Archive for the ‘Krav Maga in General’ Category

Knowing how to avoid danger increases your chances of survival dramatically! (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

The “4 stages of self-defence,” as taught by UTKM, is the basic order of operation for what you are doing when presented with conflict; be it physical, social, or otherwise. The order, moving from best option to worst, is; Avoidance, De-escalation (Defusing), Preemptive Self-defence (Strike First), Reactive Self-defence (React Last). Understanding the basics is easy, but, like all concepts, understanding when and how to apply them correctly can be trickier.

The major reason for this is the simple fact that if you do not truly understand what you are doing and you lack the experience to make a quick and correct decision (and you do not have your instructor whispering the answers into your ear), the real world situation is suddenly more complicated than it was in training.

Grasping the nuanced application of a technique, how and why it works, and when to employ it, can be the result of you being fortunate enough to possess an innate ability to understand intricate contexts, or, as is more common, it can be accomplished through consistent training. Consistent training makes up for talent by internalizing the details, purpose, and application of a given technique (or reaction in a scenario), to the point that your nervous system and decision making process will, more often than not, fire correctly under duress.

To help foster a better understanding of these key concepts, I, and others at UTKM, will be sharing real world experiences relating to the four stages. Each week we will expand upon one of the concepts and give examples.

This week it is the first and arguably most important stage: Avoidance.

“You win 100% of the fights you are not in.” – Nir Maman

First you must accept the fact that you cannot always avoid. For example, applying avoidance as a self-defence tactic for interpersonal conflict will most likely result in further problems. The concept of Avoidance simply suggests that it may be better to avoid than to confront in most situations However, and this applies particularly when it comes to bullying or active violence, sometimes the best option is to directly confront the source of conflict. After all, Krav Maga was built on the idea that sometimes running is not an option. So, please, do not interpret this stage as permission to be passive-aggressive or to never deal with life’s problems, that is not the correct application of this concept (and, honestly, if avoidance is always your chosen option in life, this may be indicative of other, deeper problems you are struggling with.)

So, lets start with some examples from my youth:

  1. It was Halloween night, and, like most young teens (I was maybe 15 or 16), I wanted to go out. In our area, big house parties were not a common occurrence, but what was all too common were hoards of teens and young adults roaming the streets like a hungry packs of wolves, looking for fun and perhaps trouble. I was with the group of friends I usually ran with at the time, and we ended up crossing paths with another pack of teens. Walking together with them, in costumes, masks, and painted faces, with candy and fireworks in hand (legal then, but illegal now, likely due to these same ravenous packs of ne’er-do-wells getting up to yearly mischief) we were on the boredom-fueled prowl. Some confident and bold, others just trying to fit in. In my case, the latter seems like it was the appropriate category. I mean, is that not what one of the best features of Halloween is; You get to dress up and pretend to be something else, something grander, something more powerful? It is after all, “All Hallow’s Eve,” where dressing up as something scary was meant to fend off the roaming spirits and demons that walk the earth on this night, every year (so the legend goes). But masks and make up can only mask you for so long. One of the older boys in a mask, I did not recognize. Clearly a leader, out front, loud and obnoxious, identified himself to me. It turned out this masked individual was someone whom I had issues with in the past. He was also dangerous, in the literal sense, much like that of a hungry alpha. He regularly got in fights (and won), regularly had police interactions, the circumstances of which were anything but innocent fun, and he “may or may not” have had ties with even more violent individuals who were known to police. He was also much bigger than me, a good bit stronger, and far more athletic. Which, through a child’s eyes, was a terrifying thing, even though I considered myself tougher than perhaps I was and, like most males, overestimated my skills. I had no training and no experience, just an over inflated ego. It was, of course, dark, and I did not like the things coming out of this guy’s mouth, nor the energy in the air. The feeling of fun turned to a dread and an uneasy churning in my gut (yet to be filled with candy.) It was uncomfortable. Concerned that the hoard was full of individuals who did not in fact like me, not to mention the de facto alpha, this was not ideal for an enjoyable night. So I decided to listen to my instincts; it was time to leave. My pace slowed, I fell to the back of the crowd, then quietly, but swiftly, faded into the dark, walking to my home a few blocks away. Later, when I was asked by my cohort where I had disappeared too, I made up some plausible story. The reality is, it was probably the right decision. Those uneasy feelings we have may be wrong sometimes, but it is often better to err on the side of caution, as we never know how things will escalate. There is one thing for certain; if you are not feeling your best, or you are uncomfortable, it can be easy to do or say the wrong thing and cause a situation to quickly shift from manageable to disastrous. So, in that case, with those personalities, avoidance was the best choice. No harm, no foul, no hospital.
  2. I was an awkward teen with no sense of who I really was yet. Which meant I was not so great with the opposite sex. So, when female friends came into the mix, it was always a joy, and an uneasy excitement (the kind only a teenage boy knows.) For a time, I frequently hung out with two girls who were a year or two younger than me. Feelings were always mixed, as I liked them each at a different time; which meant I would often go out of my way to spend time with them. Lacking experience and confidence, of course, things never went the way I had imagined. Nevertheless, it was fun at the time. Like many youths lacking good mentoring and guidance, I had trouble controlling my temper. I would never hurt anyone, but it was obvious to those all around me. Like a tornado striking down in an open field, I was loud, boisterous, and, to some, terrifying, as the fear that the destruction might come your way. (This is something I still work on daily, though with calmer mind, maturity, and fewer raging hormones it is much easier to manage.) One of these girls had a cousin, equally attractive in my eyes. Someone who I had met previously, at a random community party. She was troubled. If I am informed correctly those troubles continued to impact her in adulthood. Whenever she came around to join us, it never went well. I was POSITIVE she would intentionally say or do things to illicit my temper and unleash the tornado for her amusement. I was cold, dry air, she was warm, humid air, the inciting words and actions were the required updraft. Everyone said I was either crazy or imagining it. Nonetheless, there came a point at which I could no longer stand to be around her. So the strategy I employed was avoidance. Anytime she randomly showed up, I would find a reason to leave. If she was already there with my friends, I would make other plans. Everyone thought I was being unreasonable. However, I did not like having my fun outings turned into episodes of anger, thus, to me it seemed like the better choice. It also prevented me from hitting a breaking point and actually doing something I would regret. Despite the fact it made me look even more weird and unstable, socially, in many respects I probably made the right decision by practicing avoidance. (In hindsight, and perhaps re-framing the situation, it turns out that this girl may have actually liked me. I was told by someone, later down the road, that she was very likely trying to illicit my aggression on account of a secret, let’s say, fetish for violence. Had I been more confident, then perhaps I would have handled it differently and allowed my cold dry air to meet her warm humid air, but given my lack of knowledge at the time, avoidance was still the best strategy. Lest the tornado met the hurricane and all hell broke lose. It probably wouldn’t have been good for anyone.)
  3. If you think bullies disappear after high-school you may have practiced avoidance a little too much, and may in fact be a shut-in who is living in a perpetual state of self-imposed exile. As the internet has shown us, most people are not as stable and confident as you think, and many have bully-like tenancies at the very least; trying to use force, intimidation, or aggression to get what they want. Or, they simply have not learned to manage their anger like others and emotionally lash out at people when they are challenged, or whenever things do not go their way. I learned to deal with these people early in my youth, and as an adult I tolerate it even less. I, of course, generally employ Stage 2, deescalation, as much as I can; using my words and avoidance, as Stages 3 & 4 (outside of physical violence) are not at all appropriate in day-to-day life in a Civil society. Which means, as an adult, mastering the first two stages is that much more important. Especially when you live in a strata (eg. a condo or townhouse). Personally, I despise stratas, as it is all to easy for a bully, or someone who has a bully-like attitude, to get on the council and try to tell others how to live or act, or has a personality that leads them to take issue with being challenged (due to their perceived powers.) I personally think stratas have been nothing but a disaster, and will go the way of the dinosaurs eventually, but until then, you, like me, will likely have to deal with them at some point. Without getting too detailed, there was some conflict between me and those on a strata council. Whether I was in the wrong or the right isn’t important, sometimes I was, sometimes I wasn’t. However, several members of the council seemed to think it is acceptable and appropriate to yell and scream at people when they don’t like what was said or done. This is, of course, utterly inappropriate, and in the adult world could constitute bullying and harassment. Obviously, this is something I will not tolerate. Extensively researched, well-worded letters where sent! The goal of these letters was not to demand compliance one way or another, but rather to make it clear that I am not the kind of person to pick a fight with, verbally, physically or otherwise. Initially they got the hint and basically stopped bothering me. Later, another incident occurred where a member of council, once again, decided to scream at me. After making it clear that this was an inappropriate (and futile) tactic it didn’t seem to matter, they saw me as a threat to power, and continued. As an adult, I made the decision that, clearly, these individuals are old, unstable, and have never resolved their personal issues. I understand, but I still have no patience for it. I privately told another, calmer strata council member that their fellow’s outbursts were boarding on harassment. Moving forward, I just ignored the problem individuals and do not engage. Clearly they have problems, and those problems are not mine to solve. I made it clear that I will not be pushed around, they all seem to have gotten the hint. I avoid conflict with them, they avoid conflict with me, and we now all live in a cold peace where, so long as we don’t bother each other, all is well. While it is certainly not an ideal situation, I would rather have good relations with my neighbours, it is, in modern times, often quite impossible to get along with everyone. So, practicing a peaceful yet aware avoidance strategy will, in the end, help keep things calm, and less stressful.

