Archive for the ‘Martial Arts In General’ Category

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…

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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.

 

 

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.

 

This year I swear, I will hit the gym 3 times a week, swear off cookies, and take that new Krav Maga class thing regularly I heard about last Tuesday! This is my new year’s resolution.

Enter March. You bought an overpriced gym membership, that you used twice and are now stuck in a contract you dont even use. You just bought peanut butter fudge cookies because you are depressed you spent money on that contract that you don’t use. And you never bothered to try that Krav Maga class because it looked too scary, and your best friend didn’t want to come because their significant other didn’t want them to get hurt.

The first thing is you probably bit off more than you can chew (Pun Intended) and it is now overwhelming and no longer fun.

A mistake people often make is they make decisions because they should do something but not because its what they would like to do.

Bottom line, if you dont enjoy it, you probably won’t do it long enough to make it a habit or a priority.

Instead of starting with I need to lose 30 lbs, start with finding an activity that you like. It can be going to the gym, taking that krav maga class, or even just going for a walk. Once you have made it something you like to do and have made it habit you can now focus on your other goals.

If your goal was to train more and you say you are going to train 5 days a week in Krav Maga or other martial arts but were barely making one then perhaps it’s not a realistic goal. 2 days a week might be more attainable as it is only one more day than you have been doing so far.

Once something has become a habit it and routine eventually it becomes a lifestyle rather than a task or chore or something you just have to do.

If you say you want to start Krav Maga this year as your goal, great. Take a class first. Then take two. If you like it now you can set your goals. If you don’t and it’s still something you really want to do, try a different school. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit and that’s ok, but if its something you really want to do then try all school options available.

Don’t rely on your friends either. I cannot remember how many times groups of friends started coming and then only one stayed, and eventually, they too stop because their friends were not there anymore. If its something you want to do, then you do it. Make new friends in the gym for when you are in the gym and keep those friends for when you are not in the gym. But do it you not them.

The same goes for diet. If you dont like the foods on your “diet” then it’s going to be impossible for you to stay on it. Consider eating healthy 4-5 days out of the week and hit up the exercise activity you chose to make up the 2 days you have as cheat days. Realistically strict “diets” are hard to keep and keep a healthy social life. So need to go out to that party one day because (Insert Reason), its ok go and have fun. Just know to stay on track the rest of the week and you will be fine. Because a yo yo diet is not a diet at all. Also, diet is relative, when it comes to food there are many great options on how you should eat. Just make sure you consult your doctor or a nutritionist if you are sure ( I would lean heavily to the latter).

New Life

Don’t just say the change. Make the change happen with a lifestyle change.

No matter what your new year’s resolution is, do it not because you are supposed to, but because you want to. Make easy on your self and break it up into smaller parts. If you cannot make it a habit and a lifestyle you will not likely keep your resolution. If you change how you look at it next thing you know its 1 year later and you have met and exceeded your goal and you didn’t even notice because you were to busy having fun. Dont just set another resolution. Make a lifestyle change.

 

 

Being a parent in today’s world can be harder than ever, not only are the choices more than ever but also the financial considerations. What decision should you make with regards to your child in trying to give them the best and most supportive childhood you can.

Recently I was listening to the Sam Harris podcast Episode 137 title safe spaces, in it the guest Jonathan Haidt discuss his new book the codling of the American mind. Though I am loosely paraphrasing (listen to the podcast if you want the actual conversation) what they talked about, they essentially talked about the toxic nature of the helicopter parent of the 90s and early 2000s that led to a generation of unconfident anxiety-ridden individuals with no confidence who struggle to make decisions and explore the world. They also discuss the “new” movement of free-range parenting, which to me shouldn’t be a NEW anything, it should just be good parenting.

To martial artists, the answer has always been clear. Put your kids in martial arts from an early age. No matter what you think about the school system it seems they are increasingly scared to allow children to be physical even in a healthy manner, being too concerned with lawsuits or costs children are no longer getting unstructured play time and good physical activity. So what is a parent to do if they feel their child just is not getting enough of what they need in school? well its simple, find a good reputable martial arts school and enroll them. Of course, my preference is Krav Maga, BJJ but in today’s world, something is better than nothing. While I dont want to be to cliche. Here are 5 reasons you should enroll your kid in martial arts now than later.

