and a pad man, attacking one person for a minute, who had to keep moving. I stressed the importance of not going in between the assailants and to try and keep outside of them or keep them ‘in a line’ as per the training I was given in the UK.



We then formed up for the final Kida and Andre thanked me for my time. 

This was an awesome evening and I am very grateful to Andre for allowing me this opportunity. Next day he took me on a mini-tour of Wellington to stay thanks, even buying us both fish and chips on the sea front for lunch. A true gentleman.


An awesome experience with a great club.



New Zealand Self Defence Academy can be reached via Andre Maritz and can be reached at:

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

KMG Auckland, New Zealand

Nomadic Kravver
KMG Auckland

Wednesday 1st &
Saturday 4th February 2017



After a glorious 3 months in Australia I decided to take in the delights of New Zealand and flew over to Auckland a few days before my Ozzy visa expired. 

I was happy to find out that the only Krav Maga club affiliated to KMG in the whole of Kiwi land was in Auckland**. Run by E1 instructor Aaron Moore it had several branches that were dotted around the city and I dropped Aaron an email after I landed, asking if I could come and train with them on the Saturday class as I wasn’t intending to be around long.

Turns out that the weekends of January 22nd and February 3rd are both three day holidays, meaning that there was no Saturday class on either week.

Boo! Hiss!

However, my Couchsurfing host offered to let me stay on a few extra days which meant I could attend the advanced class on Wednesday.

Hooray! Hooray!



KMG Auckland started just a few months ago in September 2016. In that short time it has gained around many members, including some higher P grades, a few of which had graded with IKMF before transferring over. 

When I got to the YMCA in Grays Avenue in the city centre, the beginners’ group was still going at it. I chatted with a few guys waiting outside in the foyer, including a lad called Craig who had emigrated to NZ with his wife and while new to Krav had done martial arts for much of his life. 

At around 7pm Aaron brought us in and we had an 18 minute warm-up (should have been 20 apparently but Aaron said he’d “let us off this time”).

After that we were doing some work that I hadn’t seen before including everyone grabbing a shield and running in a circle, before Aaron yelled “NOW!” and we then had to run across the floor, pile driving everyone in our way. Lots of fun provided you remember to keep your mouth closed for fear of losing lips, teeth or even your tongue. 

We then then had to do some forward rolls before coming up into a fighting stance. Not a big deal if you’ve trained for a while BUT I had never done this on a hard floor before. I long ago learned that “biting the bullet” and just doing something for fear of looking like a pansy is the wrong thing to do (a friend of mine did hard floor rolls on his P2 grading, and like me had never done them before, didn’t flag it up to the examiner and to this day has shoulder issues as a result). However I was confident it would be OK and after a couple of attempts it proved to be painless. Relief blossomed that I’d finally nailed the rolls to the point where a nice mat is now only a luxury.

Then we moved into 360 striking and defences with Aaron demonstrating the different techniques required and how you can defend with “right arm vs. right arm” if the attacker is too close or at too odd an angle for the “normal” counter measure. 

In groups of three or four we then had a pressure drill involving two guys striking and one with a shield against a lone defender. The shield guy would push the “victim” in the back who would roll forward or soft break fall and then come up fighting. This was tiring but again a lot of fun and the special treat was at the end when we moved to groups of 6 and one person lying on the floor. The others had to then try and prevent him or her from standing up, pushing down as the person fought their way clear. Knackering but less of a chore than I’d thought it would be, we all had a turn and then lined up for a final Kida. 

Aaron invited me to the stick defence seminar in Victoria Park the following Saturday and I was glad to accept, happy for the extra training before heading off further south to Wellington.



Saturday 4th November

The seminar kicked off at 10.30am and I got to the meeting point by the cricket pavilion at about 10 o’clock. The students began to drift in slowly and it was interesting that there were seasoned Kravvers there amongst newbies who’d only been attending Aaron’s class for a week or two.



When Aaron showed up we had a brief chat and then moved to a shady bit of the park. While we were strolling over, a young couple out jogging stopped to ask about Krav and, after a quick chat with Aaron, he invited them to join in the seminar with the rest of us.

We went straight into some partner work doing outside defences against punches. Then we did some stuff with inside defences before the training sticks were brought out.



One thing I was retested on after getting a conditional pass on my P4 was stick defences. While not hard as such, they are fiddly to get right and it takes a lot of practice, in my opinion this is because 50% of the technique is down to footwork as much as body defence and appropriate hand/ arm movements. 

The “fleshy foreram” defence was first up with a diagonal movement to the side of the attacker, in the path of where they are swinging the stick to. Once this is nailed it is straight forward to perform. Next up was the “one up, one down” defence, meant to be utilised when you have your hands down and are caught off guard.



After we drilled this for a while, Aaron then showed us a technique I hadn’t practiced in a while, what I call the “mill wheel”. This one involves an attack where the person pushes the stick horizontally against your face or chest and you respond my taking the blow against your forearms, preferably over their knuckles, and then grab the stick, doing a violent and sudden 360 degree circle with the stick in your grasp. Performed properly this will cause the attacker to not only let go of the stick but lose their balance.

We had some fun with that one and then Aaron found some actual branches off the trees (the huge kind that my dog used to find and insist on bringing home) and got us to attack each other with those. 



We then split into groups of three, and had two attackers with sticks going at the third guy, to see if the techniques had made an imprint on our muscle memory. The guy who’d just been jogging past with his girlfriend was pretty good for a novice and when a huge, hulking German P3 named Hendrick did the mill wheel release on me, I felt my neck whiplash.

Final drill was to chase a partner across to the trees and try and utilise cover, sticks or even loose dirt and leaves as something to prevent an attack.

Lots of fun had by all and after the final Kida I had a few words with Aaron.

“At the moment we have about 35 members and about 30 people on trials for the club. Today was a good day. It’s a long weekend so I wasn’t sure if many people were going to turn out, but good for a bank holiday. I was really pleased about how it went, being able to take it out of the gym and into real situations. It makes it much more real for people.”


I also chatted to Pia who was one of the couple jogging past who were invited to join in. She said “I’ve always wanted to do some self defence training. I’m pretty interested in joining, we’ll see about the nights. The techniques were useful but something I think I’d have to practice a lot. The sideways attack was the best.”



KMG Auckland run classes in Auckland Central and on the North Shore.
They can be contacted at their website KMG AUCKLAND.


** Another club has now opened in Wellington called New Zealand Self Defence Academy run by Andre Maritz. Originally with IKMF they migrated over to KMG in early February 2017.