Whether you are a teen, an adult, or a senior learning to practice good avoidance (and when to move to the next stage) can be extremely useful, not just in literal sense of physical self-defense, but also to help you manage the hardest part of life: Other people. These skills can be innate or learned. In my case, it seems to be more of the former, though through practice I refine them as I go along. Perhaps as an Ashkenazi Jew it is in my genes to be cautious, and avoid whenever I can, as thousands of years of oppression and living in fear is likely to impact your genetics a little bit. (Think Woody Allen, the stereotypical, nervous Ashkenazi Jew, albeit a extreme case.) Regardless of how you come to learn these skills, learning it early, and learning it well, will only mean one thing; a happier, more peaceful life. One in which your visits to the hospital due to violence are low, and your conflict related stress is that of calm waters rather than a raging storm. For if you find yourself raging too much, too often, you may find yourself battered, bruised, and broken; because you failed to manage your mental state (see awareness colour code.)

Written by Jonathan Fader

A while ago, I wrote about taking control through training. What I was really talking about is achieving balance. Now, more than ever, Balance is what we need. In a world where it’s more important to “take a side” than to seek the truth, a world where it’s easier to believe what you are told rather than research it in depth from multiple sources. Now, more than ever, both as individuals and as a society, do we need to learn to take a more moderate approach.

 

Audio by Jonathan Fader

Enter the Jedi and the Sith. In the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are presented as the “good guys,” with the Sith as their polar opposite “bad guys.” This, of course, depends on who you ask.

The Jedi, disciplined warrior monks, claim to seek balance in the Force, yet their own moral superiority (among other things) blinded them to the quiet rise of the great Sith Lord Palpatine. If we look at the actions and beliefs of the different Force-user creeds, it could be said that the not so often spoken about Grey Jedi are actually the ones who seek balance.

(I am using the codes as in the photo though there are various versions.)

The Jedi Code is as follows:

“There is no emotion, there is PEACE. There is no ignorance, there is KNOWLEDGE. There is no passion, there is SERENITY. There is no chaos, there is HARMONY. There is no death, there is THE FORCE.”

Sounds nice right? So how did these warrior monks, bolstered by a set of seemingly simple guidelines, get so overwhelmed? Simple, they did not actually seek balance. Rather, they took a generalized, non-interference stance and planted themselves firmly on a “moral high-ground.” Even when asked or subtly manipulated they avoid getting involved in universal events. They assumed they were always correct and that their actions, as long as they are in line with their code, were beyond reproach. Can you relate? Maybe you can or maybe you can’t, but often this is the view we take of whatever group we have decided to latch onto, acting as though any other group might as well be the SITH.

The Sith Code is as follows:

“Peace is a lie, there is only PASSION. Through passion, I gain STRENGTH. Through strength, I gain POWER. Through Power, I gain VICTORY. Through victory, my chains are broken. THE FORCE, Shall free me.

Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Which is often how we view the Other. We assume someone or something we disagree with must only want to take power and control over us, to impose their ideals on us. While there is certainly truth in that regarding the nature of the Sith, their code is much more about personal growth than you may have realized.

This is part of the reason the Jedi failed; they became stagnant, unwilling to grow or change, the Sith, however, were adapting and changing, growing into better versions of themselves until they could strike.

Of course, it’s easy to demonize that which is the Other. But, if you really know Star Wars, then you know that not everyone thinks the Jedi are pure and innocent.

The problem with both of these creeds is that they do not actually seek balance, that which the Force (the universe) actually wants. The Jedi, much like many priestly sects, deny their true feelings and desires, and in doing so they deny the true nature of living. Their denial of what they truly are caused misstep after misstep because they were not using all the strengths they possessed, and refused to embrace their full potential.

The Sith, on the other hand, do not seek balance because they don’t deny any of their feelings. They don’t even try to control them. They unleash it all to try to bend the Force to their will. This, of course, leads to erratic and foolhardy acts. After all, there is a reason that there are not many Sith around at any one time. They all kill each other.

The irony of this is that, if you go too far in one direction they become one and the same. If you are too puritan, too ideological, then you may become so rigid and uncompromising that you find yourself eating your own (much like the Sith) because there is no balance to rein you in.

While the Jedi did not literally destroy themselves, their blind actions and/or inaction led to their downfall. But in a more real world sense, ask yourself: At what point does your group, based on strong beliefs and political ideology, come full circle and turn into the Other whom YOU though were the intolerant ones? When do the Jedi Become the Sith?

If you are honest, you will see it often throughout history.

The solution is true Balance; to control yourself and to embrace new ideas, to leverage the strength of both views and meet in the middle.

Enter the Grey Jedi!

Never heard of them? That’s because the movies don’t talk much about them but they were there (first mentioned in a comic and first seen in a video game).

They adhere to the following code:

“There is no light without the dark. Trough passion, I gain focus. Through knowledge, I gain power. Through serenity, I gain strength. Through victory, I gain harmony. There is only the force.”

Even on a quick read it is far more balanced. They embrace their true nature, while controlling and cultivating personal growth in the process., and they understand that the Force is something bigger and simply is.

The Grey Jedi tend to still be Jedi at heart, seeking peace and balance in the universe, but bending the code to allow for change and growth (in a balanced way).

It was, after all, a Grey Jedi who guaranteed the survival of the Jedi Order after most were gone. I am referring, of course, to Qui-Gon Jinn, who was the one who discovered the secret of life after death, despite the fact this is not something the Jedi would do. This allowed Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi to continue guiding those who came after them, keeping the Jedi alive.

So it is balance which we all, deep down, seek. Yet it is the hardest thing to do because we either define ourselves by rigid rules or labels that (we feel) cannot be broken, or we allow our emotions to overwhelm us. Both are disastrous in the long run. Any change is difficult due to the required self-reflection (you aren’t always right!), and the realistic assessment of your beliefs, behaviours, and choices (you can’t party ALL the time). Achieving balance is the hardest task many of us will ever face.

So most don’t.

Start by asking yourself: Am I truly seeking balance within myself? In my political opinions? In my religious beliefs? Am I being restricted by unbending rigidity, or losing myself in uncontrollable emotions?

No matter what path you take, if you are truly honest with yourself, then you will be on the first step on the journey towards balance, a mental and emotional stability which will help you find the peace and serenity that you seek.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Choosing the wrong training partner could have disastrous consequences (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader w/additions

Recently, we have been doing a series on injury in martial arts, from the emotional aspect to recovery. In this one we are going to discuss one way to help in preventing injuries.

That is learning to pick the right partner.

