Saturday, 31 March 2018

For Want Of A Nail

For about 8 years now, on and off, I’ve been a practitioner of Krav Maga. I have taken a total of 8 gradings, hold the rank of P5 and have trained in Italy, the UK, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.

I’ve qualified to teach children Krav under Ze’ev Cohen when I took the Kids Instructor Course.

I have completed the General Instructors Course but haven’t graduated yet.

I’ve met Eyal Yanilov several times and interviewed him for this blog and for KMG UK.

I’ve attended seminars for public transport, aeroplane hijacks, adrenaline and 3rd party protection plus many others.

I’ve cured my lifelong phobia of fighting through sparring on day 11, of part 1 of the GIC**.

I run this blog and have published a book about Krav Maga called “Walk In Pieces”. 

I’ve lost a piece of a tooth on my P4 grading and been personally selected by Eyal Yanilov with 9 other people to fight The Bullet Men at the KMG World Tour 2014. 
Basically…I’ve had a lot of fun doing Krav Maga.

The main things Krav has taught me is that ego is dangerous and what my brother might call “the puffy option” is usually the best one (i.e. walking away from confrontation if you can). I’ve become calmer, more self confident and a lot less paranoid through following this discipline. 

My life since 2016 has involved a lot of backpacking. In August of that year I had what might be called a mid-life crisis and decided to give the cat away, sell the car, put most of my stuff in storage and fulfil my dream of going to Australia & New Zealand. During that time I learned to be careful about my personal space and to keep close attention to where I have my stuff. I ALWAYS carried my passport, money and phone on me in a military style hip pouch that you cannot take from me unless I give it to you or you take it from me by force. 

Now that I’m settled in Rome teaching English I give security a high priority in my life. I share a flat with 2 other guys and my bedroom door has a lock, as does my wardrobe. Before I go out I put all valuables I’m not taking with me into the wardrobe, lock it and then hide the key. I then check the balcony window is secure and lock the bedroom door, hiding that key too. 

I use a bicycle to get about so it has not one, or two but THREE locks. One for the frame, one for the front wheel (one of those awful, quick-release things) and one for the saddle. When I stop to go shopping I strip everything from the bike that could be stolen. 

When cycling I am constantly aware of the traffic and practice what could romantically be called “defensive biking”, i.e. I anticipate drivers and pedestrians acting like idiots and plan accordingly. So far I’ve had no accidents but a fair few near misses.

A couple of months ago I read about the Cooper colour code and adopted it as a way to get by each day. 

Basically I’m someone who’s pretty careful. 

And then, 2 weeks ago, I got my phone snatched at about 2am in central Rome. 

I was walking around using my phone’s GPS to try and find the night bus stop when a guy approached me, grinning broadly and and said “Ciao!” like all he wanted to do was be my bestest pal. My instincts kicked in and I immediately put the phone in the inside pocket of my jacket. 

The bloke walked along next to me and asked casually “Why did you put the phone away?”

I replied “So no one can steal it”.

“They can”, he said and after a few more seconds, he lunged over, stuck his hand in the pocket, grabbed the phone and ran off. 

The reason he got away with this……

I was very, very drunk.

Luckily my wallet and money were in the other pocket so I got the bus home eventually and woke up that morning feeling very sorry for myself. Phone gone, contacts lost, messages too. Only good thing was that I had extremely good security on the phone which means that the thieving toad who took it can’t access the contents. Once the self pity wore off I realised just how lucky I had been. I didn’t get hurt and this wasn’t even a mugging, merely a street robbery with minimal physical contact. The state I was in that night, I would have been no good in fight and losing the phone was a minor inconvenience compared to what could have happened. Only Jackie Chan can fight when he's drunk and still win.

The one and only reason he was able to reach into my jacket and grab the phone was because I hadn’t done up the third button. Believing no one could get in there I’d settled for doing up the first two. I’ve tried quickly darting my hand in that pocket since this incident occurred and 4 times out of 5 I snag my fingers on the jacket lining. It’s not an easy thing to achieve which means my thief was either very skilled or very lucky. 

That button cost me my phone but more importantly my decision to get ratted and then wander around on my own at half past bastard in the morning had, like the proverb For Want Of A Nail, led to greater things going wrong. Had I not been that drunk I would have found the bus stop. Had I found the bus stop I wouldn’t have been wandering around with my phone out. Had I been sober I would have simply moved away quickly, or even run, when the bloke walked up. Had I been less drunk I would have done up that third button.

All the training in the world, all that time spent doing gradings and learning about avoidance, de-escalation and fighting techniques…was meaningless because I was so inebriated. 

I know an E5 Krav Maga instructor and told him this story. He said that this kind of thing is one reason he doesn’t drink alcohol at all. 

It only took the smallest of errors for all that misery to occur and what scared me the most was that my training, mindset and skills were negated completely. The third button was undone because I wasn’t aware it could have prevented this crime and above all it made me realise that.

No matter how hard you train.
How strong you are.
How determined you feel.
How good you might be.
None of that will matter if you are
attacked when you are drunk.

** Imagine throwing an aquaphobe in the Arctic ocean...and then seeing them swim back.

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