Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Unique Practitioners Part II: Russell Brotherston- G4

On Tuesday 25th February I interviewed Russell, one of the instructors at Krav Maga Midlands. He has some very eye opening revelations about the attitude of Management in mental health care towards self defence.

So, who are you?

I’m Russell Brotherston, I’m 34 years old and I’m a G4 level Krav Maga Midlands instructor and have been for the last two years. I also live in Stratford-upon-Avon.

What did you do before you became a Krav Maga instructor?

I did a few things. I worked for a charity for about 11 years. Mainly working around nursing homes doing recovery. It wasn’t elderly it was anyone who was 18 to 65. Specialising mainly in schizophrenia, bi-polar, manic depressive…that sort of thing. So there was a lot of unpredictable behaviour. Also did community support for the same charity in and around Coventry. That was going to visit adults but also keeping my eyes peeled for if I thought there was any child abuse going on. Levels of assessment involved there. I also did some work on the acute wards in hospitals.

What does that involve?

The acute wards are mainly centred around people who are going on or coming off medication so their behaviour is very unpredictable. Sometimes people who have mental health problems but they haven’t been assessed yet. So for example people who’ve been arrested who are dangerous and they don’t know where to put them so they put them on an acute ward.

What attracted you to Krav Maga as a practitioner in the first place?

Well, I’d done lots of martial arts before. I’d done Judo, Muay-Thai, Kickboxing and European Kickboxing. I also do some normal boxing as well. All of those seemed very rule orientated. There wasn’t really any room for changing. The thing I liked about Krav was that it was the first thing I’d seen where you could spar with like 3 or 4 guys at the same time. You don’t do that in any other fighting sport. The most I’ve heard is in Jiu Jitsu going against two people. I also liked the fact that there was no specific rules so there’s room to develop your own style. Not everyone has the same strengths and weaknesses. I’d see videos on the internet and there’d be people doing different defences for the exact same problem. I was thinking “are these different schools?” but then you’d see them on the exact same promotional video for the exact same club. So they were allowing them flexibility. And of course, the one that everyone likes. You get to do groin strikes.

Did you feel you needed to learn Krav for your job?

Yeah, because when I was working in the mental health sector they don’t want you to do any proper self defence which is quite strange.

Did they give you any self defence training?

We did breakaway training which is done learning very dated techniques. The instructor told me he’d been teaching the exact same thing for 30 years. He hadn’t got any qualifications in self defence. He had one for doing Jiu Jitsu. But he didn’t talk that much about “what if there’s a problem?” For example he was talking about someone choking you from the front and he showed us a solution that WOULD work…provided the attacker attacked you in a very specific way. He didn’t make that clear or anything so when he got me to choke him and I held him in a way that wasn’t good for the technique he was like, “No, no. Put your arms like this!”

But I didn’t get any breakaway training until about 6 years into the job when me and another member of staff were assaulted by patients on the same day, but at different centres. That’s what prompted it. Came out of nowhere. That’s what happens in the mental health world. I had to react in a calm way which the job hadn’t prepared me for. They’d prepared me more in the hospital but only marginally.

Do you feel the training they gave you was for insurance and health and safety compliance rather than keeping you safe?

Yeah, completely. I’d been there 11 years and I did one breakaway training course for one day, that with the lunch break probably lasted about 6 hours, half of which was the instructor talking. A Q&A session about how people get stressed and you can calm them down by talking. We probably did about two and a half hours of physical work and I never broke a sweat the whole time. It was rubbish to be honest.

I saw the advert for Krav Maga Midlands when I had to take someone to the police station, the flyer was up in the reception. That was about 2 years before I became an instructor. I went to loads of lessons, asked Bartosz for lots of tips and had my punchbag in my garage where I practiced for about 6 days a week for at least an hour, hour and a half, just going through strikes.

Did your hospital or the other organisations tell you not to use self defence tactics but only to disengage from a violent situation?