The reason for this is the right partner can make your training experience even better, whereas the wrong partner can make injuries can happen. In Krav Maga and other martial arts there is phenomenon referred to as the “spastic white belt”. These are individuals who are chaotic in their movements or they are much bigger than others and try to muscle through everything (even if they do not know it the technique). This odd species of new student is common in any gym, and, while it is ultimately the instructor’s job to manage them, you have to watch out for them and know how to protect yourself. You are, after all, an adult; thus you can make adult decisions.

This means, when it comes time to pick a partner, know who you would like to be with to optimize your training.

Of course, if you are new then the Instructor should be assigning you a more experienced student to work with, in order to help guide you in the process. Although sometimes it’s simply the luck of the draw, as the instructor has no control over who shows up to any one class.

Beyond that, when an instructor says “find a partner” that’s when you need to act swiftly to pair with a person (or persons) who you know you can train effectively with. Often what happens when the students are told to get a partner everyone kind of looks around and waits, but this is how you often end up being “picked last,” and getting stuck with someone you, and everyone else, didn’t want to be with.

If you are lucky the instructor will be on point and notice your discomfort, or they don’t like the pairing, due to size or skill, and will change it for you. However, once again, you are an adult and there is only one instructor, so partner picking really becomes about ownership and taking responsibility for this very important task.

What things should you consider:

  1. Have you trained with them before? – This sounds obvious but it isn’t always. If you have trained with someone before and you are comfortable with them, then try to partner with them quickly. Or if you have trained with someone before and you didn’t enjoy it then try to avoid them (as politely as possible). Of course, if there is a big issue or a valid concern, make sure to talk to your instructor. In general, you want to partner with people you are comfortable with, so that you are relaxed and focused while learning, and therefore can train properly.
  2. Have you seen them training before? – If you have not trained with a person, then have you seen them train with others? If not, then ask yourself “were you practicing proper situational awareness?” If you were, then you should have some idea if they are a good option for you based on their actions, and the reactions of their past partners.
  3. Is their size and skill appropriate to the drill? – Unless the instructor has specifically asked you to train with someone much larger than you, then, especially as a beginner, it might be better to partner with someone who isn’t too big or too small. For some activities, like holding pads, size and skill won’t matter as much (unless they are a heavy weight, in which case it might not matter who holds the pads, it still hurts). Other techniques, like bear hugs or grabs, will be difficult at first if the person is to big and strong compared to you. When you are starting out you need to get the technical aspects down first before you can “go ham” with full aggression.
  4. Do they have a “reputation” at the school? – Have you heard people complain about this person’s power control? Have you been warned to watch out for them in certain context, eg. sparring? Are they known for going to hard or not following drills correctly? Forewarned is forearmed! Some people may be great to drill with, but in sparring they can’t control their power, some just don’t get the basics of holding pads. In any case, bring it to the attention of the instructor if the situation doesn’t improve or is dangerous.

Of course, at the end of the day, some people just need a bit of work and help to be good partners. Most people don’t want to do things wrong, and they certainly don’t want to earn the title “spastic white belt” and become pariahs in their gym. It could be that a few minutes before or after class is all it takes to clue someone in about how to hold pads, why a drill flows a certain way, or how to figure out pulling punches/kicks. Helping someone improve, or informing them of something they didn’t realize they were doing incorrectly will benefit them, you, and the rest of the students. While this is largely up to the instructor, again, if you are an adult, working on your communication skills with your training partners is important. It is, after all, a very important aspect of stage 1 and 2 self-defence.

Either way, mastering the art of picking a partner and/or building your partners up is more important than you think. After all, without good training partners you will not develop at the rate you want. Or worse, injury might be in your future if you pick the wrong partner. So, think hard, communicate effectively, learn to spot those who work for you as a partner, and get to them quickly for training.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Editors Note: This post was originally written on November 9th, 2016, As we are currently doing a series on injuries we thought we would re-post some past articles on this topic. This one was written by Assistant Instructor Dave Young who is a professional musician as well as martial artist. Like many who train martial arts, injury is a big concern, especially if it can affect your ability to do your other hobbies or your job. Yet, many musicians train in the martial arts without issues, like David Lee Roth of Van Halen. The discipline and consistency needed for music is much like that of the martial arts, so it should be a natural draw for musicians, but fear of injury can often prevent many from learning something they always wanted to learn. See our previous post on Injury Anxiety. This, however, has never stopped Dave, who has since moved out of the city and we wish him the best. We know he will continue his martial arts journey no matter where he is, so keep an eye out for this bearded warrior.

Audio By Jonathan Fader
daveyoung2

In any martial art, there is always the risk of getting injured. I think most martial art and self-defence students have experienced at least one mild injury during their training. This is the trade-off; training that is meant to prevent violence requires violence, so it must be imbued with an inherent risk. Yet, being trained allows you to reduce risk in a real fight.

How can you avoid injury in training and avoid injury in a real situation?

As a musician, my hands and my brain are the two most important things that allow me to write, record, and perform. Thus, throwing punches and getting hit in the head may seem counter-intuitive towards preserving these body parts. There is a balance between avoiding injury to maintain my ability to work, and taking the risk of injury to be able to defend myself and my family.

First of all, I am NOT a fan of being punched in the face or hit in the head in any manner.  Many studies show that repeated blows to the head, even those that don’t cause concussions, can cause long-term changes in the brain and have lasting neurological effects. That being said, it is very important from a Krav Maga perspective to experience high pressure real world situations and be able to react appropriately.

In a fight, you are going to get hit, so experiencing the real thing in a simulation-type environment is invaluable as a learning tool.  At UTKM, we spar in a very controlled manner, and this is great for safety.  Even so, accidents happen. Everyone is at a different point in learning to control their strikes (and their emotions), so the best way to avoid getting hit, and protect your brain, is to train hard and improve your technique.

The best way to avoid getting hit, and protect your brain, is to train hard and improve your technique.

When it comes to protecting my hands, the same idea applies: Hone your technique.  I work hard on improving my technique so that I retain thorough muscle memory of the proper movements and positions, whether I’m punching a bag, focus mitts, or sparring with one or many opponents. This reduces my chances of injury — remembering to keep my hands up, fist at 45°, elbow slightly bent, and so on. When I ingrain this into my muscle memory, I won’t need to remember to do it in a distressing situation, my body will know it and do it.

Better hurt in the gym, than killed on the street

Perhaps, I will never be required to fight for my life or to protect my family. Nevertheless, in the end, I would rather train hard and perhaps break my hands defending myself successfully, than be overly worried about hurting myself in training and ending up seriously injured in a real confrontation.

In a fight, you are going to get hit, so experiencing the real thing in a simulation-type environment is invaluable as a learning tool.

Written by: Dave Young.

Audio by Jonathan Fader with additional commentary

Foreword:  This piece was originally written and posted on January 12th, 2017, it has been updated and re-edited for 2020. Last week our editor posted about his experience with injury in the martial arts, as well as injury anxiety in the post “Once Bitten, Twice Shy: Overcoming Injury Anxiety“. As a Martial Artist and Instructor I can say, without a doubt, that fear of injury and injury anxiety are a common, if not the most common, the reason why people abandon their martial arts journey. For some students, it is a situation they experience, witness, or hear about in class that pushes them past their comfort zone, which in turn triggers this fear (or self-doubt) and they stop coming. For others, they suffer an actual injury and never come back due to this fear. Then there are those who finish our first test (which is VERY HARD) and they no longer want to continue because the fear of further challenges sets in. To me, however, getting injured and coming back stronger is the sign that you may in fact be a true martial artist or warrior. No one ever said it was going to be an easy, joyous journey, but the skills and personal development you gain from self-defence/combative practice is more than worth it. This post discusses the most disastrous injury I have ever had and my road to recovery. I believe that if you truly understand your body and become your own doctor, learning how to properly recover and become stronger (with proper research), then it will reduce the fear of injury (which may be inevitable in martial arts training for most) allowing you to continue to grow, develop, and challenge yourself. Something that is increasingly important in a world were people no longer like to be challenged. With that in mind, read on for my story of injury, pain, and recovery.

Pound for pound, the knee is the strongest offensive strike that the human body can generate. But many folks out there, whether athletic or not, find out that, with one wrong movement, or one wrong hit in the wrong way, this strong offensive weapon becomes as limp as a wet noodle.

