Monday, 12 December 2016

Practitioner 1 to 5 Grading. SGS Krav Maga.

Nomadic Kravver

Practitioner Level Gradings
SGS Krav Maga, Sydney, Australia
Sunday 11th December 2016

The Number of the Beast

After some pretty intense pre-test revision on Wednesay 7th, on the morning of the grading I got to the venue at about 8.40am.

Steven Kratsas, the chief instructor, had warned us that we needed to be there by 9 o’clock as he intended to kick off at nine twenty AND that we were to be responsible for doing our own warm ups.

Couple of laps around the courtyard then some stretching and at about 9.15 we made our way down into the “basement”.

Now…when told we’d be grading in a basement (or what crafty British estate agents call the “lower ground floor”) I had imagined a big storage area.

Turns out it was an underground car park with mats jigsawed together between the bays, some of which had cars parked in them.


Steven explained that part of the reason was due to the reduced light because most real life attacks won’t take place in a brightly lit dojo. As I’d been a fan of the Mortal Kombat game series back in the day, it was fairly surreal yet unique to be grading in what looked like a meeting point for the Gulf Cartel in Breaking Bad or where Sonya Blade might go in for a Fatality move on Sub-Zero.

Unlike the UK where only P1 is graded ‘in house’, in Australia the Practitioner levels are all tested at the students’ clubs. There were about 20 of us with the majority being P1s and the candidates for each grade thinning until we got to me at the far end, the only P5 student.

Steven split us up into pairs with me and two guys, Andy & David in a group of three as there was an odd number. Andy was going for P3 and David for P4. After the initial Kida, we went over the P1 curriculum, from straight punches to knee defences and then moved up to P2 and onwards. We handled nearly everything from levels 1 to 2 together and then the P1s went off with the instructor Yanni while Steven and Jerome took the rest of us. We began the more technical stuff such as ground releases, choke holds and wrist locks. Andy was a big bloke, while me and David were roughly the same weight and height. This meant when it came to shifting Andy off, I had to get the technique absolutely right as there was no way I could move him with just brute force.

Jerome then lined us all up and said he wanted to see a roll combination. Initially it was “forward roll with another movement of your choice”. I opted for following with a break fall but we had been warned that everyone’s favourite, the backwards roll, would have to be demonstrated. At P5 you need to know all the required tumbles and on my second go I did a forward> backward combo, which is very fiddly to get right, especially as you can’t stand up between them, it’s all about shifting your feet and twisting to accommodate the movement. 

After this we had break falls. I’m happy as a pig in clover with the normal or ‘soft’ forward break fall but we covered all of them including ‘hard’ front and then sideways and backwards. Satisfied with what we’d done, Jerome then moved us on to grade-specific criteria. Me, David and Andy moved into the various knife attacks, choke holds and bear hugs for P3 to 5.
The P1s finished their grading earlier than us and after their closing Kida, most made their way home. The extra space on the mats meant that we could spread out and we moved into some higher P level attacks and defences. When I left the UK to go backpacking last August I brought only my mouth guard. Last week I invested in a groin guard and it was $25 very well spent.
After about 3 hours we then moved into the final phase of the grading.

Now…I’ve done pressure drills, and stuff deliberately designed to invoke exhaustion in Krav Maga. Gradings particularly, the examiners will push you to your physical limits. On this day however, I was about to face a new level of exhaustion from the depths of my adrenal reserves.

On my P4 exam in 2014 Nadav Shoshan was invigilating and got us to do 50 burpees, 50 sit ups and 50 push ups AFTER the grading itself plus thirty minutes of full on sparring. I had been wrecked after this and my T-shirt resembled a used dish cloth.

This time we did multiple attackers. For the P3 to P5 guys this meant one person hitting a strike shield while three others came at him with a gun, knife or long stick. Basic point of the exercise is that you won’t win but you HAVE to keep going while trying to utilize the techniques of disarming that you have hopefully tattooed into your muscle memory. I went first and the whole thing was knackering. I could hear Jerome occasionally yelling “Lance there’s a gun, deal with the gun!” and trying to keep my distance plus avoid getting caught in the middle of the group.

We then moved through everyone else’s go before being told to get shin guards, mouth guards and gloves on for the sparring.