Yeah, that’s basically what you’re meant to do. That’s what breakaway training is. It only works for if someone goes to grab you. It’s not for if someone tries to punch you or kick you or stab you. There was one incident I heard of where a patient grabbed a fire extinguisher and chased someone down the corridor. The real element that happens is that people at work do what they need to do to get out of a situation. I know a woman attacked by 5 or 6 patients at the same time in the canteen. All she could do was hide under the table. Legally we’re not meant to go in and do anything, but another guy ran in, grabbed her arms and dragged her out. He was legally meant to leave her to be beaten up, that’s what they say you should do. Which I find disgusting. That’s one of the reasons I got out of it as I thought there was no way I was getting sued for defending myself.

When the guy punched me they asked me if I wanted to press charges. Friends were saying I should as he knew it was wrong. But from the standpoint of the company it’s just a hazard of the job

On a more cheerful note. You teach kids as young as 6 Krav Maga?

The stuff I teach the kids in class is different. Kids don’t have that fear element. You know with forward rolls you build up to it in height. Kids will ask me to put the pad for them to jump over at about chest height. They take to it because the only similar thing is something like Tae Kwon Do where you stand in a formal line, it’s very uniformed and you’re put in with the adults. Kids don’t like to learn like that. They like to run around and play so you put it in the format of a game. For them it’s playing, building their co-ordination and motor skills. Their parents watching from the side can see the self defence connotations.

It’s interesting with the hospitals and charities not wanting you go hands on, the irony is that children, with all those rules around contact and DBS clearance to work with them and we’re teaching the next generation a much more common sense approach including kicking to the groin.

Exactly. I talk to the parents first so they know  that it’s Krav, it’s a physical thing. I’m going to be playing rough and tumble games with their kids picking their kids up, spinning them round. I’m going to be wrestling like 3 or 4 at once, they’re going to be trying to pin me down (laughs). It’s just part of the thing. You’ve got to teach them that if they’re not running away or making a lot of noise. A bunch of 6 or 7 kids can quite happily take out an adult if they’re punching and kicking. That’s what they do to me. They don’t get the chance to do that anywhere else. The stuff they learn with me is specifically for class or if something serious happens. The hard thing is convincing them not to try the tactics on other kids.

In the kids’ classes they learn two responses to everything. Response against a child and another to an adult. If a kid grabs them in a bear hug then they can’t really start kicking them in the groin or elbowing them in the head. They do Rapping On The Barn Door which is rapping the knuckles so they person lets go which won’t work on an adult.

Which do you prefer teaching? Adults or children?

(Laughs) It’s a totally different thing. Well I can teach adults for a lot longer. Children’s classes are tiring. It’s 6 of 1 and half a dozen of the other. Kids when they’re in great mood can be so much fun, they really can engage. At the same time they can get really wound up and get really hyper and get quite disobedient. So it’s a question of keeping their attention so you stop and start, stop and start. Ideally I’d like a child’s energy in an adult. Kids can go on for games for ages. Adult games like 1 or 2 minutes, with kids it’s about 5. They run and run until you tell them to stop.

Any advice to anyone wanting to become a Krav Maga instructor?

Do like I did. Train and train and train. Anything like sports, the basic things you know just keep doing them, fast and slow again and again. A good idea is to get a camera and film yourself so you can see what you’re doing. Another is to get together with students you know, preferably of a higher level so you’re always training with people with more knowledge than you. Like when I did basketball I played with better people. Eventually I could compete with them but for a long time they thrashed me (laughs).

What would be your motto for life?

Do not be too timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment . The more experiments you make, the better.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Third Option

Today on Facebook I saw a comment made by Anna Surowiec, a Krav instructor in the UK that said:

"It's only when you see a mosquito landing on your testicles that you realise that there is always a way to solve problems without using violence".

Before I started Krav Maga I was, like many people, approaching confrontation and the threat of it with a certain…stubbornness.

For example. I’d see a group of guys walking down the street and they’d be blocking the pavement so others had to either stop or step into the road. I would usually just walk straight through the middle of them. **

Similarly if I saw some drunk guy being a dick in a pub, I’d make a point of staying exactly where I was and not leaving or making any attempt to remove myself from the scene but neither would I look at him unless he tried to speak to me or “start”.

