Friday, 28 November 2014

Kid Kida- KMG Global Article

This is an article** I wrote for KMG Global HQ as a guest blogger. It went online last week. Click the photo for the article.


** Article was written last June. Kimberley Warwick is now a G1 instructor with Krav Maga Midlands (UK) and teaching Women Only classes. Info via this link.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Krav Radar

Today in Tesco I was at the self service tills when the security guard accompanied 2 Eastern European guys back into that area to clarify whether or not they'd paid for their groceries.

To set the scene, the self service area is semi enclosed, with the tills on two sides facing each other and a barrier at one end, with the exit at the other end.

There were about 15 people in there, plus a couple of Tesco staff and it was pretty tight.

I first realised what was happening when I heard raised voices and the repeated phrase "I pay for it. I just don't have receipt!"

I turned around and the guard was standing well within personal space and BETWEEN both guys, trying to peer into the bag of one of them. I stood slightly back so I could see what was going on and one guy came up to me and tried to reach past me, saying "I used this till." As my shopping was in the area he was about to reach into, I stood in his way and asked "you alright?"

"Yeah, I uses this till for my shopping. You see receipt?"

There had been one as I'd turned up, and I'd taken it and put it on the side so it wouldn't be in the way. I reached for it myself as I was aware this guy was agitated, had possibly stolen something and I didn't want him near my stuff in case he tried to hide anything or worse, try to thieve any of my groceries too.

I handed the receipt to the security guard, but not the guy, who looked at it and said "This isn't for your stuff!"

They argued for a little while, and I watched them without turning my back in case it escalated and I had to back away or even try to help out. What was annoying me more than anything was that the guard had clearly NEVER BEEN TRAINED how to appropriately deal with this type of thing, as he had brought two potential shoplifters back to a crowded area filled with various people including an old lady and several women (and before anyone starts, they didn't look like women who could kick ass) plus a child.

This didn't get any worse and the two men seemed merely annoyed that they were being accused. Neither swore or got angrier and they made no attempt to threaten the security guard. The guard obviously thought he needed to solve the situation but put other people (who had nothing to do with the situation), at potential risk by placing these guys and himself amongst bystanders. Worse, in a tightly packed area with limited movement and even fewer exit points.

The lads eventually simply walked off, ignoring the guard, meaning his efforts had been not only inappropriately handled but for nothing.

While this was merely observation, I was pleased after that I'd attempted to assess it with the state of mind I'd been trained to in Krav Maga, which was to look at the potential threat and act (or not act) accordingly.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Being HARD

At the schools I attended as a child there was a sliding scale of being "hard".

That tiresome machismo that boys adopt after a certain age, became apparent to me when I was about 9. At my first Primary school there was no real posing or acting like a caricature of your favourite superhero. You simply did your thing and had your friends and just got on with it. We had our "top dogs" but they held that position through popularity amongst their peers. There was no need to pretend, as our playtimes were full of "pretend" anyway. Grease, Saturday Night Fever and the irritating TV show Happy Days were stupendously popular when I was a kid. One lunchtime the two most popular boys in my form, Ryan Perry and Jason Fitzmaurice (we didn't hang out with girls unless forced to...girls were smelly and stupid and into sissy things like skipping) got the rest of us together and gave themselves and us nicknames before we "got on our scrambling motorbikes". Jason was the name giver and pointed to himself and went "Fonze" then to Ryan and went "Grease". These were the top names you could possibly have in an era of Richie Cunningham and Greased Lightning*** (which made us giggle as it had the words "shit" and "tit" in it...and was played on the radio a lot). Ryan acknowledged the given name with a smile and a nod, and Jason then named the rest of us.

I got to be "Spud".

Seriously, Spud?!!

We then pretended to be holding handlebars and ran up and down the playground making motorbike noises. This incident was notable for two reasons. One, it was the  only time I ever remember seeing all the boys in my class play a game together without teachers organising it. Two, I left as I thought it was boring and a few minutes later tried to come back but was told I couldn't. The club was closed to Spud now he'd resigned.