Steven gave us 30 seconds to get ready and said that only the kit we had on at the end of that time would we be allowed to wear on the mat. I managed to get all my gear on but one guy only had a solitary glove while David hadn’t managed to tighten up the Velcro on his shin guards and Jerome forbade him to do so during the fighting. We then got into it and initially it wasn’t too bad but after a couple of rounds I could feel the fatigue creeping back. On round 3, Steven split me and the other higher levels up and got us to fight a couple of the women from the P2 test. I got partnered with a ferocious Asian lady who had a mean round house kick. Then I got David again for the final round who is very agile and we ended up tussling on the floor.

I thought that was the end of it but then we had the final joy of a standing drill. Two lines were formed with the first person turning to face the second. Steven and Jerome announced that this was 15 seconds of continuous body punching, no strikes to the head and no footwork. You had to stand still and just punch. I opened up some remaining adrenaline that I didn’t know I had, (stored on a shelf at the back of the summer house and long covered in dust), and we moved forward one at a time to take our turn. The drill was hard and as I was the last in line I was also going to be the last person to face everyone else. There was one fighter who had a mean right hook and he caught me a right beaut’ in the guts. The pain was intense and I dropped my left arm to cover it but Steven shouted “Lance, you’ve got two arms. Hit with both”.

By this time I was completely beyond any former perception of being exhausted. My hair had come out of its pony tail and wearing 16oz gloves meant I couldn’t stop to put it back. What with the reduced visibility in the car park anyway, plus 7 inches of hair dangling across my face and my clothes sopping in sweat I felt like a scuba diver who’d just kicked up too much silt from the ocean bed and was waiting for his vision to clear.

When it got to my go as the defender, the main thing that kept me upright was knowing this was the final, final thing. Jerome was shouting encouragement and I managed to last the whole course. Then, it was over and Steven advised us to get as much water as we could inside us and then come back for a quick debrief and the final Kida.

Me and two other guys made our way upstairs to the outside tap and the sunlight that hit us was like something from a Dracula movie. 4 hours of training in a subterranean parking lot can do funny things to your eyes. I was wilting under the glare of what can only be described as God’s Flashlight as I stuck my head under the faucet and then glugged down about a litre of water before limping back downstairs.

We lined up and Steven said the instructors would compare notes and then get back to us in the following week to let us know our result. We then gave the final bow and made our way out.

This was the hardest grading I’ve ever attended with the exhaustion levels pushed WAY beyond what I am used to or expected. I spoke to Steven afterwards and when I said “That was really horrible!” he replied that the intention is to deliberately leave us that tired, so we are used to performing under stress and fatigue.

Later on a few of us went for a celebratory meal at Burger Co in the mall across town. My body’s desire for protein and carbs was about the norm for this type of thing and I don’t think the food touched the sides on the way down.

A great experience in a unique setting, in another country and it was a privilege to grade with SGS Krav Maga.

Monday, 5 December 2016

SGS Krav Maga, Sydney.


SGS Krav Maga, Sydney

Lance Manley- P4

Monday 21st November

Second city on my tour of Australia was Sydney and after a week staying in a youth hostel when I really, REALLY shouldn’t have, I looked up an old friend who said she had a spare room and I was welcome to stay as long as I wanted to, including house sitting for her over Xmas while she visited her sis in Thailand.


There are quite a few Krav Maga clubs in Sydney and a whole load are affiliated to KMG, the parent company I’m membered to. I found one called SGS in a place called Hurstville run by a G3 instructor named Steven Kratsas and he invited me to come and train with him the following Monday.

The club was slightly different to others I’ve trained in, mainly because the lessons are 2 hours long. The other difference was that they train 3 days a week on Monday & Wednesday evenings as well as 9 to 11 on Sunday mornings.

When I got there there were a lot of young students there and one surprise was that the majority were female. Steve told me later that a lot of them were their due to their parents suggesting it and many were still in High school, with some as young as 15.

The club itself is on a small industrial estate, at the back of a residential district. The Warm Up involved running two laps around the block then coming back for some serious stretching. Apart from Steven there are other instructors, two of which were training that day. Margarita and Charlie recently took the GIC and Charlie led the lesson for some of the time.
The main work out was focused on grading material, as the club were looking forward to a P level testing on December 11th. My lack of regular training revealed itself when I was attempting to do an arm/leg roundhouse block (the one where you put your elbow on your knee) and I felt like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz when he seized up due to lack of lubrication.

