Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Shovel or the Paintbrush

Many years ago when I was a little boy, I was sat in class listening to Mrs Drakeford telling us about archaeologists (thank Christ she never put that word in our weekly spelling test) and she asked us offhandedly if we knew what they used to dig up dinosaur skeletons. After much humming and hahhing and being told that spades, shovels, forks and JCB diggers were not the answer she then wrote on the blackboard.

"Paint brushes."

We all scratched our heads and made surprised noises for a couple of minutes, unable to grasp in our little brains how a tool we used to paint pictures with every Tuesday afternoon, could possibly be used to dig up a Stegisouraradasous or a Triangelerotops.

She patiently explained that an archeologist couldn't get a spade and "just go dig, dig, dig!" but would instead have to patiently rub away with gentle bristles, the dirt and detritus covering what they wanted to unearth. When we pointed out this could take weeks Mrs Drakeford said, "It takes YEARS."

I've been doing Krav for about 3 years now and something I've learned is that it's very easy to reach for a shovel when a paintbrush is sometimes required.

When I took P3 in October 2013 I remember Jon Bullock, head of KMG UK saying to us, with examiner Rune Lind stood by his side, that it was from this point forward "no longer about collecting patches." We had a much harder journey ahead of us and blindly or short sightedly charging forward to grasp the next grade's memorabilia was something that wasn't going to happen. Anyone who's taken P3, 4, 5 and up will know just how different they are from P1 and P2.

A paintbrush is a useful tool when aiming for higher grades as the shovel you are handed at your grading is good only for 6 months until your pride calls you to take the NEXT grading. I know for a fact that I cut corners and try to cram in as much as I can as late as possible, hoping that rolls will be cut for time (or lack of mats) and that I'll get the much coveted "group of 3" like I did on P2, so that there is less attention on me and more time to take a breath and watch how my partners do the techniques.

My "shovel" is that I don't go about my planning, training, and technique revision with patience, attention to detail and a desire to get it all "just right" but that I bludgeon my training, trying to get the most difficult moves done to satisfaction and hoping the other candidates are huge in number on the actual day.

I remember feeling at my P4 grading that, had I failed, I probably wouldn't come back any more. The week before I'd been nervous beyond endurance and my fingernails were bitten to little bloody stumps. I wasn't doing this as a sulk or a protest but simply because I didn't want to feel that bad again.

Not a noble, warrior-esque emotion to hold and one I'm most certainly not proud of...but it was there and I acknowledge it.

Overall, a paintbrush is a better tool when preparing for a grading. Take my time, relax and go over the moves at home in front of the DVD appropriate to my level. Learn for at least 2 months before I go, the moves specific to my upcoming grade and go in with the knowledge that I have drilled things as well as I possibly could.

Had I used a paintbrush for P4 I would have felt more confident and loose. Not ice box levels of coolness, but enough so I was sure that even with an Israeli E level examiner's eyes boring into me as he hovered with a clipboard, I would be able to give it my best, and not simply "hope" that it all came together.

Some things take time.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sunday, 21 December 2014


I am currently reading a very informative book entitled The Little Black Book of Violence by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder. It has the subtitle "What Every Young Man Needs to Know About Fighting."

This book was lent to me by a fellow practitioner** at my club, Krav Maga Midlands.

While perusing it last night, something struck a chord that is fundamental to the principles of Krav, but is sometimes oh so very easy to overlook in favour of the "sexy" bits of what we do.

A preface by Rory Miller (a police sergeant in the US when the book was published) states that he believe most people reading the book will simply cherry pick the parts they like. He goes on to say, "I don't think you can see past your own ego. I think that you will risk your own life and piss away good information to protect your daydreams."

Something that has occurred to me a lot lately is how violence is best stopped by anything other than violence.

I used to be a UK police officer and the experience was soul destroying in its stupidity, lack of basic common sense and political correctness over officer safety. We weren't trained to fight, only to subdue through holding and baton strikes absolutely COULD NOT be aimed at the head, regardless of what the Bad Guy might be coming at you with at the time. We spent 6 weeks on Race & Diversity training, but a measly 4 hours on use of baton and 1 hour on how to fire pepper spray (the only weapons 95% of UK cops carry on patrol).

