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Unfortunately, defending yourself from an attacker requires more than one punch. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

If you believed the previous myth then you may also believe this one, as they are fairly connected. It too is simply bullshit. Yes, Krav maga is brutal, but the reality is if you understand HOW to train your nervous system, and you understand Krav Maga concepts and strategies from a “principles first” point of view, then all you really need to know is that you CAN flip that switch and apply it in a lethal form if needed.

Obviously, if it was so harsh that you could train consistently or for a long time, then the training isn’t very good at all. The “hardcore” mentality is an “old School” mentality and is misguided if you expect longevity in your training path. Additionally, not everyone is capable of going hard all the time, not to mention that we want to avoid injuries in order to stay training and live a good life. If we actually trained at 100% all the time, the bodies would hit the floor and we would be violating a (rather sensible) Krav Maga principle; avoid injuries.

It’s not about training hard for lethality, it’s about training smart to get the results we need. If you came to class to “kill” there’s a good chance you won’t last; either someone will put you in your place or you will be kicked out.

So, let’s discuss.

Whenever I hear about this myth one of my favorite Israeli sayings comes to mind:

אַתָה חָי בְּסֶרֶט

Which says, “Ata Chai be Ceret” or “Are you living in a movie?” (in the masculine) While this phrase actually translates quite well into English it still doesn’t have the same impact as it does in Hebrew. In English you could say “You are crazy,” “You are delusional,” “You are living in a fantasy,” etc…

The logical fallacy of this myth is easy to point out: If everyone who ever trained Krav Maga did so in a lethal fashion, everyone would be dead and no one would actually be training it!

Or, if the process of training it was too lethal then the Israeli Army, the IDF, would not have been around to defend anyone. A great general (or even a good one) would be wiser than to kill off his best warriors in training.

This logic is fairly simple, yet some people still live in a fantasy land or spend too much time perusing the depths of the Internet (like random Reddit sub forums, a place I never really understood).

Yes, Krav Maga is a style deeply rooted in life-or-death situations and it trains for potential deadly encounters. This however, is true for any martial art that started with self-defence or practical combat in mind. (At least, it should be, otherwise what is the point?) Thus it is a relatively safe assumption that all styles started as violence-vs-danger. Krav Maga, being more modern, has yet to fall prey to the current trend to water down a system for sporting and marketing purposes.

The need to defend oneself physically has been around since we, as humans, realized there were threats all around us. Once we became self-aware we needed more than simple nervous system responses to protect us, in particular from other humans. This is why self-defence systems, martial arts styles, and combat tactics were developed globally. They were all rooted in the need to better defend oneself in order to survive. Which means all styles started with some degree of lethality in mind, then peaceful times and sport aspirations asserted their influence.

There are many styles that are comparable to Krav Maga, where it’s simply of matter of taking out the flashy elements and ensuring that the fundamentals are (reasonably) easy to learn and apply on a consistent basis, for most people, most of the time, in most situations, with more variables allowed for than the average style.

Additionally, Krav Maga’s “lethality” comes from the training methodology, developed under duress, to allow people to train safely and be able to function under duress. We don’t train to “fight,” we train to defend ourselves, but we still need to be able to spar, and survive sparring, in order to understand how fights move, flow, and how to stay calm and react. Perhaps the notion of “lethality” here could be replaced by “efficacy.”

A system or style that, for most people, only works in the dojo or competition isn’t very practical on the street or in combat. Krav Maga remained effective for practical applications as “practical applications” came up a lot for Jews before, during, and after WWII.

However, don’t think for a second that any martial art style cannot be lethal, as it is not the system that is lethal but the person and their intentions. In the ring an MMA fighter is most likely going to beat the average Kravist, as the two train for different purposes. Plus MMA fighters certainly have the skills to be lethal on the street if they need to. Humans, after all, are just bags of water, flesh, and bone, and lots of things can kill us.