In my case, it was the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. I am not even 30 and my knees are already going! This can easily make a person feel old. It reminds me a line in the spoken word piece, Wear Sunscreen, by Australian producer Baz Luhrmann in which the advice is given:

“Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.”

Here I am, supposedly in my prime, and my ACL is torn on one side, making me I feel like an old man as my other knee is going too. Ironically, I’m surprised they lasted this long. As a Rifleman, Light Machine Gunner, and Sniper in the IDF, I often carried far too much weight for my little legs and knees to handle. Add to that all the road running I used to do… I guess my knees had a good run (pun intended).

People are consistently shocked by how quickly I recover, post-injury and post-surgery, and get back into regular activities. I’m usually met by skepticism and rolling eyes when I tell people, “don’t worry I heal fast!” As the doctor said, “It’s people like you I worry about the most.

Don’t worry, I heal fast!

wolverine_healing
I wish I could heal like Wolverine

I’m not Wolverine, and I don’t have a “mutant healing factor” or other superhuman resiliences. In fact, I don’t really even consider myself very athletic; one of the reasons I was drawn to Krav Maga. So why should I heal any faster than anyone else?

The truth is I don’t heal any faster than the average person. But I have a theory as to why people think and say such a thing.

Let’s begin by breaking down the injury and recovery:

First, I would like to be critical about the medical system. Even in Canada, we have a broken medical system, in my opinion. Generally, doctors are experts in acute injury diagnosis and treatment, but when it comes to post-injury recover they are almost clueless. They do not employ a holistic approach and they rarely understand, to the level that they should, aspects of medicine and healing. In Canada, though our medical care is largely covered (I say largely, since there are still costs…), there is a serious shortage of qualified professionals and equipment. In my case, when I was injured I knew it was something more serious than the “just a sprain” that the doctor assessed it as.

The day after my injury, my doctor was overbooked (it happened late at night). So I went to the ER instead, which had a long wait time, as usual, due to overcrowding. Finally, after several hours, I see a doctor, only to be told they think it’s just a sprain. They sold me crutches and prescribed me light painkillers. A week later, I finally managed to see my regular doctor and was told something similar. The idea of an MRI scan wasn’t even mentioned until I went to a physiotherapist, which was covered by WorkSafeBC. This is appalling to me because, as far as I know, the sooner a proper, accurate diagnosis can be made the faster a surgery or rehab can happen, and the faster I can heal and recover. All these things would lead to a better experience for both the patient and medical professionals, with lower cost for the medical system overall.

The idea of an MRI scan wasn’t even mentioned until I went to a physiotherapist.

So why didn’t I get sent for an MRI right away? Well, if you are unaware, the whole nation of Canada has fewer MRI machines than some individual cities in America. This results in a long wait list, and even when you can get bumped to the front of the line through WorksafeBC, there is still a resistance to sending you.

acl_tear
ACL Injury

If I had been sent for an  MRI within 2 weeks of my injury, as should have happened, they would have discovered that I had a seriously torn ACL and meniscus. But since it took about 2 months to get the MRI, albeit it was faster than the normal 6-9 month wait, they would have discovered it sooner and not wasted time thinking it was something less serious.

This means that, even in a country like Canada with a so-called advanced medical system, there are serious problems and you really cannot rely on the advice of just one so-called medical professional. A lot of times, these people are tired, overworked, and too accustomed to patients who exaggerate their symptoms. Although in my case, I was under-exaggerating my injury since I have a high pain tolerance; so they assumed it was nothing despite the details I was verbally indicating.

When I finally had the MRI, I was referred to a specialist. Once I saw the specialist, things moved forward rather quickly. Her question was basically, “so when do you want the surgery?” Great, right?

Back to the main topic about my not-Wolverine healing abilities:

Here is my theory as to why people have the perception that I heal faster than average; One of the biggest problems in the medical system is the over-prescription of pain killers. In my opinion, this is one of the main hindrances to how fast a person can get back to their normal activities.

When I am teaching my kids’ Krav Maga classes, often every little bump and every little scrape becomes a big deal. I always teach these children the same simple lesson:

There is a difference between pain and injury.

Pain is your body’s natural way of giving you feedback to assess whether something is a possible threat. However, it is a very simplistic system and doesn’t always know the difference between something that is actually harmful and something that is not. As a reasonably developed species, we should be able to use our conscious mind, based on our experience and the mechanism of the pain, to know if it just hurts or is an actually injury. I always tell my students that “pain is good and injury is not.” You should fight through pain when it is just pain, but stop when pain is related to an injury and take the care of injuries seriously.

knee1
Pain is your body’s natural way of telling you there is possible danger. (Image source)

Thus, I am not a fan of pain killers prescribed by doctors. Generally, medication should only be used when necessary; such as taking acetaminophen for a fever, or NyQuil and DayQuil for a serious cold. It should also only be used a long as needed, which is usually a day or two. Yet, doctors often prescribe 2 weeks to a month, or more, of serious, heavy-duty painkillers, which can be highly addictive to a lot of people. They tell you the maximum you should take and for how long, which means that you should not take all the pills you are given, but people still do. Which leads us to…

The issue with painkillers and other meds

By taking painkillers for longer than you need just because you were prescribed them, it dulls your body’s natural pain responses and you can no longer “hear” your body’s feedback. Eventually, if you take them too long, your body’s pain threshold will have shifted and your overall tolerance to pain without painkillers will have been reduced. By the way, this is the start of addiction when it comes to painkillers, as you will constantly be trying to maintain your new pain baseline, which is now only achievable through the pills themselves. This is why heroin, when medically supervised by doctors in hospitals, is a better pain alternative than morphine and is less addictive. Yes, you read that right, but I won’t get too science-y. The fact remains that the layperson’s understanding of painkillers and other meds is dramatically limited.

Addiction issues aside, there are two main problems: Either, you diminish you ability to feel when pain becomes injury, then you push yourself too hard, or, you become docile and don’t know when your injury is ready to begin rehab because you no longer know the difference.

This is why post-injury and post-surgery, I rarely take painkillers for more than 2-3 days. I typically only use them to help me sleep and overcome the initial acute pain, which is often a bit more than I would like to deal with. However, even if I have to walk with a limp, I would rather get rid of the medication as soon as reasonably possible, than to rely on it like crutches and lose my body’s natural senses and abilities.

Generally, in both studies and anecdotes, evidence shows that the faster you get back to regular movement (within reason) the faster you can heal yourself. The body is both an inefficient piece of junk and an amazing machine. If you take painkillers longer than you need to and cannot receive the appropriate pain feedback, then you cannot properly heal yourself. Many also go wrong by using painkillers to “push through” pain, which is not advisable because then you cannot know when the body moves from pain to injury, and this is a crippling mistake for many athletes.

Listen to your body

If that means you don’t do anything that day, then you don’t. If you can push another day, then you do. But the sooner you get back into simple things, like moving, walking, and doing regular day-to-day activities, the better.

Have you heard of those people who work their entire lives, and then in their late-70s or 80s, they just stop or are forced to retire and then die? I think this is a great analogy for muscle atrophy.

If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Have you heard of that? Surprisingly, muscle atrophy can kick in very quickly, usually at around 72 hours of non-use. Which means if you take most doctors advice and rest up to six weeks, you will see major muscle loss and the recovery will be much harder. Often, doctors and physiotherapists hesitate to push people, and thus continue prescribing fairly basic exercises, which may be great for office workers, but not for the athlete.

As an athlete, sometimes safe, yet serious, strength training is required. For me, the results of my post-injury recovery were not happening as fast as I would have liked. It was my first experience going to physio, and I did everything they said. However, my impatience comes from being told to do very boring exercises with minimal results. What’s more, I would have to stop what I was doing 4 times a day, for 20-30 minutes, to do the exercises. It became a hindrance to my work with no benefit to my recovery.

So I started doing my own exercises, which limiting myself to light squats and deadlifts. Two months after my initial injury, I was doing 200lb deadlifts, no problem. Of course, I was wearing my knee brace and would end a set if there was any discomfort. However, with this approach I saw far quicker recovery than when I had just listened to the so-called experts.

