Archive for the ‘Martial Arts In General’ Category

If you arnt first you are lastIn the Will Farrel Movie Talladega nights, Farrel plays a Comedic NASCAR Driver Ricky Bobby who always wins.  He was driven to win by the fact when he was a young boy his dead beat and AWOL dad told him, “If You Ain’t First you’re last.” From this point forward he took it to hear and basically made winning everything.

The thing is Winning isn’t everything. The only people who ever truly believe that are perhaps people who have never lost or those who have never won. In either case, there may actually be an element of mental instability. Some may say that having the focus and drive to give it your 100% is what makes winners and champions. Statistically, whether you like it or not this usually is not true. You should, however, always give it your best and try your hardest and keep a positive attitude but the thing is, not everyone can be a champion.

When I was growing up in elementary school they attempted to address this by not giving out 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winners but rather participation ribbons. Even at 10 years old I knew this was a bunch of crap because it was clear to me the other teams or individuals were, in fact, better at me in those particular things.

For most, as we are all human the realization that you may not be very good at the thing you like, or that you simply are not good enough to win can be one of the biggest blow to the ego possible.

Whenever we ask champions and winners how they got there we often hear things like, hard work, never giving up, belief in my self or other such statements. These things are of course, very inspiring. But if we always use the outliers to set our personal expectations of success we may be sadly disappointed. I won’t try to discuss this concept in-depth, I would rather recommend you read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

What I will say is that for most of us, winning can be a great goal, and some of us may achieve it, but most of the time it cant be everything. This is both so we can live healthy productive lives mentaliy, physically and socially.

So if winning is not everything can we re-frame what is? Heres a thought.

Learning is everything.

Growing is everything.

Improving is everything.

Being better today than yesterday is everything.

With these things you may just find the happiness and growth you are looking for.

The ego is a sensitive thing and needs to be managed. If you change your focus from winning to simply being a better version of yourself, then you may find you are in a much happier place. And who knows, eventually you may even start winning. Because really, if you weren’t winning before you may have been focusing on the wrong thing. Then when you focus on the right things the change you want to see may start happening.

Even in the movie, Will Farrel’s character finds this out when he talks to his dad again as an adult.

“Ricky Bobby: Wait, Dad. Don’t you remember the time you told me “If you ain’t first, you’re last”?
Reese Bobby: Huh? What are you talking about, Son?
Ricky Bobby: That day at school.
Reese Bobby: Oh hell, Son, I was high that day. That doesn’t make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth… hell you can even be fifth.
Ricky Bobby: What? I’ve lived my whole life by that!”

So if Ricky bobby can realize that winning isn’t everything. So can you!

 

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Off to the World’s I go!

Posted: August 20, 2019 by Jonathan Fader in Competition, Mental Health
Tags: , , ,

No, I am not talking about competitive Krav Maga. An idea by the way I generally do not support. I am however talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This year will be the first year I compete at the World Master IBJJF Championship in Las Vegas. BJJ is being more and more incorporated into the Krav Maga/Kapap world as we recognized that we must improve ourselves in all aspects of hand to hand combat skills. Training in some grappling outside of Krav is a requirement to be ranked at the upper levels of the UTKM system. Yes, it is that important.

I have written before about why I compete. For me, it keeps me motivated to train. Also, I can learn what I need to work on and grow through competitions.

Leading up to the worlds I have done a few other IBJJF and other competitions. One thing I learned is that I have not been performing at the level I know I can while I am competing. When I freeroll with my training partners I perform much better than when I compete. Over the last few months, I have been trying out different things in hopes of figuring this out. I got in the best shape of my life and trained more than I normally do by far and yet something still wasn’t right. After much thinking, I realized the problem was not physical. While in the past it might have been, that is not the issue now. No, my problem, like many others, is much more complicated.

The problem, you see, has been my mental state all along.

Knowing-is-half.jpg.jpgThe good news is, now that I have identified the main problem I have something to work with. However, knowing is half the battle.

The issue seems to be that when I am rolling with people for fun I am just trying to do the best Jiujitsu I can. I take risks, play around and I have fun. I am free

In competitions, however, I am trying so hard not to screw up. I overthink it and I end up not doing what I know I can do. After losses and wins, I always reflect deeply about my performance. I started to realize that while I certainly lose sometimes to opponents who are clearly more skilled than me, a lot of my losses are because I screw up on something that I shouldn’t have. Only to be thinking, why on earth did I do that.

Then, I realized that for some messed up reason whenever I am clearly winning I managed to lose. I must at some level self-sabotage. This is quite a sobering realization. Not only that I am failing to turn on the warrior mind I know I have but it is also quite possible that I am purposely screwing it up.

The funny thing is I know (FACT) in life or death situations I do just fine because body and mind go into automatic mode and I do what I need to do. In competition, however, as I know it to be a relatively safe environment, I have yet to learn to turn that part of my brain on and not overthink both consciously and subconsciously and end up losing not just the match but to my own worst enemy, myself.