Krav Maga to me is what the English police should be about. It teaches you to avoid conflict. That "FUCK OFF! STAY AWAY!" shouted at the top of your lungs is the best method to try first, if you have the distance and time. Krav talks about avoidance, de-escalation and getting the hell out of there if it can be achieved. It says violence is a secondary alternative that is played only when less confrontational options won't work.

But as we know, Krav also teaches us to be as brutal as possible, as quickly as possible with the minimum of effort and THEN get the hell out of there.

It's how the English police should be. Common sense and a lack of ego but able to be baddasses if the occasion demands it.

Problem is for me that it's very easy to get enticed by the funky side of Krav. We've all seen sparring sessions at our clubs where two good fighters go hammer and tongs on each other with grace and power. I personally imagine being whoever is the victor.

Then there's the everyday interactions we see where we wonder exactly what we would have done had someone called us a "c**t" in traffic or pushed in front of us in a queue. I personally imagine them being humiliated, maybe even working in an Educational Block like Krav Vader, to make certain they keep their distance.
Problem is that my daydreams quite often cloud my judgment.

I don't like sparring cold bloodedly, although I'm not bad at it when I actually have a go. I can assess threat reasonably well and I'm not a coward. But all my badass fantasies, as I move further into Krav Maga and up the grades (currently P4). I got a busted finger 6 weeks ago in training for trying to block a stomp kick with my fingertips (I was tired, error in judgment...that I'm still paying for). Having seen movies where people simply pop dislocated joints back into place I never envisaged in a thousand years, having to be on restricted duties at work for 9 weeks, repeated visits to the fracture clinic and a special splint being made at Warwick hospital.

The least useful appendage on my entire body has affected my ability to train and means my cardio is so out of practice that I get out of breath running up the stairs.

Ego can be a killer. I've had it for most of my life and always imagined it to be a friend, mistaking it for confidence. Ego isn't confidence. Confidence is feeling that you are able to deal with what is in front of you. Ego is feeling that you can not only do it but do it perfectly and then have loads of women want to shag you because you're such an awesome badass.

It has taken 30 minutes of Yoga a day for over 2 months before I've become supple enough to kick higher than the belly button level of an opponent. My lack of flexibility was something I worked around until I became a teaching assistant at a Kiddy Krav class, and was having rings run round me by 6 year old girls (not to mention wincing as my back strained every time I bent down to pick something up during the class). I now have flexibility again, like I did in my 20s. But it's through adherence to a regime of stretching instructed by someone who knows more than me on the subject.

I see rude or threatening people in public a lot and 10 years ago I'd have jumped in to tell them to leave Mrs A or Mr B alone and be on their way. On some weird level I used to take all obnoxious behaviour as being somehow directed at me, if I was around when it happened. I think my logic was, "You know I'm here and are still doing this in front of me. Therefore you must think I'm a pansy who won't try and stop you."

Krav (plus a few other things, like getting dumped by my ex on a Skype call...just after she'd flown back to Europe on a flight I'd paid for) has helped me to mould and tailor my ego so I no longer feel that I'm a superhero. When I'm drunk, all bets are off, but over this past year particularly I've got involved in things that have made me realise my own limitations and not to be ashamed of them but work with them.

Nick Maison and Jose Silva's Air Safety seminar was a sobering experience and as close to a hijack on a plane as I ever want to get. Forget being a hero, you are lucky if you can even see straight as the "terrorists" shove you around, order you not to look at them and do their best to disorientate you. Nick even said before we started, "If any of you feel like taking on any of the hijackers then feel free...but we WILL give you a kicking and then throw you off the plane"***

Having met both Eyal Yanilov and Zeev Cohen they are both softly spoken and humble men who appear without ego BUT are badasses. After the second day of P Weekend in December I was in reception at Harlow Leisure Zone when they both left for the evening. They did not stand out at all, did not swagger and would have blended into any crowd.

