Archive for the ‘Krav Maga and Other Martial Arts’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Assuming you watched the video and have trained or taught this scenario may be all too familiar.

For some, it is a very easy thing to understand and for other very difficult, in Krav Maga it is even more so problematic than in other styles due to its inherent aggressive nature.

When someone is looking for a new style often people will look for the best person with the most championships, most titles or medals. In some cases, this is certainly warranted as they may very well be the best not only in practice but also in teaching. But the truth is sometimes the best instructors are not at all the most winningest of all.

In boxing, for example, Freddie Roach, widely regarded as one of the best boxing coaches was actually a mediocre boxer (though still a very impressive record). Mike Tyson was one of the best, if not the best, boxers of all time. One of these individuals produced many great boxers and one was just a great boxer. It is likely that in any style you can find examples of both types of individuals.

If I was a student wanting to learn, while it can be tempting to search out for the winningest person the reality is I would much rather find someone that I connect with and whom weather is better than me or not can help me be the best version of myself that I can be. In Jiu Jitsu, for example, I have trained with many champions but there are many that I don’t really want to learn from because I just don’t click with them. There are of course other that even if I don’t connect with personally still are incredibly beneficial to my development. Then, there are those whom with I both connect with and can learn from. The latter is, of course, the ones who I will train with more often when time and other factors permit.

Enter Krav Maga. There are no competitions. Not only this Krav Maga is known to be an aggressive style that beats the crap out of people and can be very intimidating to start for some. So how do you know who is good to train with or not? Do you simply challenge them to a fight? The answer is NO!

Trust me, if you do this, even if you can beat the instructor in a fight it will not impress them. Personally, I have had many students walk in the door that it is likely they could beat me in a fight. They are faster than me, fitter than me, more athletic than me and may have more training years in another style than me. Yet the good ones stay and learn because I have something to teach them just as it is likely they have something to teach me.

As the video points out, in the event of someone really resisting the truth is as the instructor you can simply go passive, you can hurt them, or worse both individuals get hurt. If a student who is 200+lbs 6 foot plus wants to challenge me for real as an example I am in big trouble. I am only 5 foot 6 and about 160lbs so I would be on the losing end of physics. If I cant quickly stop them with a strike that would be considered illegal in most sports fighting the outcome of such a fight is not very hard to predict.

So why learn from someone who you can beat? Simple. If it wasn’t already clear, they may be the person who can make you not only better in your style but also a better person. In the end, shouldn’t that be the main goal of any form of training?

I think so.

If you think always going balls to the walls crazy because that’s what you like, or that’s what you think Krav Maga is then you won’t have to wait long until no one wants to play with you. Either because you have injured all your training partners or you simply have an over-aggressive, overcompensating shitty attitude.

FACT: Nobody likes such a person.

Then there is the simple thing that one of the founding principles of Krav Maga is to Avoid Injury. Which applies both to yourself, your instructor, your training partners and using only the required force to stop any given threat.

So how do you know who to train under, and how to behave when you are training with your partners? For the former its a simple matter of trying different places out and seeing what you like. For the latter, if the environment of the gym is good your training partners will be open and communicative and will always let you know if there is an issue.

No matter what the case is for you, please leave your ego at the door. As Bruce Lee famously said:

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Belts: What are they good for?

Posted: January 15, 2019 by Jonathan Fader in Krav Maga and Other Martial Arts
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The subject of belts and ranking is like so many things a complicated thing because though they are supposed to be straight forward they can mean different things to different people. In Krav Maga, it is no different. There are those who follow the original belt system developed originally for Judo, like us. There are those who follow the Patch system originally developed in the great split of the 90s when IKMF was formed. There are those who say there should be no ranking cuz it does not matter on the street. And there are those who came from a different martial arts background and simply took the ranking system for that and used it for Krav Maga.

Let’s Start at the beginning. Originally there was simply student and master and some way to indicate the difference other than skill. Then as martial arts started to popularize and become more about sport and less about life or death there needed to be a way to track progress and differentiate both skill and time at practice. At some point in the late 20s or 30s Judo’s founder created more or less the modern belt system. And that was that. From there on almost every martial arts style adopted some form of the progressive ranking system using colored belts or sashes. In a lot of styles each colour represents something other than the physical, it others it simply means the next stage.

