Here we go, my orange belt test.

To begin with – I was incredibly nervous, I did not want to fail. Everybody was sharing their stories about how hard and horrible the test was which did not help my anxiety. I tried to train for it, Jon helped me to get my conditioning up but then I got injured, I strained a muscle in my hip. Very annoying location for that. So I rested but after a week or so I picked up training again. I tried to train more days to make up for what I missed but that wasn’t the greatest idea either. I felt really bummed out that I struggled so hard physically. Yes, I’m not in my twenties anymore but still, come on you old corpse! Well, yelling at myself also didn’t work.

I also did some trial runs in the gym to familiarize myself with the “circle of death“. Let’s face it – I sucked at it!

Editors Note: The “the circle of death” as some affectionately call it is a component of both the Orange and Green Belt tests and is common in Krav Maga testing. 

With all these things on mind, the days before the test were hard on me. I doubted myself, I didn’t want to fail and I spiralled down into the black hole that so far I was able to avoid.

Andrew (Fellow Assistant Instructor Candidate) helped me a lot during those days, we trained together, worked our way through the curriculum for white and yellow, and talked. What would be the worst case scenario?

I could fail. Working on becoming an assistant instructor failure was not an option for me. I didn’t want to lose students’ respect. I also didn’t want to disappoint people  – Jon, Andrew, Karch, myself …

Petra Success

Petra Post-test Exhausted but victorious

At the end – I made it, and I was incredibly relieved and I felt I really earned that orange belt!

 

During the last part of the test, the sparring – whenever I hit my opponent and people cheered – that was a first for me and I enjoyed it a lot. So thank you to all of you who were there that day!

For people who are going for their yellow or orange belt – make sure you know the curriculum (I know, it is mostly about pushing through and not to give up, but knowing the curriculum helped me a lot, at least one section of the test I felt confident), read the UTKM blog and work on your conditioning. For the test itself, energy control is crucial. Know yourself and your body, know your limits. But also understand that your body is telling you to give up way before your energy reserves are empty. That is the mental part – telling yourself to keep going, to not give up. It always sounds so easy when people say that but in reality, it is hard. It is a roadblock in your head and fighting your own brain is tough. And it is ok to fail – we (including myself) tend to forget that. Sometimes the way how you deal with failure says a lot more than winning. And it is ok to ask for help. If you are unsure about a technique or just want to go over it again – ask the person you feel most comfortable with.

In Judo we always say there is no shame in falling, only if you don’t get up again.

Why DO we Fall BruceEditors Note: When It comes to testing sometimes we really aren’t sure with who will struggle and who will make it look easy, often we are quite surprised as to who does what on both ends of the spectrum. Leading up to the test we can assure you Petra was having a hard time both physically and mentally and it was definitely a low point for Petra (“A fall”). But when it came test day her performance was almost flawless. It was clearly difficult for her but in true Krav Maga and warrior fashion she sucked it up for the duration of the test. Petra is an inspiration to not just women but all Krav Maga practitioners. Difficult, does not mean impossible. And falling either mentally or physically should always be a learning experience. For those who do not get up again are doomed to fail, but those who brush themselves off and keep going to learn and grow will always continue to succeed.

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Saying you don’t want to learn to fight to a self Defense instructor is like saying you don’t want to learn at all. Empty your mind, then you will be ready to learn.

I know I have definitely talked about this before, so I don’t know why I am surprised this statement keeps coming up:

 

I want to learn self defense but I am not interested in fighting or learning to fight

Meteor hitting earth.jpgEvery time I hear this statement from a new student or someone eager to learn to defend themselves I want to smash my face against the desk so hard it causes a meteor to be knocked out of orbit and smash me and the surrounding area into nothingness because I’ve died a little more inside and lost even more faith in the human race.

Ok, enough of the melodramatic truth…

One of the biggest uphill battles faced by any legitimate Krav Maga instructor who is actually interested in teaching people to defend themselves is to ride their students and the public of all of their blatant misconceptions when it comes to violence, Use of Force, and Self Defense.

No, I am not here to teach you to be a ring fighter. No, I don’t want to you be a fighter for the sake of fighting. Yes, I am here to teach you to learn to defend your self. and YES!, I am going to teach you how to fight.

The worst is when people actually think they can learn to defend themselves without hurting other people. Or as I have been told by another instructor once in a while, when law enforcement or security agencies ask to learn defence techniques with no physical contact. Thankfully the later of the two never occurred to me otherwise the original melodramatic statement could have the meteor replaced by a black hole so large it could destroy the universe.

Can you tell when presented with the ideology that somehow fighting and self-defence are separate from each other is extremely frustrating to a legitimate Krav Maga Instructor?

