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I Must Not Fear 1

Pull yourself together! Just overcome your fear! It always sounds so corny or easy when people tell you that but it actually can be very difficult.

Last weekend I participated in my first BJJ tournament and I sucked, I lost my two matches and still got away with a bronze medal. But even though I lost, that bronze medal means so much to me – over 20 years ago when I competed in Judo I always dreaded competition day. When I stepped on the mat I was scared and I often blanked. I was afraid of doing the wrong thing so I often did nothing. You remember the colours we always talk about in krav maga? White being oblivious, all the way through yellow, orange and red and the colour we always try to avoid – black. This is where I was, code black, frozen, unable to do anything. I didn’t enjoy competition at all and tried to avoid it like Satan the holy water.

So why would I sign up for a BJJ competition to begin with? We were talking about cross training for Krav Maga and how competition can help you to get better. When rolling mostly with the same people you are getting used to their style and it limits you. When I signed up I was hoping others in my club would follow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but it doesn’t really matter.

I was incredibly nervous and anxious, like for my orange belt test. It was my first competition in decades; I read the rules over and over again to make sure to understand them and not to do anything that could get me disqualified. When I stepped on the mat for my first match I tried to focus only on my opponent and also to be active. And I somehow managed to not go into black but was able to do something, I faked one way, used my opponent’s reaction to throw her and got her to the ground. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to submit her and we went into overtime. Each of us had to take the back of the other and we had to try to escape out of the seatbelt grip with the hooks in as fast as possible. My opponent was a bit faster than me.

Editors note: Though we fully understand the ruleset of the competition she was in (a submission only tournament). Petra should be proud as in a points tournament petra would have dominated as control is an important aspect in these styles. We want to give props to her opponent who showed excellent defensive skills.

I was disappointed in myself. I usually tend to be very hard on myself and that’s not always easy to deal with because it is in my head, my inside voice(s). When somebody else is yelling at me or gives me a hard time I can go away, close the door or hang up the phone. That is impossible with my inside voice. After I also lost my second match I was sad, disappointed and then also relieved because it was over. And then I realized that I also had a bit of fun. I have to train more, put in the effort but it also means that next time I’ll be better prepared, I’ll know a bit more about BJJ competition, the rules etc. It won’t be completely new for me. If I had given in to my fear I would not have made that experience and learned something. Every failure is also a learning experience, unless you die, of course. After the matches were over I started to feel excited because I had stayed and seen it through and this is what that bronze medal stands for.

if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.

 

Fear can be good, it makes us more cautious. I’m an analytical person. When I’m in a difficult situation or have to make tough decisions I analyze everything and try to be as rational as possible. When I’m able to understand what makes me feel scared I can somehow handle it better. It doesn’t take the fear away but it helps not to drive me insane.

Petra wins bronze.jpgI also had a little bit of an epiphany when I was in my early twenties and working as a travel rep in Crete. I got into an argument with a co-worker who lost his cool during that argument and started threatening to kill me. He got fired right away and had to leave Crete. I went to the police but they couldn’t do much. It didn’t take long and that guy came back, he had gotten another job at a car rental place. He started stalking me and one night he slashed two of my tires. My car was parked right in front of my apartment. The knife marks on the tires weren’t pretty and it was a shock for me. At night I kept my windows closed, my door locked. I was incredibly scared! Also because he came back couple nights later to slash my other co-worker’s tires. It took me a long time to get over that fear but it taught me a valuable lesson – if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.

 

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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.

Road To Orange Belt

Last year in March I started the assistant instructor course at UTKM, together with my fellow sufferers Andrew and Karch. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Friday classes, I definitely learned a lot and I also enjoy teaching. I even like most of the students. But it is a lot of commitment.

Recently Jon sent out the monthly Warrior News by email. He is almost ready for the next batch of aspiring assistant instructors but he also requests that if you are interested in becoming an assistant instructor you have to talk to either Andrew, Karch or myself to get an idea of how much commitment we are talking here.

I’ll be honest, It is a lot!

Not only are you still attending regular classes, you also have to add a minimum of 4 hours per week dedicated to the course. And when I write minimum that means that it is actually more. Get used to the idea that one night or more a week, will be dedicated to endless PowerPoint Presentations. Not to forget the extra days where review and catch up is needed as one or more of the participants missed a regular class. And the Saturdays that you are going to spend doing firearms’ or other seminars.