Back to Krav Maga. If you have read into UTKM a little more you would know when we developed our curriculum we stuck with the traditional belt system as we believe to the lamen it is easier to understand than the patch system. The patch system was developed to appeal to the more military oriented nature of Krav Maga but to most people trying to explain this system can be a bit annoying. But everyone understands what a white or brown or black belt is. So in following Krav Magas original nature, we decided to keep it simple. Additionally, if Krav Maga is simple then we shouldn’t need so many levels to get through the curriculum. Advanced progress can simply be marked by Dans anyways, which are more an indication of continued progress, skill and dedication than anything else.

To the people who say there shouldn’t be ranks, I would say that they really dont understand humans. People who say this usually come from a special forces background and are already physically, and potentially mentally stronger than most people. They may find themselves in a new school and doing far better than average. Thus, due to ego, they feel they deserve more. But they are forgetting that ranks are far more than just skill. They are right though. There are no belts on the street (unless you are wearing one and use it as a weapon of the opportunity of course!) but this is a two-way street. Being a high rank doesn’t matter if you are overwhelmed and being a low rank doesn’t matter if you escape to safety. But humans are funny creatures and we like to measure everything, including our progress. We also like to compare to other people of similar ranks. We are social creatures and thus we crave a system with earnable measurable progression in relation to those around us.

To the last group of people who teach Krav Maga but use some other or random ranking system you are either being disrespectful or care more about business than the actual style, you are teaching. Just my 2 cents and I’ll leave it at that.

So, Belts. What are they even good for?

The obvious has already been stated; Measurable progression. But what does that even mean? One thing to consider is one of UTKMS main goals, to produce people, not belts. People are the product of a school, not their ranks. A belt usually indicates both the completion of minimum time and practical requirements accompanied by an acceptable demonstration of skill for the level in question.

For example, did they show the required attendance or attitude? Did they show the required skills? Did they pass the test? In some systems, it’s simply a matter of going through the motions. In others like ours, we expect you to be able to show us you can really defend yourself while tired and at each level adding the additional skills you have learned at each new level.

Simple, yes? well no. I could have 2 yellow belts, that both passed the test but one is clearly better than the other. This should not discourage anyone, rather show an individual that there are those bigger stronger and faster and that for them the best self-defense is avoidance knowing there are such people out there. Unfortunately, due to our nature, this often discourages people.

In styles with competitions this certainly can be very discouraging but in Krav Maga, it should not. The difference without the sports aspect, the only reason you should be wanting to progress is for yourself. Though really, this sentiment should be applied to all styles. So if you are stuck at a certain rank for a long time all it means is show up more and train harder.

The reality is, self-defense is for your self. It is so that you know what you are capable of in any given situation and you have the confidence to do something should the need arise.

At UTKM we break the skills up based on rank. Beginner is the white belts. Novice is yellow and orange, and advanced is green and up.

When it comes to Krav Maga everyone always wants to lean the fancy stuff which is what a lot of Israeli Instructors focus on. But again, if you are not special forces then you are not a naturally gifted individual physically and mentally and we need to build you up properly so that you don’t hurt your self overestimating your ability.

This is why I believe in ranks. To let you know where you are at so that you dont get overwhelmed in conflict and focus more on the avoidance and situational awareness.

If you can barely punch or kick, then learning to do gun disarms (though easy from a technical standpoint) may just be dangerous. I know you imagine yourself the next John Wick or Hit Girl (Links contain Violence and language) but being delusional is just plain dangerous. I know it hurts your ego to hear this but when it comes to self-defense and your life, there is no room for such things. If you want to learn the cool stuff then put in the time, show us you can do it and you too can learn.

But I want to feel I progressed now!

7 ranks, as a basic, should seem like enough? Or is it too much? BJJ only has 5 ranks. Yet BJJ is quickly becoming one of the more popular styles globally. One thing they understood, is that people are impatient and want to see marked progress now. So they added 4 additionally tape stripes per rank, and even more for the kids. Unlike the days of old where progress meant surviving a life or death battle today just means feeling useful, and happy with a sense of purpose. Before our purpose was just trying to survive. But now our purpose may mean getting to the next rank in a given style. The thing is people are more and more impatient no thanks to social media.

Enter the stripe or half progression. Now people seem to expect progression from JUST showing up. If I show up I will get another stripe. Thus it feeds our ego and our need for acceptance among other things. Yet going this way often dilutes the style. Fortunately, BJJ is still holding strong but there are concerns that standards will fall if ranks are given out too often and too easily. But does it even matter if it’s not about life or death? I think it does still at least.

For Krav Maga, it still is about life or death, survival and much more. There really is no room for ego. Yet if many schools want to survive they need to give the people what they want? right? Well no. If you as a Krav Maga school do your best to remind people why they are leanrning then it should be less about their next rank and more about how they feel about their own progress.

