Watch the video. What do you see?

Did you see two antelope locked in battle with a lion charging in taking one out for lunch or did you see the bigger picture and the lesson to be learned?

When we are angry or in conflict it is very easy to get tunnel vision and focused on the threat or perceived threat. This then prevents us from seeing the bigger picture and avoiding danger overall.

If you are in a self-defense situation and are so focused on the immediate threat you might not see their friend circling back and around for the sneak attack.

Or how about this, if you are driving and you are only focused on the road ahead of you and never turn your neck or move your eyes to see other dangers is it more or less likely you will crash? It is definitely more likely you will have a higher than normal chance of crashing if you are not constantly observing everything on the road.

Did you notice that well before the Lion got close, the other Antelope watching the fight stood up? Then before the lion got even closer all of the other Antelope ran? That is because from where they are standing they have a broader perspective of the situation and can see more information.

We as humans often get locked into a specific perspective or thought pattern and while it may be good for the task at hand may blind us to other opportunities or dangers.

Tunnel VisionWhen it comes to self-defense you 100% cannot get tunnel vision. You cannot forget to assess the entire situation around you and look for the best possible solutions to avoiding further conflict. Our goal must always to be to avoid the biggest possible threats, but know that they are there so we can effectively engage them if we need to.

Even in sparring sometimes even though students are supposed to go light I often see two individuals going a bit too hard and they are so focused on each other they cannot hear me or other instructors yelling their names to chill out.

This means that some people are more prone to tunnel vision than others. Do you know who you are? If you are a person that gets locked into tunnel vision under stress, or who focuses too much on one task or thought and not the bigger picture can you learn to take a step back?

Clearly, the antelope who are far less intelligent than humans understand this. The ones who had a broader perspective easily avoided danger. So as humans why do we often act more like the two antelope locked in battle?

You never know, you might be the one who got away or you might be the one with sharp teeth sinking into your neck as the jaws of life come crashing down around you.

Think about it. How is your perspective? Do you see only tunnel vision or can you see much, much more?

 

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Before my wife and I had children, learning self-defence and being able to protect myself was a personal decision not shared by my wife.  Her philosophy was to never put yourself in risky situations to begin with and if faced with a threat, just run away.  It’s a simplistic way to look at things, but ok, fair enough if that gives her enough peace of mind.  For myself, however, I like to live in a Walter Mitty world where getting myself out of a tight situation using my self-defence training was a real possibility so I signed up for various martial arts through my life, with Krav Maga being on the list.

good parenting quote 1Then, our two daughters were born and I began to look at life a little differently.  I became less inwardly focussed on my self-preservation and my priority turned to how can I best protect my daughters that the brutality of life sometimes presents?  In spite of my desire to want to be around to always protect them, I knew that it was not only impractical but harmful to their own development and road to independence.  As any parent soon realizes as their children grow up, they have their own hopes, dreams, and way of doing things.  In the early days, you can just tell them what to do and they’ll listen, but after too early an age they soon start talking back and want to do things their way.  The best you can do is just introduce them to positive experiences and hope that your examples resonate with them enough that it sparks an interest in them to continue.

In my case, I introduced our two girls to the dojo quite early in their lives, and the Krav Maga kids class was their first foray into the martial arts world.  For my older daughter, the concept of self-protection was so impactful that she then asked if she could take judo to supplement the ground game that is more lacking in Krav Maga.  It turned out to be a good decision on her part, because she soon became quite adept at it and a natural talent that she won many competitions and continues being involved in the sport to this day.  So for her, introducing her to martial arts has been very beneficial for her overall development.  Conversely, however, it hasn’t quite been the same for the other daughter, who is 4 years younger.  While she accompanied us to the BC Winter Games when the older daughter was competing, while I was cheering her on, my younger daughter (9 at the time) was patiently and quietly sitting beside me knitting, reading, or working on her colouring book.  She sat there the entire day, which I recall being 9 hours long, with no complaints at all. But was she interested in martial arts and watching her sister compete?  Not at all.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.  Well, as a parent we try to do the best for our children, and in spite of our best intentions, we can only do so much.  However, as long as we act as good role models and do what we say we will, our children notice and hopefully, with all the things we throw at the wall, some of it will actually stick.  In my older daughter’s case, even though she hasn’t taken Krav Maga for quite a while now there’s a recent experience which I think is worth telling.  The other week my wife and I took them out for ice cream, and on the walk back up the block to where we parked the car, our older daughter was walking far, far ahead.  Our younger daughter then started running towards her, hoping to surprise her and possibly give her a little scare.  In the end, it turns out that my older daughter sensed that someone was running up behind her, and while having no idea that it was her sister, turned to face the threat while sub-consciously adopting the semi-passive stance.  It’s comforting to know that some good habits are still ingrained.

And for the not-at-all-interested-in-martial-arts-daughter?  It turns out that last year she introduced the “head-touching game” to her classmates, which is a warm-up game she learned years ago in the Krav Maga class.  While its main purpose is to teach the student situational awareness and being able to block a slap to the head, it’s presented as a fun activity.  Now the kids she introduced it to last year spread it to other kids, and now they’ve adopted it as one of the activities they play at recess and lunch.  Unfortunately, my daughter was last tagged as “it” so she now needs to pass it on to someone else.  And the first thing I said to her when she told me that was, “You need to develop your situational awareness better”.  To which she nodded and agreed.