I am not trying to discredit medical professionals, this is not at all what I am trying to say. The problem is that, due to the system, or lack of experience, or scarce resources, there is often a disconnect between injury and recovery. The sooner rehab starts, the faster people can get back to normal activities, the faster and better the overall recovery.

How do I know when my doctor is right or wrong?

Sometimes, of course, you should listen to professional advice when it is legitimate. In my case, I listened when the doctor specifically asked me not to bend my knee more than 90 degrees for 6 weeks, regardless of pain. This is to allow the fixed areas, specifically the meniscus, time to properly heal and become as strong as required. However, all that it means is simply that I should be careful and modify my exercise to adhere to that specific limitation. I can still attempt light squats with limited range of motion, despite what the doc might think.

2184531_o
How I’ll feel when I finally get to do BJJ after all these months…

Healing and returning to normal happens faster when I listen to both my body and the advice of the doctor and physiotherapist. Your body knows itself best. As long as you are fairly self-aware and attuned to your body’s messages, you should let your body guide you. And, seriously, don’t rush. As an athlete, I know that pushing too much too quickly because you want to get back in the game and prove yourself, is not a good idea. For me, this has meant no Krav Maga or BJJ for at least 2 months, and no rolling or sparring for 3-4 months.

There is still a dispute as to whether it makes more of a difference to get surgery ASAP and then do physio, or vice versa. It is my opinion, as an athlete, that surgery should happen as soon as possible, and you should do physio before and after surgery. It is fairly conclusive that doing physio and rehab to get back to regular activities ASAP means a better recovery. In my case, the longer I had to wait for my surgery, the worse my other (uninjured) knee got. Having a surgery done ASAP means your body will not have to go through multiple healing processes and can get back to what you love to do with less risk of degradation of your other areas of the body due to compensation.

So stay off the painkillers when you don’t actually need them. Get moving and get healing. When it comes to injury recovery, push when there is no pain, and rest or stop when you feel pain. Through time, you will know if the pain is related to the injury or whether it just hurts. Remember…

Pain is fine. Injury is not.

This is my secret. Simple, really!

Written: by Jonathan Fader

Most attackers are known to you, in domestic abuse they are likely repeat offences. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Last week I wrote the article, “If you were attacked, was it your fault?” Though it shouldn’t be, it is quite a controversial concept, as who wants to take responsibility, even partially, for being attacked? Usually no one. We tend to prefer our understanding of things from to be binary, we apply a black and white perspective to some categories, yet often, and simultaneously, we adhere to a belief in “grey areas” and “a spectrum” for others. The thing is, you have to pick; in reality most occurrences fit the bell curve model and are not so black and white. Ideally, all events in our lives should be analyzed case by case, but this is an energy intensive way of looking at the world (mentally and emotionally), so, as we are human and prefer easy answers, we apply blanket logic, even when it is the most inappropriate.

That being said, when you are mugged, robbed, or otherwise attacked by a stranger, it is considerably more black and white than when you are attacked by someone you know. As martial artists we often focus only on the former, even though most of the time it is actually the latter that is a problem. One Glasgow University study found that, of the 991 sexual assault victims they interviewed, almost 90% knew their attacker (with only 9% being victimized by strangers).

One of the reasons we don’t talk about it openly, on average, is because it’s difficult, messy, emotionally charged, and so grey (full of various shades) that it is like being colour blind and then trying to tell the difference between red and green.

Yet, as a self-defence instructor, both in my personal and professional life I have encountered many, many, many individuals who have experienced any combination of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Yes, it is mostly women who have lived through these scenarios, but I have also met men who have had such experiences.

As a society, while some people are willing discuss “violence within social circles,” family violence, or partner abuse (often politicized), the general attitude is to pretend like everything is alright, when, if you know where to find it, you can witness the worst of humanity.

To emphasize this point I would like to relate an experience I had dealing with “hoarder houses.” No, not some TV show, but rather what I have actually seen while working for company that handled large scale junk removal. Much to my surprise, extreme examples exist in an area like Metro Vancouver. In fact, they were far more numerous than one would think, and often these houses looked no different then the ones next to them, from the outside. One of the most unfortunately memorable and disturbing cases was a home in which a man, who was clearly a heroin junkie and single father with several kids. Our best guess, based on the conditions we encountered and the items we removed, was that this individual routinely locked his children under the stairs, in cages, leaving them to defecate in yogurt bottles while he got high.

Yes, you read that right.

Abuses by family or friends are very much like these hoarder houses; individuals, both victims and abusers, often go to great lengths to hide the fact that it is happening. This could be due to fear, shame, misguided loyalty, or any of various other reasons why silence occurs. One thing I know for sure is that in most cases society fails to reasonably deal with these horrible situations.

For adults, getting out could mean losing financial stability, shelter, and social support from friends and family. For children, it is far more complicated.

Of the abuse victims I have met, several have admitted privately that they “didn’t say anything” because they did not want it to break the family apart. For others it’s simply shame and fear of judgement. The responsibility to protect yourself, however complex the situation may be, is more on the victims themselves (and, yes, I understand the psychology involved is also quite grey).

When it comes to children the fault is primarily on the “responsible adults” in their lives, the ones who are often choosing to ignore the obvious signs of abuse.

Regarding adults, an example I encountered in my own life was a friend I had long ago. They regularly made bad decisions, even though they knew it was bad (they had a pathological case of cognitive dissonance). One time, late at night, they called me asking me to pick them up because their partner was being abusive. I showed up, and as they were walking to the car their partner started sprinting toward the vehicle. I pulled a move that I wish I had filmed. As I opened the passenger door, grabbed their hand, pulled them into the vehicle. I sped forward and did a 180, while their partner was punching the driver’s side window so hard they left bloody knuckle marks. My friend called the police and they asked if we wanted to press charges. My friend did not. (I could have, and I honestly don’t recall why I did’t.)

Later that night my friend asked me to take them back…

They were out and could have easily chosen to leave permanently.

One month later, their partner was stabbed and killed in a fight (after pulling their own knife in a struggle). The newspapers reported “what a saint this guy was” on account of him being a volunteer firefighter, and his mother couldn’t understand why her “lovely son” died. Except, I, like others, knew the truth. They ignored the fact that he was violent, had a criminal record, and was, quite frankly, a piece of shit.

When it comes to children it’s even more complicated, largely on account of what happens when it is deemed that they should be removed from their parents or guardians due to abuse. Well, they often end up in “the system”, a Child Welfare system in which in many cases is worse for the child than their own home. Yes, the home in which they were being abused.

Horrible, I know. The reality is, with kids or adults, one of the best things you can do is try to offer them sanctuary and, if possible with kids, try to gain some form of guardianship. Of course, “the system” doesn’t make this easy either.

If at this point you are having difficulty reading this, it is okay. It’s a dark subject (and I am barely even scratching the surface). Yet, while the world is currently the best place it has ever been to live (ignore the fear-mongering), there is still evil and darkness out there, even close to home.

We as a society have a tendency to only focus on that which can be politicized rather than that which is obviously wrong with what we have built. The simplest thing we can do is help those in our lives who may be at risk; by doing whatever you can. Whether that means paying for their self-defence lessons, providing them with shelter, or giving them financial support, you can do more than you think. Whatever you decide, know that you are probably better help than the system.

The government and the justice system have completely failed on this matter, at least in the West. In other countries there isn’t even a system to help those who are or would be abused.

For many the world is better than ever, for others it is still a nightmare.

When we talk about these topics we must be honest and not jump on one-liners, slogans, or broad statements. It must be case by case, requiring sincere consideration.

If you know someone, female, male, or other, adult or child, who you think is being abused, ask yourself, “What can you do to help?”