Are they better today than they were yesterday? Delayed gratification goes a long way especially if you ever need to use Krav in a real-life scenario.

I know you want your next rank, I do too (in BJJ) but I care less about the rank now and more about getting better and so should you.

A rank, a belt, a stripe is simply a milestone in a journey. It is not always about skill, but it is definitely about time and attitude.

If you feel you deserved the next rank but haven’t gotten it just stick to it, remind yourself why you started in the first place. In Krav, the reasons are often a little more than just I always wanted to do it, or I just want to do something fun while getting in shape. Often it is things like, I was assaulted, My house was broken into or I was bullied. If those are any of the reasons you came to Krav then the rank doesn’t matter at all.

So remember, no matter what rank you are. It’s about building people ( yourself) not just about getting another belt color or stripe. Check your ego at the door, and just keep training and like everything in time, your next rank will come.

Editors Note: Judo is just one Martial Art that can be practiced well into the late ages. You could just as easily replace the term Judo with BJJ, Wing Chung, Tai Chi or even Krav Maga. When Reading this article do not fixate on the fact it is originally talking about Judo but that it is possible to practice many martial arts well into your later years.

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A screencap from Judo After 40

The other day I became aware of a YouTube video titled “Judo after 40”.  It’s a 10-minute long video that captures the thoughts of the head instructor of the Kamloops Judo Club, who is a 7th-degree black belt, along with one of Canada’s top female judokas who just turned 40.  They were discussing how it’s possible to continue practicing judo well into your 70s, 80s, and 90s, as long as you make some adjustments along the way to compensate for the changes in your body as you age.

What caught my attention is that they used the age of 40 to delineate the age at which people would traditionally determine is the difference between being “strong and healthy” and “over the hill”.  Personally, I would rather not have any delineation be made, especially regarding age, and instead talk about how you need to make adjustments to your training as you age, regardless of whether or not you’re still competing.  I’m not sure about other martial arts and their competitions, but in judo, you can continue to compete as long as your body allows you.  Judokas in their 50s can still compete in randori (sparring) in tournaments and if that’s too hard on their body, they can compete in kata (forms), well into their 60s and older.

Watching the video prompted me to think about what I would tell someone who asked me if they could still take up judo as an adult and progress to eventually attain a black belt.  I would respond “Absolutely”, and would encourage them to do so if that’s what their goal is.  From past blogs I’ve written, you may already be aware that I went back into judo after a 30-year break at the age of 51, having stopped when I was 19 at a blue belt level and was graded to a black belt in December 2018 at the age of 55.  So yes, it can be done, and trust me, I’m nobody special.

As I went through my journey to get my black belt, many things became apparent to me.  As an adult, it’s a very different journey than if you were a teenager.  As a youth competitor you’re full of energy, aggression, and drive, so if you compete and ride the wave with your fellow students, you’ll be able to get your black belt before you’re 20.  It will also be well-earned and well-deserved because you’ll have been promoted based on your performance at tournaments and how you rank amongst your peers. As an adult, however, it’s a very different experience.  You may compete in the odd tournament if you like, but in general, your journey is one of learning more about yourself and you’re also mature enough to know that the only person you’re in competition with is yourself.  It becomes a personal challenge to progress because you want to prove to yourself that you can do it.

When I received my black belt and people were offering their congratulations, my usual response was that it took me so long.  And then I was surprised at how similar the message was from most people, that it didn’t matter how long it took because the important thing was that I didn’t give up.  When I heard that response after the 3rd time it started to sink into my head that persevering and not giving up was what people were noting and respecting and that as a result, I was able to achieve my goal.  Nobody cared how long it took except for me.  I’ve seen a video of a disabled person who had no legs and he eventually received his black belt in judo.  How was this possible?  It’s because he demonstrated to everyone that he wouldn’t let his disability be an obstacle in his quest and that he had the grit, the spirit, and the determination to not give up.  He exhibited the higher-level character traits that a black belt in judo should have, almost more so than knowing the techniques themselves.

If you’re older like I am, you may remember a TV show from the 70s called “Kung Fu”, where the student Caine had to try and grab a pebble from his master’s hand.  Once he was able to, then it was time for him to leave the Shaolin Temple.  It’s similar to what it’s like when you know you’re ready for your black belt.  In a sense, you don’t care anymore.  Yes, you still want it, but because you feel you’re “there” and you’ve earned it, then the formality of the belt being awarded becomes a lower priority.  It’s truly the epitome of the journey being more important than the destination.