Some solutions to this problem are:

  1. Train more – This is the obvious answer which is true for any style. Train so much that you no longer need to think your body just does. While I will never not train, the level I can train is usually dependent on many factors. On a slow week, I’ll get in 3-4 hours of training. On a crazy week, I will get closer to 10 hours of just BJJ. People often ask me how do I stay motivated. The truth is, I still struggle. Sometimes I train a lot, sometimes I dont. And I don’t feel good or bad about it either way. This then, I suppose, is a work in progress.
  2. Change my mindset – When I compete I should fight to do the best I can rather than worry about points. I know, it’s cliche, but as always cliches are often right no matter how annoying or unoriginal they are. While points do matter, trying to just not lose is nowhere near the same as trying to do the best you can. This is possibly the reason that many competitions now take a submission only approach. Rather than just trying to get points they encourage you to try for the submission no matter the risk. I often enjoy these tournaments, because I tend to do better. Hmm, I wonder why.
  3. Try to turn on my animal instinct – This one is both tricky and not. I have always been a slow starter. This means if my body isn’t totally on I am going to think more rather than just act. The solution for me at least is to start warming up well in advance of my start time. This why I am not going in cold. While some people can simply jump in and compete and win (Marcelo Garcia is notorious for waking up from a nap and winning) I do not think I am one of them.

Though my revolution about my problematic mindset may have come a little to close to the World Master, I will be going in knowing what I need to work on most. I even have several days in Vegas before I compete to contemplate and work on this.

If you are reading this and also struggle at competitions, then perhaps you have not figured out what your individual issue is. Do you train enough? Are you in shape? or is there some other deeper issues you are having trouble with. No matter the reason, if you would like to improve your performance in competition, then it is never too late to figure it out. Especially in the master’s divisions.

So keep training, and for those of you in Vegas, I hope to see you there.

I’ve been training for almost four years now. And there’s something that has often happened to me that I didn’t recognize as a problem until recently. People are afraid to hit me or don’t want to spar with me, simply because I’m female. Well. That’s annoying. I’m not going to break, jeez. I can’t speak for all the other women who train as to what their experience has been like, but I am so tired of having to constantly reassure people. I feel like I’m telling people that “you can hit harder”, “it’s okay to hit me”, “no it isn’t too hard” almost every class. Recently, I’ve just been getting really frustrated by this. So to everyone who is afraid of hitting me, here is why you should.

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Women fight professionally too you know! They can take a punch.

It hurts me and my chances of survival. The reason I come to Krav every week, sometimes transiting for several hours even when I’m exhausted, is not because I want to make friends and giggle (Which I do). It’s cool if you do want to talk and laugh with others, but I’m trying to get the skills that will allow me to protect myself and potentially others. Considering my future career plans (law enforcement), being proficient in Krav will probably save me one day. Now obviously being attacked in class is very different than being attacked on the street. You have no idea what someone might do, and unlike in class, they might actually want to murder you. Hopefully, no one in class is actually trying to kill you. If it is, then it might be time to rethink your life if that’s happening… So let’s say I’m in class sparring and my partner is going slowly and not actually hitting me. When I get attacked on the street, I’m not going to be used to be punched and might drop the first time I’m hit. So much for Krav Maga…. Oh well, if I die, I won’t be alive to worry about it. Have fun living with THAT guilt. For the training to actually be effective, I need to be able to react to anything that might happen. Refusing to hit me, or not going as hard as you would normally is going to make things worse in the long run. 

It’s also a part of the class. I wouldn’t be in Krav if I didn’t want to be hit. We all signed the waiver and know the risks. If someone doesn’t like getting hit, they probably won’t stick around, or they’ll let you know. I don’t need someone constantly asking if that was too hard, or not hitting the pad or whatever. Lemme explain how pads work to y’all, cause I feel like some people don’t get it. Pads are these cool things that absorb the hit so that by the time it reaches the person holding it, you don’t feel it as much. Isn’t that amazing? Now, pads work the same for males and females. If I pass the pad to a male student, it will not change and suddenly work better. And after all the years of holding pads, I know the super top secret way of holding them to absorb the hit the best. Trust me, I can take it. 

It’s also disrespectful. I am a green belt. Yay? It’s been almost four years of training with UTKM. And if you think I was given a green belt because I was gently tapped on the head a few times and smiled at, you are so very wrong. I had to fight for it. Not one or two, but THREE TESTS, increasing in difficulty. So I hate writing blogs, but I literally wrote an entire post about the green belt test just so I could complain about how hard it was. But I went through the same test the other green belts did. People didn’t hold back during the tests because of my gender (It was after all attempt to murder Karis day but you know, only in a metaphoric way). Trust me, I had the bruises to prove it. When people come in and don’t want to spar with a girl or keep asking if it’s too hard, it’s spitting on everything I’ve accomplished. You are telling me that despite everything I’ve been through, I still need to be protected and coddled. I’m not going to break if someone hits me. Seriously. I’m honest I do recognize that sometimes people are raised to not hit females, but I would like my rank and what I’ve done to be recognized. Please get over it so we can move on with class. For the other women at Krav, we have so many awesome different colour belts who train hard and deserve to be treated the same as the guys. 

 

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Karis in action

This all kinda ties into another problem. If someone going too hard in class, you have to let them know. As someone who has been forced (Voluntold) into teaching classes, it’s not easy trying to make sure that

1) you are teaching the right thing,

2) everyone is doing the technique correctly

3) think about what you are teaching next OH AND THEN make sure no one is killing each other.

Come on. You guys can figure this out. Going too hard with each other in class or not speaking up will just lead to injuries. Classes can get pretty big and your instructor can’t be everywhere at once. Just a warning, if you EVER go full force in a class I’m teaching, prepare for death >:D. Also a tip, size reeeeeeeeeallly matters. If I’m hitting at five percent, I probably will hit harder then someone else who is smaller than me. When I’m the smaller one, I won’t be able to hit as hard as the other person. This should be obvious. Remember this in sparring, and adjust for who you are fighting. We do try to avoid injuries if we can. It’s a little difficult to train with a concussion. Just a little bit.