Essentially a big part of Krav Maga is Aggression (though it is often wrongfully no thanks to Israeli attitude perceived as the only part) which is really about teaching you how to turn on the internal “fight” switch. Because the reality is, under stress, pressure, fatigue etc… techniques begin to fail and it is through aggression and your pure will to fight that will save you. And you cannot ever forget that.

Yet in many more “peaceful” cities like Vancouver were relative to other big cities there is very low rate of violence out in the open, people tend to get sheltered from the realities of violence. The people I have met from countries where violence is much more open or a day to day thing are far more ok with, and understanding with using violence to fight violence.

Truly, most normally wired human beings when put under duress will fight flight or freeze, and it is our goal to teach you to control and use the fight or flight mechanisms without activating the freeze. The reality is though the best self defence is to run, it is not always an option which leaves the Fight option.

So if you “don’t want to learn to fight” then you are going to have a very hard time learning to defend yourself. Because that fight mixed with training, skill and aggression is the only way you will every overwhelm a larger stronger opponent long enough to actually find your escape to live to survive another day. And in some more extreme violent cases, you might have to Fight so hard to overcome the attacker that you have to incapacitate or use lethal force because that is the only way to stop the threat.

So do you really think if you don’t want to fight you are going to defend yourself against a serious threat? I think you need to take your head out of the clouds or as the saying goes in Hebrew, Ata Chai B’Seret or you are living in a movie.

If you cannot overcome this belief of not wanting to learn to fight then perhaps you simply aren’t ready to actually learn to defend yourself by learning Krav Maga.

 

 

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So you want to be a soldier?

Posted: May 8, 2018 by Jonathan Fader in Krav Maga Opinions

Forward: This post was inspired by both a conversation turned argument and listening to the Jocko Podcast Episode 123. Though it is a long listen It is a good listen. For some, it may be an emotional listen and that’s just fine in my books. Part of understanding this post, however, is to listen to it.

 

 

Every once in a while I have a conversation with individuals who tell me you know I really want to join the military. There are two types of people who tell me this.

  1. A person who has nothing and is struggling and sees it as a means to support themselves by sacrificing for a stable future
  2. A person who likes the idea of being a soldier and sees it as something fun, cool or entertaining to do.

Obviously, the later of the two really pisses me off.

First, let’s establish that the military culture and structure in every country are different and they cannot be confused. Some countries have conscription, some do not, and this difference is a big factory in a countries military culture. Some places like the U.S.A. have a volunteer army but depending on which state you are in will have more or less Military culture.

In Canada, we have a very strange Military Culture. Though Historically the Canadian Forces have been one of the top fighting forces in the world, albeit a very small one that has been involved many of the big conflicts over the years the average Canadian in many of the big cities doesn’t think much of the military or just doesn’t think about it at all.

Another thing about the Canadian Forces that may be different is the fact we have the regular forces which are all the full-time soldiers that have made a career of it and the reserve forces which is a part-time soldier.

Personally, I have an issue with the way the reserves in Canada is structure considering you can do it part-time in training on weekends until you have completed your minimum training standards. (There is far more to it than that as to why I have an issue but I will not get into it here)

To me, this just opens up the weekend Soldier, the person who wants to just play soldier without sacrificing their entire lives for something more. (Feel free to disagree) but to me, if you want to be a soldier go be a soldier. Make it your life, your career, and chosen choice in life at least for a few years.

Personally, I blame Hollywood and its complete misrepresentation of what it means to be a soldier. They idolize war and make it seem like that your entire time as a soldier will be in glorious battle. This is simply false.

First of all, in MOST armies the percentage of people in combat is usually somewhere less than 15% of the entire army. The rest is support from office work to supply techs to instructors and trainers. The military is so much more than just shooting at the bad guy. Not only that, PTSD and other issues are not specific to those who have seen combat, in fact, some of the people I know who got it literally did nothing, it was the waiting for something that drove them to it.

I remember I was guilty of this mentality too. Though I never saw combat in the traditional sense I can definitely say I had my challenges mentally in the military. Add to the fact I already had depression and didn’t know it didn’t help.

One thing I did learn is appreciating freedom. This is an ideology often pushed by the USA and its military apparatus but the appreciation for the freedom I think doesn’t come from “liberating” people. It comes from the fact that in the Military your time is not your own. Then when you are released it is again. That’s why soldiers appreciate freedom in my opinion.

Anyways. Recently I was listening to the Jocko Willinks Podcast Episode:

123: A FIGHT THROUGH DARKNESS WITH MARINE CORPORAL, JAKE SCHICK

Listening to this podcast reminded me the kind of sacrifices and an individual soldier can make and the challenges that they can face. If you want to be a soldier, especially a combat soldier I suggest you listen. I think if you don’t consider this result with the reality of your choice to be a soldier, and if you are willing to risk similar sacrifices then perhaps being a soldier just isn’t for you.