I used to think that to earn a black belt it meant that you needed to be an expert in all the techniques and that your skill level was very high.  Yes, I know more techniques than the lower belts, but that’s not what matters, and I am certainly not an expert in all the techniques.  As a black belt in judo, you have a responsibility to ensure that you’re passing on knowledge and direction to the lower belts and to set an example by being humble, gracious, and free of arrogance.  If you have the wrong attitude and you don’t personify the traits that a black belt should demonstrate, then you will not be awarded it no matter how strong your technique is.  Brown belts with enough points to be graded to black, who do not display the qualities that a black belt should have, will never get it because they don’t have the recommendation or support from their sensei who are looking for these specific traits.

People generally think that achieving a black belt is the end goal, whereas in fact, it’s the point at which you just start learning about judo.  Shodan, which is a 1st degree black belt, literally means “beginning degree”.  Given that, I look forward to starting to learn what judo is actually all about.

 

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Warren getting his black belt, with daughter Christine on left.

Similar to most judokas, I started judo when I was quite young, around 10 years old.  I was born and raised in Victoria so I attended the Victoria Judo Club headed up by Sensei Inouye and assisted by Bill Kovitz, Mark Grant, Mark Kendell, and others whom you may or may not have heard of.  Unfortunately I stopped judo when I went to university and then life took over to the point that I didn’t go back to it for literally decades.  That is, until my then 12-year old daughter Christine asked if she could try judo and that inspired me to re-join the community.  However, even though I was in my 50s I wanted to do more than just practice, and although I loved the sense of competition I was realistic enough to know that it wouldn’t be a wise choice to get matched up against others who had continued training all those years that I had not, so instead I chose to get involved by becoming a referee.  Doing so would allow me two things: One, I would be involved in the competition aspect of judo and two, it could be my avenue for giving back to the sport by contributing my time.

When I checked the Judo BC website for info on how to become a referee, I found some guidance as to the high-level process but many questions remained.  However, it became apparent that the first thing I needed to do was to attend a referee seminar.  Fortunately there was one scheduled in the following months so I registered for it and spent 2 days one weekend in the Abbotsford Club, along with several other participants.  It turned out that most people who attended the clinic didn’t actually want to ref, but they were there as coaches wanting more information on what the refs are taught, and perhaps wanting to take the “secret information” back to their clubs to share with their club’s competitors, or perhaps to give them an edge as to what the refs look for (or don’t).  In any case, it was an interesting seminar given that part of the time was spent watching video clips of several high level matches, seeing a technique performed that caused an opponent to falter, and having the video stopped at that point while the instructor asked the class “So what do you think…yuko, wazari, ippon, or no score?”.  I managed to get some right and some were quite difficult to tell, so it became apparent to me that experience played a great part in being able to make the right call.

The first time I reffed an actual match was at an Abbotsford Inter-Club Shiai, and it was an “interesting” experience.  I had intended to ref but instead found myself conveniently sitting on the sidelines with the rest of the crowd watching the matches.  It was like the tournament was on auto-pilot, it was just happening, and I gave myself every excuse in the book not to go up.  I finally admitted to myself that the hesitation I was feeling was actual nervousness.  Given that I’ve been working in the corporate world for over 30 years, having given numerous presentations to senior management, leading and managing teams, and being closer to the end of my career than the beginning, it was a very strange feeling to find myself in a new, unexplored and therefore intimidating, situation.  Who gets stage fright at my age?  Christine kept asking me to go up and I would say “In a minute”, or “After the next match.”.  I likely would have sat there for the rest of the tournament if Christine didn’t finally say, “If you don’t get out there right now, I’m going to tell Paul (Wishaw) on you!”.  That did it, so I got up, caught Paul’s eye, and asked if I could try reffing a match.  Fortunately, and I’ll forever be grateful to Paul for this, but he didn’t start laughing and instead said “Sure, by all means!”.  I was nervous, yes, and I probably came across as very awkward, but I did it, and I also knew that it would only get easier from there, and hopefully more enjoyable.  And all it took was for Christine to threaten to embarrass me.

As predicted, after the first time I reffed it did get easier, and I started reffing at the larger tournaments with the next one being the shiai held in North Vancouver.  There were only about 150 participants so it wasn’t overly large and the day didn’t go that long, but it was just the right size for me to get my feet wet again.  A Fall Burnaby tournament soon followed, and I was starting to feel more comfortable in the technical aspects of reffing, although I was still nervous before I went out on the mat.  When I told Christine, she asked why I would be nervous and I said all the people are watching me.  Then, in her usual supportive manner she said “Sorry to disappoint you, but nobody cares about the ref.  They’re not looking at you, they’re watching the competitors.”  After that blunt feedback my stage fright dropped right down and I’ve been fine to walk on the mat ever since.