 

So those are the thoughts of a NOT SASSY teenager. I’m not even really a teenager JON. DROP IT. Joking aside, this is important to me. I’m getting more and more tired of this. And I’m only eighteen (Teenager). I haven’t been alive that long. This obviously isn’t my experience with everyone. I’ve had some awesome teachers and classmates over the years. So if the remainder could just stop worrying about hitting me, that would be great. However, if you just come up to me and try to punch me in the face or something, I will react and the results may be unpleasant. 

UTKM-2019-CFSC-and-CRFSC-Poster-2935379004-1555456497487.jpgWanting to become a green belt with UTKM I also need to get my PAL. I don’t have much experience with firearms, back at home when I still lived with my parents firearms weren’t really something we would talk about. My dad had a traumatic experience when he was being shot at so he was against firearms (on a side note – when going through training to become a mechanic in the GDR he also had marksmanship training and got the badge – without shooting at all). Before I educated myself more about firearms I thought only crazy people own guns.

Then I moved in with my first roommate who has a PAL and who also took me to a gun range every now and then, she showed me how to hold a firearm and also taught me about safety.

I find the different mechanisms of firearms interesting but they also scared me. There were all those news about people shooting each other, wackos who would walk into schools and kill teachers and students alike. But I also started learning self defense and part of that was learning how to disarm an attacker and take the firearm away from him. You can kill/ severely injure yourself or innocent bystanders if you don’t know what to do with it. I slowly started to warm up to the thought to get a PAL myself. Not too long ago my head instructor at UTKM offered his first CFSC/CRFSC (PAL) Course and I seized the opportunity. I learned a lot, about safety, about how firearms work, law – things I now consider basic knowledge and I will also now apply to get my PAL. I still respect guns and don’t want to be standing were a muzzle is pointed at. I also think the CFSC/CRFSC (PAL) Course is a stepping stone, it provides you with a good foundation but it is up to each person to train how to shoot.

Owning a firearm also comes with responsibility – learn how to store it, use it etc. For now my next step will be to apply for my PAL (I need one more guarantor – any volunteers?). After that I’ll probably consider purchasing a firearm, but I still have to get there. Of course I still need lots of training. The courses UTKM used to offer helped me a lot already but it is like everything else – you have to keep practicing or you’ll forget things and make stupid mistakes which with a firearm can be fatal.

I would recommend to do the CFSC/CRFSC (PAL) Course. Especially if you are against firearms. I noticed that on myself – haven’t been a big fan and I was judgmental to people who owned guns but that’s probably because I met idiots who then also started bragging about their guns (sorry, did I roll my eyes out loud?). Later I learned that for every bragging idiot there are probably about ten people who don’t brag and are responsible and not to forget smart about it. It’s like the first time I stepped into a heavy metal bar with those wild looking people with whom I then had interesting conversations about Hesse and/ or Kafka. So give it a chance. I don’t ask you to go to a shooting range every weekend and spend thousands of dollars but to keep an open mind and learn. It’s easy to go through life with your blinkers on (apparently those are the things coach horses are wearing) and be judgmental, but I personally also like to be challenged occasionally to see things from a different angle. So go and take your blinkers off!

This year I awarded my 5th and 6th Krav Maga green belt under our UTKM curriculum. For the 5th (Click here for the experience) It was a special occasion as it was not only the first women to get a green belt at UTKM but also the youngest person.

If you had told me that when she first walked in our doors at age 15 she would be the first female green belt I probably would not have believed it. A non-athletic teen with bad posture who was fairly quiet.

They say first impressions matter, but in this case, my first impressions were very wrong.

Yet we did not scare her away and she kept coming, again and again. Yes, I am talking about Karis. Whether she likes it or not she has become an inspiration for many of the other women in our gym. She is always there, always training and always pushing…with only minimal complaints (lots of sass though).

Consistency is key.jpgSo how did Karis go from point A to point B? Simple, she was consistent and regular in her training. It is no secret. If you are consistent and you put in quality time, you will get results. period.

My 6th Green belt was also given out to Quinn. When we still had the Richmond school he was one of the most consistent and regular students we had. Coming to Krav Maga, BJJ and Muay Thai. (Karis did too btw). Quinn is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Naturally athletic, Cycling everywhere, hiking all the time and living a super active Vancouver lifestyle. He too has made much improvement as he no longer relies on his strength alone. This is a challenge that many bigger stronger men have yet if they learn early to use more technique they will be even better for it.

So what does Quinn have in common with Karis? You guessed it Consistency. Even after the days he can train with us was reduced he still comes regularly to progress his training.

By the way, the previous 4 green belts also go there through constant regular training with extra classes, private lessons and 3-4 days a week of regular classes.

Yes, you guessed it, like any martial art UTKM Krav is no different. If you want to get good. If you want to progress. If you want to achieve your goals. Then you must understand that consistency is the path of the warrior. So quit talking, show up and train.

 

 

If you have not already figured it out from the title this post was inspired by The Game of Thrones episode 3, Season 8. At this point, it should be an obvious Spoiler alert but you know what it has been more than two weeks so if you are a GOT fan, to damn bad, you should have seen it already. In particular its this scene and quote that inspired it.