Finally I’d always try and help my mates out if things went bad. Problem was this was usually if we’d all had a skinful and while on holiday in Crete (where my father retired to) I’ve got drunk and had about 5 fights in 6 years and lost most of them. Reason? Stubbornness and loads of tequila shots and beer don’t really make for a nimble footed, hard hitting bar brawler.

The basic backbone of my problem was that I was too obstinate to react with anything other than bravado and anger. Reason? I was afraid of being perceived as cowardly.
Looking back on a lot of things that I got involved in (I also used to be both a Special Constable and later a paid police officer) it was a lot of luck that guided me through without getting a kicking or worse.

The overlapping effects on my life of the last 2 years with Krav Maga Midlands are that I can now assess a situation without having to prove that I’m blessed with a heroic heart.

My instructors Bartosz, Russell and Al have always said that the best way to defuse or de-escalate a situation is to simply disengage from it. During knife attack training about 18 months ago, Bartosz asked the group, “If someone comes at you with a knife what should you do?”

We hummed and haahed about a suitable answer for a few seconds but he then said, “Run. If you can, just run. You can't win against a knife. But if you can’t run…well, this may help you.

The principles of Krav for me are that it doesn’t make you a warrior of the bus station/ pub car park/ dark alley. It does instead give you techniques and skills that help you to survive.

At the end of the day the whole thing is geared around survival, not on winning fights.
4 years ago in Crete a guy was robbed at gun point at 3am by a Greek bloke holding a small rifle. I was incensed when I heard this story and talked about wanting to take the gun off him and stick it up his arse. My girlfriend of that time said matter-of-factly, “If you do that and I’m with you and you survive the attempt, you will be single the next morning.”

Disengage and if you can’t disengage, kick to the bollocks or hit to the throat or (as Bartosz so eloquently put it) be a “nightmare” for your attacker so they fear you and back off and then that allows you to disengage.

Now… instead of being stubborn and getting into situations just to prove I had courage, I’m able to assess a situation and not get involved unless I feel it is necessary.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a part of me that WANTS to fight and stand my ground and stick up for myself and tell the bullies to go to Hell. But…now I can be a little wiser on simply walking the other way or avoiding a situation that could get ugly.

There is always a 3rd option.


** Have to admit I still do this one. Especially if it's outside the McDonalds on the Parade in Leamington Spa between about 11am and 6pm. Go there, you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Unique Practitioners Part 1: Viesturs Vavere- P2

Practitioner level 2 student Viesturs Vavere is a Christian priest, originally from Latvia. He trains with Krav Maga Midlands and has been a member since 2012. He has some very interesting views on both Krav and its compatibility with his chosen faith.

So, who are you?

I am Viesturs Vavera from the capital of Latvia, Riga.I was born and bred in Riga. I was born on March 4th 1958.

Riga is a very interesting situation. It's like a country in itself. Most of the population is located in Riga. There is a saying that "if you have been in Riga, you have not been in Latvia". Latvia is a very small, tiny country. The population is about 2 million. You compare this with cities like Birmingham where there are 8 million people, or London where there are 10 million. In the last few years most people have emigrated to other countries like Germany and also the United Kingdom.

How long have you been a priest?

I was ordained in 1990, nearly 24 years ago.

What made you decide to become a priest?

I was born and bred in the Soviet Union and at that time people were brainwashed.I was looking for peace of mind so at that time I found it in the church. I decided also that it would be very good for me to become a priest and to preach, so that's the reason.

Why did you choose the Lutheran faith?

My parents belonged to this church and so did I. The second reason is that Lutherans don't have to obey this rule of being celibate. I have a wife and a daughter. The most important thing however, I'm a Christian. We are Christians.

Why England?

I was invited by British citizens of Latvian origin who were residing here since 1947. The previous priest had retired and I was invited to take care of the Latvian congregation in the Midlands.

How many churches do you control?

I conduct services in 7 venues, in Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Peterborough, Catthorpe and Walston. My flock are about 500 people, not many.

What attracted you to become a Krav Maga practitioner?

We live in an increasingly dangerous world and there is a saying "have another day by being safe today." Also a Christian must be able to protect not only his family but also other people who need help. Be ready for things that could happen.

You don't find it strange to be both a priest and a practitioner?

