Refereeing: A commentary

Posted: December 14, 2017 by Warren Chow in Competition
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In addition to training in Krav Maga, I am involved in the judo community. For instance, I am a referee for various judo tournaments that are held in the province each year, and I have refereed for matches ranging from white belts to black belts.  In my competition days as a teenager I always took the referee for granted and didn’t appreciate the value that they brought to the match, other than to award points based on actions that the competitors would successfully execute.  However, as I evolved from being a competitor to an adult recreational practitioner, I became interested in becoming a referee and giving back to the community.  I’m unsure about other martial arts, but being a judo referee is an unpaid, volunteer position and, in fact, often involves being hundreds of dollars out of pocket having to travel to the various tournament locations.  So, “giving back” means more than just donating your time.  However, I enjoy refereeing and consider the expenses a cost of having a hobby.  Whether it is judo, or any other sport that requires referees, the role is vital because it allows the athlete to compete to their utmost degree and being in a safe, controlled environment, while being monitored by an objective 3rd party.

When I first started refereeing I was very nervous. Although I was already familiar with the point system and the various calls that the referee would make during the match, and I had taken the two-day seminar that went into much more detail on the duties of the referee before, during, and after the match, I still wasn’t prepared for being out there on the mat trying my best to make the right calls at the right times.  In fact, the first tournament I refereed at was a simple, low stake, “inter-club tournament” for juniors, but I was very nervous and was stalling as long as I could until my daughter threatened to call me out and embarrass me in front of everyone unless I got my butt out there on the mat “right now!”.  I did not have fun that day, but I also knew that it was the first time I refereed matches in real-time, with real winners and losers, and that the experience would (or should) only get better from that day forward.

161203-14.jpgThe referee is responsible for much more than is evident. In judo, the referee ensures that the mat area is clean of debris before the match, the competitors have regulation gis that fit properly, and follow the proper protocols for bowing and being prepared to fight.  During the match the referee controls the flow of the engagement by awarding points or penalties appropriately and pausing the match at the necessary times.  After the fight is over, the proper winner must be announced, and the protocols followed for disengaging from the match.  The top three priorities for a referee are ensuring the match is conducted in a safe manner to prevent injuries, being objective and fair towards both competitors, and keeping the flow of the match moving along.  As with anything with rules, the application of the rules becomes more of an art than a science.

In the referee seminar, one of the points that the instructor stressed was that, in the end, the right person needs to be declared the winner. Anything else is a lower priority.  This may seem obvious, but as the competitors are fighting, time is ticking, and points or penalties are being awarded left and right, and it can be confusing for the scorekeepers to keep up.  Although it is rare, there has been more than one occasion in which a coach on the sidelines is yelling to have the score changed because there was some mix-up, and they are right to be upset.  In the junior matches the stakes are not very high since they are regarded as developmental tournaments and learning opportunities.  However, in the more senior matches it is vital that the correct scoring is applied as the outcome can directly impact and influence the athletes’ candidacy for moving on to higher level tournaments.  Or, in the case of the annual Canadian Judo Nationals, can determine who gets to stand on top of the podium and be declared “The Best in Canada”.  As the instructor constantly repeated, any call can be overruled and corrected before the fight is officially over and the winner is declared.  And with that in mind, it made my learning curve for refereeing much less stressful.

As I’m progressing through my refereeing career it’s becoming easier and easier. With each tournament I attend, I learn a bit more and since I’m less nervous, I can focus more on smoothing out my rough edges and improve on making better judgements.  In the beginning I was stressed because, as the referee, you’re out there on the mat along with both of the competitors, so it’s easy to be self-conscious.  However, as my daughter continued to remind me, “Nobody’s looking at you, they’re watching the athletes.  They don’t care about the ref!”.  The more experience you gain as a referee allows you to progress through the various levels, and you can then be a referee at tournaments in other provinces, or at the national level.  Of course, if one had started refereeing early enough, you can gain enough experience to referee at international competitions in other countries, up to and including the Olympics.  However, for myself I’m content with staying at the provincial level for now, but who knows what will happen in the future.