Written: by Jonathan Fader

Have you assessed this situation critically? Is the short cut worth the risk? (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader with additions

Being assaulted, attacked, robbed etc… will always be a horrible, unwanted experience. Yet, at any given time, all over the world, it is happening to someone. For the purposes of keeping it simple I am only going to be discussing basic assaults (eg. muggings). This subject will, of course, become more complex with regard to domestic disputes, or when the assault involves close friends, relatives, or mentors; such situations are impossibly complicated, as they are interwoven with emotion, personal connection, betrayal, and often shame. Perhaps “domestic and close relationship violence” could be a topic for another time (likely requiring another series)

For our discussion, imagine you were attacked while walking home, or you were mugged at an ATM. These are terrible experiences, and yet they are often somewhat avoidable. If you still watch the news or follow trends, you may often hear the term “victim blaming.” Discussing fault is typically frowned upon as it is considered cruel to say the person who got attacked was (even partially) to blame. Particularly in cases where it may have seemed unavoidable, taking responsibility for what happened, for most people is a daunting and heart wrenching task.

Before you jump down my throat, know that no one has the “right” to attack you and that these attacks are inexcusable. In most countries there are laws against such things, some of which have been in place for thousands of years. Yet this has not stopped assault, robbery, rape, and other garbage behavior. The idea that laws will protect you outright is, in many cases, delusional. If someone is trying to rob you, will you be able to call the police? Probably not. Even if you are somehow able to call 911, the response times can range from 5 minutes to no response at all (especially in today’s anti-police climate); which means that, when it comes to your own personal safety, you are the only one who can prevent immediate physical harm or death.

Of course, size matters. And if you are underage, with less life experience, it matters even more. If your attacker is bigger than you and decides to target you, fighting may be considerably more difficult and risky.

So what do you do, and why may it be your fault that you got attacked?

Simple, the best self-defence is avoidance. Though Krav Maga teaches to fight with all you have, this is really meant for when running is not an option. The goal, however, should always be to take a step back, think critically, and try to make good decisions and assessments so that you do not even have to make a fight or flight decision.

Hearing or even thinking that being attacked was, in one way or another, your fault, is a difficult idea to swallow and yet, if you don’t want such things to happen in the future you will have to make some changes. (Again, we are not talking about assaults involving partners, friends, or relatives)

The concept of personal responsibility or “ownership,” (made more popular these days by Jocko Willink in his books “Extreme Ownership” and ‘The Dichotomy of Leadership,” and by others in various publications) is a difficult concept for many, even in the best of times. You see, we have this thing called an Ego, and it wants to protect us and shift blame elsewhere. So if someone did a bad thing to us, we rationalize that it must be completely their fault. Yet, when it comes to self-defence and protecting yourself, that may not be entirely true.

Were you walking in a way that made you seem like an victim? With your head low, shoulders rolled forward, for example, are physical indicators that will lead an attacker to believe you are an easy target. Or did you, as Jordon Peterson would say, “stand up straight, with your shoulders high.” It may seem silly, but this simple change will take you from “easy target” to “potential problem” in the eyes of the attacker.

I, myself, am not the largest person, being 1.6m tall and (in the past) around 65-68kg. Yet I managed, despite my big mouth and tendency to offend people, even when I was younger and did not know how to fight, to not get jumped, or attacked, or worse (much to my surprise). In my case, it’s an explainable confidence that probably kept people guessing whether it was a good idea to attack me or not. I managed because I talked big and looked the part. Of course, occasionally I would recognize that I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and I was immediately aware of that instinctual feeling: “It’s time to leave.”

Knowing when you are about to get in over your head, in any situations, is difficult. But knowing when you must leave (early “flight” indicators) will save you great pain and hardship. Failing to recognize that you, A) just pissed off a bunch of people, B) are probably in over your head, and C) failed to avoid further conflict, means that you are largely responsible for the resulting hospital trip. You failed to manage a bad situation, you stayed in that bad situation, and you allowed it to get worse.

Another example is the classic “taking a short cut through a dark alley.” Didn’t your mother tell you not too?! You can say all you want that “the person who robbed you shouldn’t have!” And you are right, they shouldn’t have, but your attacker doesn’t care; they are operating on a different moral scale then you are. Even if they are just trying to survive, they don’t have the right to take from you. But it really doesn’t matter in the moment, because now you are in the situation, and they are doing it. Failing to recognize that you were making a bad decision, a decision that put you in the position of being an easy target, makes it your fault. Failing to maintain situational awareness, to know when to run when you must, might be your fault to.

You might say, “Wait a second, for some people their body will cause them to have paralytic fear, causing them to freeze up and prevent any decision making that will be beneficial. So how can it possibly be their fault?”

Well, why did you go into the dark alley in the first place? Even if you knew it was a bad idea? Failure to recognize that decision as your fault may cause you to make it again and further compound any psychological trauma you may have experienced from the results of the first bad decision.

Furthermore, what did you do to prepare for violent situations? For most the answer is “Nothing.” Which would then be your fault. You assumed it would never happen to you and when it did you may have found yourself asking yourself, “why didn’t I do more?”

Prevention is the number one way to stay happy and healthy, which includes the ability to defend yourself. If you never learned even the basics of defending yourself, and you didn’t keep your body in good health so that you can run, it is again your fault.

We can say all we want that “people shouldn’t attack people” (which they shouldn’t) and “it’s their fault,” but we cannot control other people, we can only control ourselves, which means our personal safety is on us and us alone.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to small children, but as a parent you can teach and inform your children, in age appropriate ways, to give them the best possible chance of survival in any situation.

So, do you want to be the victim? Or do you want to take a proactive approach to self-defence, taking full personal responsibility. Learn to make good decisions, avoid people who might be problematic in your life, and learn to defend yourself.

Remember, it’s your life and your responsibility. While others contribute to who you are and why you are the way you are, when it comes to assault, in that single moment of time, all the blame on society, your parents, your significant other, are completely irrelevant. In that moment it is only you and them.

Did you do everything you could to avoid that horrible situation, or did you do nothing and wait to be the victim?

Written: by Jonathan Fader

RCMP cadets training at the academy’s Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan. (source)
Added contend in Audio. Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is the fourth in a series that started with “It’s Not So Black and White“, which was expanded in “Understanding Use of Force” and “Understanding Use of Force: Knee-on-Neck.” Over the course of this series I have frequently mentioned the need for better training and standards for policing.

Often, when this is discussed with officers, a few responses are common (I’m paraphrasing):

  • “I totally agree, but I don’t have the time or money to pay for my own training in my limited free time.”
  • “I totally agree, but the higher ups don’t seem to care and are not willing to make the change.”
  • “I don’t know what you are talking about; training and the academy was hard, so you don’t know what you are talking about.”
  • “I know enough, you are just trying to sell me something.”

No matter what the reason, whether the agree or disagree, the fact is simple; Police are not trained well enough!

Why do I say that?

Have you heard of the “10,000 hour rule” (popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success)? It is estimated than for any ONE skill you will need 10,000 hours to gain mastery. Even a Black Belt who has been training 5, 10, or 15 years often doesn’t even have that kind of level. This is the reason why black belts often say when achieving that prestigious rank: “Now I am ready to learn.” Given how long it takes to achieve mastery it is unreasonable to expect this level of expertise from police, given the number of skills that they actually need to perform effectively. However, we can reasonably expect them to at least reach a novice or advance level in both use of force and firearms usage under duress.

Additionally, we need to select better candidates. Some places, like Canada, maintain physical requirements, and some do not. Some put in place an age requirements (not too old, not too young), some do not. Some uphold minimum education requirements and some do not. I will discuss selection in more depth in another article, but we must take into account the fact that the standards vary wildly.

Since I live in Canada, let’s start with discussing training standards within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Usually you do need a degree and some life experience, once you have been selected you will undergo 6 months of training at the RCMP Academy’s “Depot Division” (the details of which are broken down here.)

This is a general breakdown of RCMP training in “Depot”:

UnitNumber of Hours
Applied Police Sciences373
Police Defensive Tactics75
Fitness and Lifestyle45
Firearms Training65
Police Driving65
Drill, Deportment, and Tactical43
Detachment scenarios, exams, research, etc.120
As listed on RCMP Website

Before I move forward I will say that the standards of the RCMP in some ways are considerably better than those of many other police forces, especially in the US. However, the RCMP selection requirements have declined over the years.

Anyway, back to the point.