No. First of all a Christian is a warrior. He is not a bed-wetting wimp. A Christian must know how to fight and how to protect people. You don't take what is written in the Bible literally. If you read very carefully the Old Testament, you can see all these prophets and also judges, like King David and also Samson, they were warriors. There is no contradiction.

Do your flock know that you practice Krav Maga?

Yes. They know. They are used to this, they have accepted it.The Bible says our body is a temple of the holy spirit and we must keep it fit. This is very important.God is expecting this from us.

Have you ever had to use what you've learned in Krav Maga to defend yourself outside the lessons?

No, not yet.

Do you think it would be useful if something happened? To protect your loved ones.

Yes, absolutely yes.

Who or what inspires you in this world?

My family and good people and good books. I would say also Krav Maga. Also history. I am going round the country studying the history of England when I have free time. I find the history of this country fascinating.

Would you like to get to E5 in Krav Maga?

Yes, I will try. It depends on whether I am able to peform all these drills and depends on my physical health.

Eyal Yanilov is about 60 and he's Expert level 8/ Master level 3, so I think you'll be OK.

(Laughs) Yes, I hope so.

Final question. What would be your motto for life.

Don't do unto others what doesn't have to be done unto you. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Stonemason’s Hammer

The next round of Practitioner level gradings is looming ever closer, like a dentist’s check up or an optician’s appointment. At my Krav class now, we are doing “normal” training for about an hour then splitting off into groups relevant to experience and level.
The P0’s (or those who don’t want to/ aren’t eligible to take a grading) go in one big corner, while the rest of us make our way up the badminton hall in groups of ever decreasing size.

The lads going for G1 make up one corner, although their grading isn’t until later in the year unless they want to go up to Scotland. This is still, for me, a mythical level of utter badassery and mysticism. I had to look at the curriculum before I realised it DOESN’T involve powers of levitation and the ability to breathe fire over an opponent. Maybe that’s at E level.

As me and two other guys started working on our P4 techniques, one thing became clear to me very quickly. I am, at the moment, a rough block of stone and need a stonemason’s hammer and chisel to chip away at the block in order to make something recognisable as a level 4 Practitioner.

The techniques at this level are much harder than the previous levels (sounds obvious but the curve is fairly big) and mastering them is taking me a bit of practice. The wonderful thing about this practice though, is that when you get the technique right it makes you feel that you’ve achieved something special.

While initially perturbed by the difficulty factor it is now a reassuring facet of the P4 prospectus for me, as it means I am fully aware of the responsibility and accountability that come with the higher grades.

Escaping from bear hugs.

Stick attack defences

Scissor kicks.

Sound ominous when written down, but working through them slowly but surely with a good instructor (and the help of my P3/4 fellow trainees) the chisel began to fall on the block of stone and slowly a form began to emerge.

It’s going to be a few weeks before the work is completed, with a lot of stone chippings on the floor but I know the effort will be worth it.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Cat Maga vs Black Belt At Home

You know the type of silly sods that do THESE type of videos for money?

Ultimate Training
The Krav Maga Workout - 25 Minute Complete Cardio Workout
Earn a black belt at home! Distance Training Martial Arts

Well here's my homage to them

Grand Master Baiter Mike "Black Hand of Death" Hunt

Cat Maga

Monday, 10 February 2014

Krav Maga in Children's Magical Fantasy Novel

I have written a children's book called The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen which is magical fantasy for readers aged 10+.

The novel has major anti-bullying themes and I'm currently working on the sequel called The Sunder of the Octagon. 

With the permission of Expert 3 Krav Maga Global instructor Jacek Walczak I've based one character's physical appearance on him (simple reason, Jacek looks scary). I did the Bus't Up seminar with Jacek last year.

The guy in the novel is called Alaskadie, an elite warrior of a hidden order called the Octagon Sentinels. In this scene he's being threatened by a baddy while minding his own business in a tavern. Reason he looks bored is he knows that the other man (and the 4 other guys just off page that are with him) are absolutely no threat and he can take them all down without effort.

Once the book is out, Jacek gets a free, signed copy. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Tunnel of Fun

After the main session of Krav Maga on a Thursday evening there’s that threshold moment. Just after we line up and the instructor gives a quick recap of the evening’s training, and then asks the ONE fateful question:

“Who’s staying for combat?”

