Monday, 23 January 2017

Ruck & Roll- Master Class 2017


Eyal Yanilov, Master Class

January 22nd 2017- Sydney, Australia

Photo courtesy of Sven Midri.

I have been in Australia for just shy of 12 weeks and have to leave by February 2nd in order to keep my visa active (9 months in a year, but individual stays of  no longer than 3 months). Next on my agenda is a visit to New Zealand and I was going to book a flight out on the 19th of January. 

But then some rather splendid news happened. Eyal Yanilov, head of Krav Maga Global was going to be in Sydney on the 22nd January for not one but two seminars. Defending The Knife and 3rd Party Protection.

Not wanting to let such a golden opportunity pass by, I postponed leaving and booked both seminars.

I’ve met Eyal a few times before and to see him teach is a genuine privilege. He is regarded very highly by other instructors, and also the national directors of KMG. Both Jon Bullock (UK) and Adam White (Australia & New Zealand) had nothing but praise for Eyal and my instructor back in England, Bartosz Zukowski of Krav Maga Midlands used to refer to Eyal as “my master”.

The venue was Sydney University Sports & Aquatic Centre, just up the road from where I was staying with a friend. I set off early by bicycle to make certain I got there in plenty of time. A guy named Andy from SGS Krav Maga, who I had trained with during my time in Oz, was already there. As we sat and had a coffee, other practitioners began arriving. By about nine forty five the queue to register was going right back up the stairs and I had a quick chat with Sven Midri, an E2 instructor who owns the club Krav Maga Self Defence and was organising the seminars that day. He said there were about 75 people booked in, mainly from the Sydney clubs and surrounding area. 

Once Eyal arrived we got into a large huddle around him on the basketball court where Sven introduced him and said we were now learning from “your instructors’ instructor”. Eyal then gave us a quick talk on the way this seminar was going to go, with the emphasis on defending knife attacks and evasion. He stressed that one option in Krav Maga is always to flee if possible, something I’ve heard other instructors mention before. He then talked about how those who would resort to using knives will regard a potential victim as nothing more than a “walking wallet” and a process called “othering” will take place during such interactions. This basically means that they regard the person they are robbing or attacking as something ‘other’ than what they are and this objectification results in it being easier to treat them badly and/ or hurt them.

We then moved into a warm up, with some leg and arm movements requiring concentration and co-ordination (legs go in different patterns to the arms) and then we split into pairs for blocking movements. The first was an inside defence, using the forearm to block a knife thrust. The other was an outside or ‘scooping’ defence. We practiced these several times before Eyal stopped us to give us further words of advice. He pointed out that in the short time he had to teach us (just under two hours) he couldn’t show us to the level of even P1 or P2 but instead could “open the door a little” to allow us some experience. 

He then called up one of the local instructors to demonstrate on, and showed us keeping someone at a reasonable distance, using whatever means necessary (including an eye poke). He also said that in some situations it is better to apologise and try to resolve a situation through verbal skills. The scenario he chose to illustrate this was where he imagined that an aggressor had accused him of looking at his girlfriend and he apologised while walking away, yet keeping his hands up and his body at a position where striking would be possible if necessary. 

We moved to defending against knife attacks while lying on the ground with Eyal describing the feet and legs as ‘turrets’ to be used to kick or push an attacker away. This was fun to do, although the ‘getting up’ part requires concentration as you have to keep attacking, even while you raise yourself off the floor.

After this seminar wrapped up, the few who weren’t staying for part two then collected their certificates and left while the rest of us moved to the canteen for a break. 

At just after 1pm we shifted to another sports hall for the 3rd party seminar. Eyal again gave a brief introduction to what we were going to be doing and talked about how it is sometimes necessary to put yourself in the path of another person to defend them from harm. Another warm up to shake off our post-lunch lethargy, this time with someone hanging on to our shoulders while we had to keep moving, imagining that we were giving them a piggy back. and we got into the training. In groups of three, one person held a strike shield while another blocked the third person from attacking it. This was a lot of fun, albeit tiring and we all took turns in the various roles. Moving on to pre-emptive defence (i.e. you see the attack coming and block it before it happens) and then dealing with an attack that is actually occurring. We did this initially with strangle holds and then with knives. 

Something that Eyal pointed out was that it is very important to remove the person you are trying to protect, from the sight of the danger or threat. This could be something as simple as taking their arm and leading them away to grabbing them bodily to make them move. Having worked as a cop in England I can testify that in violent or aggressive situations a lot of people ‘contribute’ by simply yelling and screaming at one or all of the parties involved. So removing them from the scene can be the best of all options. 

At the end we tried a drill where the person with the strike shield then had to point it at one of the other two, while the third person would then join in by ‘attacking the attacker’. 

Photo courtesy of Sven Midri

At around 3pm we wrapped things up, with Eyal giving us a final summary of what we’d covered and saying that he hoped we’d found the day useful and that we took the skills we’d covered with us into training and daily life.

After the certificates of attendance were awarded we moved off and I managed to get a few words with Eyal.