After the main stint we then moved outside for a new twist on a theme. The main area is full of lovely, hard, concrete walls and Steven got us to pretend to be using a cashpoint or ATM when someone came up behind us and attempted to fling us face first into the wall. The reaction to this is to fling your hands up, elbows bent and let your forehead smack into the back of your hands. The delicious part was the follow up where you then do a 180 on their ass, and smack THEIR face into the wall. Me and my partner were next to two Asian girls who appeared to be really going for it, even though they obviously friends in “real life”.

Afterwards we did a drill I’d not practiced before where we all had to lie in a circle, on our backs and raise and lower our straightened legs (without letting them touch the floor) to the music playing over the PA which had the lyrics “up and down” scattered throughout. This was painful in the extreme and harked back to what I call Tourette’s Corner from gradings (everyone’s knackered and sweaty and they STILL make you do 50+ push ups/ sit ups/ burpees meaning there is a lot of swearing and grunting).

I was aching afterwards but, while limping back to Hurstville train station, it felt good to have practiced new stuff in a new club in a new country.

Sunday 27th November

I got up at the unholy hour of 6.20am to get to training, as the class was going to kick off at 9. While public transport in Sydney is fab (the joys of a ‘pay as you go’ Opal travel card) SGS is still a hike from where I was staying and I arrived at 8.45 to find a couple of other tired looking students waiting for the door to open. This time the instructor was a new guy I’d not seen before named Yanni. The attendance was smaller but we got stuck into some serious revision and kick based training. It turned out that Steven had broken his toe the previous Monday while blocking a roundhouse kick so was still involved but a little more subdued than normal.

There was a lot of talk about the upcoming grading again with both Steven and Yanni stressing to the students the importance of getting things down correctly. Steven gave an example of how a bad technique may be ignored on P1; would be criticised on P2; would cost you points on P3 and 4…but could cost you your patch on a P5 (something I’ve experienced personally).

Monday 28th November 2016

Having trained for 2 hours the day before, I wasn’t exactly skipping down the road the next day when I set off for the Monday night’s session. I’ve taken up Yoga recently and found a great video on YouTube specifically for the lower back and hips. A knee operation in September 2015 means that I am very stiff on my left side so I try to keep on top of my own mobility.

The club was busy again and there was probably about 25 guys in the room, including a lot of girls again. After the requisite laps around the industrial park and warm up, Steven got Margarita to lead the first part of the lesson and then we moved into the wonderful world of the pre-emptive strike.

Now, coming from a country like England where the laws on reasonable force are still grounded in the idea of a Victorian gentleman...pre-emptive strike, even in the UK, means that if you genuinely believe you are about to be attacked then you can hit first. We did some fun role plays where me and my partner had to do what Rory Miller calls “The Monkey Dance” and get in the other guy’s face, pushing the chest. Steven said to elicit a verbal response and THEN hit to the jaw. The idea is that your antagonist is a). Distracted and b). Their mouth is open meaning their jaw is relaxed and you are more likely to do damage to their face with a well placed sock in the chops (1960s, “Good to his mum”, London gangster Reggie Kray used to call this the “cigarette punch “ apparently). The alternative to this was to ask a question of your attacker, such as “What’s 91 + 13?” and a split second later throw a punch as they will again be momentarily distracted and engaging the “other” part of their brain to process what you said.

When we moved into groups of 3, I turned to the girl stood next to us and asked if she’d like to join. She looked a bit nervous and pointed out she was 15 and newbie but got stuck in to the scenarios no problem. Had to admire her gumption as I have had massive anxiety issues in the past with Krav and if I’d been in my second week training with two guys old enough to be my dad, I don’t think I’d have taken it as calmly as she did.

We moved outside and had to do “protecting 3rd party” where someone is trying to hit a “friend” of ours while we try and prevent it. This was designed to make us realize that thumping interventionists is not a nice thing to do, no matter how irritating they may be. We then switched to trying to stop the person being attacked from hitting their attacker (as in “leave it mate, he’s not worth it!”).

Then we had the icing on the cake.