When I got to what was then called class M1 (fuck knows what it is now. That stood for Middle 1, so I was 8 going on 9) I noticed that the 11 year olds were acting different to how we'd acted for so long. Now we were in the M section of school we got to use a different playground. One for older kids who got to wear their own clothes instead of uniform (if they wanted to, although the Headmistress was against it). A certain cockiness, surliness and adoption of superfluous gestures was adopted by them. Something that I picked up on very quickly was that the older kids didn't smile a lot. They were, it transpired, trying to look cool or "hard".

A catch phrase of the time was to say "Who let you out?" if someone did something stupid or you just wanted to curtail an argument by putting them down. I once said this to a kid in my class who was friends with a surly, older boy who snapped back "I did, because he didn't belong in there."

Again, my over analytical brain was thinking that the original line about being "let out" was only an insult and not meant to be taken literally. That follow up didn't make sense.

Basically, being older meant you had to be, or at least pretend to be "hard."

At Secondary school the regime was entrenched. Boys had to either be able to fight or put on a persona of "hardness" in order to avoid getting picked on or bullied. If you came across as "hard" then you could call everyone's bluff until one of the genuinely hard kids offered you out.

So...ingrained in me and a lot of little boys as they grew up was that you had to be hard or, failing that, pretend your arse off in order to look like it.

Boys don't cry (a friend of my father once said how great it was when I pointed out that I hadn't cried in over a year), boys don't show too much emotion, boys can fight, boys like football, etc, etc.

Boys had to put on a facade of utter hardness and invulnerability to emotions that only puffs, fairies and girls revelled in.

Realising this wasn't in itself a revelation. What is eye opening however is just how much I carried this attitude with me into my adult life

The swagger when I walk. The poker face when I enter a crowded pub. The cold face when I'm stuck in traffic (countered by the "rage face" when I feel like having a go).

Despite my fondness of animals and children that I don't attempt to hide I, like many men, believe I have to look "hard" even now. Old habits die hard, especially when they are so ingrained in us that we don't even know we're doing them. All that swagger and false bravado was nothing more than an attempt to put on a face that I fundamentally thought I had to.

In Krav Maga I've been told that the best way to defuse aggression is to avoid it. So, if you can walk away from a fight, then do it. If you are in a road rage incident then drive away or just don't lose your cool in the first place. About 6 months ago a rude Scottish guy chased me up the street in his 4x4 because I'd stuck my finger up at him in traffic. I looked in the rearview mirror to find him gesturing furiously for me to pull over and get out. So I did.

Not to be "hard" but because I was genuinely pissed off and angry. This burst his bubble and he simply sat in his car moaning about my lack of road etiquette but making no attempt to get out and confront he'd been telling me he wanted to do.

He felt he had to look "hard"...along with millions of other guys.

The breakthrough in self perception has basically made me see that I don't have to hide my emotions or try and be tougher than I really am.

If you're a man, just think of the times when you've cried and felt ashamed for doing it. The only acceptable occasions for a blub are a close relative's funeral; at your children's birth or when watching footage of old men attending Armistice day on television. Society sets rules on just how much emotion we can feel as men, and tells us we have to fake as much as we're lacking.

To pretend is relatively easy. To be yourself is what's truly "hard".

Thursday, 13 November 2014

On the Bench

After dislocating my left little finger by trying to stop a stomp kick with my hand I paid a visit to the fracture clinic..who signed me off for 3 weeks from active duties at work. This means I'm inside and not outdoors and am limited as to how much I can physically do. Awesome.

The yin to the yang is that I also can't train at Krav either.

Deciding to put a positive spin on this, I went along to the session last Tuesday, solely to watch the Sparring class.

I'd had suspicions that my sparring was lacking so thought half an hour sat watching, free from stress, fatigue or a boot in my groin would help me see just what I need to watch out for and improve upon.

As the main class filed out to go home, the four guys who'd elected to stay for Sparring got kitted up in the bomb disposal vests and got going.

I was partnered with a big Polish guy the night I busted my finger (he didn't dislocate it, that was in the "3 Vs 1" melee at the end) and he was all over me, even knocking me down on the floor a couple of times. This time I watched him fight and he's a good fighter. He waits for you to come to him, which I picked up on last week, however what I hadn't spotted is that if you get too close he takes a couple of hits by protecting his face with his hands...and then follows up with a vicious hook to the side of your head.