He said:

“ It went very well. I gave all the things I wanted to give, in a short time. Four hours together, two and two. I managed to give an overall view of some of the sections of the system.There was a lot of people here, we are getting bigger in Australia, improving ourselves. In the beginning, at the seminars we had very small numbers of people attending. Especially England where I met you, it was very much like this. Giving seminars to five or ten people. Know we have about 100 instructors there so things have changed. Over 60 countries now have Krav Maga with KMG.”

I also managed to get a few words with Sven who said:

“It was pretty good of Eyal to come up here today as he’s right in the middle of a Combat Fighters instructors course in Melbourne. We managed to snatch him up for the day. Today went good. The timing’s always difficult due to admin and people lining up. If you’re not 15 minutes early you’re late. We had over 75 people. We run this when we’re lucky enough to have him. Which is why it’s imperative that we get our students and instructors out here. Like I said in the introduction. He’s the instructor of everyone else’s instructors. You have to make it. He likes coming here but it’s a long way.”

A good day and a privilege to not only train in Sydney but also catch Eyal before I left. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

When To Quit

This is from my other blog Lance Wandering, but is relevant to Krav Maga. I decided to use what the head of KMG UK, Jon Bullock calls "the least creative option" in order to be safe. When I started out on this walk I had every intention of finishing, when I bailed I was 100% certain that continuing was not a safe option.

Safety before someone probably said.

One of many things to do for tourists in Sydney, Australia is a walk of just over 150 miles. It goes from Macquarie Place in Sydney all the way to Queens Wharf in Newcastle. It was purpose built from existing trails some years ago and officially consists of 6 separate chunks, that take from just under a day to several days to finish. The terrain ranges from piss-easy to bastard-hard and it is signposted at semi-regular intervals. There are camping spots and most of the time the trail is no more than 3 miles from civilisation at the very most, so you can always wander off to find water/ medical help/ a cold beer.

I had wanted to do this walk for a while now. It sounded awesome and was going to be a test of stamina, with a safety net just on the borders for an inexperienced novice like myself.


I’m not naive, nor am I foolhardy so I took what I thought would be adequate precautions before I set off. I made certain I had an appropriate amount of gear (first aid kit, TWO cell phones, tent, loads of sun tan lotion and dried food, etc.) and made certain that I had good shoes. I bought a floppy brimmed hat and a dry fit T-shirt. I worked out the various points on the walk and how long I thought I could walk each day. I even enclosed my passport in a waterproof bag and always carried it in my shorts pocket. I even bought an electronic mosquito repellant thingy to back up the spray stuff I’d got.

When I set off I had a streamlined backpack with only essentials plus a LOT of water (including a thermos of “emergency water” buried deep in the darkest recesses of the rucksack). I got a photo at Macquarie Place and set off to catch the ferry to Woolwich, getting off at Valentia Wharf and starting the two hour slog through the town of Hunters Hill before I got into the actual North Walk.

The first bit was tiring but OK. I only took a 5 minute break every hour and got a refill of water into one of my bottles from some guy hosing his front garden (who also was generous enough to spray my feet). I got into the Three Patriots Walk around 5pm and was happy to simply stroll along, not yet using my extendable walking pole (the model being a “Strider” no less) and marvelling at the scenery and the changing views as I moved along.

When I got to a place called Fairyland I was starting to get tired and the day was getting a little greyer. I found a clear spot near the river bank, pitched my tent, made some soup on my converted beer can stove, and watched the sun go down before drinking half a litre of water and crashing out.

I woke at 7am and the morning was beautiful. Peaceful and calm. I made a coffee and sat on the bank while the sun came up. About 7.45 a squad of canoeists paddled up the river and assembled near to where I was, getting into formation before setting off on a practice run (I know it was a practice because I asked the nearest guy to me) while a guy in a boat bellowed enthusiastic encouragement via a loud hailer.

I “broke camp” at around 8.15, packing up and setting off again, looking forward to a good day’s hiking. 


The fatigue from the day before kicked in again pretty quickly. While the sleep had refreshed me, my body wasn’t used to this type of prolonged exercise and as I moved onwards the terrain became a little more difficult, with rocks to climb and twisting paths to navigate. My hourly 5 minute breaks began to become 40 minutes, then 20 and finally 15. I got to a rangers’ station and asked for directions and the guy was super helpful, giving me a free map that normally costs $10, and taking great care to show me the best way to go. He even gave me his mobile number in case I got lost or needed help.

I moved on again and then found that the walk was very rocky and involved climbing. While my feet weren’t hurting, my legs, hips and shoulders were now crying out in protest at carrying 30-ish kilos of weight in 32 degrees celsius sunshine. 

By the time I got to a place named Thornleigh Oval I was in constant pain, I’d used most of my water and my rest breaks were every 10 minutes. 