The only real difference is Krav Maga’s simplicity and ability to deal with a wide variety of situations quickly, including modern weapons and tactics. Which is bolstered by the training style, focusing on training the nervous system for the inevitable stress of a mugger, assault situation, or other life-or-death altercation. Just ask anyone who has fought in combat and fought in the ring: There is a difference.

That being said, if you find yourself training Krav Maga at a school where it feels like actual life-or-death training, and you are fearful of getting your head kicked in regularly, then your instructor is either an idiot or an asshole and knows nothing about proper Krav Maga.

So, is Krav Maga too deadly to train properly? Ata Chai be Ceret!

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

Mr. Miyagi employed novel methods to teach karate to an impatient a teenager in the ’80s. (“The Karate Kid”, Columbia Pictures, 1984)
Krav Maga Myths and Misconceptions – “It Should Be Taught As It Was By Its Creators” Audio by Jonathan Fader

Many organizations and individuals still take a “traditional martial arts” approach to Krav Maga. They say, “this is how I was taught by the Master so-and-so, thus I should I teach it to my students this way as well.” This is patently wrong and actually goes against some basic principles of Krav Maga. That is, if it doesn’t work, don’t use it! Inherently, by the fact that the times change (and so do people), attacks will change, tools will change, and knowledge will change, so too must the techniques and strategies change.

I have met individuals from various organizations and countries whom are training Krav Maga as it was taught 30 years ago, and they told me “only this is Krav Maga.” I suspect many of these instructors have lost their connection to those at the forefront of Krav Maga. Or they have simply been tricked by their own ego.

Just like with the principle of “Situational Awareness,” instructors must look at their system and their methods, then assess, assess, and assess. Further to that point, as a student you must know that, periodically, techniques may (and should) change. This might come in the form of additions or subtractions in the curriculum, modification to the way techniques are executed, or new approaches to how techniques and principles are taught.

Let’s expand on this.

One thing to remember is that, at its core, Krav Maga is, and should be, principle-based rather than technique-based.

Some of the original principles of Krav Maga were:

Do you see a specific technique listed here? The answer is, No. These principles are mostly about strategy or the application of techniques, not specific ways of doing. These principles were developed based on logic, biomechanics, and the philosophies of Imi and other Krav Maga pioneers. Since their original inception, however, if a technique or principle doesn’t work in most scenarios, the norms of what is acceptable in society have changed, or we discover a more effective idea, we rethink, re-assess, and make changes. The principles are core to the system, but they too are not set in stone.

What this means is that there is quite a lot of interpretation regarding what is the best technique or approach… and this is where the trouble starts. In many ways it’s about credibility and ego. That is, an instructor or organization doesn’t want their students to know that their current curriculum may not be as up-to-date or as effective as the instructors claim it is.

Fact: Common attacks will vary from place to place and time to time, therefore requiring adaptation of techniques and approaches.

Fiction: What worked 20 years ago will work now (at least as a 100% hard statement)

This means that, over time, things will change and refine to maximize efficiency for the most people. For the MOST people! Krav Maga tries to leverage natural reactions and movements wherever possible, but some people, unfortunately, will always need to put in more training and practice to gain efficiency, no matter the technique (bodies, abilities, temperaments are different).

Occasionally I will have students who come from a school or organization that was teaching Krav Maga as it was 30 years ago. Their techniques often fall apart under stress testing, which says a lot. Their “instructors” may have been, unwittingly or not, conning them.

Now, with that being said, there actually shouldn’t be TOO much variation in the solutions for specific attacks, for a simple reason: We have a head, a groin, two arms and legs, that really hasn’t changed much over time. Thus techniques and approaches from place to place should actually look reasonably similar, so long as they follow the core principles. If they don’t look even close to other Krav Maga schools it’s probably not Krav Maga; be that due to the teachings being outdated or infused with too much “other stuff.”