Kids BJJ

  1. Build Confidence & Self Esteem – One of the biggest struggles that children have today is building intrinsic self-confidence. Not everyone fits into the cookie cutter models of most schools today and it can be hard to stay motivated and find drive and purpose. Martial arts can give children goals to build themselves up, and I am not talking about participation trophies I am talking about real goals that take work and effort to achieve. If your child works and trains hard they can build their confidence by working their way up a ranked system. Having a sense of purpose is key to any person no matter the age, and if your child doesn’t find it in school or other organized sports then perhaps this is the option for them. Additionally, because of the physical nature of martial arts, they will build confidence in their body image by working hard to achieve more. Through martial arts, they will see themselves and the strong, intelligent child they are. Especially as most serious martial arts instructors end up being more than just a teacher, but also a role model and sometimes a mentor.
  2. Build a healthy lifestyle – As I mentioned earlier many school systems are slowly winding down their physical training programs either due to overblown liability and safety concerns or budget concerns. Kids are meant to be active, and with less emphasis on physical health from the regular school system it is one of the contributing factors to our obesity epidemic. Just like mentioned about through martial arts kids will learn how to use their bodies and learn to listen to it. They will know when they feel good and when they do not. Anyone who lives a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise can tell you they feel much worse the day after they decided to have a binge day with no physical activity. If you teach your children young to have an active lifestyle it becomes a pattern that is built into them and is something they will continue for most of their lives even if they grow out of martial arts.
  3. Build social skills in a new environment – In the regular school system, it can be tricky for children to develop social skills. Some students excel and some do not. One of the best ways to build their skills further is to introduce them to another group of peers. Sometimes in school friend/peer options are limited and without extracurricular activities exposing your child to other peer groups, it can be hard especially if you dont fit in. I can tell you from my own personal experience that I did not have much exposure to other peer groups outside of those in my school, and looking back I really wish Id had, as perhaps I would have had a better time if I had friends doing a mutually enjoyable activity like martial arts. I started later in life, give your child the opportunity to learn early so even if they dont keep it up later in life they still learned social skills as well as practical self-defense skills.
  4. Learn discipline – This seems to be a popular idea. While the days of hitting your children are gone and rightfully so, it can be hard to find ways to keep your child properly disciplined especially if you are not familiar with various learning and teaching models. In martial arts children usually, learn that if they do not focus pushups (or other physical activity) will ensue. Either way, they are building something positive. They learn to focus because they dont like the push-ups, or they like the pushups and they get more physical strength. Additionally, in martial arts you can learn discipline through leadership. As your child grows in a program they may be asked to help out with classes and they will then learn to the importance of being well behaved in classes.
  5. Learn teamwork and community – Most children’s martial arts classes usually have some sort of teamwork involved. Whether it be the classical group punishment of if one child misbehaves every one does push-ups, or because the games and drills require all children to participate in partners of groups. They very quickly learn they would much rather work with partners who are serious about training and that if they want to partner with those people they better work well with others as well. Often in regular education group project are few and far between and often individuals care more about the grade than actually working well in a group. In martial arts teamwork is encouraged every class. Additionally, they are introduced early into a positive healthy community that they can be proud to be part of.

While there are certainly many more reasons to have your child join martial arts there are many others. Of Course one of the biggest concerns many parents have is the safety of their child. Always do your research and find a reputable school for your child. One suggestion I have is to make sure they separate kids 5-7 from 8-12. As far as teens, it’s usually ok for them to train with the adults pending the style. The reason for this is that the mental development of kids at these stages is different and the approach to learning is different.

For kids 5-7 the focus should be more on body awareness and fitness. and for kids 8+ of course pending the style they can learn usually just like the adults although in an age-appropriate manner.

This post is, of course, appropriately times as we at www.urbantacticskm.com recently expanded our kid’s program to include the age 5-7 age group. UTKM’s Richmond, BC, Kids program combines Krav Maga, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiujitsu, wrestling, and judo all in to one program. So if you are in my neck of the woods feel free to inquire by emailing us at info@urbantacticscanada.com 

Richmond Kids Martial Arts Age 5-7.jpgIf not get on google, do a search and find a reputable martial arts school near you and get your child started now not later. Build their confidence,  self esteem, Social skills, team skills and show them what a healthy life style looks like. Remember, something is better than nothing but of course I recommend Krav Maga/Kickboxing and BJJ.

 

Over the past year or so you may have noticed posts on this blog about students who have finished the ranking tests at UTKM. Many of them are written by Instructor candidates before or after they are certified. Of course, the latter group definitely does it out of there own free will and not as a requirement of the course….

Here are a few in case you forgot.

nnnoooooo-youre-not-ready.jpgTo me, these posts are extremely important. They give students an opportunity to express in writing how they felt mentally and physically about testing, but more importantly, give a glimpse into what other students can expect.

In the Krav world, testing and ranking vary from intensive multi-day tests to no testing and no ranking. To me ranking is important. First of all, it is a natural human behaviour to want, crave or need some indication of progress to show consciously and obviously that yes there is a purpose to walking away bruised, tired and sometimes emotionally drained.

If you follow us regularly you will know our tests are not easy. There is a reason for these. While I fully understand the need of people to feel accomplished and have a sense of progress to stay motivated the thing is if you are learning Krav Maga so that you can defend yourself you need to be able to show you have what it takes to really defend yourself.

Our tests focus less on techniques and more on pushing you to your physical and mental limits so that you can show us you truly have what it takes to survive a real unexpected violent encounter. You should not just be learning krav for fun or to get in shape but doing so knowing you may need to use it in a terrible scenario.

Because of this I really dont want people to do the tests who I feel are not ready. I know you want to feel accomplished, I know you want to get to the more advanced classes but the reality is if I am holding you back its because you are not getting a certain aspect of Krav Maga or self defense in general. Maybe you are not aggressive enough, maybe you just are showing sufficient skill or maybe you have not been training consistently.