Combat. The bigger brother of the previous 90 minutes. The Merle to Daryl Dixon. The “Let The Right One In” to Twilight. The Battle Royale to The Hunger Games.

Full on fight club. Helmets, gum shields, shin guards, chest guards and boxing gloves. Kicking, punching and going hammer and tongs on each other.

Last night various excuses whirled around in my head. I’d hurt my neck a bit when forward roll training (P4 beckons) and was contemplating using that as an excuse to cry off. Then I thought about the fact that I was already tired when I arrived and that I do a physically tiring job AND it’s currently winter in England (Julius Caesar reportedly hated being stationed here as a Centurion before he rose up the ranks of Roman politics…solely due to our lousy weather).

But I put my hand up with everyone else.

A 5 minute break is etiquette, enabling water bottles to be refilled and a banana to be scoffed if that’s your quick fix of energy. It was a busy session last night and as I looked around the guys getting kitted up like bomb disposal experts, I realised that the “bloke who used to be a boxer” was there. Also the “bloke who’s 6 feet 11 inches and a P5” was there. Not only that but the “bloke who’s built like a brick shithouse and also P5” was there. My heart began to race a bit, and I was glad I’d taken a beta blocker before I set off** for class.

We partnered up and at the beginning it was just 1 minute fights, constantly changing partners. This was good as it meant we got to see other people’s fighting styles and it was pot luck who you got as “choose someone else” was shouted every time the 60 seconds alarm went off.

We move on and practiced some techniques and I was quite enjoying myself.

But then came the big one.

The instructor said “right, groups of 6” and we stood on opposite sides of the sports hall, waiting to see what he had planned.

Grinning broadly he explained that this was the “tunnel of fun” and number one had to fight no. 2 for 30 seconds. Then he had to fight numbers 3 and 4 AT THE SAME TIME for 30 seconds. Then evade knife attacks from number 5…for 30 seconds. Finally try and touch the far wall while number 6 did all he could to stop that from happening… get the idea.

So, as I was number 2 I got to be the scrapper. Problem was that everyone was refreshed and radiant and my first partner was the 6’11” P5 dude. Off we went. I managed to get a couple of kicks and punches in but he caught me a right smacker in the side of my head and has a kick like a (very tall) mule. Then he made his way down the tunnel of fun until number 3 had a go. This guy was the ex boxer and it was hard work. I looked over to the other group to see their number 6 pick his opponent up and dangle him upside down. 

Christ! That’s some strength.

Then 4, 5 and 6 came up to me for a scrap. When it came to my turn to run the tunnel, I sucked up my fear and found a secret stash of adrenalin. I was so tired but determined to give it a good go. Didn’t do so badly until I got to number 6 and it was the very tall guy. Thinking he’d be top heavy I aimed for his crotch area with my head and tried to push him over. He went down, but deliberately so he could pin me like a very aggressive venus fly trap. Arms and legs clamped around me and I could feel the chest guard trying to kiss my lungs.

Finally we stood up and the instructor complimented all of us on how much effort we’d put in and said he was very pleased with all of us. My t-shirt was piss-wet through but I felt proud of having stayed to do the class and not backing down.

After we did “Kida!” and had the round of applause, I asked the instructor if he’d heard the expression “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.

He replied, “Not for you guys. You guys keep on going.”


** Only 10mg. Think Chamomile tea's bigger brother. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Want To

I originally wrote this on 20th January for my other blog Lance Cowboy.

My attitude towards the Combat classes transformed after this, partly due to how inspired I was by this guy's enthusiasm. I'll post about how I fared at the latest Combat class tomorrow (as I'm currently knackered and bruised from a session that ended 90 minutes ago).


Every week when I have combat class with Krav Maga Midlands I have to struggle with a lot of emotions. It’s not melodramatic to say that I feel like a child again. I’ve read some stuff about Emotional Memory and how experiences as a kid will imprint themselves on the most instinct-protective parts of the brain, as a means of keeping you safe.