You can see how many scenarios, skills, and concepts they need to cover, and attain reasonable proficiency with, in only 6 months time. (Some agencies have less). What they consider “applied police sciences” could itself encapsulate numerous complicated topics.

Let’s take a look at “police defensive tactics,” which is allotted 75 hours of class/field time. I will assume this is the training of physical self-defence and control techniques, perhaps there is crossover with the material covered in Drill, Deportment, and Tactical (without more detail it’s hard to say), but let’s say these 75 hours encompasses the fundamentals. That length of instruction, 75 hours, is about the minimum time it takes to become a UTKM Yellow belt; the RCMP standard is therefore no more intensive than our CIVILIAN self-defence curriculum! (and this comparison assumes that the RCMP’s curriculum is up-to-date and comprehensive.) Objectively, most of my Yellow belts do not have enough skill to begin to safely deal with violent situations that are inevitable in policing.

In most cases my Green belts and up are the point at which students develop true proficiency in hand-to-hand combat and control techniques. That’s at a minimum 280 hours specifically in hand-to-hand combat; and they continue to train after the fact.

After completing Depot, RCMP officers usually do not engage in extensive training supplied by their own force. While America is different than Canada, the common lack of training is discussed by Jocko Willink during his recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience #1492 (around 17min in). Willink notes the range of training required for the duties of police officers, and how, on average, America police officers are no longer held to a physical fitness standard and receive only 2-4 hours of extra training a year. Which is nowhere even close to enough to maintain the skill to execute their duties with discretion and control.

While training Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ), which I highly encourage for anyone, I have met RCMP officers who were practicing BJJ out of a desire to expand upon their past training, which had not included a focus on grappling. They became interested in the ground-fighting skill set through private training sessions run by a fellow officer who happened to be a BJJ brown belt. This training, however, was done on their own time and on their own dime, AND only a handful of their fellow officers took part. The fact that grappling and ground-fighting isn’t standard training at this point is beyond me. The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) at least have a Judo club for officers and recruits, so why don’t more agencies have wrestling, BJJ, or Judo training available to their officers? A while ago, former US Democratic Presidential nominee Andrew Yang suggested a reasonable requirement for police vetting could be a BJJ purple belt, and as we move forward this is something I increasingly agree with.

If Depot is the start of RCMP training, then it should be treated as exactly that, just a start. Officers should, at a minimum, be getting AT LEAST one hour a week of hand-to-hand training, EVERY WEEK! It should also be PAID and delivered within their REGULAR working hours. Jocko suggested a fifth of an officer’s time should be spent training, and I completely agree.

Now let’s look at the RCMP’s 65 hours of Firearms training. 65 HOURS?! There is no way that is enough time to become proficient with the range of firearms officers may encounter, especially working mainly with a pistol and especially under duress. In my 7-8 month army (IDF) training I would say most of the instruction and practice was related to firearms and weapon use, in combination, over hundreds of hours. I probably fired tens of thousands of rounds, in a variety of scenarios, across all platforms I was expected to be proficient in. Additionally, (while I am speculating) I suspect that much of the RCMP firearms training does not place candidates under (reasonably) realistic simulations that would allow them to develop the confidence to use their firearms effectively while under duress.

I have heard some agencies in Canada do pay for 10,000 rounds worth of training a year, but with the caveat that officers need to seek out and undertake this training on their own time. So I expect most officers do not bother (Many thanks to those who do!)

Basically, we are asking Police to do a good job, be experts in the use of force, maintain an even temperament, develop interpersonal skills, and gain an understanding of the law, but we barely give them any training or time to do so.

So far I have used the RCMP as an example, as, fortunately, they have a fairly detailed website on the matter.

Let’s now take a look at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). Their training program isn’t listed in detail but the basic process is.

They undergo almost 3 months (11 weeks) of academy training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), then they do approximate 6 months on the job (shadowing, etc), then a further 3 months of JIBC training. I actually like this model, as it mimics the apprenticeship model and is something that should be considered for continued development over the course of an officer’s career. However, without knowing the details of their curriculum it’s hard to say how much use of force training or firearms training is included. However, the total process is about a year of learning AFTER selection; which is good but, again, how much time is spent on what?

By the way, usually a degree or later age is required for the RCMP, whereas VPD may take applicants fresh out of high-school (which is more common than not.) Though someone recently suggested there is a min credit requirement prior to application (anyone care to confirm this?)

The famous LAPD, require applicants to be 21 years of age and to possess a high-school diploma (or GED), and once selected they will go through a 6 month course (the details of which I could not find). The NYPD, also internationally known, requires age 21, some post-secondary or military service, residency within the five boroughs of New York, and the completion of a written exam. The NYPD does have an academy which offers training for new recruits, civilian roles, and in-service officers, though I cannot track down a specific number for how long the in-class training is for prospective police. (The fact it is so hard to find details on their training program indicates a concerning lack of transparency.) The Minneapolis Police Department (MNPD), by the way, requires a 2-4 year degree and then some psychological assessments and aptitude testing; but, again, no specific mention of what happens at the academy.

Now let’s compare these North American programs to German police training (It’s difficult to find information in English but I have talked to several people about German programs). Training is generally the same for all Bundespolizei (Federal Police), but may vary to some degree across the sixteen Landespolizei (State Police) forces. After a degree their RECRUIT TRAINING is 2-3 years straight, before they can be certified as a police officer. By the way, in Germany they have degree programs SPECIFICALLY for those wanting to become police officers, so it is likely that these would be sought in candidates, if not required. Again, in Europe or much of the world such degrees in policing and security are normal. Here in Canada at least, individuals usually take a general Criminology degree which, while it deals with crime and the law, is not actually a degree program specific to policing. This is the best approach! Get an education, be a little older, and then we will train you EXTENSIVELY in the job, before you start doing it. German officers’ actual training time is 4 to 6 times longer than the average in North America.

It bears mentioning that the firearms training provided to German police forces centres first around safe handling and marksmanship, then on training to only use your service weapon as a last resort. This includes numerous hours of training under duress to avoid “tunnel vision” in order to learn how to manage your reactions and decisions when in real world encounters.

If you dig deep you will find that, in much of Europe and other areas of the world, police generally receive considerably better training.

Yes, your 3 or 6 months in Depot may be the hardest time you have ever had, but I am here to tell you that it is simply not enough. It does not even allow you enough time, in any one topic, to even be considered a skilled novice. Is this really the standard we want?

I don’t think so.

So, instead of jumping on the social media bandwagons, demand that the politicians force police to offer better training. If the job is harder to get into, and pays better, you WILL attract a better class of officer.

But if the job is overworked, underpaid, and poorly trained, why would the average person want to do that job?

The solutions are simple: Better training, more training, and consistent training during your entire career as an officer.

So, what do you think? Is 6 months of training enough for the people putting their lives on the line to keep us and our communities safe?

Written by Jonathan Fader

This is the third part in a series, starting with “Its Not So Black and White,” on the topic of police brutality, training, and various misconceptions thereof.

Audio by: Jonathan Fader – There is some additional commentary in the Audio
Regular training allows forceful restraint to be applied with caution and control. (source)

In last weeks post, “Understanding Use of Force,” I discussed the difficult nature of applying “use of force” concepts and making the correct decision, in the smallest amount of time, while under duress. While, yes, there are malicious police, I would say 10-20% (these are the ones that need to go), the rest are simply good people with an extremely difficult job. A job where everything you do and say is scrutinized to a level that would drive even the most stable person a little nuts. This is why even good officers will often side with their fellow members, even the bad ones, because of the “Us vs Them” principle.

In the media we once again see calls for removing more justifications for the use of force from police, rather than demanding better training and member selection. Slogans like “defund the police,” though popular on social media, are very misguided and misleading to the point that many top politicians who support the general movement are distancing themselves from them. What people need to understand is that the very LOUD minority on social media tends to disproportionately drive the conversation, causing “groupthink” to lead the masses into piling-on with out any real idea of what to do or how to make a meaningful change. “Defund the police” is no different than saying take away their tools.