As a fairly new ref, I can tell you that it’s an experience that can be both very enjoyable, and very stressful.  The calls you make will decide whether or not a competitor moves to the next round, or is perhaps out of the tournament.  It is a responsibility that all refs take seriously.  I’ve never forgotten the three most important things that a ref needs to know about a match, and that is safety of the competitors, fairness in the match, and the quality (excitement) of the competition.  To that degree, the ref looks for things that likely the competitor isn’t even aware of.  For example, is the competitor’s hair tied right, or are they wearing any jewelry.  It’s also important that the refs work as a team, with one ref on the mat and the other two judges watching from the side, ready to overrule a call if it’s deemed appropriate.  I’m aware that even international refs have their initial calls overruled from time to time, and that’s ok.  Anything during the match can be corrected, as long as the right competitor wins at the end.

The more I ref, the more I enjoy it, and my refereeing highlight to date was to ref at this past February’s BC Winter Games.  I had competed myself at the BC Winter Games when I was a teenager so I felt honoured to be given the opportunity to ref at such an important event.  Since I’m now comfortable with the basic mechanics of reffing, the feedback that I’m receiving from the higher graded refs has become less general, and more focused on helping me to improve on some specific facets and nuances of refereeing.  I’ve found that I have to work more on calling osaekomi, especially in the female matches.  Some girls are so flexible that their lower bodies can be twisted 180’ and be propped up on their knees, and yet still be in osaekomi.  I continue to be amazed at that when I can barely reach down to touch my toes.  My goal is to be a good, strong ref.  I have made it my goal to try to be the best ref that I am capable of being.  As long as the parents and competitors don’t groan whenever I step onto the mat, then I know I’m still heading in the right direction.

If you’ve ever thought to try reffing, I encourage you to sign up for the next referee seminar and start learning the basics.  Start reffing at your own club and then at Interclub shiais, as these would be venues that give you the opportunity to try out reffing in a less formal environment.  It gives you a different perspective to a competition and also gives you a better appreciation for what the officials contribute to a tournament.  When you’re out there making the calls and the crowd is cheering for one competitor or the other, you can feel the energy and it’s great to know that as a ref, you are helping to make it happen.  And, as I read in another reffing article and to which I totally agree, you get the best seat in the house.

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.

 

Above: What Judo can be!

1980

Warren in 1980

Some of you may be aware that I am currently in the final stages of being graded to my black belt in judo.  I first started judo several decades (!) ago when I was 10 years old, and then I had to stop at a blue belt level once I entered university.  I was never that enthused about judo when I was younger so when I had the time after I finished school I went onto other things and left judo behind.  Fast forward 30 years and my then 12-year old daughter started taking it, and surprisingly enough she started doing so well in competitions that it inspired me to get back on the road to getting my black belt.  I should mention that I’ll be 55 at the end of the month so it’s never too late to accomplish something!

The first step was to get my brown belt so I started attending the adult classes and slowly, ever so slowly, dusted off the techniques and began to get my timing back.  I was promoted to brown belt within 3 months of my return and then the official clock started on the path to a black belt.  In judo there are very specific requirements as a brown belt in order to be graded to black.  You need a total of 120 points, accumulated through a combination of competitions, time in training, attendance at seminars, volunteering at tournaments, etc.  For older judokas such as myself, you aren’t required to compete and you can gain 30 points per year just by attending regular classes. However, I wanted to speed up the process so I trained to be a referee and began reffing at tournaments several times a year.  The points gained by being a referee probably knocked off at least a year from just attending classes to gain points.  Also, I wanted to give back to the competition community since I fought in tournaments when I was younger.  Although refereeing can be very stressful, it can also be quite enjoyable.  The highlight of my career to date was when I reffed at the BC Winter Games this past February.

Once a brown belt accumulates enough points then there’s one more hoop to jump through before being graded, and that’s having to attend a 10 week kata clinic where you learn 9 specific throwing techniques.  Although it’s not mandatory to attend, it’s highly recommended and serves to make grading that much easier.  You also need your club’s sensei to write the grading board a recommendation letter on your behalf, so if you pull off the attitude that you won’t be attending the clinic then you likely won’t get your recommendation.  So not wanting to leave anything to chance, I signed up.