In most sports there are various roles available in which a person can participate, whether it’s as an athlete, a coach, or a referee. Of course, as one gets older it becomes more difficult to be a competitor so the natural progression from there is to be a coach or a referee, if the sport requires one.  As you progress through your sporting career I hope that you remain involved even after you can no longer compete, since the experience and knowledge that you’ve gained would be invaluable input for the next generation of athletes.  Let them learn from your experience and give back to the community that helped form you to be the person you are today.  Since I find it exciting to watch competitive judo, refereeing gives me the opportunity to stay involved in the matches at an intimate level.  Also, I get the best seat in the house!

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Krav Maga and Use of Force

Posted: December 12, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
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This photo is a representation of the complex decision making that needs to occur in a split second in your brain during a violent confrontation. It is meant to be confusing, it is meant to be cluttered. See Stages of mental processing for more.

 

Krav Maga was developed to deal with extreme duress and potential risk to human life, which makes the style very aggressive and functional, However, since its creation, countries have grown and laws have changed. Not all countries have the same outlook on what is an appropriate use of force. In many developed countries, it is expected from trained individuals to minimize their use of force to only that which is necessary. Therefore, know your country’s laws; know what is considered too much force in your country. In some places, the law may consider killing acceptable, so long as it is in self defense. But in other places, that may not be the case. It is up to you, and only you to use your discretion to decide what amount of force is appropriate. Above is a guide to situations in which one should or shouldn’t use force. This is only a guide; we can’t tell you what is right or wrong. Know the laws, and use your discretion.

Understand, that how fast you can react or make a decision is based on many factors such as training, and experience. It can also be determined based on what state of mental awareness you are in. One key is to be situationally aware or at mental colour code yellow. (See Awareness Colour Code for more detail). No matter what your training or experience if you fail to be situationally aware and identify the threat your reactions may be too slow. Add on to the complexity of the decision-making process as seen (above) and you may start to understand why so many are woefully unready to deal with an initial burst of violence.

There is a reason the best Self Defense is to not be there in the first place because the more complex the situation, the more complex the decision making and the more likely there will be an error in judgment. Real life is messy, and mistakes happen, no matter how well you are prepared. This is why unless it is your job to engage practice avoidance and diffusion as a general lifestyle (See The stages of Self Defense).

After all, “You Win 100% of Fights you are not in.” – Nir Maman – CT707 Founder

Use of Force is a term usually to describe a model of one form or another that is a decision making tree to decide when and how to use violence to counter violence. It must be remembered that in the immediate situation and acute exposure to a violent act if you are unable to avoid or diffuse the situation then you must meet violence with violence. There is no way to overcome this it is the time to fight fire with fire. In that one moment, you MUST meet violence hard, fast and aggressive all while applying the appropriate level of force for the level of violence you are dealing with. It will always be messy, it may be full of mistakes, but if you make the correct decisions you will go home to safety.

*Topics under any principle category (EX. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time so always check in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.

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My first Krav Maga class: Carrie, 48

Posted: December 7, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in UTKM Student Corner
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To be honest, I thought that my first blog post would certainly involve sublime musings on clothes, shoes, and purses. As it turns out, fashion bloggers run rampant on the internet.
My FIrst Krav Maga Class Photo