In the Krav Maga community, much like in other styles, there is… politics. So, if you only ever train with one organization and it never exchanges ideas with outsiders, change is unlikely. Which means it is unfortunately likely that you are not being taught the best options in the wider Krav Maga knowledge base.

I personally started my Krav Maga journey with one of the major organizations. While they have updated their curriculum a little over time, I found myself thinking their arsenal of techniques was somewhat bloated and not exactly up-to-date. As I explored various other organizations I realized that some schools had developed better solutions for one problem and others for another problem. As a result the UTKM curriculum has changed over the years, as I get more information and training myself, and as we stress test techniques with a variety of students.

Occasionally I will see students struggling with one technique consistently. Sometimes I can solve the problem myself, but on some occasions I need some input from outside sources; maybe that is from another organization, maybe it’s from another style of self-defence or another martial arts system.

As long as the techniques fit in smoothly with the other techniques and follow the core principles then it will work. However, what I will never do is add a random technique for its own sake.

All these changes can be annoying, I know. Very annoying. Trust me, I know! Sometimes I even have students complaining that they have to learn something new. But, guess what, that’s Krav Maga!

So, regardless of the technique (though there are garbage ones out there), the reality is that the obsession with lineage and “this is how it was then,” really isn’t the Krav Maga way. The goal is efficiency, to stop the threat, and that means changing and adapting. With that in mind, if you are still doing it the way it was “in the old days,” then don’t be surprised if your techniques quickly fall apart under duress (Especially if the training was “easy” the whole time).

Ego has no place in developing Krav Maga, yet, as it involves humans, it will unfortunately always find its way in. As an educated student or instructor it is up to you to constantly remind yourself that well-thought-out and well-planned change is, in fact, the way.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

Krav Maga has the paradoxical reputation of being “easy to train” and also “so deadly you can’t train realistically”… which is it?
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Like all things in life that involve humans, Krav Maga is surrounded with myths, rumours, legends, and misconceptions. While we Kravists (those who train Krav maga) like to tell ourselves that ours is a globally recognized style, this simply is not true (YET). Most people still haven’t heard of Krav Maga and it has yet to pernitrate the collective psyche in the way Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, and more recently, BJJ have.

Of course, in certain circles like Law Enforcement and the military, it is more well known, as these are the groups it was originally for, though it has since opened up for all to learn. Despite this expansion and the length of time it has been around (at least 80+ years) there are still so many myths about the style out there. This is partially due to the fact Krav Maga isn’t as wide spread as we would like (YET) and partially due to an abundance of underqualified individuals teaching it (No, a piece of paper does not mean you know how to run a school properly or teach KM in a consistent, structured manner while maintaining the essence of the system.)

So, as we do every once and a while, we thought we would break down a few of these myths in a series. Here are some of the myths or commonly held ideas we wish to break down, in detail, over the coming weeks. If you find you are annoyed by one of these sections, just hold on for the full post, in which we will deconstruct that myth more thoroughly. (Then you can get mad.)

“It’s always easy”

One of the concepts thought to be a core tenant of Krav Maga is that it is “easy,” and therefore people of all ages, shapes, and sizes can learn it. This is often a message promoted by the, now “big box,” franchised, Krav Maga organizations; often openly stated in their marketing material.

This is both true and untrue.

While the techniques and approach of Krav Maga should be easy to learn they, like anything, take time and effort to see results. If your Krav Maga school is always easy, and you enjoy every class, all the time, and you never once thought you Hate your instructor, then, I am sorry, it’s probably not Krav Maga.

While Krav Maga is easy compared to other styles, from a technical standpoint, its training and process should not, and cannot, be easy or comfortable at all times. This means that, though Krav Maga is one of the best self-defence styles in the world, if not the best, it may not be for every one. Sorry, not everything is.