Steven had talked about a little thing named Waterboarding from KMG's Combat Mindset & Mental Conditioning seminar and asked for a show of hands for those who wanted to try it. Only time I’d heard this expression used before was in tales of Guantanamo bay. I volunteered along with about half of the group. We went outside while Margarita and Steven filled plastic buckets with water and Steven fetched some dry T-shirts out the stores. He told us that the T-shirt would be dipped in the bucket and then placed over our faces from behind and secured by the sleeves behind our necks by one partner. We had to blindly hit at a strike shield being held by the other person, and every so often Steven would walk up and pour a bottle of water over the T-shirt to simulate the feeling of drowning.

The other guy in our 3 took it really well and lasted the course and I (in just my shorts and shoes) got ready for my go. As a scuba diver I’m bothered too much about the wet, clammy sensation of fabric over my face. While uncomfortable it was still possible to breathe relatively easily. When Steven shouted “GO!” I began punching and after a few seconds felt the water being poured over my head.


Part of my brain was telling me that this was just a drill, that I was perfectly safe and that I wasn’t REALLY going to drown. However a much more primal part of my brain leapt up from its cave and shrieked like a wounded animal before bolting into the darkest recesses of the jungle. Within about 15 seconds I couldn’t take it any more and ripped off the T-shirt, gasping for breath. The guy behind me who’d been holding the shirt smiled and encouraged me to go back in. I pulled the hood back on and began punching again but pretty quickly Steven called time and we switched positions.

The girl we were with then had a go and lasted nearly the whole minute before stopping. Kudos again as she remained calm and overcame the panic reflex, despite this being her first go as well. As there was a group of four people, Steven then asked if anyone wanted another go while their 4th guy took his turn and I went in again, this time lasting the whole minute, despite the primal animal within me still hiding in the jungle and wailing, albeit with slightly less volume than before.

Soaking wet we lined up for the final Kida and then made our way out.

Superb training and a great club and it’s been a privilege learning with SGS.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Krav Maga Melbourne

Nomadic Kravver

Krav Maga Melbourne

9th November 2016

Lance Manley- P4

In August of 2016 I decided to sell my car, give up my flat and give my cat to the RSPCA. I’ve been to Greece to stay with my Dad and recently took a trip to Australia. I landed in Melbourne and did the tourist thing for a few days 

Treading the tarmacced roads beneath my blistered feet has proved fun yet occasionally repetitious. While there’s a lot of things to do in Melbourne, they are either located in the city or require a jaunt outside to places like St Kilda (beaches and sunrises) or Ferntree Gully (the 1000 steps walk).

I’ve been out of regular Krav training for a few months now. After I recovered from a knee operation in 2015 I slowly got back into things but the training proved sporadic and my fitness levels were way short of the nightmarish new “tests” that were being hurled at sweat drenched practitioners at the end of P2 to P5 exams internationally. 

Krav Maga Global, like Starbucks, have branches everywhere so after a quick gander on Facebook I found what I was looking for to give my week in the city a unique spin. 

Krav Maga Melbourne is a KMG affiliated club run by G5 instructor Ruairi Molloy who hails from Ireland. I spoke to him on the phone a couple of days before and he said I was welcome to join in and to come along to the advanced class on Wednesday evening. The venue is a dojo, purpose designed for the club with scenario rooms, a main training hall, and a large locker area containing equipment including sparring dummies.

I got to North Melbourne train station at about 5.30pm. Finding the address proved easy and the only sign the club was there was a laminated A4 sign on the roll gate informing visitors to use the side door. 

I met Ruairi who showed me into a rather scary scenario room that doubles as a male changing area. Perturbingly, the walls move backwards and forwards to enhance or reduce the allocated space. This reminded me in no small part of the finale of the fifth Saw movie, or (for the 1970s child within me), the garbage crushing scene of the original Star Wars.

Getting kitted up I chatted with Ruair for a while before the other students arrived. At the Melbourne club there are 4 instructors of varying levels. Ruairi himself holds KIC like I do and was trained by Nadav Shosan a few years back. While the advanced classes are small, Ruairi told me that there are more people in the regular group, that was going to happen immediately after our session.

Backpacking means that I have only my gum shield as anything remotely Kravvy (barring a T-shirt) and was surprised to find that Ruairi had spare groin guards in a box for the protectionless  practitioners like me. I got one on and we then were joined by two other students, one a male instructor and the other a female police officer doing Krav in her spare time.