No Groin, No Krav Maga

So, upon the suggestion of my colleague, Warren, a self-proclaimed pragmatic, and a brown belt in Judo and green belt in Krav Maga (he is one of the original students at UTKM), I succumbed to writing a snippet about my brief encounter with this Israeli fighting system. To say that I was apprehensive about my first class would be slightly misleading.  I was quite enthusiastic about it.
Warren had provided me with an insider’s peek into the class through our chats, his blog posts, and the UTKM promotional video.  His approach to personal and general safety was just sensible. As Jon, the instructor points out, living in Vancouver, we are a little spoiled and possibly sheltered.  But that does not mean we are above crime, danger, and random confrontations.  I don’t walk around in constant fear but I do walk around with a sense of awareness and my surroundings that goes with the territory of being small, and a female.  You just want to feel safe.
My husband and I did the free trial class a couple of weekends ago.  We had always been mildly interested in the notion of taking up a martial art that wasn’t just textbook techniques.  That has no real world application for us, being parents of two young girls. Krav Maga, the way Warren explained it to me, seemed like a logical thing to try.
The class started off simply with Jon going over levels of situational awareness, levels of action/in-action, and some basic stances.  Pretty common sense stuff.  We played a cardio “game” that involved the group throwing various sized balls to each other while in motion.  The punishment, for lack of a better word, for dropping a ball was ten pushups.  After the third ball drop, my muscles were sore and weak, and I jokingly asked, “can we do sit-ups instead?”.  Jon was kind enough to switch us to burpees which I admittedly find easier to cheat on than a pushup.  But he did remind the class first that normally you don’t get to ask your attacker if he would go easier on you. I nodded in agreement, happily doing my half-burpee.  During the rest of the class, Jon and Warren demonstrated how to protect yourself and possibly escape from a rear-naked choke hold, and another move which we practised with a belted partner.  The class demographic was mostly male, with one orange-belt female.
Though I did feel self-conscious being a newbie, the atmosphere of the class was not intimidating, and people were friendly.  I felt as if everyone was there to learn and practice an important life skill.  As much as swimming is considered a life skill so should be physical self-preservation.  I would love to assume that I could run away from most danger, but in the event that I could not outrun a scary situation, it would make sense to me that I should be somewhat equipped to assess, diffuse, and, or buy enough time to flee danger.
There is one important aspect of the Warrior class that happens at the end of each class.  For five minutes, members, donning full protective gear, randomly spar with each other, tapping each other in and out, doing full contact punching and kicking. As I watched, I felt amused, fascinated, and impressed.  I was pumped.  From my onlooker’s perspective, I very much wanted to spar for a number of reasons, including tension and stress relief, and really just to see how hard I could punch and kick someone. You don’t get an opportunity to do this every day with a “willing partner”.  It felt real, but not scary.  You will attack and be attacked.  But in a safe and controlled environment.  At that point, it seemed to me that what was being taught was how to use your adrenaline, remain focused, not freeze, and confront what was in front of you, using whatever means necessary to protect yourself.
My only regret with taking the class is that I have not been able to mentally commit to carving out the time to pursue it further and feel guilty for my excuses. Not right now, I guess.  But feels like definitely, hopefully, soon.
By Carrie, 48.

The Blog of UTKMs (Christmas)Future

Posted: December 5, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Urban Tactics Krav Maga
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Yes, we know Krav Maga is Jewish in origin we get it GEEZ! it’s just a literary reference. 5 points if you can tell us who. (There are no actual points given, you can just feel special that you knew the reference)

 

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Its a ghost of some kind of Future at least…Morbid, we know. but hey it fits the reference. Really it should be a happy ghost because our future looks nothing but bright.

 

Anyways, as with every year, we tend to time the changes for the good and the growth of UTKM with the New year. One of the changes we are making is that we are going to phase out Belt Guides its hard copy and Digital and instead importing all the intro information onto this blog for FREE! Over the next, however many weeks it will take, we will be posting one topic that can be found in the intros of the books. We will then create a new page under the Krav Maga tab called Krav Maga Principles where they will all be easy to find.

One of the reasons we are phasing them out is because they are somewhat out of date and we are not happy with many of the photos in the guides. In stead, we will be re-filming our entire white belt curriculum and re-posting them on our youtube channel. In addition, we will be releasing the basics of the yellow and Orange Belt curriculum in Video form as well.

Eventually..at some point in the “Christmas” future…. we will be having some kind of pay to access website or channel for all the more advanced topics as well as more fleshed out explinations of a variety of topics. So in the mean time you can enjoy our usual shenanigans on this blog or on our facebook page.

 

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In addition to being a Krav Maga practitioner, I train in judo and have always been interested in the competitive and tournament side of the sport. While others may love watching a great football pass that leads to a spectacular 50 yard run resulting in a touchdown, I am equally enthralled when I watch a judoka execute a perfect throw on a resisting opponent.  It can be an amazing sight to see.

One thing that I always found interesting was that at the end of a match, several times the judokas would be splayed out on the mat, seemingly exhausted to the point of not being able to move. They would lie there for several seconds until the referee would motion for them to stand up and bow off, thus officially ending the match with a winner declared.  I would think, “How could they be so active and fighting hard just a few seconds ago and now they can’t even move?  They’re young and they’re fit, so how could they be so tired?”.  I spoke to my daughter about this, who is also a judo competitor, and she said she’s experienced that level of exhaustion many times in her tournament matches, or the training camps.  It wasn’t until I experienced the same level of exhaustion in my recent green belt test that I appreciated even a small trace of what my daughter was talking about.