“It should be taught as it was by its creators”

Many organizations and individuals still take a “traditional martial arts” approach to Krav Maga. They say, “this is how I was taught by the Master so-and-so, thus I should I teach it to my students this way as well.” This is patently wrong and actually goes against some basic principles of Krav Maga. That is, if it doesn’t work, don’t use it! Inherently, by the fact that the times change (and so do people), attacks will change, tools will change, and knowledge will change, so too must the techniques and strategies change.

I have met individuals from various organizations and countries whom are training Krav Maga as it was taught 30 years ago, and they told me “only this is Krav Maga.” I suspect many of these instructors have lost their connection to those at the forefront of Krav Maga. Or they have simply been tricked by their own ego.

Just like with the principle of “Situational Awareness,” instructors must look at their system and their methods, then assess, assess, and assess. Further to that point, as a student you must know that, periodically, techniques may (and should) change. This might come in the form of additions or subtractions in the curriculum, modification to the way techniques are executed, or new approaches to how techniques and principles are taught.

“It’s always about Aggression and Fighting”

I regularly encounter the belief that “If I learn Krav Maga I will be really aggressive, because it’s just about going crazy and fighting.” While aggression and an understanding of how fights work are components of learning Krav Maga, these in themselves are NOT Krav Maga. Remember, Imi Licthendfeld, the founder of “modern” Krav Maga, when asked what its purpose was, said “so one may walk in peace.” Does this sound like the words of someone who wanted people running around being aggressive and messing people up? I think not.

While you certainly cannot learn Krav Maga with out learning to attack with purpose and aggresion, if you think you are always going to walk into a Krav Maga class and go 100% trying to kill each other, you are completely wrong and probably need to spend less time on the internet (or get better sources).

More accurately, Krav Maga teaches you to understand, and respect, the reality of violence, with the additional understanding that times change and so do people. Especially in a modern world in which laws matter and cameras matter, making self-defence more complicated, you need to have a more holistic approach to your Krav Maga.

“It’s too lethal to train properly or spar”

If you believed the previous myth then you may also believe this one, as they are fairly connected. It is simply bullshit. The reality is, if you understand HOW to train your nervous system, and you understand Krav Maga ideas and strategies from a “principles first” point of view, then all you really need to know is that you CAN flip that switch and apply it in a lethal form.

Obviously, if it is so harsh that you cannot train consistently and for a long time, then the training isn’t very good at all. The hardcore mentality is an “Old School” mentality and is misguided if you expect longevity in your training path. Additionally, not everyone is capable of going hard all the time, not to mention we want to avoid injuries in order to stay training. So if we actually trained at 100% all the time, the bodies would hit the floor and we would be violating another Krav Maga basic; avoid injuries. It’s not about training hard or for lethality, it’s about training smart to get the results we need. If you came to class to “kill” there’s a good chance you won’t last, because either someone will put you in your place or you will be kicked out.

“It’s all about Combat Tactics and only for the Military and Police”

The notion that “It’s only for the military or police and not for me,” simply isn’t true. Originally, Imi taught it to civilians, primarily Jews to protect themselves from the Nazis pre-WW2. When Israel was formed in 1948, it was taught to the military, and during that time it was considered a closely guarded secret. Given that it was intended “so one may walk in peace,” when tensions eventually eased in the ’80s teaching of the system was opened for civilians. While, yes, at a good school you can go from being a civilian to a civilian trained in a manner similar to military or police, it is not meant to turn you into these things; but rather to give you an understanding that self-defence is NOT limited to unarmed combat (even if the laws in your country say otherwise). Anyone can learn Krav Maga, and should learn it (or at the very least a legit style with self-defence components) so that everyone may walk in peace.

“It’s only one style”

People often talk about styles and say, “Krav Maga is just Krav Maga and has its limits.” This is not strictly true, as, originally, it was based on boxing, wrestling, and being generally fit. Right there, in it’s foundation, the potential for multiple styles is evident. Not to mention that, if your school is being honest, it will ensure that it has instructors whom are capable of teaching multiple styles. You should be learning aspects of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, submissions grappling, and judo, as well as police, military, and security application. A good Krav Maga school is actually making you a jack-of-all-trades, ranging from okay to good in any and all of these styles so that you are better prepared to deal with any and all attacks. Of course, all these styles also need to be taught in a way that maintains a common conceptual thread and incorporates basic Krav Maga principles. Which means how solid your Krav Maga is really depends on the design of your curriculum and the character of your instructors.

