Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Master Effect

In Krav Maga, like any self defence or martial arts system, there is a fear factor present. It sits up there on the shelf with fitness (or lack of), exhaustion, anxiety and adrenalin. Fear is ever present to some degree because, to put it bluntly, we are involved in a discipline that teaches the use of brutal, physical force and despite what anyone doing non-contact Karate may try and bluster, it is not normal to put yourself in that situation willingly. Every instinct of human survival screams at you to run away from trouble…but that’s why we train. To override the flinch response and hone our reflexes to deal more appropriately with aggression and violence.

Fear is a good thing in moderation. Fear can kickstart adrenalin and it can “show you where the edge is”. Fear can keep you sharp, keep your muscle memory active and stop you from becoming complacent or even lazy. Multiple attackers drill? I’d be lying if I said that fear didn’t show its face to some degree on that one. How about sparring with someone MUCH bigger than who’s at least a grade higher? Fear could be distilled from my veins from that. And let’s not forget the joys of Being Called To The Front To Help Demonstrate A Technique. Oh, my God! The fear.

In the end though we step forward, face the fear and move past it. Fear in training is normal and it is essential. Jon Bullock, head of KMG UK once said at a seminar that we are not afraid of getting hurt in training as we know that is probably not going to happen. What we are afraid of most of all is looking foolish in front of other people.

The biggest fear I have EVER faced so far in the 7 years I’ve being doing Krav Maga was in 2014 when I was chosen by Eyal Yanilov to fight what are known as the Bullet Men. Me and 9 others at Eyal’s World Tour seminar in Essex, were selected to go up against TWO guys in Predator suits…one at a time. I was the last to fight and I have seriously never been as scared as I was in the half hour leading up to the fight. Once we went hands on, I was fine though. It was my mind that was frightening me, filling my head with stories and fears and paranoia about what was, looking back on it, an awesome experience and a privilege. To sum up…I was hand picked by the head of Krav Maga Global to fight in front of everyone and over 100 other people in the room weren’t. I still remember very clearly just how scared I was and as Jon said, it was mainly due to fear of how I would be perceived by my peers, instructors and most of all Eyal Yanilov. I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt.

Photo by Anna Surowiec

Fear clouded my mind, got my palms sweaty and made me feel physically nauseous. Fear, that day, was a bit of a bastard.

Fear like that though, is useful. Now I’m not so scared in front of a room full of people. The fear can be dealt with, moved past and adapted to. Fear is a tool, like fire. You can control it but don’t ever get casual or lose sight of what you’re doing with it.

But…there’s another type of fear and it’s what I call the Master Effect. 

The earliest example of this was about 5 years ago when I was training in the UK. The club was fairly new back then and there was only one P5 in the club. We would all look at him with awe as he walked into training, silent and heavily muscled. A P5. Cor! Newbies asked me at least twice in whispered tones “Is he the P5?” and for some reason it seemed necessary to keep our voices down. I mean, what if he heard us talking and wanted to spar with us? Oh my God! The guy in question is actually a really nice bloke and a couple of years ago took the GIC and became an instructor. He’s now a G2 and his classes are well respected. 

In training you will see heaps of P zeros and a lot of P1s and P2s. The herd thins after that and finding a G level in normal training is not a regular occurence in a lot of clubs. The only people with G or even E patches that most students get to see are their instructors. 

And then you go to a grading and you get to meet a guy from the Global Instructor Team. 

Throughout my time doing Krav there are names that have sent shivers down the spine and made throats go dry. Names that make many a practitioner’s pupils dilate and struck fear into the hearts of those who are about to grade.

Stories I heard on hearsay could be summed up like this:

Eyal is the boss. Trained by Imi Lichtenfeld himself. Late 50s and still a badass. Master level 3 and has been doing Krav Maga for over five decades. Fights like a cross between the Terminator and a ballet dancer. Does Yoga every day. 

Zeev is the next most senior. A Master level 1. Invented the Kids Instructor Course. A former career soldier** and disciplinarian. Has failed people at G and E level gradings for being too injured to continue. Once failed an entire P4 grading after spending just 10 minutes watching them. The Gordon Ramsay of Krav Maga. 

Tommy Blom. Scary, with a beard. A man of few words. The first man behind Eyal and Zeev to make E5. Intense stare. Former MMA fighter. Doesn’t smile a lot

Rune Lind. Expert level 4. Smiling yet huge, hulking Viking of a man. Mild mannered yet strict.


These images and impressions I had of these guys were based solely on seeing them from across a room, in photos and by heresay reputation.

Then I met them.

Eyal was a nice guy, quietly spoken and very friendly. When he offered me the chance to fight the Bullet Men he smiled and asked “Do you want to do it?” Has a sense of humour and puts people at ease in training. I have interviewed him a few times for my blog and he’s always got time to answer questions.

Zeev was also a nice guy. I did the Kids Instructor Course with him in Israel in 2016 and he was reassuring and supportive the whole way through. When I asked him about the story of the people failed after 10 minutes he simply laughed and said it wasn’t true. Gave me constructive feedback during and after the KIC and was clearly idolised by the kids in his club. 

Tommy was…another nice guy. Met him briefly in Israel and we had a chat about stuff, including his E5 grading. Smiled a few times and was very friendly.

Rune. Took my P1, P3 and GIC part 1. Easy going and…yep! Another nice guy. Reassuring, easy going and a great teacher. 

The ONLY thing that matched up with what I’d heard about these guys was that they expected us to work hard in training. 

In 2015 both Eyal and Zeev were at the P&G camp held in Essex. Being England in Winter the weather was its usual, dreary British drizzle and both of them left training to to back to their hotel wearing light waterproof jackets with the hoods up and looking nothing out of the ordinary. The two most senior Krav Maga teachers IN THE WORLD would have blended in to any crowd. 

Fear in training can be dealt with as it’s something you confront at least once a week if you go regularly. Fear of people you haven’t met yet is another thing entirely. You form images in your mind and kerosene is thrown on the fire by your anxieties. Failing people for being too injured to continue isn’t the actions of a bastard once you think about it. A driving test would be discontinued and rescheduled if another car drove into yours halfway through the exam….regardless of whose fault the accident was. 

The Master Effect is another barrier to being able to concentrate, and it’s only through having met the guys above that I realised that what you hear about people from other people should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

However, I have yet to meet Ilya Dunsky….


** Can't say just "soldier" as that would include anyone, male or female, over 18 in Israel.

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