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In the scene, the red priestess, Melisandre is in a room that Arya Stark and company (The hound) barricaded themselves in to hide from the Wights (Undead soldiers of the night king). Melisandre has a habit of mostly correctly predicting the future and it is clear to Arya that she had predicted certain things in her life security. This advice is a foreshadow for a following scene where Arya is the one who kills the Night King.

To me, the entire episode and this scene reminded me of the nature of self-defense. So let’s get some context or a reminder of the episode.

The entire episode was a lesson on how not to plan for battle as basically everything went wrong. A large portion of the defending army got wiped out cleanly in the first 5 minutes of battle. (I bet if Genghis Khan was leading the battle this would not have happened to the horde) and every line of defense was inevitably overwhelmed to the point of futile efforts. I won’t get into the details of what I didn’t like about this episode or battle (The battle of the bastards was a far better episode in almost all ways) but this feeling of absolute dread and futility might be what you feel should you ever find yourself in a self-defense scenario.

Let’s start in the Macro. In the days when wars were fought out of survival or necessity often it only takes one person who is brave enough, bold enough and crazy enough to do something so unpredictable it changes the tide of war. If you look into any of Israels earlier wars where they were literally fighting for existance you can find tones of such stories in every battle. In this case, that crazy person was Arya whos training and skill finally paid off. Though how she snuck up on the night king with everyone surrounding him is beyond me but ok…

Now let’s take it to the micro. Where you have now been attacked, overwhelmed and you feel helpless and weak. Survival means doing something so crazy, so bold that it is completely unexpected by your assailant. All you have to do really is fight back, fight hard, fight to win and destroy them in the process so you can stop them as a threat and get to safety.

You see as overwhelming as being attacked can be I can most certainly guarantee they attacked because they thought you were not a real threat. For when people see you as a real threat those who are smart will rarely attack head-on. Predators attack the weak, both in nature and in the human world. Those who can fight back, or are perceived as having the ability to fight back are less likely to be attacked.

Krav Maga teaches you to turn the tables on your opponent using pure raw aggression in a controlled and strategic fashion in order to disrupt your opponent’s ability to continue their attack. Then you either escape to safety or you finish them off as needed.

To me, this is what this long-awaited episode of GOT symbolized. The spirit of the warrior defending themselves to win against all odds. The spirit it takes to defend your self when all seems lost. The spirit to know that if you do give up all is lost so you must keep fighting until there is nothing left but the victor.

This is what it means to learn to defend your self either in war or in a simple mugging gone wrong. The weak shall prevail over the strong because they were never really weak in the first place.

So train hard, train smart, overcome your fears and you too can defeat your night king (Demons).

P.S. I hope you never have to use such skills in self-defense but if you do channel your inner Arya and not your inner Jon Snow…

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.

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on these topics, it is simply a run through of what was covered and some of my own thoughts on the matter.

Every once and a while Facebook’s creepy targeted ad actually shows me something useful. In this case, it was a talk to be given by former CSIS head Richard B. Fadden hosted by the CIC. And yes, it is CSIS, NOT ISIS. I say this because I know there are many Canadians or other individuals reading this who may have never heard of CSIS. For those of you who do not know CSIS stands for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or to give you a better idea, they are the Canadian CIA. This means one of two things, either Canadians know less about how their own country works than they think. Or CSIS is very good at what it does in protecting its citizens on the down low.

This was one of the points that Richard opened up and closed with. Canadians feel too safe and do not feel the need to fund things appropriately. Or as I am not paraphrasing, If you dont feel thretened you won’t give the governments permission to do what they need to do.

Hard times...jpgFor me, if Canadians don’t feel threatened then they won’t sign up for Krav maga because they feel they do not need to learn self-defense. (The ability to defend yourself is something you should learn regardless of whether you live in a dangerous place or not, for it is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.) While not a perfect analogy I think it stands true. Whether you like it or not there is the saying. Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. Weak men create hard times.

Or more precisely if you have to face adversity you will be more resilient to adapt and do what needs to get done to survive.

A good example in Canada is that the Canadian military struggles to find the money for procurement of new equipment. However, in modern times even when we were at war, and yes Canada was in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria (Mr. Fadden confirmed this if you think otherwise…), Canadians don’t really feel it at home because we are safe. Just so you know, all parties in Canada struggle to justify military spending to the public who has no taste for it. To me, and my friends in the military this is a terrible strategy for any country in the long run.

At this point, you may be asking, what was the talk actually about. Well, good question.

The actual title of the talk was:

Threats to Canada’s National Security: Russia, China, and the Leaderless West.

Any guesses what he talked about most?

Russia

It’s all Russias fault!?, no I am just kidding. What he suggested was that when it comes to western global security China is a much bigger threat than Russia. To paraphrase. Russia is a rogue state, but it is still containable through sanctions and other diplomatic channels. They have a weak economy but still, have a nuclear arsenal which keeps them a global player.

I would also say at the moment at least their biggest asset is Putin as a statesman. And despite what westerners may think, and Mr.Fadden confirmed this, is that Putin is very popular in his own country.

Evidence suggests that yes, Russia does mess around in global affairs. While they did not “HACK” the 2016 US elections as was suggested by the media. This would mean they physically change the election results, which is not what they did. Instead, they used legal avenues and shenanigans on Facebook to manipulate some public opinion. A strategy that was first tested out on their own population regarding the Crimea annexation and possibly the semi-civil war in eastern Ukraine. Which by the way is the first time a state straight up annexed another state since WWII, yet without going to war there wasn’t much anyone could do about it.