A brief warm up and we got stuck into the techniques. I mainly worked with Ruairi who patiently showed me the moves and techniques for both single and double handed pistol threat disarms, covering front, sides and different heights. The stuff was from G3 and higher, but with repetition I managed to perform the grabs reasonably well, to praise from Ruairi. One thing I tend to do when twisting away (body defence) is “step” off the line when the correct form is to allow your body to ‘fall’ and then correct your stance. 

Once we’d done this for about half an hour me and the other two students then did a pressure drill on the stopwatch. I learned long ago to simply drop or throw a gun or knife away in training once I’ve taken it off a “bad guy” due to the rather unsettling urban myth of a cop trained in Krav in the USA who snatched a pistol from a guy in a car….and then handed it back to him instinctively as per his muscle memory from training. The bad guy apparently then shot him with it.

As we finished up the other students were coming in for the main class and I got a few photos with Ruairi and the guys, splashing out on a KMG Australia T-shirt for a souvenir. 

A good diversion from the normal sightseeing that I’d do while travelling and a lot of fun as well. Really great of Ruairi to accept me into the club like that and I hope to see him and his students again before I fly out of Oz next January…mainly because I left my KMG passport in the venue by mistake and flew to Sydney the next day before I could retrieve it.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Unbeatable Bully

Contains SPOILERS for the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. So shove off if you haven't seen it yet.

Watching the premiere of season 7 of my second favouritest TV show, The Walking Dead yesterday was NOT easy.

After having waited 6 whole months to find out exactly who it was that Negan battered to death with his barbed wire-covered baseball bat (affectionally monikored 'Lucille') the episode was emotionally draining, brilliantly acted and features THE best villain on a telly show EVER.

Negan cannot be bargained with, he shows mercy only when he wishes to and he is utterly and completely ruthless, barbaric, yet highly intelligent.

Watching him turn Rick Grimes from a defiant, equally ruthless badass into a quivering, crying wreck of a man was a masterpiece of acting from both Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) and Andrew Lincoln (Rick).

Negan saw the defiance in Rick's eyes (not to mention the line "I'm gonna kill you. Not today, not tomorrow...but I'm gonna kill you!") after he had bashed Abraham and Glenn's skulls to offaly mush and this did not get a nod of respect. Instead Negan made it his mission to break Rick's spirit by throwing him into a herd of zombies and watching him fight his way through them and telling him to chop his own son Carl's arm off (as an alternative to Carl and all Rick's friends dying in front of him). Only when Rick broke down in tears, with the axe raised did Negan finally relent.

No pity. No remorse. No fear. No compassion.

Which brings me to this blog...

When I was growing up there were some bullies knocking about my village. The myth at the time was that if you bopped them hard on the nose then they would run away with their tails between their legs, crying and would almost certainly never bother you again. While this was USUALLY true there were exceptions. Some bullies couldn't be tamed and even if you did stand up to them, you had better do it fucking well and hard and not mess about. Schools of my era were run by lazy, cuntish, lackadaisical aresholes who believed all incidents of bullying to be "fighting" and would 99% of the time apply the maxim of "6 of 1, half a dozen of the other" rather than look for the root causes of a problem.

There was still the idea though of showing some "backbone" and being able to face your issues without resorting to violence in retaliation BUT being able to calmly deal with the shit that life hurled at you.

Most adventure stories for children, from the Narnia Chronicles through to Harry Potter and the Hunger Games and even my own work The Tales of Alegria, focus on bullies and tyrants paying for what they have done. They either die, go to the dungeons or suffer fates worse than death. Bullies, so the legends go, can always be outwitted by loyalty, bravery, a clear head and above all being the "goodies".

Utter cobblers.

Most bullies don't like retaliation at all and will come down on you twice as hard if you return fire with anything other than 100% aggression. When I was a police officer I was bullied by my immediate superior, a little cunt named Sergeant Neil Drapper. When I stood up to him by reporting his behaviour to the police federation (cop's union) and also the Superintendent (deputy borough commander) the Sergeant simply went into bullying overdrive in his determination to bin me AND pay me back for making him feel uncomfortable in front of his own line managers.