As the group changed partners I watched the styles they fought in and a few things became apparent that I hadn't spotted before. First of all, those that landed punches usually didn't telegraph their moves, something I do. Also, those that didn't get repeatedly walloped in the head had their hands up and their chins down, something I fail to do regularly.

I had originally thought that the list of "wounds" picked up on the P4 grading last March sounded badass (lost contact lens, lost gum shield, chipped tooth) but now I realise it's because my guard was down and I wasn't striking properly. My kicking is weak, mainly due to lack of flexibility (Devil's Claw tablets from Holland & Barret and a few "Yoga for Dummies" YouTube videos are helping that) but also stamina and cardio training issues.

For one night it was beneficial to just sit and see how other people fight, without the emotions and adrenalin (not to mention sweat) that come with being part of a class but not being able to see what's going on except for the guy facing you.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Accident Waiting To Happen

Last Thursday in Krav training I got my little finger dislocated on my left hand. There were both negative and positive aspects to this happening.

The Positives were:

1). My adrenalin was so high that it didn't hurt at all and I was able to laugh and joke about it, even joining the other guys for the final "Kida!" before I got driven to hospital.

2). It's my first bona fide "injury" in Krav and there's that adolescent part of my soul that regards it as a legitimate wound picked up in battle. I've been hurt before but tennis elbow and a compressed rotator cuff (shoulder injury) don't really cut it.

3). I got to inhale the gas they use for local anaesthetics when they fix stuff like this, meaning I got to be drunk without spending £25+ to get there.

4). My job is mainly outdoors and it's winter and tiddling with rain most of the time and I'm now on restricted duties at work meaning I'm indoors.

The Negatives however...

1). I have a P5 grading/ P Weekend coming up in 4 weeks so need to be fit for that. The injury means I will miss training and more importantly sparring training.

2). I missed Warzone 2: Behind Enemy Lines, a gun seminar that my club ran 2 days after I got injured. I'd been looking forward to this for about 5 weeks.

3). I'm on weird painkillers that make me feel shitty.

4). Most importantly, I've realised just how lousy my sparring is.

If we take point 4 from the Negatives.

I had hypnotherapy for my reluctance around sparring and/ or combat training and resolved some deeply horrible childhood issues that had led to this. Other side of this blackness though was the irony of actually not wanting to go as I didn't like it and to be honest just couldn't be arsed half the time. I took up Krav to stay fit and avoid fighting if necessary. Coldly touching gloves with someone then trying to kick and punch them for 2 minutes didn't seem to be very evasive. However I later learned that this is a fundamental part of Krav, especially from P3 and up as you will be beasted at a grading. We had about 30 minutes of full on sparring at my P4 test in March 2014. While I lasted the course, I lost a piece of a tooth, my gum shield and one contact lens and my T-shirt was wetter than a haddock's bathing costume.

I told myself I'd start to go in to the sparring again a few weeks before the P Weekend and get my stamina, cardio and skills up to speed. Problem was that this week I've finally seen that this is a part of training that you need to attend regularly. One guy I was fighting was all over me, punching and kicking and even when we changed partners it seemed like a movie where the block is thrown the same time as the punch (basically because it's choreography and they know what's coming next). I was telegraphing most of my moves, dropping my guard and getting more and more knackered at time wore on. The clincher came when we were doing the final exercise (3 against 1) and I tried to block a stomp kick with my left hand. Something you are never supposed to do. I felt the "thud" and realised that I couldn't bend my little finger. I stepped out to wrench off my soaking MMA mitt (to confused looks from my instructor) and saw it was now banana shaped.

Joking aside, this could have been a lot worse. The nurse at A&E (ironically his badge read "Nurse Practitioner") got me to inhale the nitrous oxide for a bit, then crunched the joint back into place. I will be sore for a bit and have limited mobility in my pinky, but I can go back pretty soon.

Bottom line need to do something regularly to be good at it, not just when you feel like it.