I would think Russia has shifted to this strategy because as the cold war showed, from an economic standpoint they cannot realistically keep up in a traditional military sense. Nor would I suspect they would win that war. Mr.Fadden indicated that this is indeed true by the fact that the Russian military is shrinking, though it is improving and upgrading the skills and technology which means smaller groups can be more efficient and harder to deal with. Beyond the standard military operations, they seem to focus more on psi-ops for the dissemination of information that is misleading or incorrect. Something I should add that many western media are adopting, though I suspect it is more for the income generated by the click bate nature of their articles. As Mr. Fadden suggested, this kind of shenanigans would have occurred regardless of Trump running for president. Despite what the media and the public sphere seem to think, this is more Russia being Russia than anything.

He also briefly mentioned Russias role in Syria suggesting that they were more of an annoyance and slowed the progressed in the eventual defeat against ISIS, which according to the media has recently fallen. And that yes, Russia is Mucking about in Venezeuala which goes against the Monroe doctrine which is why the west (America) is so uncomfortable about it.

With regards to Russia, unless you are a former USSR state in eastern Europe then Russia is more of an annoyance trying to stay relevant in an increasingly crowded world. If we in the west really wanted to stick it to russia we would move faster away from fossil fuels and natural gas and more towards renewable energy as without the demand from the west, and China Russia’s economy would most likely collapse again. (FYI Nuclear Energy is the best for global climate change, but if you don’t trust me, ask a scientist…)

China

This brings back us back to China. As Mr. Fadden explained they are a true adversary at this point. They are incredibly economically strong and can affect the economies of the west through trade. Have a strong military power and the main power in Asia regardless of whether you like it or not. The issue with China is that in many ways they can play by their own rules.

For example, if a company in Canada or US is looking to do a deal with a company in China it is the resources of the western company vs the resources of the Chinese company + the resources of the state. As Mr. Fadden explains that in China, especially when it’s dealing with international deals, the moment the government of China wants to get involved it will and as a company in China you are obliged to let them. So a company in the west must stick to the rules and regulations of the land regarding their deals and the Chinese companies can essentially do what they want. It is my understanding that despite what you think of Trump on the topic of China and their trade practices he is most likely right.

Unfortunately, as China is a real threat to global security many politicians are perhaps too afraid to stir the already awakened yet crouching tiger in fears they release the hidden dragon.

Mr. Fadden also explained that when it comes to espionage, mostly digital, China is king. They do so with little regards to what the west thinks and the west has little power to stop them much of the time without going to war. Which, no one wants, including China and Russia. This means every time China, or Russia does something there is little the west can do to correct them. As mentioned sections have much more effect on Russia than China due to the differences in trading needs and the economy overall.

So what has China done that Mr.Fadden could openly talk about without us having full clearance?

Over the last few years, there has been over 1 Trillian USD, stolen from IP related attacks that are mostly from China. A Canadian fighter plane design was stolen then a replica or near identical version was produced (I didn’t even know Canadians did fighter planes anymore, which makes me think it was stolen from Bombardier). There is the noted case where a Saskatchewan Pot Ash company was looking to do a deal with a Chinese company and they had their servers hacked, their Lawyers servers hacked and government agencies hacked all regarding the company by China. This, of course, killed the deal.

China through both legal and illegal means is expanding its power mostly through economic means. They are the key power of influence in Asia and are a big financial sponsor of Africa loaning out money they know will never be repaid. Which asks the question, to what end are the doing this? Power, Control, or resources? Probably all of the above.

There is also the tension regarding the South China Sea between China and all its southern neighbors in which China basically says it’s theirs and other say not but if China really wanted to take it out right it could. Which makes everyone very uneasy.

And of course, if you pay attention to the news Canada is caught in between the spat of the US, China, and Huawei as we are currently detaining one of their executives on behalf of the Americas. In America, most major carriers dont carry their phones as they are worried about spying software. This according to Mr.Fadden is a legitimate concern and perhaps Huawei phones should not be allowed in Canada in a similar fashion. Yes, the phones look amazing though I suspect its mostly stolen tech and full of foreign spyware. Although Google and Apple basically do the same thing at least they still have to follow the laws.

The question you have to ask your self regarding China is if the intelligence and economic community think its a bigger threat because generally, they do what they want. Why is the media so silent on this matter. Why do most of the public, and media focus on Russia? This is a question I am not sure about though I am sure it has something to do with money and politics.

Global Terrorism

This is a topic that seems to have been quieted publically as the media seems to focus more on the idea of white supremacy as a problem rather than just a general terrorism as a problem. Mr. Fadden focused more on Islamic Terrorism and how it is less of a problem now but still a big problem.

He mentioned a magazine called Inspire, which is an Al Qaeda magazine in circulation. Remember Al Qaeda. You know, The perpetrators of 9/11 and who Osama Bin Laden was part of? Yes them. They are still around, in various forms globally and are still a problem. Unlike ISIS which was localized Al Qaeda is compartmentalized globally so still has not gone away and is still a problem.

