Sunday, 8 March 2015

How I Looked vs. How I Felt

In June of last year me and 9 others were personally chosen by Eyal Yanilov to fight the Predators at the KMG World Tour. The Fast Defence guys from Wayne Hubball's Adrenaline organisation.

I've blogged about this before but something I haven't really touched upon is how different the experience looked compared to how I felt about it.

I'm currently reading Geoff Thompson's book "Fear: The Friend of Exceptional People." It's a tremendous book, crammed with awesome advice about how to cope with being scared. His best advice is simply to say "I can handle it, whatever it is."

He points out that fear is felt by everyone to some degree and if anyone says they have never been frightened then they are lying. Fear is necessary to function in life. As the saying goes "Fear shows you where the edge is." But the problems arise when fear is not acted upon but suppressed or pushed aside or ignored. Then it stays around like the smell in a bachelor pad bathroom the morning after a stag do. It helps no one and is only destructive.

Last June there were over 100 of us, eager eyed practitioners sat on the floor at Hengrove Leisure centre in Bristol, UK. Eyal Yanilov was there and it was enough to make me nervous just being in the same room as this guy. As embarrassing as that is to admit, it was how I felt. There is after all, a difference between how we feel and how we think we SHOULD feel. Jon Bullock the head of KMG UK was also there along with a vast array of UK instructors. As the initial introductions got underway, without warning two uncouth, obnoxious blokes appeared in the seating area to one side and shouted (amongst other things) that we were all a bunch of "fucking wankers" and Krav was a "load of shit." When Jon Bullock approached them to tell them to leave, one threw the drink he was holding at him. The guys looked for all the world like two ex soldiers or unemployed oil rig workers who had had too much to drink and felt like taking on a room full of Krav Maga students and their teachers, just for kicks. After nervous laughter the seminar resumed, only for the two guys to reappear at the other end of the room in Predator outfits. Alan Dennis beat them down while Eyal Yanilov was escorted off the mats.

After it was over and while relieved chuckling was heard around the room, Jon stated that at the end of the day 10 people would be chosen personally by Eyal to fight the Predators in front of everyone....if they wanted to. To be picked you had to have somehow caught Eyal's eye and shown determination, or skill, or dedication, or all three.

Immediately my mind went into hyperdrive. I was nervous anyway and this news just helped to kick the hornets' nest right over. The little gremlin in my head was nattering at full speed.

"What if I got picked? I'm not a good sparrer or fighter, that I know. I've had counselling around my reluctance to fight. What if I'm picked? WHAT IF I'M PICKED?!! Huge honour though it would be maybe it would be better if I offered it to someone like Lewis Turpin from my club. After all, he's a blood descendent of former world champion boxer Randolph Turpin and can fight for England. Yes, much better if I offer the opportunity away. I mean, I don't want to embarrass my club do I? Think of the humiliation of just freezing with your hands down in front of the worldwide head of KMG, the head of KMG UK, my own club Krav Maga Midlands' chief instructor, one of my own club's other instructors, plus about 10 guys from my club? I'm not a fighter and that's all there is to it. To have to go up in front of everyone like that would overwhelm me. It'd be like being in the Colosseum in ancient Rome. Yes, much better to give that offer away should it come my way. After all, Lewis or Al or Tomasz would put on a much better show than I ever could."

Looking back on it, my nervousness at the whole event was simply finding outlets in order to purge some of the negative energy. What I've found through my life is that my mind will uncover ways to deal with stress and anxiety but divert from the actual issue that is causing it. So, before my P4 grading in March 2014 I was nervous about everything from work to my cat to the price of petrol in Tesco. As a child I was told that I should suppress all negative emotion and that a "sulky face" brought the mood down for those around me and would not get me any friends. Better to have a "smile on my little face" and smother all that negative feeling so other people wouldn't feel put off by me.

The mind in its complexity can't handle the above scenario and what happened was my brain simply found other things to vent the stress on to.

Step back and look at this for a moment.

I'm at a Krav Maga seminar with guys from my club. Several high ranking "officers" of the organisation I belong to are in the same room as me. There's a lot of people training that day. Eyal Yanilov was a myth up to that point. Someone I'd only seen on the P1 to P4 DVDs or on photos on the Facebook group. Now I was in his presence. It was overwhelming.