It is not a joke to be a soldier, it is not a game to be a soldier and it is not your weekend fun time.

The gladiators of old knew the reality of what they did with the saying

Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant

Or as many of you might know it as. For those about to die, we salute you.

This basically means, they fought knowing death it a possibility. The truth is after listening to that podcast I could say that perhaps death would have been easier. I am happy that Mr.Schick survived his ordeals and is doing what he is doing but what he went through must have been excruciating.

My point is if you want to be a soldier be a soldier, do it for real do it as a career. And if you want to be a career combat soldier you must accept that death is a real possibility, just like a severe life-altering injury is a possibility.

To me, if you want to play soldier, go play airsoft. But if you are ready and willing to make the sacrifice of time and energy and mental sanity then perhaps being a soldier is for you.

But please, don’t be disrespectful and pretend. if you want to do it, do it. To me, there is no in-between no matter how a military is structured.

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What Success Looks Like

Posted: May 1, 2018 by Jonathan Fader in Krav Maga Philosophy
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What is Success?

The Merriam-Webster defines it as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame,”

or see here a Business Insider article asking several wealthy individuals their definition of success is. You might notice that many if not most of them do not count the wealth and fame as why they consider themselves successful. Yet we would all look at them as successful because they have wealth and fame.

Or you might look at them and say they aren’t successful because they don’t have my family or the friends I have so they are really successful. If that’s how you think, perhaps theirs an air of resentment in your tone because of course, they are successful. Others might think that success is about happiness, for what is success without being happy. Well, this is also certainly true, but someone who is miserable but has changed the world with their success due to their wealth and fame is still successful. In fact, they may be the most successful of all (Keep an eye on Elon Musk, his self-isolation and sadness may single-handedly change the world for the good.)

So what is success? well, a far more accurate realistic definition may simply be achieving the goals you set out for yourself. These could be daily goals or life milestones. When you ask many self-help gurus or those seen as strong leaders they often talk about goal setting.

They are most definitely correct, because who hasn’t been ecstatically happy or relieved because they have achieved their goals. These goals don’t need to be big grandiose goals like being the next bill gates because goals like that are completely unrealistic for 99% of you no matter how hard you believe. Your goals and reaching them which will define your personal success must be realistic to your ability, skillsets and drive among other things otherwise they will simply be delusional unattainable goals.

Another thing we tend to do with defining success is focusing on the end goal, with smiling photos and happy times without remembering how hard it was sometimes through the journey to achieve the goal. Remember, some goals could be as simple as getting up on time in the morning, other goals could be oh lets see achieving a certain rank in your Krav maga school…

Recently I ran a few Orange Belt tests (and I can assure you UTKM tests are harder earlier than many other Krav Maga tests that I have seen.) and at the end of every test I saw what appeared to be beaten defeated people, yet they had all passed so I had the thought. THIS is what success looks like:

If you just saw these photos without contexts it would be reasonable to assume they are broken or failed. But this is the look of people who gave it everything they had to achieve their goal of getting Orange Belt. In these cases they all passed but could you really tell just from these photos?

The truth about success is we do focus on the end goal. Getting rich, getting the belt, getting up in the morning on a regular basis. But we always seem to forget that it’s actually the Journey to success which defines success or not as without the Journey, the learning experience there can be no success. To me, even if they don’t think so, these people are successful. For me, they have achieved something hard to achieve, something that many of my students fear, or some avoid because they know that this Journey to success or the goal, is not going to easy because I’m not going to make it easy.

So if success is the Journey + the Goal then there is a reason we must set attainable reasonable goals because the Journey is the hard part, the Goal is just a checkmark on a sheet or a gold star on a paper.

So when you look at the people who you think are successful, (assuming they didn’t just get a massive inheritance and did nothing else after) then ask yourself how hard was their Journey to achieve their goals? Whether we admire them for it or resent them for it it does not deny them their Journey.

SO what is Success? its many things, it starts with setting a goal, then having a plan put in place an then the real Journey the Hard work, sweat blood and potentially sleepless nights to get to the goal?

Whatever your definition of success is, just remember, it’s going to be a Journey one that will be full of good days and bad says, easy times and hard times. But so long as you can learn and grow in your Journey success may be closer than you think.

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Keep your Hands Up!

Posted: April 26, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
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Keep Your Hands Up! Keep Your Hands Up! Keep Your Hands Up!

 

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Hands up in a Semi Passive Stance.

 

If there’s one thing you need to learn on your first day of class when learning Krav Maga other than avoiding the fight it is KEEP YOUR HANDS UP!

Keeping your hands up to protect your head, face and neck is such an important principle that it changes how we do a lot of techniques in Krav Maga as compared to other styles.

A boxing Jab or Cross and thrown from certain boxing guards may be faster or more powerful but they leave your head exposed (such as a low guard) and unless you are a master of head movement it is foolish to drop your hands in this fashion.