One thing he mentioned that for a while the advice of such magazines was that if you want to help their global cause, dont go to Syria to help ISIS, Don’t go back “home” but stay in the country you are in and cause trouble. That means if you are a Canadian who wanted to fight for ISIS, rather than do that then stay home and cause havoc. This could be one of the reasons we saw the problems in many western countries where the attackers lived in these Countries, such as the US, France and to a lesser extent Canada.

He did say though, that the last Non-Muslim Country the west entered was Grenada in the 1980s. So he can understand why the Muslim global community is annoyed with the west as it seems that they are the only group being targeted at the moment. Which brings us to the last topic. Canada.

Canada’s roll in the world

In most countries, Canada is well respected and liked. In the 20th Century, we had major roles in both World wars and were involved in major global events.

He suggested that while Canada was once an upper tier Middle global power we are now a lower tier middle power. This is because Canada is very poor at building foreign relations and really is not doing much to help the world in an active way. An example was the poor decision recently to leave the Mali mission despite the complaints from the military and what I can imagine would be most sane advisors. An no I dont believe simply throwing money at other counties or problems (like is currently happening) is in any way strong or good leadership. Real leadership should always be something active not passive.

I think this issue is related to what was stated near the beginning in that, Canadians feel too safe and do not feel the need to fund things appropriately.

Canada may actually be at least for the time being one of the more functional democratic western nations. We are relatively physically isolated from other countries globally with the US to the south for some safety. Though Russia does regularly test our Sovernty with regular tests to our airspace scrambling Canadian fighter planes all the time to push the Russians back (An annoying and stupid global game of cat and mouse). Despite perhaps what some politicians might want you to think, Canada is a very safe place as compared to other countries. We have someone decent socialized health care (though I don’t know how much longer that will hold up with the way it’s being managed) and we have many other benefits that other countries would love to have. Because relatively Canada is a great place most Canadians find themselves in their selfish little bubbles caring little of the world other than to simply travel and post photos for the Gram.

I dont think we need to be some major global player like the US but I think that Canadians should care a little bit more about what their government’s foreign policy is or lack thereof. When I talk about these topics with most Canadians they seem woefully misinformed or woefully uninterested. Which for such an educated country is fairly sad.

Mr. Fadden said that when he traveled the world, as a representative of Canada, Foreign dignitaries always welcomed him politely but were dismayed that a Canadian PM never visits or at the very least high-level Cabinet ministers. From a foreign policy standpoint we generally dont bother, but I suspect it because the Canadian public really doesn’t like this kind of global spending so most politicians oblige by not bothering.

I know most of this doesn’t matter to you, although if you have read this far perhaps it does. But if you do not want Canada to fade into obscurity in the long game perhaps you should care a little bit more about the world around you. (DO remember, Much like the Dutch East India Trading company, for a time the Canadian based Hudsons Bay company was a major global economic hub in the western world, thus historically Canada at times played major rolls.)

Wrap Up

So as always I do, I try to relate things back to Krav or self-defense. Most students roll their eyes or insult me in their heads when I go on a rant in class for the million times. I do this because I care. I understand that real self-defense is not just Kicking or punching. It is understanding the world around you and all its complicated intricacies. Canadians love to travel but often travel without the thought of what is going on the countries they are visiting. Didn’t know there were minor political problems going on in the country you are in? Oh well too bad now you are stuck in the middle of a civil war? Didn’t know the country you are in doesn’t care that what you just did is legal in your country, oh and by the way there no extradition treaty. Now you are stuck in a foreign jail for 20 years…FUN!. Or my favorite example (ROLLS EYES HEAVILY), someone I know said they felt unsafe traveling to the US because you know Trump and racism so instead decided to go to Jamaica, Which is so much safer…It is not. The same individual also mentioned their hostel had an 8pm curfew…hmm I wonder why…

I have often heard even from those close to me that they don’t care what is going on in the rest of the world, the country or over there because it doesn’t affect them directly. Unfortunately, this is a failure to understand how interconnected everything is. What China does and how it acts matters because it definitely affects trade. Remember, if everything is made in China which makes it cheap they could mess with it forcing our governments to act or vice versa thus things become more expensive. Or perhaps you are a citizen of both countries and now you are stuck in the one you least prefer because of some global shenanigans that you thought didn’t affect you.

Being good a defending your self is not just physical, it’s about being informed, educated and using appropriate critical thinking skills so you can navigate this complicated world and come out better than you were yesterday and in one peace.

I hope that this commentary has given you some food for thought and hope that today you may walk in peace.

Online I follow many different Krav Maga Organizations. Often you can see people have left one organization for another. In my opinion, the two real reasons people leave is accessibility or issues with the instructor and they find someone they jive with better. However, people don’t always see it this way. Often they claim that they left because their organization was withholding information, which dont gets me wrong may be the case. The thing is “withholding” information might not always be what you think.

Withholding knowledge using a paywall

First, let me discuss the bad kind of withholding information. The bad type of withholding information or let’s also insert rank here is to do with money. If the reason you dont want to teach specific techniques or approaches to people is simply that you want them to have to pay or “earn” there way up then this is not great. While paying for testing or other things is not inherently bad it is if you only want to teach people things whom you’ve collected X amount of money from.

So let’s call this a paywall method of withholding information. Sometimes it is intentional which is, of course, immoral and in most cases just wrong. Whereas you only teach things after they have shown loyalty and regular payments over X amount of time then they have “earned” the right to learn it.