So, there’s still hope for the rest of us.

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If you have not already figured it out from the title this post was inspired by The Game of Thrones episode 3, Season 8. At this point, it should be an obvious Spoiler alert but you know what it has been more than two weeks so if you are a GOT fan, to damn bad, you should have seen it already. In particular its this scene and quote that inspired it.

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In the scene, the red priestess, Melisandre is in a room that Arya Stark and company (The hound) barricaded themselves in to hide from the Wights (Undead soldiers of the night king). Melisandre has a habit of mostly correctly predicting the future and it is clear to Arya that she had predicted certain things in her life security. This advice is a foreshadow for a following scene where Arya is the one who kills the Night King.

To me, the entire episode and this scene reminded me of the nature of self-defense. So let’s get some context or a reminder of the episode.

The entire episode was a lesson on how not to plan for battle as basically everything went wrong. A large portion of the defending army got wiped out cleanly in the first 5 minutes of battle. (I bet if Genghis Khan was leading the battle this would not have happened to the horde) and every line of defense was inevitably overwhelmed to the point of futile efforts. I won’t get into the details of what I didn’t like about this episode or battle (The battle of the bastards was a far better episode in almost all ways) but this feeling of absolute dread and futility might be what you feel should you ever find yourself in a self-defense scenario.

Let’s start in the Macro. In the days when wars were fought out of survival or necessity often it only takes one person who is brave enough, bold enough and crazy enough to do something so unpredictable it changes the tide of war. If you look into any of Israels earlier wars where they were literally fighting for existance you can find tones of such stories in every battle. In this case, that crazy person was Arya whos training and skill finally paid off. Though how she snuck up on the night king with everyone surrounding him is beyond me but ok…

Now let’s take it to the micro. Where you have now been attacked, overwhelmed and you feel helpless and weak. Survival means doing something so crazy, so bold that it is completely unexpected by your assailant. All you have to do really is fight back, fight hard, fight to win and destroy them in the process so you can stop them as a threat and get to safety.

You see as overwhelming as being attacked can be I can most certainly guarantee they attacked because they thought you were not a real threat. For when people see you as a real threat those who are smart will rarely attack head-on. Predators attack the weak, both in nature and in the human world. Those who can fight back, or are perceived as having the ability to fight back are less likely to be attacked.

Krav Maga teaches you to turn the tables on your opponent using pure raw aggression in a controlled and strategic fashion in order to disrupt your opponent’s ability to continue their attack. Then you either escape to safety or you finish them off as needed.

To me, this is what this long-awaited episode of GOT symbolized. The spirit of the warrior defending themselves to win against all odds. The spirit it takes to defend your self when all seems lost. The spirit to know that if you do give up all is lost so you must keep fighting until there is nothing left but the victor.

This is what it means to learn to defend your self either in war or in a simple mugging gone wrong. The weak shall prevail over the strong because they were never really weak in the first place.

So train hard, train smart, overcome your fears and you too can defeat your night king (Demons).

P.S. I hope you never have to use such skills in self-defense but if you do channel your inner Arya and not your inner Jon Snow…

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Every month I get a new student who tells me they aren’t in great shape and they might not be able to do the class. I usually just tell them to try it out and see how it goes. Over the years I can only think of a handful of people who actually had to re-think their ability to take the class. For most people simply underestimate their ability to perform physical activities. I have heard reasons from, I have never done this before, too, I am too old. In most cases its all in their heads. The truth is most people are not athletic superstars and probably never will be but they still can train. I know this because I myself have never been a standout when it comes to athleticism. I have written in the past about my struggles in the military physically because I am not athletic. I can do what I do because I train, and get better day by day to in spite of my non-athletic prowess. Did I mention I also enjoy training?

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92 year old doing Judo

I suspect the reason so many people think they cant train is partially due to our lazy desk ridden culture where lack of activity is common and where people really do not know what they are capable of. In a city like Vancouver which is a little more active than normal, it means that most people who walk in to do a martial arts class will be just fine.

Even if you are out of breath in the first 5 minutes if you ended up finishing the class you are more than able to continue training. Keep in mind, even the regular students often find themselves out of breath and know sometimes it’s ok to take a break. This means you are probably better off than you realize.

Another reason people often think they are physically capable of training martial arts is that in today’s world of easy access everything people are not often used to pushing themselves past their comfort zones. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

I did mention that over the years there have been a handful of people who couldn’t continue. Almost all of the cases these individuals were severely overweight if not morbidly obese. Unlike many others I won’t sugar coat it, this not a healthy or happy way to live no matter what anyone tells you. This does not mean however you cannot train martial arts it just means your approach will be a little different. In these cases, you have a few options.

  1. Show up to class and do what you can little by little and you will eventually get there even if it takes months or years. It’s absolutely ok if you need to sit out or take breaks. Showing up and training is better than not.
  2. Know that you have the goal of training martial arts, consult a nutritionist and find a suitable workout program to go with a healthy eating style so that you can achieve a healthier weight that will allow you to train martial arts.