Without fail, the people who almost always come close to failing are the people who ask to be tested.

I also do not want to see you fail especially as the tests are so hard. So far we have not had anyone fail but that’s because we decide when someone is ready and we are usually correct. Occasionally someone who I didn’t consider for a test tells me they are ready and sometimes I let them do the test. Without fail, the people who almost always come close to failing are the people who ask to be tested.

Trust me I will feel terrible if I have to fail someone, but I will do it if you fail because in the end of the day I am 100% against giving people a false sense of security in a persons ability to defend themselves. If you are unwilling to spar, or unwilling to put in the time to train. If you prioritize other aspects of your life and are not consistent with your training please do not ask to be tested. It is for your own good.

Yes, I will like you to have the ability to defend yourself, and yes I would like to have more advanced students but I am sorry, please do not harass me or the other instructors because you need to feel special that you are allowed to test. Personally, I think I need to get stricter and if you ask to be tested without being prompted to do so I really should just automatically not let you test until a later date.

I dont want to see you fail, but if you do it will be for your own good.

So show up and train, put in the time, don’t argue with the instructors about not wanting to do a certain aspect of the training (Baring injury) and show us you can push yourself past your comfort zones. If you cant, then you may be a forever white belt, or yellow belt because you need to show us you are committed to learning proper Self Defense combatives which also includes your attitude.

So when you are ready, you will be asked to be tested.

Why I compete, even if I don’t win

Posted: February 22, 2018 by Jonathan Fader in Competition
Tags: , ,

First off, before anyone freaks out, no I am not competing in Krav Maga. Nor do I support competitions in Krav Maga. The reason for this is history. With all martial art styles, the started for the purpose of self-defence once they start competitions they often quickly become a sport and lose much of the practical application.

As I advise all practising kravists what you need to do is cross train to further develop your skills. If you do, you may find one of the other styles that are more sports-oriented will offer you an outlet to get that competitive bug out of the way. I recommend, MMA, BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, boxing and kickboxing/Muay Thai.

Jonathans Bronze.jpg

For me, BJJ is what I like and practice and compete in. So why do I compete considering the following:

  1. I am not nor have I ever been a naturally gifted athlete
  2. I am not by any stretch of the imagination the best in my division
  3. I am not a super competitive person who must win.

Yet, I still compete. I have many students, or have talked to many people who just don’t want to compete because they know they won’t win and to that, I say so what?

I see three general categories of competitors.

  1. Tha Natural Athlete – to these people, winning may be everything, It has either become normal to them because they are simply better physically and it has become their standard, and competition is their outlet to show off their talents
  2. The Committed martial artist – These people may not be the best physically but they still win. They are in the gym almost every day training and honing their skills. To them, it is a lifestyle and a way of being.
  3. The Casual Martial artist – Someone who trains on a casual basis but still compete because it seems like fun.

No matter what group you are in there is something they all have in common when it comes to competition. Win, lose or Draw every one comes out of competitions a little better. For no matter the outcome you will learn something.

Maybe despite winning, you almost lost and found a hole in your game or strategy. Maybe you lost not because of skill but because of your cardio. Maybe you lost because the skill in your division is simply higher than where you are at and you need to train more.

For me personally, I check all of these boxes. Due to a variety of reasons, I haven’t been able to train hard enough, for a long time my cardio was shit and there are definitely lots of holes in my game. The thing is even though at least for now I know I  probably won’t win, I will still compete.

I always come out of competitions learning something new. and I always work towards fixing it. So far every competition I have for the most part, even if I wasn’t happy with the results the reality was each time I was a little better.

Over the last several competitions I have been working my cardio and each time I am a little less tired. So despite not winning gold, I have improved my self.

Over the last several competitions I have been working on my game and each time I am a little closer to implementing it and I have improved myself.

Over the last several competitions I have identified what I am doing wrong both defensively and offensively and I have improved myself.

While I fully Accept that I was and always will be a better coach and instructor than competitor I still plan on competing.

For me, It’s not about the winning, although as I am only human, It would be nice, it’s about being better every day. While I fully Accept that I was and always will be a better coach and instructor than competitor I still plan on competing. On that note, a coach or instructor who encourages their students to compete but has never competed or doesn’t compete may just be a hypocrite. As coaches, we tell them winning doesn’t matter, but then some fear competing cause they know they won’t win. But if winning doesn’t matter then why do you tell your students that and why don’t you compete? Being a hypocrite is the worst and is something I hate passionately.

So I compete, win lose or draw, I always improve and perhaps one day I will start seeing gold, and if not, its no big deal. The goal is improvement and competitions are one of the best ways to push your own personal boundaries and comfort zones and grow a little bit every time. For if you won’t, or refuse to push your comfort zones, you will never grow and be better.

I can only ever encourage everyone to take the same path, but even if you don’t, I will keep training, keep competing and keep getting better.

So get out there, and do not fear to lose. Just compete and have fun.