This would be fine if it was stuff like touching flames with your fingers or crossing the road without looking. When it becomes “getting hit” or “getting kicked” or even “being glared at sternly before the other two happen” then it’s a bit of a pisser. No, in fact it’s a lot of a pisser. Especially if it hangs around like a fart in a wetsuit, well into adulthood.

After being used as a punchbag for a lot of Secondary school I have had a multitude of things to try and help get over the bad memories. I’ve meditated, I’ve done the Landmark Forum, I’ve written down the names of those who bullied me and then burnt it, I’ve visualised them saying sorry, I’ve even confronted one or two people over their behaviour***.

Bottom line is…nothing has so far shifted my amygdala oblongata to get a grip and stop shaking with fear every time the gum shield goes in and the words “ready? FIGHT!” are uttered from 8.30 to 9.30pm every Thursday.

I realised after I passed Practitioner 3 last October that I’d have to get a grip on this and attend Combat class regularly if I wanted to go any higher. I was all up for it the first time after Christmas and actually quite enjoyed it. But at some point when I was asleep Anxiety and Paranoia met up with The Inner Child and had a quiet word.

The best way to compare this is like being about to step on stage in front of your parents for the Xmas Nativity play**** at Primary school. You know even at age 7 that nothing bad will happen but you are so nervous of walking out in mum’s dressing gown with a tea towel wrapped round your head to say your lines that you are practically reduced to jelly.

Excusable in a young child.

Kind of sad in a grown man.

When the kicks and punches fly something within me reverts back to being a kid getting chased by thugs at school. I KNOW the guys I’m sparring with are mates. I KNOW that we are padded up and wearing about as much body armour as a bomb disposal expert and I KNOW that the instructor is supervising. But there is something deep down that imposes masks upon my fellow practitioners and makes them look scary and spiteful, no matter how much I tell myself otherwise.

My father cured his fear of spiders by making himself touch the biggest spider he could find (as I recall, he said it was half the size of his hand). That cured his arachnophobia completely, but is about as dramatic as you can possibly get re: shock therapy.

Determined to overcome my gripes and annoying panic attacks around a VERY fundamental obstacle to me progressing in Krav I found inspiration last week from an unexpected source.

A guy who’s only been in the club a couple of months (I’ve been in nearly 2 years) was itching to try the Combat classes (normally you wait 3 months after joining the club to try them out) and was over the moon when he finally got to go.

2 weeks ago I had to drop my mate off home before I could join in and after clearing it with the instructor I came back 10 minutes into the session to see everyone kitted up and sparring. I felt uneasy and it had in fact taken some effort of willpower to not go home and later lie and say I’d had car trouble. As I looked at everyone I felt like Katniss Everdeen on the pedestal at the beginning of the 74th and 75th Hunger Games*****.

I got my gear on and asked two guys if I could join them. As I walked up I glanced over to see the new bloke was partnered with the highest qualified fighter in the room (Practitioner Level 5) who also happens to be 6 feet 11 inches tall.

I paid no further thought to this until I got home and on Facebook the guy had posted a status saying how he’d “got the shit kicked out of me” and it was “awesome!” I made a flippant remark about fighting Treebeard and he replied that he was observing the other guy’s fighting techniques while getting pounded and that he was looking forward to partnering the same dude next week. He finished by saying that the best way to learn is by fighting bigger, more experienced fighters.

This guy’s utter glee at being able to join in and his totally fearless and pragmatic approach to improving his fighting, was the polar opposite of how I felt when attending. What to me was a chore, was to him a fun time and an opportunity to learn.

It’s possible to enjoy anything.

You just have to want to.


*** Usually disappointing as they invariably don’t remember anything they did.

**** Apparently this annual treat was as excruciating to watch as I later imagined, according to both my parents years later.

***** Countdown to zero where the bomb under the 24 pedestals are deactivated and everyone then has to fight to the death.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


(I wrote this in February 2013. Still relevant to how I feel about Krav Maga now)

The wonderful thing with Krav for me is the ability to deal calmly and/ or efficiently with situations that are aggressive, dangerous or potentially lethal.