It is difficult for a person to independently push themselves to the point of exhaustion because usually before they get to that stage, they’ll stop and take a break. It’s like trying to hold your breath until you pass out.  There may be some fitness fanatics who do push themselves to that degree on a regular basis, but I believe that for the average person, which I consider myself to be, there are primarily 3 situations which could drive them to the point of exhaustion and beyond.

1) In a test,

2) In competition

3) In a life-threatening situation.

 I heard people shouting “Get up!  Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening.  My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.

 

In each of these situations, the timing of when the “ordeal” ends is out of your control, so you have no choice but to fight through the pain and keep on going.  Personally, it’s been years since I’ve been at this level of intense situation, if ever, so in retrospect, I found it an interesting experience to be pushed to the point of exhaustion.  During the green belt test, this point occurred when I was sparring one-on-one with someone in the last few minutes of the 3 hour test.  I was already tired, physically and mentally, and I found myself on the ground.  As I was trying to get back up my body, my arms, my legs, and anything else literally felt like 1000 pounds and I could not lift myself up, as much as I was telling myself to continue fighting and get back up.  I heard people shouting “Get up!  Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening.  My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.  It was like being in a bad dream where you find yourself running through molasses.  I think that was the point that Jon told me later when he thought I wasn’t going to make it and was going to give up.  But slowly, ever so slowly, while trying to punch at the same time, I managed to get up.  I know now that when pushed to your limit, it truly becomes a game of mind over matter.  It would have been so easy to just lie down and think “Who cares.”, but if you’re determined and you refuse to give up, you will overcome things that your body tells you it doesn’t want to do.

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I can’t imagine being in a situation like this again, at least in the near future, but I now better appreciate how competitors will find themselves splayed out on the mat at the end of a match unable to get up. I also appreciate more what my daughter has gone through in her judo training and competitions.  If you get the chance where you will be pushed to this point of exhaustion, you should embrace it and relish the opportunity, because it will likely be in a safe environment where there is minimal risk of injuring yourself, or worse.  It’s an interesting experience and you will be surprised at how much you can tolerate and where you discover the edge of your envelope is.  And then the next time, you can push beyond it.  Push yourself, strive for more, keep going and don’t give up!  You’ll thank yourself later.

If you are new to martial arts or have done it previously but are switching schools there are always some dos and don ts. This is of course only my opinion, but it is based on what drives me nuts when new students come. And trust me, annoying your martial arts instructor from the start is not the way to go. Remember your instructor is a human too, and like any relationship sometimes first impressions do matter.

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1. Don’t come in with too many expectations

Everyone thinks they know what to expect especially when they are new, because they researched it on the internet. Or they know exactly how things are going to go. This is not true.

“What you found on the internet, may infact, be bullshit.”

 

Every school is different they have different standards, expectations and cultures and what you found on the internet may, in fact, be bullshit. The best thing to do is show up try out some classes see if its what you like and if so keep going.

If of course, you had previous experience in martial arts for the love of god please don’t talk about the way your old school did stuff. If you were able to keep training there or you liked training there then why aren’t you training there? Again, every school is different, and some are the right fit for you and some are not. So accept the new schools’ culture and ways (if you like it) and leave your old school where it belongs, in the past.

2. Don’t tell them you are serious and are going to train all the time if you are not

This one drives me insane because it happens all the time. I think people just don’t understand how much energy it takes to train all the time. If you have school, work and a family, life gets in the way and sometimes you cannot train as much as you think you can.

But more importantly, Actions speak louder than words. I don’t care who you think you are, I don’t know you and no I DON’T trust you. If you tell me “man, believe me, I’m going to be in here every day,” I WILL assume you are full of shit because 9 times out of 10 I hear this the person is full of shit.

The person who says nothing and is training 3-4 times a week is the person who I will trust when they say they are going to do things.

And no I don’t care what your reason is for not showing up because all I see is you are not showing up. If you want to make the time for it, you will, no excuses.

3. Don’t ask for special discounts just because it’s you

No you are not special and I don’t care, if I wanted to give you a special discount I would. Aside from that, if discounts are not listed don’t ask. Are you my family? or longterm friend? if the answer is no then you are not entitled to any discount (and even then they sometimes are not) because it is a business and until I build a relationship with you, you are not my friend you are a student. So stop asking, it is rude and it is annoying.