Ego can be dangerous. It ties me into adolescent fantasies about vanquishing the evil hordes and being the bully hunter I always wanted to be. It's only be accepting the drab reality of my own limitations that I can now build upon that and walk through life in a way that means I will assess situations logically and with my mind, not my ego.



** Bloke is a Christian priest in his late 50s and one of the nicest chaps you could ever meet. Hell of a right hook too.

*** Actually a decommissioned 747 on the runway of Bournemouth airport. We weren't airborne.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

12 Days

Last Friday we had the KMM Christmas night out. Nando's is always a favourite of mine, mainly because the local branch is 50 yards from my apartment, but also because there's something so very wonderful about lots of chicken based dishes smothered in chili sauce (not to mention the "bottomless coke").

Afterwards I said cheerio to the 15 or so guys who were about to hit the town and made my way home. During the 90 second journey I saw a couple of young ladies I didn't know and noted that one had a nice ass. She then doubled over and violently puked all over the pavement...while her friend stood there laughing.

Christmas is a time when I like to relax, forget about Krav for a bit and just chill out. Usual stuff like huge boxes of chocolates at work, mince pies with a cup of tea and trying to avoid listening to any Cliff Richard Xmas songs on the radio. Christmas is after all, a time when we feel most able to relax. I don't mean that it isn't stressful because it certainly is. However when you "do" Christmas you aren't tuned in to danger. It's a time when the most we expect is to have a headache choosing and buying presents.

Seeing that woman power vomit all over Regent Street made me realise that the negative aspects of life get a little bit worse during this time, mainly due to the amount of alcohol people shove down their necks. Been there and done that, so I'm not judging BUT if there's one thing Krav has taught me (and in particular KMM's Chief Instructor Bartosz) it's that you need to be aware of what's around you. I rarely use my  mobile phone in the street, and if I do need to make/ receive a call or even change a song on the MP3 player, I will step into a space that is enclosed or semi-enclosed and look around me first. Same at cash points, and same when getting into my car. I also lock the car as soon as I close the door**. It's not that I'm paranoid, I simply regard these steps as common cautiousness on a par with locking my front door, checking the windows are closed and making sure I've turned off the taps before I leave my home every day.

Christmas is the time when people let their guard down. It's been statistically proven that most violent crime drops notably over Christmas week (exceptions being alcohol related crime and domestic violence) and we feel that this is a time to just feel at ease.

A puking woman with a nice bum was an image that reminded me that life gets a tad silly over the festive period. Various scenarios could have sprung from that situation. Had she sprayed sick on a passerby, then there might have been a row. She might have needed help. She might have become aggressive with anyone who criticised her for honking up in public, or...., any number of things. Walking home from a Christmas meal with my Krav buddies I felt "safe" and in a good mood. I wasn't expecting danger or unpleasantness or seeing someone's alimentary canal go into spasms...because I assumed that the world was in as good a mood as I was.

What this showed me was that I need to keep my eyes open and remain aware of my surroundings, even as I look forward to turkey with all the trimmings.

I do Krav because it increases my confidence and allows me to walk in peace. Ultimately that means being aware of what's going on. There's no magic shield like in the Ready Brek*** commercial to protect me against ne'er do wells. I walk in peace because I'm conscious of my surroundings.

This doesn't get to go on holiday.


** Soon as I turn the key, the door unlocks, meaning I have to lock it again or wait until I've driven 10 yards for it to self lock. Not a perfect world.

*** 1970s commercial on TV for a porridge breakfast cereal that said it was "central heating for kids".

Monday, 15 December 2014

Warzone 2 Seminar, November 2014

Blog of the Warzone 2 seminar held by Krav Maga Midlands last November that I wrote for their website (click photo for link).

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Photos from Krav Maga Global P&G Weekend

Photos from the KMG Practitioner and Graduate weekend held in Harlow, Essex from 5th to 7th of December 2015.

Click the rather lovely pizza for the link.