I’m a former English police officer (both Special and Regular Constabulary) and UK cops in my era (2004- 2008) if faced with an aggressive person, were taught to push to the chest with both hands, shout “GET BACK!!!” and then reach for their baton or pepper spray. They were specifically told to NOT aim for the face or head when fighting a violent suspect.

This basically means it takes up to 6 cops to arrest one guy who’s physically reluctant to spend the night in a cell.

Krav is pure common sense. My instructor once said to us “if a guy comes at you with a knife, what should you do?”

We thought about this for  a few seconds, then he said, “Run, if you can. But if you can’t…well, this may help you!”

Krav Maga does not say you will be able to whup anyone’s ass. But it does say “here’s more tools than you had before. Choose which one will help you!”

I had a problem with bullying in earlier life and had issues around physical confrontation as a result. Krav Maga is the ultimate immsersion therapy as it puts you right in the thick of situations that you may have to face if attacked on the street. In movies if 5 guys come at the hero, he beats the snot out of them in a lovingly choreographed fighting ballet. In Combat class we face 5 guys BUT the most you can do is try and keep them away from you until the 2 minute timer is up. While this doesn’t transform you into a Ninja, it does mean you are much less likely to freeze up if attacked in real life.

First time I did this I was physically shaking after. Now it’s something that is still scary, but I am more able to deal with. While being punched in the head is never pleasant, once you realize you’re not made of glass it gives you the confidence to stand your ground and enjoy Krav as both a sport and a self defence martial art.

Krav works on techniques that are adaptable and open to anybody with the self confidence to stick up for themselves. In my class we have a 56 year old guy and a grandmother.

My P1 grading was October 2012 and I was supremely nervous from about a week before. Knowing the assessor was Expert Level 4 (14th grade) Rune Lind who had been flown in especially from Norway to assess us, didn't help the stress factor. However, while knackering, the grading was a lot of fun and the assessor was a true gent, both reassuring and precise in his judgment, even though there were about 50 of us being graded simultaneously.

I also have a problem with authority (one reason my police career stuttered and stopped) but don’t have a problem with taking instruction at Krav, as this recent exchange illustrates:

Instructor: “Lance, do 10 push ups!”

Me: “Why?”

Instructor: “Do them, then I tell you why!”

(Ten push ups later)

Instructor: “You forgot to scan!”

Me: “Oh…sorry!”

Being Bendy

Tonight at Krav we were doing high kicks. They started off as groin kicks with a side swipe forward leg defence...and the progressed to "what if the person aims for your face or chin instead."

The block for the higher kick is with the forerarm, but the person throwing the kicks has to aim for the face. My opponent was about 6' 3" and I'm about 5' 10".

One thing I've realised as I've got older is that I am not as flexible as a high kick to the chin (especially on some of the giraffe sized blokes that attend the club) would demand.

Tonight was the first time I felt relatively confident attempting these kicks, without wondering if I'd get groin strain or throw my hips out of alignment.

The reason is that 6 weeks ago I started a Yoga class.

The teacher is a mild mannered Korean lady who has an aura of peace and tranquility and told me off for asking "is my arse meant to hurt this much?" when the correct terminology is apparently "bottom."

The first 4 lessons were very difficult and I glanced at my (predominantly female) neighbours with some envy as they comfortably assumed the Lotus position when I could barely manage to cross my legs without wincing.

The joyous moment occurred last week when my body finally gave slightly to the manipulations and positions I was putting it through. I was able to lean just a little bit further than I had before.

While Krav Maga and Yoga don't seem on the surface to be good flat mates, the great thing is that I can now kick with more confidence. I.e. without that little voice in my head telling me that I'm going to rupture some internal organs.

For the Combat side of Krav, flexibility is a must. Dodging, weaving and ducking under someone else's punches and kicks is hard, doubly so when you are retaliating. Being "loose" is a necessity and the freedom of movement I've so far not had, has finally started to work its way into my stubborn joints

For Practioners who don't bend so easily I recommend Yoga to help you get freed up and also to reduce the risk of coming home aching, bruised and possibly stiff as a board next morning.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Krav Thunder

Video I made for Krav Maga Midlands after the Armed Attacker Seminar, 16th Februay 2013.

Music courtesy of AC/DC.