Monday, 21 August 2017

After A While...



As I sit here, my hips aching and bruises in places that I didn’t know I even had places, there’s a temporary reprieve from the last 12 days.

I’ve just finished the final exam for the General Instructors Course, or GIC. This is run by Krav Maga Global and, if you pass it, means you become an instructor for the organisation and obtain at least a Graduate 1 grade (after all, you have to be at least a G1 to teach Practitioners 1 to 5). There are myths, rumours and even substantiated claims of some GIC candidates passing out with a G2 or even a G3 patch, some of which were not even a P5 when they went in.

My body is, to put it politely, completely f**ked. This was the second part of the training. In April up in the Gold Coast of Australia, I did part 1. That was the initial chunk, the first half. The reason that KMG no longer do the course Monday to Saturday with Sundays off, is that 24 days in a row is unsustainable for anyone except badasses who have just come out of the army or those who run ultramarathons for a hobby. 

After 10 weeks off, we then came back to Melbourne and began phase 2. Another 12 days. I have been pushed both physically and emotionally to my absolute frigging limits. I’ve felt like giving up, I’ve taken cocktails of painkillers, I’ve eaten like a pregnant Sumo wrestler and not put on an ounce in fat. Seven to eight hours a day of fighting training. Not just learning HOW to fight but learning how to teach OTHERS to fight….and also how not to.

Having to learn technical skills, then write down the technique, then have to teach it. It’s been beyond hard. This was a course I came into knowing it would be something to test my limits. I nearly didn’t come back for the second part, seriously considering “losing” my passport so I could get my non-refundable, return ticket from London to Melbourne refunded. 

As the days went by, in both phases, I gritted my teeth and marked off little points of victory.

Survived the first day. Whoopee!

Got through the first quarter (3rd day). Awesome!

Got to the end without being injured to the point of having to withdraw! Brilliant!

We also had homework to do almost daily. Lesson plans, theory revision and also a test on Krav that we were obliged to spend a great deal of time doing properly with a pass mark of 75%. I got 88% and momentarily felt immortal. 

Then we had the teaching test. I was assigned “Release from static choke from behind”. I had to teach this to six of my peers. I passed that test too and my hopes were high for the grading on the final day. 

There had been 15 of us but one person had to drop out due to injury. 14 candidates on test day. I shouted “Who else hasn’t got a partner?” and I got the huge Serbian guy. 

We started and it went on and on and on. After 4-ish hours we began sparring and my badass partner virtually handed me my ass. Seriously don’t think I’ve ever been roundhoused in the head in a standing position before. Determined to at the very least, stand my ground, I did exactly that, too tired and too inflexible in the back hips to try and retaliate in kind. As we tumbled to the floor my adrenalin kicked in and I could hear myself yelling “F**K YOU! YOU F**KING C**T!!” before he got me in a choke hold and I had to tap out.

The sparring and ground fighting finally came to a close and with my clothes sodden in sweat and my hair hanging so far over my face that I had about 30% visibility, I joined the other guys for the icing on the cake. 50 push ups, 60 sit ups, 70 squats and 20 brownies (imagine if a burpee decided to become a Satanist…THAT’S a brownie).

Staggering off the mats I gulped down literally about 2 litres of water and forced granola bars and glucose gel into my bruised stomach. The Serbian guy was next to me and I said “Don’t take the swearing personally, I don’t really think you’re a c**t”. 

He chuckled and said, wiping sweat from his forehead, “It’s OK, you needed the adrenalin rush”.

Now…about half an hour after the final test has ended, we are sat facing the examiner. Franklyn Hartkamp. Expert level 4 in KMG and a part of the Global Instructor Team. A nice guy, with a sense of humour but I have no illusions about any one of us being given the GIC unless we deserve it. 

He starts with my Serbian partner and after brief feedback tells him he passed and we all clap and smile at the guy, pleased for him yet still cacking it for ourselves. Franklyn then moves to another guy, feedback given, constructive criticism forthcoming and he too has passed. Then it’s the guy’s partner and yet another pass. As Franklyn moves around the candidates, he is giving the feedback to the partners who trained and fought together in the test. This sets off my internal alarm bells. I was bypassed after my Serbian roundhouser buddy. I think maybe I haven’t made it after all.

The feedback moves on and on, each person being told they’ve passed and all of us clapping and offering words of congratulations. Then finally someone has failed. The feedback is fair, the tone level and friendly but Franklyn says that some more time is needed before this person can retest. I see the crestfallen look in their eyes and the hurt and pain and realise that feeling is something I’m going to be getting soon. But I hold out hope that maybe….maybe not.

Finally everyone else has had their feedback. 13 passes, 1 fail. Franklyn says “Is there anybody else?” and I raise my hand.

He looks at me and after a slight pause says, “After a while I stopped writing”.

I know in that moment that it’s over.

I had kind of guessed this would happen. I’ve been backpacking for the last 8 months and my training has been, to put it mildly, sporadic. While travelling in Australia and New Zealand I trained now and then. While in Greece with my father I would travel once a week-ish to a club 57 miles away  to train. I hadn’t done enough and deep down I knew that. I decided to go for it anyway though, determined not to be Schrodinger’s Pussy.

I feel calm, not upset or bitter like I imagined I might. Franklyn compliments me on my theory and teaching results and says that he’d like me to wait at least a year before trying again for the grading. You are allowed 3 fails of techniques on a GIC grading. I clearly hurtled past that number if he stopped taking notes or evaluating me. I thank him for his feedback and say that I accept 100% responsibility for failing. I also add that I’ll be back. Franklyn smiles and puts on a Schwarzenegger accent, repeating “I’ll be back!!”

We all then stand up and those who passed get their T-shirts, G1 patches and certificates. Excitedly they rip open the packaging and pull the shirts on. It reminds me of Christmas morning. I feel a little sad but resigned to the situation, knowing that this isn’t personal and with enough work I can come back, try again and pass.

Then the guys start posing for photos and me and the other failee are stood at the side. I have to turn away at this point, the disappointment and the realisation of what I’ve failed to achieve hitting me hard. 

I move to the changing room and a few minutes later a couple of guys join me, both saying they’re sorry and shaking my hand. I tell them I’m pleased for them and I mean it. I’ve trained with them for just shy of a month and they deserve what they’ve achieved.

After a few goodbyes I make my way back to my lodgings. My friends there initially refuse to believe I failed but cheer me up with hugs and reassurances about the future. 

I get a shower and change and then head back out for the final dinner with my fellow trainees. The mood is good, and although Franklyn couldn’t make it we send him some photos via WhatsApp and wolf down steak and ice cream in a great, riverside restaurant. The Serbian guy sits next to me and grinning, points to a cut on his lower lip. “You did that”, he says.

“Seriously? I actually landed one on you?”

He smiles again and replies “Yes, you fought well”.

After a few hours I say my final goodbyes to the guys and go home. I sleep until about 12pm the next day and the day after I’m on a plane home. 13 hours to Abu Dhabi, 7 hour stopover then a further 7 hours to London. 

Hubba! Hubba!

My body aches all over, my hips feel like they are at least 20 degrees out of alignment. My appetite is still raging and now I have about a 30 hour journey ahead of me to get home. 

I took GIC and I failed it. Of the initial 15, one guy had to stop due to injury. Me and one other failed the final test.

Was it worth it?


Of course it was!

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