The kata clinic is held in Steveston every Monday night from 8:45 to 10:15 PM.  I live in Burnaby close to New West, so Steveston is not close and it takes me about 40 min to get there and back.  Plus, it’s at a time when it’s prime time for kicking back and winding down for the day.  Needless to say, I find it a struggle to get my butt to the class.  The clinic started in September, will end in November, and I have 3 more classes to go.  Learning kata isn’t difficult because it’s just a prescribed set of moves, like choreographed dancing, however, if you’ve never done it before then it can be very confusing.  While you’re trying to remember exactly how to pull properly for the throw, you forget that your foot needs to be planted and pivoting instead of moving.  And since there are kata competitions, it’s very important to get it right because it’s well known how good the kata can actually look.  However, the reality is that, like many things in life, it just comes down to practice, practice, practice.  The instructors know the moves like the back of their hands and have been doing the kata for literally decades, so it’s easy for them to demonstrate it.  However, for newbies like myself, we’re doing well if we can replicate the moves without looking like complete idiots.  Learning the kata will also improve my general judo as well, since I’m now being shown more accurately what makes the throws effective.

If all goes according to plan, I will finish the kata clinic on November 5th and be graded

2018

Warren today

to shodan (black belt) on November 18th.  It will have then been a 3 year long journey from my brown belt, and a 45 year journey since I first started judo, and it will be very rewarding once I can put it on for the first time.  And as proud as I should be, it’s difficult to overlook the fact that my 16-year old daughter got her brown belt in only 3 years and is already on her own journey to get her black belt.  Kids!

Warren Green Belt techniqueA work colleague of mine recently joined UTKM on a trial basis. He had never trained in martial arts before although he always had an interest, so he decided to give it a try.  Based on our discussions about what to expect, and not, he was quite excited to give it a shot.  His father was a martial arts practitioner when he was younger so he was also happy that his son showed an interest in self-defence.  At the end of each class we spar with a partner for a couple of rounds, so since he had never sparred before and I introduced him to Krav Maga, I felt some responsibility to help him ease into it by being his sparring partner, rather than throwing him to spar with the other, more experienced, students.  As a green belt, sparring is now optional for me instead of being mandatory, and when I passed my green belt test I had hoped I would never spar again.  Never say never.

Since my colleague only had sparring gloves and no protective headgear, I had to be careful to only use kicks and body shots against him, and allow him to hit me in the head if he wanted to since I was protected. We’ve sparred now a couple of times and he’s not bad, so I can see that once he’s fully geared up it will be an interesting experience helping him improve.  It then got me to thinking how my sparring is, and whether or not I’m very good, or need much improvement myself.  The answer is, no, I’m not very good at sparring and yes, I could also use improving.  It then made me think exactly what the differences are between someone who just started taking Krav Maga and someone like me, who’s been taking it for years.

When I first started training in Krav Maga, I had never sparred before so it was a new experience for me. The first thing I noticed was that it’s much different than just watching a boxing match on TV and there are consequences for every move you make.  I keep my hands up to protect my head, but then that means I can’t throw a punch.  I use a hook which then leaves my head open, albeit for a split second.  Still, I immediately feel vulnerable.  At the same time my partner is throwing a kick which I need to block and try to counter-strike.  Do I go fast and try to overwhelm my opponent, or go slow and measured, and ensure that my throws reach their intended target.  It was very confusing and chaotic, and while I’m now much better at controlling my emotions and being more precise with both my technique and power, I’m still not very good at sparring.  But as a green belt, shouldn’t I be?  The answer is no.  We are learning Krav Maga, and not learning how to be an MMA fighter.  Yes, I should be better than someone who has never sparred before, but it doesn’t mean that someone trained in Krav Maga should be able to out-box a boxer, out-kick a kickboxer, or out-grapple someone taking BJJ.  Krav Maga is a self-defence system, and its prime purpose is to a) not get into a confrontation to begin with, b) if a confrontation arises, to try and de-escalate the situation, and c) if it gets physical, to be able to fight well enough to be able to buy enough time to get the hell out of there.  And, as Jon had passed some words of wisdom to the class just yesterday, to run to safety, not to just run away from the threat (think about that for a bit and you’ll see why it makes sense).

As a green belt, I have learned and been tested in parts of the curriculum that the lower belts have not yet seen, such as multiple attacker defence or ground fighting. But right from the first class that anyone takes in Krav Maga, they’ll learn to spar.  So it should come as no surprise that when I watch someone taking their Yellow Belt test and they get to the sparring section, they can be pretty good and I certainly wouldn’t want to get into a fight with them.  There are some beginner students who are very strong and are natural strikers, and they can easily give the higher belts a sparring challenge. The main difference is that they can often lose control of their emotions and power, and that’s where experience comes in.  So I fully admit and concede that in a 1:1 sparring situation they may overwhelm me, but that’s ok, because I’m not taking Krav Maga in order to be a boxer.  And it can take some students a longer time than others to be good at sparring and again, that’s ok.  We’re all here to learn and help each other, not to point fingers at one another and say “I’m better than you!”.