Another paywall that is not malicious or intentionally is the logistical paywall. Whereas, certain training especially the higher level stuff is only offered in Israel or specific countries. This requires individuals to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to access this training. In some cases, if a head instructor of an organization or their top instructors never leave Israel to teach and train people in a meaningful way then this will inherently limit the access of students to that particular organization. To me especially if an organization is considered a global leader then this is just laziness on the part of the instructors and organizations.

In other cases, it is regarding legalities or logistics. For example, many, many organizations hold their higher level of firearms-related courses in Poland or other eastern European countries. In this case, it is usually to do with legal considerations. The countries where these are hosted have relaxed laws allowing individuals from any country (usually) to come and train properly. Israel, for example, isn’t a fan of people from every country coming and learning advanced firearms tactics (Feel free to correct this if it is wrong, but this is my understanding.) Here in Canada, most ranges are not willing to allow people to do the kind of live fire drills required to achieve proper training. It is usually to do with Lawyers, Insurance companies and well because they dont trust you. In this kind of payroll scenarios, it is more of a necessity than anything and the more governments globally restrict such training the harder it will be to do properly.

Withholding knowledge because they just aren’t ready

pai maiThe 2nd kind of withholding knowledge is the proper reason to withhold training from someone. Just because someone wants to learn something, or feels they are ready to doesnt mean they are. ENTER THE EGO!!. Of course, this too can be abused but a good martial arts instructor withholds training, or ranks because the student for whatever reason may just not be ready even they think they are.

Sometimes, not being ready isn’t just about physical abilities but also mental or it could be an attitude thing. A good example of this is Jon “Bones” Jones, the UFC lightweight king. While he is an amazing fighter his personal life is a mess. The story goes that he despite having good skill his BJJ instructor withheld a rank from him because of his overall attitude and life decisions.

Remember, sometimes training martial arts and yes EVEN Krav Maga isn’t just about the physical it’s about becoming a better person.

An example is a common complaint I have heard and have experienced is when either very athletic persons or very big aggressive persons do well in sparring but are held back or chastised because they didn’t control themselves. The response often is that I am bigger so I can’t control my speed. Or its because I’m better than those guys and you dont want to admit it. This is of course bullshit.

The person was held back or chastised because they failed to listen to instructions, failed to consider the safety of their training partners. And failed to understand that if they truly were as skilled as they thought then they would understand you can go fast without having power and you should be able to control the fight easily. Yes, it is Krav Maga and aggression matters but no one wants to train with an uncontrolled asshole. If thats what someone wants then there are tones of meathead gyms out there who dont care about brain trauma or helping you be a better person.

This is why a well-structured ranking system can help determine if people are ready for different things. For example, at UTKM it is broken down as such.

White Belt – Beginner. Moving, Kicking, Punching, Sparring and thinking for Krav Maga

Yellow & Orange Belt – Novice.  Refining and advancing striking, grappling offense and defense, Basic weapons

Green Belt  to Black Belt – Advanced – Job specific training such as police and military, advanced weapons, arrests, and control, firearms training

The way I look at it if you can barely punch or kick I am not really comfortable teaching you firearms stuff. Other times individuals come in with backgrounds but they are not familiar with our curriculum and thats the only reason they get held back. Other times i get individuals who are physically gifted but have been told to work on other areas and until then they will be held back.

A good curriculum and structure will “withhold” knowledge because the goal is to develop each individual appropriate to their own pace. Some people will move through fast others slow. If you think its not fair thats because it’s not. I wish I had been born a natural athlete but I was not. It just the way it is. To each his own.

If you feel your instructor is withholding knowledge unfairly you have two options

  1. Train somewhere else – Maybe it’s just you and your instructor are not the right fit. Find another gym teaching your style and grow from there. It is true the instructor might just be an asshole (hopefully not). or you might have to consider number 2.
  2. Let go of your ego – Maybe the instructor knows or sees something that you dont want to see or accept. If this is the case it may take some soul searching but the answer is to complain less and train more. Eventually, the progress will come.

When it’s appropriate to teach advance knowledge early

Sometimes it may absolutely be appropriate to teach advanced knowledge early. It is always a city by city thing or person to person thing but it shouldn’t be open to just everyone. Here are just of few of my thoughts as to when it is appropriate to teach advanced knowledge early in Krav Maga because after all it is about giving people the skills to properly defend themselves and really there is no one size fits all.

  1. Seminars  – I dont mind teaching advanced topics if I have the appropriate time to give the basic setups or context. Usually, if I run my own seminars on advanced topics I want to do 4 hours plus. I understand this is too much for most people but if you have only been training for a bit doing a one-off seminar for an hour is not really going to teach you anything useful. If I do teach shorter seminars its more about general basic concepts and knowledge with a little training but I will always stress this is a “Crash Course” and that people shouldn’t now think they know Krav Maga.
  2. An individual requires it for specific training or goal – This is great for individuals who need to prepare for something. This would be during private lessons where you can focus on the specifics that the client needs. I have had individuals want to get ahead of police or military training. Because it’s usually a dedicated individual who is training a lot they will be on a quicker learning curve. This is also sometimes people who have train a lot of Krav Maga in the past but want a refresher course. Because of its usually one on one attention, it’s easier to know if they really understand not just the technique, but the context and application. As well as do they understand their own skill level.
  3. The city you live in has a specific threat – Let’s be realistic I live in Vancouver, Canada and there really isn’t a rush to learn advanced topics due to specific threats. However, if I said living in a place like mexico I may have special days every month where we cover things like gun disarms and gun safety. It would be up to an instructor whether this was part of their regular curriculum or whether its a seminar but in these cases, because there is a real need to learn the material then it would not be appropriate to not teach it.