As adolescent as this sounds, it was how I felt and right or wrong we can't control HOW we feel. We can however control HOW we react to those feelings.

As the day wore on we worked up a sweat and when it got to about half an hour before finishing time we sat on the floor chatting and I could see Eyal walking around and tapping people on the shoulder. I was next to my club's instructor Al, who I'd been training with. Butterflies began to fly in erratic patterns in my stomach. The "selection" was happening. The people selected would move to the mats in the middle of the room. I tried to ignore what was going on. I didn't want to "stand out" in any way and run the gauntlet of being picked. Eyal was roaming around picking people. The little voice in my head went off again.

"You can still offer this to Lewis. Anyway he's more likely to pick Al than you. Just look at the floor and try not to breathe or move until he's gone past. They've chosen 8 or 9 by now anyway so you won't get picked. Just keep staring at the floor and you'll be fine, just don't look up, whatever you do don't look......"

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Eyal's legs next to me. I heard him say "We need one more". I looked up and he was looking right at me. Smiling he asked "Do you want to do it?"

I replied "Oh yes!!" and practically leapt to my feet. As I walked to join the others I heard Al say, "Go for it Lance!"

We were taken to one side by Wayne Hubball and the rules of what was about to happen were explained. Each of us would go up one at a time against BOTH Predators with Alan Dennis as the referee/ invigilator to make certain things didn't get out of hand. The point of this was to see how we reacted under adrenalin based scenarios with little or no time to think. While he was talking I could feel my anxiety branching off and sprouting leaves in areas I hadn't known existed 10 minutes previously. Everyone else gathered around the mats and I tried to keep my eyes focussed on no one in particular. I was now beyond nervous.

As we lined up I stood at what I thought was going to be the first position but the other end of the line got to go first, meaning I would be the last one to fight.


At my club I always try to go first or second on pressure drills or scenarios where fear can be debilitating to simply get it out of the way and not let my imagination run riot.


As the fights began it looked scary. The bullet men didn't go easy on anybody. One guy was beasted by them and some actually "lost" the fights they got into. As the minutes dragged on and felt like hours, only pride was keeping me from walking out. I was scared beyond measure.

Finally it was my go and Alan introduced me to everyone and I got a round of applause. I couldn't look at anyone from my club because I thought that would make me feel even worse. Alan briefed the Predators on what to do and then whispered to me that they were going to try and box me in and I had to initially verbally communicate to try and stop it. My heart was pounding and I was trying to keep a stone face. As the Predators approached me I tried to talk them down and my voice seemed to croak out of my throat. The fight kicked off and I was jumped by the second Predator from behind. Everyone was cheering and as we tussled I managed to get on top of him and straddled him with my legs wide so he couldn't tip me off. I could hear cries of "Kick him in the bollocks!" and "In the head! In the head!"

Finally it was over and Alan pulled me off the guy. It felt like about 10 minutes had passed but in reality the fight lasted about a minute. Now it was over I felt good. The nerves were gone and the annoying gremlin voice was nowhere to be heard. All those nerves and stress and above all FEAR had tested my courage more than the fight itself.

Afterwards someone said I looked "Well ready for it" and  a good mate from my club said that my nervousness hadn't showed and " The trademark Manley swagger said 'I'm ready for this shit, bring it on'. Time to give your hypnotherapist a bonus." I hadn't felt like that at all, I had in fact been scared out of my wits.

What this made me realise is that some of the most stone faced fighters in my club are probably just as scared as I was when in similar situations.

Fear can indeed show you where the edge is. It just needs taming first.


  1. Having read your story, I've identified myself identical to your situation, though I am a P0 (Beginner). My first two lessons I had yet to receive any gear and was wearing different colour shirt and trousers than anyone else's. The lingo, the power... you name it, and I felt I could not comply in any of it. Now I'm starting to feel more at ease around everyone else (about 4th lesson) and I can truely put my heart and soul into this.

    I'm going to be following you. Thank you for writing how you feel in your situations!

    1. Thanks for the praise. I try to be as honest as I can as I am aware I'm not the only one who feels the rollercoaster of emotions that Krav Maga training and seminars brings on.


Have your say....