Also, progressing to the higher levels in Krav Maga is more of a linear, as opposed to vertical, progression. In a traditional martial art such as judo, it is more of a vertical progression, and advancing to the higher belts actually does mean that you can do the technique better than the lower belts, along with its application in a competitive situation.  It can take years, and repeating the same technique thousands of times, before you can execute an advanced throw cleanly and efficiently.  The lower belts will know the same throw, but the upper belts will perform it properly, and hence the acknowledgement that the higher belts are more skilled than the lower belts.  In Krav Maga, the techniques are simple by design, so it doesn’t take years to learn how, for example, to hit or kick effectively.  Progression in Krav Maga is about learning more techniques and strategies as opposed to learning how to do a technique really, really well.  Yes, with more practice some techniques will also improve, however, I’m sure that if I throw a jab-cross 10,000 more times I won’t get that much better than I am now.  And since I am taking Krav Maga to learn to protect myself in a real-life situation, I am confident that I will be good enough to be able to escape and get to safety.

Keep in mind why you are taking the martial art or sport you are. Time is very limited and we’ll never get it back once it’s been spent.  In my case, I love watching judo matches just as others enjoy watching their sports, but I freely admit that in a real life-threatening situation, judo is not going to help me much if someone came at me with a knife.  And that’s why I take Krav Maga, so I can learn what to do in an end-to-end situation and get home safely, regardless of who was better at sparring in class.

 

 

 

 

Calm The storm.jpg

In addition to being a Krav Maga practitioner, I train in judo and have always been interested in the competitive and tournament side of the sport. While others may love watching a great football pass that leads to a spectacular 50 yard run resulting in a touchdown, I am equally enthralled when I watch a judoka execute a perfect throw on a resisting opponent.  It can be an amazing sight to see.

One thing that I always found interesting was that at the end of a match, several times the judokas would be splayed out on the mat, seemingly exhausted to the point of not being able to move. They would lie there for several seconds until the referee would motion for them to stand up and bow off, thus officially ending the match with a winner declared.  I would think, “How could they be so active and fighting hard just a few seconds ago and now they can’t even move?  They’re young and they’re fit, so how could they be so tired?”.  I spoke to my daughter about this, who is also a judo competitor, and she said she’s experienced that level of exhaustion many times in her tournament matches, or the training camps.  It wasn’t until I experienced the same level of exhaustion in my recent green belt test that I appreciated even a small trace of what my daughter was talking about.

It is difficult for a person to independently push themselves to the point of exhaustion because usually before they get to that stage, they’ll stop and take a break. It’s like trying to hold your breath until you pass out.  There may be some fitness fanatics who do push themselves to that degree on a regular basis, but I believe that for the average person, which I consider myself to be, there are primarily 3 situations which could drive them to the point of exhaustion and beyond.

1) In a test,

2) In competition

3) In a life-threatening situation.

 I heard people shouting “Get up!  Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening.  My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.

 

In each of these situations, the timing of when the “ordeal” ends is out of your control, so you have no choice but to fight through the pain and keep on going.  Personally, it’s been years since I’ve been at this level of intense situation, if ever, so in retrospect, I found it an interesting experience to be pushed to the point of exhaustion.  During the green belt test, this point occurred when I was sparring one-on-one with someone in the last few minutes of the 3 hour test.  I was already tired, physically and mentally, and I found myself on the ground.  As I was trying to get back up my body, my arms, my legs, and anything else literally felt like 1000 pounds and I could not lift myself up, as much as I was telling myself to continue fighting and get back up.  I heard people shouting “Get up!  Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening.  My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.  It was like being in a bad dream where you find yourself running through molasses.  I think that was the point that Jon told me later when he thought I wasn’t going to make it and was going to give up.  But slowly, ever so slowly, while trying to punch at the same time, I managed to get up.  I know now that when pushed to your limit, it truly becomes a game of mind over matter.  It would have been so easy to just lie down and think “Who cares.”, but if you’re determined and you refuse to give up, you will overcome things that your body tells you it doesn’t want to do.

