Hello fellow Kravists and old people who are young at heart!
For my latest blog entry, I would like to highlight four simple words: “Keep Your Hands Up!!”
How many times have we UTKM students heard this phrase shouted over the raucous din of the group during our training, drilling, and sparring? You can’t put a number on that, but you can almost guarantee that you will hear it at some point in your sparring sessions. Keeping your hands up while you are in a semi-passive or fighting stance is a fundamental skill that pays dividends when we least expect it. Out of pure interest in this fundamental skill, I am writing about two situations that I encountered this spring; first, where I was surfing and failed to keep them up, and second, using the semi-passive stance to deal with a mild threat (because I decided to speak up against an annoying behaviour of a strata neighbour).
For part 1, we are off to one of my favourite places on the planet: Tofino.
I love surfing. It is not my go-to adventure sport, so I’m not a “surfer” per se, but for me surfing is an experience of pure joy. One of my favourite things about surfing is the chance to sit on my board on the outside of a break while watching the horizon for the next set of waves coming towards me. It is a place where my mind moves between being focused on my surroundings and drifting away in thought as my brain (kind of) relaxes. For the first weekend of April 2022, with a few buddies of mine, we revived an annual surf trip that we had put on hold over the last few years due to career changes, Covid-19, and the explosive rise in accommodation costs in Tofino. I was very excited for this trip, as out of all the sports and activities that I have learned over the years, I have somehow managed to surf several places in BC, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Portugal, so it had been far too long since I had surfed a small wave.
Well into our first session of the trip, I paddled out past the small break, spotted a wave, moved into position, but, unfortunately, got on the wave too late and was thrown over and went tumbling through the wash cycle as the wave worked its mojo toward the beach. Once the wave lost its power, I went up to the surface and for a nanosecond it felt like everything slowed down. I breached the surface, my eyes were closed, I felt the air on my forehead and then I heard my board rapidly approaching me. With a sudden impact, I took the side of the board directly to my forehead and the top portion of the bridge of my nose. I quick succession I heard that unmistakable crunch sound, felt the lightning bolts of pain, and was overcome by the sudden instinct to cover up and move.
Quite frankly, despite the above description of an “unfortunate accident”, this was my own damn fault. It has been a long time since I have been in a dangerous situation while playing on the water, but instinct, experience, and training quickly ramped up and I collected myself to determine what was happening. Without thinking I clutched my board with one hand and covered my face with my free arm. I found some footing on a sand bar and was relieved to discover that I was in only chest deep water, and even more thankful that my board didn’t knock me out. Despite not being able to see very well, I climbed onto my board and paddled back to shore on the next wave and started doing various checks on myself. There was blood dripping onto the sand, I could feel a giant goose egg between my eyes, and I could hear that nice little crunch sound when I moved my nose. Crap… day 1 of the trip.
While I was quietly trucker-swearing up a storm, I wrapped my leash around my board, picked it up and walked over to my buddy Jamie to further inspect my injuries. I laughed when he responded with “HOLY HELL… (pause)… No worries, Bruh… You’re fine.” You see, Jamie grew up in South Africa, and South Africans have a different take on injuries, danger, and, well… just about everything in life. All told, I was very lucky that there was no displacement-of-the-nose fracture that would require medical intervention; I was just going to have to accept looking like a Cro-Magnon with raccoon eyes for the next month.
Two things happened here: One, I let my situational awareness lapse significantly; Two, I failed to engage the basic skills once everything went sideways on me. Earlier in the post I outlined that I like to sit on my board and stare out to the horizon while picking waves as they come in. It’s kind of like highway driving, where you get lost in pleasant thoughts while you are on the move, but you know that you must overall pay attention to what is going on. I was not entirely present for that small wave, which resulted in me not being in the right position, getting myself tossed, and failing to properly manage my body/board’s position. (Effectively, the wave was managing me, not me managing the situation.)
This brings me to my second critical error: I did not keep my hands up. Now, one of the aforementioned basic surfing skills for when you get tossed off your board is to cover your head, and when you break the surface of the water have your hands up or at least one hand protecting your face. On longboards or “fun-sized” surfboards, your board will almost always travel further past you, as it’s bigger than you, so the wave grabs it and throws it further away (leashes stop runaway boards). On this occasion, I was in front of my board when I surfaced, so I must have kicked the board behind me while getting tossed (or rolled into the water in front of it) instead of expertly kicking it away while falling to the inside of the board. If I had simply done the basics, I would have caught the board with my hand or my forearm and prevented the impact to my face and forehead. Ideally, the board would have never been in front of me, if I had moved it in a safe direction. I know that I always write with a little humour to make light of situations, but I could have been knocked unconscious and drowned if the wave had any more power to it. Small situations can be become large adversaries once the context changes on us without having the proper presence of mind.
So, there you go, more musing from a humbled (yet again) Orange belt, trying as always to make the most of the situation. That’s what us old dogs do; we fail forward, we fail often, we grab a beer or two and think about it. Our muscles, tendons, and bones need rest and reflection, as our ability to pay the bills for our kid’s Krav lessons depend on it. If you’re wondering “what about the face???”, well, don’t worry, it’s still devilishly handsome (I just heard my kids groaning). Got to go and start the next post! (They take a while since I’m typing one-handed, with the other hand up in our semi-passive position, as I live with two teenagers, two cats, and a supportive spouse who is calmly waiting for my next injury.
See you at Training!
Written by: Ted E. – UTKM Humble Old Orange Belt