The same principles of Cause Pain, Off Balance and Disrupt the mental process we apply to our assailants can also be applied to us. Therefore we must do what we can at all times to protect our head, face and neck.

If we assume there are multiple assailants, this changes how cautious we need to be in keeping our hands up. Your skill as a striker may be sufficient to drop your hands against one opponent but now with your hands down, it is easy for their friend to sneak up and punch you in the side of the face.

The other thing is, keeping your hands up is an easy basic defence if you do not have the skill to apply other methods or strategies. At least you can protect your head, face and neck long enough to fight your exit and escape.

Note: keeping your hands up should never obscure your vision to the point you can no longer see the threat. If you lose track of the threat then your reaction time will be dramatically slower when attempting to deal with it as you must not re-identify the threat via the mental processing model which takes the time you do not have.

If you have never had your Krav Maga instructor tell you Keep your hands up then perhaps you need a new instructor.

As mentioned this concept is so important it changes how we train, as we will sacrifice speed or power in order to maintain at least one hand up at all times. If your hand is not punching, or controlling or doing something to cause pain, off balance, or disrupt then it should be up protecting the vitals as repeated many times.

This idea becomes even more important when knives are involved as that hand up protecting your neck and face could be the difference between life and death as one sharp blade across your carotid artery could mean the end of everything.

So if you haven’t gotten the point yet. KEEP YOUR HANDS UP!

Critical Thinking – The first step to self Defense

Posted: April 24, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles

What is Critical Thinking? Well according to Wikipedia it is this:

Critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment.[1] The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rationalskepticalunbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence. Critical thinking is self-directedself-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposed assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command to their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism[2][3] and sociocentrism.

It could also put into different terms like this graph does:critical-thinking-worksheet

To me as it relates to our application it is probably one of the most undertaught skills not just in Krav Maga and self-defense but also in the education system in general.  The truth is about reality principle based self-defense systems like Krav Maga is that we understand we cannot actually give you all the answers. Because in that moment of violent confrontation we cannot be there to whisper in your ear to technique 1a then switch to 3 c etc…  If you as a practitioner has not learned to critically think under pressure in that moment of need to make the most correct possible decision to avoid injury or death then there are not enough techniques in the world that can save you. While we can pretend that techniques alone are infallible this would be a lie. There are simply too many factors to consider such as opponent size, speed, and skill. Other things to consider is your own body and nervous systems reaction to the stressful situation which may help or hinder your response times.

Some students come in and already know how to critically think, but most do not. Some can learn and get the idea as thing go along others need to be spoon-fed the information bit by bit. While there is nothing wrong with having a different learning style or pace you must understand that if you cannot get your head away from the what if questions then you may not truly understand how to critically think.

The What if this…line of questioning happens for two reasons. Either,

  1. You are new and are eager to learn, but fail to understand that though krav maga is easy to learn there is still a learning curve and it could take weeks, or months to get your head around the concepts or principles
  2. You simply have not for whatever reason developed critical thinking skills through training even after many years.

At Urban Tactics, if you cannot critically think there is a good chance you may be stuck at the white or yellow belt for quite some time.  This is not meant as an insult but is meant to protect you from your self. If you think you are more skilled than you are and you attempt to do things or deal with situations you may not ready for then you will most likely get hurt or worse. Again it is nothing personal but know that those who always ask what if, you cannot wait to understand the whole process, or just have difficulties with conceptual learning then you are going to have a harder time learning what Krav Maga really is in the first place.

Critical thinking, however, is not just specific to self-defense situations it can be applied to all things in life. The better you are at critical thinking the less likely you are to be scammed. Or to accept a bad deal or a myriad of other things. Critical thinking is not just the bases to self-defense, as the definition suggests it is the most complete method or strategy to quickly problem solve an issue even if it is something you have never encountered before.

Remember, while the first step of any good self defense program should be avoidance, you can only avoid situations no matter what they are by applying critical thinking based on the information you have and which is being presented to you in the moment. Failure to critically think (or to pay attention) is often the reason you failed to avoid the situation in the first place

So before you are too hard on your self as to why you just are not getting it, or your instructor is getting mad at you, know it may have less to do with your technique than you think but more to do with your lack of understanding as to your application. But the only way you will know is by critically thinking in the first place. Then you will know if its really your instructor, or if its your self that is causing the block in your progress.

Critical thinking is the key to good Krav Maga, Good Self Defense, and good problem-solving. So like everything, you must first start with your mind and work your way out.

So remember, you are not just learning a set of techniques, you are really learning to think for your self to have high-level problem solving so that you can avoid and or deal with any violent or nonviolent situation that may come your way so that you truly may walk in peace both mentally and physically.

**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.