Of course, if discounts are explicitly listed, and you are entitled to it, then prove it and you should receive it. For example, I offer 30% off a first program for military or LE etc. (even though most of them never come to train because of time or other reasons.)

4. Don’t complain about the price

It is a business. Period. And unless prices are abnormally high for the region the prices are what they are for a reason. See above regarding discounts. But just like you the business owner may also be struggling, so it is again rude to complain about pricing. Maybe in other cultures where haggling for prices is the norm but in Canada and much of the west it is not acceptable behaviour so don’t. It is insulting to your instructor and school. Plain and Simple. And don’t try to find ways to be cheap about it, because that is even worse. If you like what a school is offering, then pay for it. If it is expensive for you and you want to do it then learn how to prioritise your spending so that it isn’t an issue.

5. Don’t ask why you aren’t getting better if you never show up

Seriously, Show the FUCK up. Again actions are louder than words, and I don’t care what you tell me. If you want to get better, then please know that once a week, or once every few weeks is not good enough to get proficient at anything.

Sure I offer once a week options for people who have busy lives. I would rather you train than not train even if it is once a week. But as long as you know you will not get good fast then it is ok. Stop asking how to get better if you are not training 3-4 times a week because other factors beyond its because you are not training enough.

6. Do not put your instructor on a pedestal

Your instructors are humans, don’t expect anything from them other than being a good instructor. If they are not then going somewhere else, otherwise they are subject to everything life has to offer same as you. If you dont like who they are as a person, but they are really good instructors than you are in fact getting what you are paying for. If you dont like who they are as a person either choose a class in the same school that someone else is teaching or go somewhere else. Because if you put an instructor too high up and one day you see a side that you don’t like then this may affect your ability to train at the school you like. So be realistic and understand that it is about how well they teach you and make you better more than anything else.

This is only a few items, and I am sure I can think of more, but these are some of the things that have come up over the last few months and I feel like they should be adressed.

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A few days ago my brother sent me an email in which he wrote, among other things, the following:

“On Broadway I just passed a big 1st nations guy who was shifting back ‘n forth on sidewalk blocking a young Chinese women from passing. 1st of all I thought it was just play, even thought perhaps they knew each other.  I simply walked past them, looked back and realized he was harassing her.  Just at this moment her Chinese guy friend caught up with her, didn’t say anything, and the 1st nations guy continued on his way. I heard her say to her friend (in Chinese), “that was really scary”.  It was over in less than 10 seconds.

If he kept harassing her, I would’ve gone back and said something like “is this guy bothering you”, but I would’ve kept a distance. I would never get into physical confrontation, except for immediate family.  You often wonder how you would react.”

It started me thinking about his statement of “You often wonder how you would react.” How would I have handled the situation?  In spite of the years of self-defense training I’ve had, I know that nothing will prepare me for actually being in a situation like that in which a wrong decision can have potentially disastrous results, and not just for myself.

I decided that since it’s impossible to know exactly what I’d do, I would break down some key actions that, knowing myself, I am positive would happen and then go from there.

  • I’m positive that I would have helped out. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to just walk away and ignore the situation, knowing that someone needed help. Would I have been scared? Absolutely. But the adrenalin would have started flowing and my senses would be up.
  • I’m positive I would have stayed with the woman until other help came, or I was able to get her out of the situation.
  • I’m positive I would have tried to defuse the situation as much as possible, and getting into a physical confrontation would have been the last resort.

Now for the parts I hope would happen:

  • I would hope that my training would have kicked in and I would have watched for friends of his, and watched for a weapon.
  • I would hope that I would keep my hands up in a semi-passive stance, while starting to put myself between the guy and the woman, and slowly distance us away from him.
  • I would hope that I would think about weapons of opportunity, be aware of the limitations on me that would constrain my movement, and look for exit points.

The problem with facing unknown situations in real life is that you have no idea that it’s going to have a happy ending. It’s not like a commercial break is going to start in 30 seconds that will break up the tension so you have time to go for a bathroom break.  It’s real life and it’s happening at that moment.

Think about your own training, your own temperament, and your own ability to assess unknown situations. In my case, I hope that at a certain point my training would have taken over and I would have made the best of a bad situation.

In your case, what would you have done?