Once upon a time the police were armed with batons and guns, and many times the smallest altercations meant extreme violence. Then they added non-lethal tools like bean bag guns, rubber bullets, mace, and tasers. Now we even see a trend toward a desire to take these tools away; this is akin to taking away a cat’s teeth. Then telling them they can’t even employ use of force concepts, because it isn’t nice, is like declawing that same cat. This idea that “no force is needed in many altercations” is, quite frankly, delusional. As, while there are certainly cases of police overstepping their bounds, most of the altercations resulting in violence are occurring due to extreme resistance. But before I move on, watch this video about why, with proper training (something I will discuss in another post), appropriate, controlled force (including Knee on the neck) is a necessary tool.

UTKM Lead Instructor Jonathan Fader – Shows appropriate use of Force with the Knee on the Neck

Please understand that, even if you don’t like this technique, if you read our previous post you may start to understand how difficult it is to control another person. As mentioned in this video, he is not resisting too much, mainly because he doesn’t want to; this is why controlled pain compliance is super important. Unless someone is on drugs or has a massive adrenaline spike most people will cease resisting and comply when you apply the appropriate pressure and give the appropriate verbal commands.

NO, two or three officers should NOT all be dog-piling or putting their knee on the neck. One trained individual should apply the technique, with others supporting by controlling the arms or legs.

I sincerely believe that most people who say police should not have any use of force options have no idea how dangerous the job is. Just because you will not be violent towards police doesn’t mean others won’t.

While there are definitely racial issues at play (on a global scale, stop pretending it’s just the US), when it comes to policing we should not assume every altercation is about race. If you believe it’s systemic then attempt to understand the issues within the system that make it appear that way to you. Remember, in a world with conflicting voices the middle ground is often where you need to be.

This means, better training and standards for policing BUT still allowing them to do the job while staying safe, which includes techniques like the knee-on-neck.

I have recently seen suggestions that there be unarmed, trained individuals available to deal with calls that require a lighter touch, such as social workers for calls related to non-violent mental illness. But, if you think for a second that their training should not include the use of force, then you are not being realistic about possible escalations. Talk to any ER Psych nurse or social worker and ask if they have ever been in a near violent or violent situation. These are hard jobs where getting attacked is a reality. Some people, for whatever reason, do not care about consequences and will be unpredictably violent; this includes towards the police and towards civilian role which require direct interaction. By removing use of force training and tools you are actually putting more people in unnecessary danger.

And to those of you who have multiple, negative police encounters (outside of racial contexts), you need to ask yourself “why are having so many bad encounters?” If you don’t take personal responsibility for your actions you are not being honest. Because, lets be reasonable, most encounters with the police are, by their very nature, negative experiences, as you only usually deal with the police in situations that are not ideal; from paying fines, to violent incidents. I have had both positive and negative encounters with the police, but for me the most frustrating issue, for both me and the police, is that often the responding officers cannot get involved because it’s “not an imminent threat.” Even if they agree that something should be done about a person, they don’t, because the system doesn’t always allow it. Which means they slowly become jaded and any time there is any “action” even the best of police can get caught up in the moment.

This is exactly why we must insist on better training for the police, and an understanding that the solution isn’t always going to be a move to “defang the police.”

Now that you have watched the above video and you have read these articles, it is my hope that you understand why techniques like knee-on-neck are important tools; they are, on average, less dangerous than other tools such as rubber bullets and tasers. So, before you jump on the Internet bandwagon, ask yourself, “Do I really understand use of force concepts?” and “Where does my hate for the police actually come from?”

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com, or if you are in the metro Vancouver area come learn from me in person www.urbantacticskm.com

Judging when to use force, and to what degree, is complex and time sensitive (Tony Webster)
Audio by: Jonathan Fader

The other week I wrote about the recent police incident resulting in the death of George Floyd, in the post titled, It’s not so Black and White

As this has become such a large and complicated topic, with factors such as dissidents, political activists, misinformation, and the media all blurring the facts, I thought I would expand on a few aspects of policing and its complex, often intricate, nature. Perhaps you have never heard of these concepts, or perhaps you don’t care, but if you have an open mind you will at least attempt to understand both sides of any argument.

For most of the world’s population, fighting may be a daily reality, or even a way of life; though for many others it is the stuff of nightmares. Now imagine being in a job where at any point you may have to literally fight for your life. This is, for often the case for people in law enforcement. Now imagine being under a constant microscope, whether right or wrong, and having to deal with one of the most complicated situations an officer may ever have to deal with: The appropriate application of force in a given situation.

To clarify (again), in the George Floyd case the use of force was NOT appropriate.

Before I move forward take a look at this:

This is an old “Use of Force” chart I made. One of the regular comments I receive from viewers is, “This is too complicated!”

My response is always, “Correct!”

It is complicated, and that demonstrates the complexity of the decisions and processes that need to go through a person’s brain when making a use of force decision. Add to that the pressure from the awareness that if you screw up you could loose your job, or worse, your life. Then add the pressure of onlookers criticizing you, screaming at you, and filming you. Then add to that the fact that you may not have received the training you felt you needed, or not enough of it.

There could also be further considerations that are not immediately obvious: Is the person on drugs? Are they having a massive adrenaline boost? Are they bigger, stronger, and faster than you?

Forget being in a fist fight, have you ever been in a wrestling match with someone? Do you remember how difficult it was to think and act with someone’s entire body weight against you?

Believe it or not, trying to move another human being who does not want to be moved (or comply at all), is very difficult. It doesn’t really matter what your belief system is, because this is simply a fact. In one example, this anti-police activist found out how difficult it can be. It doesn’t matter the source of the simulation, as, done properly, the results would be the same; it will always be harder than you thought.

It is the hope of every officer, be they police, security, or military, that when an arrest is required verbal commands are enough to elicit compliance. Unfortunately, as you know, this does not always happen.

Even with training it can still be difficult (police generally do not get enough, a topic I will discuss in another post). One thing Krav Maga realized is that when it comes to violent people, you MUST use violence to prevent harm to yourself or others. You can use your words all you want, but if someone is coming after you, then you are going to have to apply force appropriate to the situation. Words do not always work, and whether you want to or not, you will find yourself in a complicated situation where even the slightest mistake can get you fired, suspended, or dead.

What about those who didn’t resist violently? Well, you are correct, in those cases extreme use of force would not be warranted. A lighter touch is certainly needed when the situation allows for it. But, let’s say someone is just being difficult when putting the handcuffs on, and despite multiple verbal commands to comply they chose not to? Then a slightly higher use of force is needed.

Prior to the recent protests many people believe (usually on the left) that the only people who should have the permission for use of force is the government and its agencies (the police, FBI, etc.). If this is the case, if you believe this, then you must admit you know very well that you should comply with the police when necessary. Yes, there are bad apples out there, as the internet has shown, and these should all be removed from duty completely and immediately. But, for the rest of them, they will never know if any given person is going to comply or not. If the answer is “not,” then given the authority granted to the police by you, the citizen, then you must understand use of force is warranted to elicit compliance.

Enter, the complicated decision tree above. The situation will go well, or not, depending on your experience, skill, and training. On a good day, the officer involved possesses all three. On a bad day, maybe only one.

Let’s add in one more complicating factor: Exhaustion. Police often work long shifts that may be physically and mentally demanding. Catch even a well-trained officer with good morals on a day they are at their limit, and even they are capable of making a mistake.

The point is, if you have never stepped in a ring, on a mat, or into and octagon (or just done some backyard wrestling), your ability to judge what is appropriate and effective use of force is severely limited.

It is HARD to wrestle, or tackle and control another person. It takes lots of consistent training. It takes a clear mind and consistent application. At the end of the day, all things considered, it is not so black and white. From moment to moment the appropriate use of force may change, and decisions need to be made in that moment, whether it was right or wrong in hindsight. Failure to choose and act could be catastrophic.

So, if you feel it’s appropriate to get educated on the facts, like trying to understand what it might be like for a Black person in American. Then I urge you to do the same and get educated on all the facts, including trying to understand how hard policing is and how hard it is to be good at appropriate use of force.

Fight the good fight, get educated, expand your horizons, and get out of that echo chamber.

(The next in the series will discuss police training.)

Written by: Jonathan Fader