Krav Maga has, over the years I've been doing it, taught me some very fundamental lessons on pride, ego and calculating losses. A friend of mine recently told me that she got into an elevator where three guys were stood in it, and after the doors closed one of them grabbed her ass. She said she was afraid to do anything in case he hit her or later stalked her. My advice was "next time just don't get in the elevator. Or if they get in later, get out before the doors close". Better to risk offending someone than be trapped in a confined space with them out of a sense of "I have the right to exist unmolested".

In situations where you have unknown variants, or are outnumbered, or you are drunk (yet sober enough to still rationalise) or the person/ people you are facing are bigger than is not going to help the situation in the slightest to be belligerent and stubborn. 

In The Walking Dead last night, Negan made it quite clear before he bashed Abraham and Glenn's heads in that any and all defiance and rebelliousness over what was going to happen would result in further punishment. After killing Abraham and taunting his wailing ex girlfriend with the gore soaked bat, Daryl Dixon loses his shit, gets up off his knees and sucker punches Negan. To illustrate his point further, Negan then murders Glenn (a major character since season 1) and, unlike Abraham, lets Glenn suffer in agony before finishing him off. Then Rick promises to kill him (a threat we would have been disappointed NOT to hear from a badass, six season survivor of the zombie apocalypse like Rick Grimes), Negan simply makes him suffer a lot more, even giving him a Sophie's Choice; personally removing his own son's arm with an axe or suffering greater loss.

Bullies sometimes cannot be defeated and will thrive on watching people lose their cool. This superlative TV show made it quite clear that while Negan was aware that people felt angry, bitter or hysterical, they were absolutely NOT to act upon those emotions. He was boss and was going to prove it through inflicting pain until the resistance was gone.

A scene I cannot rewatch from the show Spartacus: Vengeance from a few years ago has, after the slave rebellion in ancient Rome, four gladiators recaptured. They are paraded at a party for local Roman elite, in shackles and on their knees. However they are still defiant, proudly glaring at their captors with contempt. This enrages one young Roman noble so badly that he asks if they can have "one now" rather than wait to watch them be publicly executed the next day. Every guest is a little drunk and the local magistrate agrees to "just one". The gladiator chosen spits out "fucking Roman dogs" as he is led away and boy does he suffer for that.

Restrained with ropes he is hung up in the centre of the room and the guests take turns cutting bits off him, while being cautioned to "not to cut too deep" in case the poor sod bleeds out and dies too early. The first person up cuts the guy's tongue out as a punishment for using foul language and insulting him. The guy dies in agony and all for his defiance in the face of capture. 

In the late 1980s I worked in the DeMontfort hotel in the shit hole that is Kenilworth, a small town in Warwickshire. I usually worked as a waiter but was drafted into a Hall Porter's role one day due to staffing shortages. A vile chef named Joe Wheeler used to bully the lower downs and had an extra beef with me due to the fact that I would answer back or even physically retaliate at his childish pokes, slaps and taunts. As I stood in the kitchen in my HP's jacket (with blingy epaulettes) I heard Joe shout "Are you joking?" and ignored him. He shouted it once more and then threw a flat, steel serving tray across the kitchen at me. It missed and I just picked it up and threw it back. The rage twisted across his face and he ran around the cabinets shouting "DON'T YOU THROW A TRAY BACK!!!"

Not "don't you throw a tray" but "don't you throw a tray...BACK!"

What Krav has made me realise is that in life there are situations where you CANNOT overcome the obstacle. Not all mountains are climbable all of the time. Everest guides will always turn back if the odds mean they are in too much danger to make it to the summit, dissapointing clients and themselves yet saving lives in the process. 

When faced with overwhelming odds there are times when swallowing your pride is enough to solve the situation. An Expert level 3 Krav instructor, once shared a story of queue jumping by a burly American tourist in London. When the instructor voiced objection the guy got in his face, threatening to thump him and he took the "least creative option" by looking away and appearing cowed, defusing the situation even though he could have beaten the guy down.

Sometimes nothing is more creative than something.

Occasionally bullies cannot be defeated and must only be avoided or complied with. Like taxes, no one likes them but unless you are creative or lack self preservation skills, you have to abide by the directive to pay them.

I like the fact that Krav always give you "soft options" or to put it bluntly "to do something by doing nothing".

Some situations are best left alone.

Nuff said.