Sunday, 18 March 2018

Defy Your Destiny

In July 2017 I checked my luggage in at Heathrow airport to take an Etihad Airways flight from the UK to Abu Dhabi. This was the first phase of a two-part journey back to Australia to complete the Krav Maga Global, Australia & New Zealand General Instructors Course (or KMG ANZ GIC 2017 for short).

Over the preceding week I had had many thoughts about my future and the very real possibility that I would fail the GIC. 

The course comes in three parts in most countries, two in some. KMG ANZ do it in two. Part 1 had been in the Gold Coast of Australia and was 12 days of learning under the tuition of Expert level 4 examiner Rune Lind**. The course, while enlightening, educational and mainly fun had also been bone jarringly exhausting and physically painful. 7 to 8 hours per day of training isn’t that hard to handle if you are even reasonably fit. But with the necessity to teach, make notes and stay mentally aware, it was VERY draining.

I thoroughly enjoyed it but on the last day, when Rune took us to one side individually to give us our personal feedback he said to me “If you carry on as you are, you won’t pass part 2. But do it anyway, because then 1 is locked down and you can retest 2 later on if you need to”.

I have covered the anxiety issues, and how it felt to fail, in my blogs Schroedinger’s Pussy and After A While… but recently I realised just why I really did it.

Just why I went back at all.

When part 1 was getting closer I was exercising as much as I could. I was backpacking in New Zealand at the time and, in order to get my mind on the right wavelength, I booked the return flight back from the UK to Oz for part 2 months before it was due to happen. Retrospectively this wasn’t necessary as you can do part 2 in any country where they are happy to accept you on the course, if you’ve completed part 1. However at the time I wanted to convince myself that I could see this through.

A tourist visa to Australia (or at least, the one I had) is valid for 9 months per year from the date of first entry. However, you must leave every 3 months in order to keep the visa active. So I had no choice but to quit Oz after part 1 had finished and I intended to spend it with my dad in Greece. 

When it came time to pack up my groin guard and fly to Melbourne for part 2, I had figured out how to “not go” and also get the money back. A lost passport would have been covered by my Platinum insurance and the non-refundable return flight as well. I decided only when I handed my luggage over at check-in desk to actually go back.

After another, more arduous, 12 days of training I failed the GIC as I had known I probably would.


All my life I have dreamed of being brave, being a warrior and defeating monsters. My earliest dreams, at the age of about 5, involved me as Lance cowboy, a hero of playschool*** who other kids held in awe and was loved by all. However, growing up my reality was very different. I had no ability to fight and while I wasn’t a coward (I’d stand still and take a beating to prove I wasn’t scared) I gave up trying to make a difference to my own limitations by about the age of 14. 

If something came unexpectedly, then I’d deal with it as best I could, but I would avoid situations that could cause me pain, loss, humiliation or other draining emotions, and keep my life on an even keel.

When I was 19 two bouncers in a pub I worked in, held me down and forcibly cut my hair. I did nothing and tried to laugh it off.

When I got a job after leaving uni, I quit due to bullying from my supervisor after making zero effort to fight back against her behaviour. 

My next job was populated by a bunch of wankers who were banal and bullying in equal measure. Again I did nothing.

A job I got in 2002 where my boss refused to pay me properly on my final day, I put up no resistance.

When I fell in love in 2004 and couldn’t deal with my emotions I ran away and hid for over 8 years, telling myself outrageous stories about how the woman must have felt about me.

When, in 2010, and a police officer, my sergeant bullied me gleefully until I resigned, I put up only token resistance and only made peace with the situation after publishing a book about it all.

Any key event in my life I wouldn’t see it through. I would stop and say that I’d stood my ground long enough and now it was time to move on.

And then GIC came. 

I had been training in Australia and New Zealand at a few clubs when I asked Adam White, the head of KMG ANZ if he’d let me take the course. I made it clear I couldn’t promise regular training but that I would still give it my all. Problem is, techniques need to be absorbed into muscle memory and by not training in clubs more than once every month or so, there was no way I was ready and deep down I knew that.

To fly back to Melbourne from London was going to take me about 30 hours. It was winter in Australia in July so I would not only be tired, I would be cold and uncomfortable too. The training would start early and end late. I would have homework to do. I would be facing a range of negative emotions and would hopefully be able to get over what I found out later is called The GIC Hump. This would be hard. It would be one of the hardest things I had ever done and to top it all off, I had little chance of success. I simply wasn’t ready. 

On day 12, the last day, I gave it as much as I could. I had passed both the theory and teaching exams on days 10 and 11 and while I knew I was bollocksing up the techniques that part 2 examiner Franklyn Hartkamp was asking us to demonstrate I still lived in the moment. After 5+ hours we all got our results and Franklyn made it clear that while I had got good passes on the first two exams he wanted me to wait a year before retesting, my techniques had been that lacking in polish. He also expressed surprise when I said I would be flying back to Europe in 2 days, asking “But you’re coming back?” and then saying that he’d never had this situation before, where someone had been in a country ONLY to take the exam and was leaving straight after.

Through all that pain, and eventual disappointment, I had spent a lot of money, time, sweat and pain on something that I now needed to do all over again if I still coveted the Instructors’ T-shirt.

But then….

I had come back. I’d sen this to the end. I’d not made a false insurance claim and told myself that I could do part 2 “another time”. I’d travelled a ridiculous amount of miles and gone through a world of pain. And that was the achievement. For possibly the first time in my adult life I had, with my eyes wide open, decided to not turn the ship around, tuck tail and run, or do a U-ey. I’d faced my fears of both failure and pain and both participated in and completed something that, even three years previously, I NEVER thought I would be able to do. I had fought with guys both better and worse than me, and had my 42 year phobia of fighting finally cured during the sparring on day 11 of GIC part 1.

I resigned my jobs, I didn’t protest when two thugs cut my hair for a laugh, I hadn’t been able to tell the woman I loved how I felt about her, but now, knowing that I was 80% likely to fail I had still gone back and done this. 

This was the achievement, not the G1 patch or the Instructors’ certificate and T-shirt. To know that I could trek across the world to pursue a dream. Something I’d always wanted, and not back down when the odds were against me. I’d faced my demons and I’d had a good time. A video of me fighting during the grading shows me getting my arse handed to me by a much bigger, better and stronger opponent (who at one point, kicks me in the HEAD from a standing position). The same video also shows that while I’m out of my league, I’m also not backing down. He was the personification of the GIC. I knew I couldn’t beat him, but I tried anyway and stood my ground.

This experience gave me back a lot of the self esteem I lost growing up. In 2010 I had a tattoo done on my left arm that said “Defy Your Destiny” and for once I tried to. 

I now know that even if I never retake the GIC I have the power to try whatever I want.

** Now Expert 5.
*** Kindergarten to Yanks.

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