And then there are the written tests, Did I mention there are tests? Many of them, some which took at least 3 hours to complete. While you are busy writing your hands off, Jon circles the table like a shark always trying to distract (because, you know, Krav Maga). Did I mention test? I would say more like endless “Essays” that test your ability to critically think without a hint to help with memory recall.

Just memorizing is not enough, you have to come up to your own conclusions, explain your own thoughts. I still have to write my final exam which will cover everything we’ve learned so far. Not intimidating AT ALL!

Picture: Petra Helping out in a yellow Belt test, knowing one day she two may have to run a test.

And then the orange belt test.

The last few months I’ve been dealing with some health issues and I’m not Feeling on top of my game. To be honest I haven’t Felt on top of my game for quite a while. I sometimes even feel I’ve peaked already which is, of course, not true. At least I won’t allow myself to think like that.

But I still Need to get a reminder that I still can do it, kick peoples’ asses and spar even with the heavy hitters like Quinn or Jeff (chose one). But that means work, again. And commitment. Jon is helping me a lot by offering conditioning classes and while I’m huffing and puffing on the assault bike distracting me by rambling about the city or politics.

Why am I doing this? I like the teaching but also the physical aspect of Krav Maga. Learning to fight and how to defend yourself is very important. At least for me, I was raised to be independent. I’m definitely not a Pilates Person. I like throwing or hitting People. The idea that women are inferior to men is bullshit and if there are male students who think they don’t have to take me seriously will be taught otherwise. And I hope to encourage more women to join the gym.

Krav Maga is helping me also with my mental Problems – I’m off my medication for almost half a year now. It wasn’t always easy but working on becoming an assistant instructor, teaching and now working on my conditioning for the orange belt gives me purpose and helps get me out of bed in the morning. The conditioning classes with Jon are tough but they remind me that I’m still strong. It might take me a bit longer to get back into the game but I WILL get there!

I also understand why Jon is doing this to himself and us – he wants to give us as much Information as possible so that we can be confident on the mats, knowing what we are doing and that the techniques we are teaching to you make sense and also to Keep the high Standards of the School. I myself decided to Train at UTKM because of the good Reputation that the School does have.

If you want to become an assistant instructor at UTKM – please go ahead, but be warned, you will Need lots of Stamina to get through. But is it worth it? The answer is a big fat YES!

Editors note: The Assistant instructor course is currently only available to local UTKM students.

I was just thinking about when I started the Assistant instructor class at UTKM – was it March? It feels like forever that I’m spending Friday nights at the gym, watching presentations, discussing techniques and try to memorize as much as I can. Not to forget the tests! To become a UTKM instructor you really have to commit yourself. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect but I don’t quit because I want to become an instructor, I like teaching although I have to work on my personal approach – having a Judo background makes me sometimes very strict and I don’t like it when students don’t pay attention or are too chatty. I have to loosen up on that part and be more relaxed.

Having taught my first class on Thursday I really appreciated the students’ support and commitment – Thank you so much! I was nervous because Jon “Eagle Eye” Fader was breathing down my neck and scribbling notes that I still have to read. But knowing that I can count on you guys makes it easier.

 

Eagle eye Jon.jpg

What we imagine Jon looks like when auditing classes. 

 

 

Becoming/being an instructor comes with a load of responsibilities – I want students to feel safe and to trust me which means I have still a long way to go learning every tiny little detail of the techniques that we are teaching. The assistant instructor class at UTKM is just the beginning – it shows you the opportunities you have but also the hard work they come with and it is up to us to make the decision whether or not we want to go that way. I personally decided that I want to go that way.

And then there is Jon with his high standards. I fully understand that he wants to make sure that UTKM students get the best training which means that the instructors need to be able to provide that high standard of training. Being a perfectionist and creating a lot of pressure already by myself I sometimes feel like a headless chicken. I don’t want to disappoint or let anyone down. I know that experience comes with time and over time I will learn all these tiny little details but being patient and cutting myself some slack is not my strongest feature.

Interesting enough I also started to reflect about myself – where am I in my life? Am I happy? I have to admit that I had my life planned out differently – you know, same old story – getting married, having a kid, building a house, planting a tree. And here I am, 37, no husband (thank god! Dodged that bullet), no kids. But I am in a good place. I don’t feel I’m missing out on things. At some point, I understood that I like doing Krav, BJJ and Judo and I also like to share my knowledge.

I still think that leaving Germany behind and moving to Vancouver was one of my best ideas ever! And no, I’m not planning on going back. I like where I am and I like the direction my life is going.