Warren Green Belt Tired

I can’t imagine being in a situation like this again, at least in the near future, but I now better appreciate how competitors will find themselves splayed out on the mat at the end of a match unable to get up. I also appreciate more what my daughter has gone through in her judo training and competitions.  If you get the chance where you will be pushed to this point of exhaustion, you should embrace it and relish the opportunity, because it will likely be in a safe environment where there is minimal risk of injuring yourself, or worse.  It’s an interesting experience and you will be surprised at how much you can tolerate and where you discover the edge of your envelope is.  And then the next time, you can push beyond it.  Push yourself, strive for more, keep going and don’t give up!  You’ll thank yourself later.

If you are new to martial arts or have done it previously but are switching schools there are always some dos and don ts. This is of course only my opinion, but it is based on what drives me nuts when new students come. And trust me, annoying your martial arts instructor from the start is not the way to go. Remember your instructor is a human too, and like any relationship sometimes first impressions do matter.

Expect nothing.jpg

1. Don’t come in with too many expectations

Everyone thinks they know what to expect especially when they are new, because they researched it on the internet. Or they know exactly how things are going to go. This is not true.

“What you found on the internet, may infact, be bullshit.”

 

Every school is different they have different standards, expectations and cultures and what you found on the internet may, in fact, be bullshit. The best thing to do is show up try out some classes see if its what you like and if so keep going.

If of course, you had previous experience in martial arts for the love of god please don’t talk about the way your old school did stuff. If you were able to keep training there or you liked training there then why aren’t you training there? Again, every school is different, and some are the right fit for you and some are not. So accept the new schools’ culture and ways (if you like it) and leave your old school where it belongs, in the past.

2. Don’t tell them you are serious and are going to train all the time if you are not

This one drives me insane because it happens all the time. I think people just don’t understand how much energy it takes to train all the time. If you have school, work and a family, life gets in the way and sometimes you cannot train as much as you think you can.

But more importantly, Actions speak louder than words. I don’t care who you think you are, I don’t know you and no I DON’T trust you. If you tell me “man, believe me, I’m going to be in here every day,” I WILL assume you are full of shit because 9 times out of 10 I hear this the person is full of shit.

The person who says nothing and is training 3-4 times a week is the person who I will trust when they say they are going to do things.

And no I don’t care what your reason is for not showing up because all I see is you are not showing up. If you want to make the time for it, you will, no excuses.

3. Don’t ask for special discounts just because it’s you

No you are not special and I don’t care, if I wanted to give you a special discount I would. Aside from that, if discounts are not listed don’t ask. Are you my family? or longterm friend? if the answer is no then you are not entitled to any discount (and even then they sometimes are not) because it is a business and until I build a relationship with you, you are not my friend you are a student. So stop asking, it is rude and it is annoying.

Of course, if discounts are explicitly listed, and you are entitled to it, then prove it and you should receive it. For example, I offer 30% off a first program for military or LE etc. (even though most of them never come to train because of time or other reasons.)

4. Don’t complain about the price

It is a business. Period. And unless prices are abnormally high for the region the prices are what they are for a reason. See above regarding discounts. But just like you the business owner may also be struggling, so it is again rude to complain about pricing. Maybe in other cultures where haggling for prices is the norm but in Canada and much of the west it is not acceptable behaviour so don’t. It is insulting to your instructor and school. Plain and Simple. And don’t try to find ways to be cheap about it, because that is even worse. If you like what a school is offering, then pay for it. If it is expensive for you and you want to do it then learn how to prioritise your spending so that it isn’t an issue.

5. Don’t ask why you aren’t getting better if you never show up

Seriously, Show the FUCK up. Again actions are louder than words, and I don’t care what you tell me. If you want to get better, then please know that once a week, or once every few weeks is not good enough to get proficient at anything.

Sure I offer once a week options for people who have busy lives. I would rather you train than not train even if it is once a week. But as long as you know you will not get good fast then it is ok. Stop asking how to get better if you are not training 3-4 times a week because other factors beyond its because you are not training enough.

6. Do not put your instructor on a pedestal

Your instructors are humans, don’t expect anything from them other than being a good instructor. If they are not then going somewhere else, otherwise they are subject to everything life has to offer same as you. If you dont like who they are as a person, but they are really good instructors than you are in fact getting what you are paying for. If you dont like who they are as a person either choose a class in the same school that someone else is teaching or go somewhere else. Because if you put an instructor too high up and one day you see a side that you don’t like then this may affect your ability to train at the school you like. So be realistic and understand that it is about how well they teach you and make you better more than anything else.

This is only a few items, and I am sure I can think of more, but these are some of the things that have come up over the last few months and I feel like they should be adressed.