I threw in the towel at that moment and, to reaffirm my belief in guardian angels, a guy then came down the track on a mountain bike…even though the last time I’d seen another human being was at least three hours previously. He told me how to walk out and get to the nearest shops, where I strolled up, bought a can of soda and while glugging it, booked a room on AirBnB via my phone and caught a bus over to it. The lady driver took one look at me and went “You walking?”
When I replied I’d just bailed on the Great North Walk she tutted and said “Good. It’s not the weather for it, better this way than they have to come and rescue you”.

I got to my lodgings an hour or so later and after a shower and chat with the owner, collapsed into bed, my shoulders and hips still hurting like hell.

Next morning I found out that I’d done the official first bit of the walk, a distance of around 20 miles from Macquarie Place to Thornleigh Oval. I’d done that in heat of up to 32 degrees while carrying a pack weighing 30 kilos and achieved it in a time of about 8 hours. I’d also done it alone.

As disappointing as it was to bail after what I later worked out was only 13% of the Great North Walk, I’m pleased to have at least tried it and to have spent such a lovely time (up until all I could focus on was the pain my body was in) in such beautiful country. Camping by the river in Fairyland was wonderful.

The record for completing the whole walk is apparently 54 hours. That gives me a sense of scale for how B.I.G the whole thing is as the two people who achieved that, couldn’t have stopped moving and just did it like an ultra marathon. While I never even dreamed of competing with that, I never once thought when setting out that a little thing like stamina would get in the way.

I’ll be back. Next time with a partner and a week or two to finish it all.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Nomadic Kravver- Back & White

I recently trained & graded with SGS Krav Maga in Sydney, Australia. Top notch club and had a great albeit sweaty time practicing Krav and revisiting P5 with them. The head of KMG Australia & New Zealand is a bloke named Adam White, an E3 instructor who has a day job as a high school sports teacher. SGS’s instructors had mentioned his name a few times and I assumed, with Australia being so utterly, mind bogglingly vast, that Adam resided somewhere like Darwin or Cairns.

After a trip to Broken Hill to visit the Mad Max 2 museum out there (yep, there’s a museum JUST for the second movie) I came back to the east coast to couch surf in the town of Newcastle and my host plus a couple of German guests staying same time as me, expressed an interest in learning some Krav Maga.

I looked up local clubs and…lo and behold, Adam White runs a club in Newcastle. I took a trip out there just to say Hi in between sightseeing (ever been to a place called Bogey Hole? It’s an experience) and he was in the middle of some renovation. Had a chat about a few things and arranged the next night to take the German couple along for the beginners’ class (my host bailed).

We got there and a guy named Tommy was on reception. The class seemed pretty popular, with about 20 people plus the guys I’d brought along, waiting to join in. Adam was patient in his introductions to the class. Most were on their very first lesson and he gave a brief history of what Krav is and how it came to be, mentioning the founder Imi Lichtenfeld and why Krav Maga is so effective. 

A few questions were asked about reasonable force and Adam pointed out that as most women are, by nature’s design, weaker physically than men, a woman who subdues an attacker violently would be allowed more leeway on the definition of ‘reasonable’ than a man using the same level of violence. 

They then moved into the warm up and Adam took breaks every so often to explain what was going on and usually back this up with an anecdote. I initially wondered how the lesson would go, with a lot of talking from Adam taking place. It turned out that the lesson was the right balance of instruction and verbal reassurance plus tuition, and made it clear that Adam knew exactly how long to speak, teach and let the students practice for.

When the students split into pairs there was one group of three so I volunteered to help out. The students were working with striking, kneeing and scanning. This meant hitting a strike shield and then simulating a groin strike before breaking off to ‘scan’ (check the area around you is clear of further threat.

When they then moved to miming actual knee strikes on each other, I grabbed the groin guard I’d packed just in case (hey, go prepared I say) and Adam saw it, saying to my partner “That is now a licence to kick him hard there!”

My partner was exhibiting a classic case of Nice Person Syndrome, i.e. it is NOT natural to boot someone in the crotch. I invited her to have a free shot and after a couple of attempts and a blustered “Sorry!” she finally got into it. I’ve been there myself and it takes a leap of faith to believe that the groin guard really will withstand a hefty kick.

We then moved to choke releases and I let my partner carry on instead of switching. Adam had demonstrated the necessity of sudden, explosive movement when escaping the front choke with the primary focus being release of the pressure on your neck.

At the end there were groups of three with one person standing still with their eyes closed and a partner with a strike shield moving around them. The third person would randomly ‘choke’ the central figure, who then had to do the release before deciding whether to attack or bail out, when they saw where the strike shield was. This was simulating an attack by more than one person.

I was flattered when Adam then invited me to walk around the mats, checking that the groups were doing their techniques correctly, along with him and Tommy.

At the end after a final summary of what they’d covered the group did the final bow and began to move out. The nervous faces had been replaced by a mixture of sweat and smiles. My friends said they’d enjoyed it and found the instruction useful, especially as they are backpacking around the world right now.

Great to meet the head of KMG Oz & NZ like this and I’m now looking forward to the seminars with Eyal Yanilov in Sydney on the 22nd January.