This is part of a series on our instructor training program. To understand this series and how our Assistant Instructor Course and Full Instructor Course work, please start with Part 1. This post is a self-introduction from one of our current Assistant Instructor candidates.

Petra-My name is Petra and I’m the cat lady on the team. I moved from Germany to Vancouver in December 2012 (my hometown is Seifhennersdorf.) Yes, I’m a German doing Krav Maga.

In 1986, I entered school and my parents decided that I need a balance for all the studying and educating my mind was doing and because the Judo Dojo was the closest sports facility where I lived, I ended up doing Judo. And because we don’t quit, I didn’t quit doing Judo till 2002 when I graduated from university and life kicked in. My knees and other joints are still thankful for that break.

I heard about Krav Maga before but kind of ignored it, only later I read more about it and found it quite interesting. One day my roomie (in Vancouver) was searching the Groupon site and because I was sitting next to her I saw a Groupon for Krav Maga at a gym in downtown Vancouver. I went there and did a free trial class, couldn’t move for a week and came back. This was in December 2015. I knew so little then. In September 2016, the classes got discontinued and I needed a new gym. I asked around and a friend of mine told me about two gyms that offer Krav Maga – one downtown but he said if I wanted to train real Krav Maga I should go to UTKM. And so I did. Now I’m here.

My experience with Krav Maga

I find Krav Maga very applicable for real life situations. It is not only the techniques but also the mental aspect, e.g. assessing situations, recognizing the threat, etc. The big difference in comparison to classic martial arts like Judo is that you don’t have to train for years to apply the techniques. The system is simple and works with natural instincts.

I personally don’t think that most martial arts, as they are usually taught, are that great for self-defense. First of all, there are rules and there is a code of honour that both sides respect, usually you only deal with one opponent at a time and there are no weapons involved. Rules and codes of honour don’t work in a street fight. You always have to expect the attacker to have weapons and/or friends who are going to help them if they are having trouble mugging you. When I was taught self-defense as part of the Judo schedule, it didn’t cover the four stages of a violent situation (avoidance, diffusion, pre-emptive, reactive) or to avoid the ground.

These are just a couple of things right off the top of my head. Don’t get me wrong – I love Judo! And I’m still benefitting a lot from the training that I have received, but as somebody who started out as a more traditional martial artist, I learned that Bushido (武士道) – the way of the warrior – is different from self-defense. But it is great because I can be both – a Judoka and a Kravist. I know I’m getting here a little bit into the philosophical aspect of martial arts and I hope that you can follow my thoughts.

Quotefancy-819622-3840x2160

Moving here from Germany by myself means that I don’t have too many friends or a social network at all. UTKM has a great community and I feel comfortable training here. Yes, I like most of my fellow students.

One day, still with my white belt, our Lead Instructor Jon asked me if I wanted to become an Assistant Instructor. It was definitely something I had in mind, but I didn’t think of myself being ready. There are still so many things I have to learn. But apparently, we will cover many of these things during the course.

I was thinking about why I want to become an instructor. Self-defense is definitely one aspect of it, but I also want to help people to become more confident. Especially, women tend to be very hard on themselves and I want them to know that regardless of age or size – you can learn to defend yourself. Just be patient and take your time. Nothing happens over night and it is better to move forward with baby steps than not moving at all. I consider myself lucky because my parents never told me that there is anything I cannot do because I’m a girl, and my dad (I’m very proud of my dad because although he was born 1930 he always had a very modern point of view) would have kicked my butt if I ever caved before one of those idiots who believed that they are better only because they have the XY chromosome pair. I understand that physically the average women is not as strong as the average man, but that doesn’t mean you cannot put up a fight when getting attacked. And also ladies – get used to the fact that there is no knight in shining armour coming to rescue you. Get your butt up and learn to take care of yourself!

So far, the Assistant Instructor Course has been interesting.

We’ve learned about the history of Krav Maga, different schools, etc. – very confusing BTW. We have also learned a lot of things that happen in the background of a Krav Maga school, e.g. admin work. And of course, we’ve learned about teaching. But most importantly for me, it’s that Krav Maga is a sophisticated system and covers more than physical training.

Once I’m ready to teach (of course supervised at first), I already have some “fun” games in mind and I’m really looking forward to that. But first comes the orange belt test which scares me, but I’m also excited – if that makes sense.

Hope to see you in class!

Petra