Either way, if your goal is to train martial arts then you can do it, even if you have to reach a separate goal prior to training. If this is the case you will have a happier time after knowing you achieved multiple goals.

So no matter your age, skills or background so long as you live a healthier lifestyle, or want to change to a healthier lifestyle and have reasonable mobility you should have no reason to think you cannot train. So get on google, find a style you like, and get training.

After all, everyone deserves to walk in peace.

 

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I have a feeling this post is going to have many cliche’s. As much as we like to hate on cliches because they are unoriginal, they have much truth to them. They are cliches because they are the things we know but choose to ignore because we are a curious species always pursuit of more. And besides who likes being given the answers directly? According to psychology, no one. People generally prefer to be guided to find their own conclusion rather than be given the obvious answer. As an instructor, it is a difficult thing to swallow and yet its how we operate. As I grow older I seem to be letting people find their own path a little more and I hope one day to have the wisdom to know right away who will learn how.

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On my path to find that wisdom I am re-listening (Yes, I do audio books, so much more efficient) to the Jocko Willink‘s book The Dichotomy of Leadership, the best selling sequel to his original book Extreme ownership. The second book as far better than the first as it clarifies somethings from the first one, but dont believe me even Jocko thinks its better.

As they say if at first you dont succeed, try, try again. Or if you make a mistake it’s ok, just learn from it and do better next time. See Cliches.

Anyways, back to my point. In listening to the book again a line stuck out at me. Since it was an audiobook and I can’t remember the time stamp I am going to paraphrase.

It goes something like this, People often want to learn the advanced tactics over building solid fundamentals. 

This is something I have seen many times, especially in the Krav Maga world. I am fairly sure I have written about this before but since it came up again I guess its time to write about it again.

Krav Maga is known for its firearms and knife related self-defense. These are the things people always want to learn, yet they are not the fundamentals no matter who sells it to you.

Occasionally I will get a student who has a previous Krav Maga or Martial arts background. The question is often, when do I get to do the weapons stuff. Or the stuff I saw online? I usually ask them about their background first and go from there.

If you are from another background, dont you think you should take some Krav Maga classes first to get to know what’s different between the styles? Also just because you saw something online dont presume to understand Krav Maga without actually practicing it. First, unless you have been training for 10+ years it is unlikely you are as good as you think you are. Second I dont go to other martial arts and expect to start anywhere other than the beginning. If you want to take regular classes then do so, if not I suggest private lessons, though I am picky who I teach what.

If you are from a Krav Maga background then I hope you can understand that not all Krav Maga curriculum is the same. Many people don’t know this because they dont usually train outside of one or maybe two organizations. If you did you would know what I teach at UTKM is an amalgamation of different organizations curriculums simplified to be more efficient. Which means no matter your Krav Background if you want to rank up under me then you have to learn the UTKM way. Of course if after assessment it turns out you are as good as you think you are in Krav then I will gladly reduce your hours between each rank. But you still need to understand how UTKM works first.

Either way, the scenario is the same. They dont want to spend time working on the basics. The basics you must remember are the foundations of everything. To me, if you can barely punch, kick, move or fight the gun disarms are not as easy as you might think. You must be sure of your foundations less you regret it later.

Speaking from personal experience learning BJJ I can say not learning and mastering fundamentals early is something you will regret later. In my earlier belts, White and Blue, I jumped around gyms, did open mats and had little structure to my training. I was also injured at blue belt which meant limited training. All these things meant I missed out on developing solid fundamentals, as such now at purple belt I am struggling to catch up to those at the same rank. Don’t get me wrong I fully intend to catch up and train more but its something I could have easily done in the past had I trained properly and focused on the fundamentals.

So, fundamentals are important even if you dont think so. No matter your experience or background when you walk into a new place respect their fundamentals. If you don’t like it then go somewhere else if you do then train and do so humbly.

Another cliche is to lead by example. So I will give you an example. Recently the local Krav Maga Global club held an open seminar for group fighting and multiple attacks. The Instructor was GIT Expert 2 Natasha Hirschfeld who was a wonderful instructor. Both she and the other instructors noted that there were so many new students they were most likely going to start with simple Krav basics. They seemed apologetic but it didn’t matter to me, for when you teach a lot sometimes you dont train as much as you should. Though I couldn’t stay for the whole time I enjoyed reviewing some basics. I even picked up a new warm-up game or two.

You see if you go in with an open mind even if you are practicing the fundamentals you will always learn something new if not simply move your way closer to the 10000-hour mastery principle.

There is a reason that in most martial arts even ones where a black belt takes 8-15 years to get on average that they also say the same thing. That they started to learn more at black belt than they did in all the training before. I think this is because they finally mastered the basics they can see other things they missed before.

The basics like any skill take a lifetime to master in any style yet they are what matter the most. Especially in Krav Maga as its the basics that will most likely save your life should you ever find yourself in an unwanted violent conflict.

So if you regularly train, or are coming to train, respect the basics and practice them until you achieve mastery no matter how long it takes.

 

 

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