Closing

So before you decide to leave a school or organization because they are “withholding” information. Really think about the reasons for this. If it’s simply a matter of logistics then it might not be the instructor or schools fault. If it’s just a matter of you not getting along with the instructor then nothing wrong with changing schools. I myself have done this because I just didn’t vibe. If this is the case, dont make a big deal about it especially if they are legitimate it’s just a people thing. If you feel through the school just wants your money think about it if it is actually true or not. People sometimes make this accusation here in Vancouver, but they are considering that it is an expensive city for everyone, this includes commercial rent. Lastly, really consider is it perhaps that you just aren’t ready. I understand people hate to accept their skills or limits but sometimes we need to, and only then can we really progress.

No matter the case I hope you can learn to walk in peace and have a great day.

 

Recently, in my quest for improvement, I started to meditate. I had always heard meditation was good for you, unfortunately, the types of people who always told me to do it were often WOO WOO types who like crystals or individuals who maybe took a few too many hallucinogens in their lives and were people I really couldn’t take seriously. When I was in university there was mention of the benefits of it when I was working on my Psychology Degree.

The question is why didn’t I listen then? It is possible that I really did not respect individual professors. Or they simply didn’t put a real effort into getting the classes to attempt to meditate. Or they really didn’t understand it enough to teach it in a way that was relatable or meaningful for everyone. Or I simply didn’t care to listen.

So why did I start?

Many of the podcasts I regularly listen to, individuals who I respect for the expertise or drive all had one thing in common. No matter their political ideology or stance on things they all meditate. Why? Because according to them it helps them focus and most of their successful friends do it. Oh and don’t forget the science. All signs seem to point to one thing.

Meditation is good for you.

In all honesty, I had tried meditation before but always had trouble focusing. So how you ask am I now regularly meditating with the guidance and structure I need to stay on track?

Easy. Sam Harris recently released his Waking up Guided meditation app on Android.  Here I can get daily regular guided meditations from someone I respect. Someone who is a respected neuroscientist, American intellectual and someone who has spent much time on the subject of meditation and mindfulness. You don’t have to agree with everything he says to appreciate the work he has put into developing this simple and easy to use (and affordable) app that can help one and all learn to meditate.

Now that I have started almost daily I have noticed a few things. I am enjoying the little things when walking outside. Like shadows, colors and other things and thinking positively of them rather than thinking nothing. I am a becoming more aware of when I am getting agitated. And in general, I am feeling better.

While I am no expert like Sam the key seems to simply be about calming your mind if only for a bit. In today’s world, we have far too much stimulus. While in the past if we wanted to have a quiet time it was a simple matter of a walk in the forest. Now unless you live next to the forest even that takes stimulus and effort with driving etc. And unless you want to make a big trek out of it most of the popular forest trails have far too many people.

Meditation is a way to easily and regularly quiet the noise both externally and more importantly internally. I have been doing as little as 5-10 minutes a day and have notices benefits. I should know that due to my previous experience with Yoga (casually) I have some experience with breath control. So if you are reading this and decide to start to know it might take a little longer to get the hang of it. The waking up app is designed for beginners so dont fret too much.

Being the Krav Maga instructor that I am, I started to think about how closely related mindfulness is to the Mental model of the Awareness colour code we use at UTKM. Or more commonly known as being “Situationally Aware“.

We as Krav Maga practitioners know how to be aware of impending physical violence by maintaining situational awareness or mental colour code yellow when we are out and about. But how often do we apply the same model to our own mental state? If you are stressed or anxious, internally that might be equivalent to being in colour code orange. The only difference is the threat is not real but perceived. The problem is prolonged time at orange means our bodies will get tired and burn out.

In a real threat with an identified threat, it can quickly go from orange to red. How long in real life would you stay around an identified threat or stay in a fight? Say a person standing there with a knife. Our first instinct should be to get away to safety. Or if we must FIGHT with all our might.

Ask yourself how is that any different if the threat is perceived but your nervous system is giving the same response.

The fact we often forget to consider this as Kravist, especially as we spend so much time learning to be hyper-aggressive, is a problem. We often do not learn how to be balanced.

In today’s world, Soldiers, Police, and first responders are experiencing and the epidemic of PTSD and other side effects because they spend so much time dealing with real threats they start to internalize and bring them home as perceived internal threats.

We can only fight for so long before something has got to give.

In traditional martial arts, they have to know about the need to connect mind, body, and soul for a long time. Its just unfortunate they lost the practical application to their styles along the way that for people like us Kravists its far to easy for us to ignore the other important aspects of self-defense that we spend little to no time on.

That is the internal mind and soul part. Sure we train our minds to handle stress at the moment for self-defense situations but we dont learn to soften them for the rest of the time. And we certainly don’t spend time on any spiritual aspect because for us time is limited.

Meditating-1Yet it is so important for us to remember that “so one may walk in peace” should mean both physically and mentally. Change your perspective that the mental awareness color code is for both external and internal threats. Recognize when you are becoming your own worst enemy and though you can handle physical foes, your mental ones are the real problems.

So I ask that you consider meditation and mindfulness as a path to walking in peace and remember that they are not just for monks, priest, hippies but also for warriors, soldiers, officers, Kravist or those who simply need a break.