Conclusion

These myths and misconceptions will be broken down to be explored in greater detail, from a variety of angles, over the coming weeks. It is our hope that these myths will be dispelled and that we get the misconceptions out of your head, replacing them with the understanding that, even if Krav Maga is “simple and easy to learn,” it’s mastery is a more ambitious goal.

So, empty your cup and be prepared to fill it again.

Written by Jonathan Fader

Realistic attacks prevent your partner from developing a false sense of their abilities.
Audio by Jonathan Fader

As I mentioned few times in this series, and in my original “Are You a Good Training Partner” post, providing a realistic attack is very important for martial arts training. Being able to provide that for your partner is an important component in learning proper techniques and of being a good partner in general. This post will focus on how to go about providing such attacks.

Safety, as always, is extremely important, as is communication, so coming out of the gates swinging and throwing your first attack of the drill like a raging bull, is probably a bad idea. However, once you have those first couple of attacks out of the way and each person is comfortable with the movements involved in the defence, it’s time to up the intensity and speed (ie. realism) of your attacks. Always let your partner know you are going to be notching it up, and understand how to do so in a safe manner, which can mean different things for different attacks.

Let’s start with striking:

Upping the intensity doesn’t mean trying to knock your partner out, but should definitely involve increasing the speed of your attacks. It’s important to learn these adjustments while still keeping the power low; you can punch or kick quickly without throwing your whole power into the strike. Some people refer to this as “pulling your punches,” I prefer to think of it as pretending to hit a brick wall; you know you don’t want to hit it with all your might (as you will likely break your hand), but you can still hit it quickly and solidly.

Keeping on target is also important. I learned early on in my Krav career that if you do nothing, or fail at the defence, you should get hit. So the strikes need to be directed at their intended targets (chin, nose, knee, groin, etc) or the movements needed to defend against the strike will be different from how they would be in reality, and this isn’t effective training. People sometimes get into the habit of knowing how the defence is supposed to work, and as a result start throwing punches to where they end up after they have been deflected rather than where they should be landing. If I’m supposed to be parrying a punch to the head, but you punch to the side of my head, how do I know if my parry will really work?

Grabs and holds:

With grabs and holds I have found that once you have put the defender in the hold with enough force that they must struggle, I simply lock my arms or legs into place and resist movement rather than applying more pressure. This allows you to really make the person fight to get out, without risking hurting them, or choking them out in the case of headlocks and chokes. Of course, the nuance of this depends on the sizes of the two partners or size difference between them.

Speed can also be important here, as in Krav we practice both avoiding getting put into the hold, as well as how to get out if we fail at the first task. So, when attempting to put someone into a hold, like with striking, do it quickly, in order to imitate a real life situation. The jarring force this can produce is also important, as it’s a stimulus that can disrupt and off-balance someone, which is an important factor both in the training your defence technique and preparing you for the stress of real life attacks (an important aspect of effective training).

Lastly, once you have quickly, and with enough force, put your partner into the desired hold or lock, try to keep it on. Really make your partner struggle and work the problem. If you just remove all force once they start to escape you aren’t really helping them build technique and prepare for a real life encounters.

Finaly get verbal:

This is something that I find is very lacking in a lot of partners. Just think back to the last time you were in class and things were either calm and quiet or people were laughing and having fun… did you really feel like you were defending yourself? Hey, I get it, it is great to have fun at training and everyone should feel safe and comfortable there, but just as we like to imitate a real life scenario with the attacks and force used, physical attacks almost always come with a verbal component. People don’t often walk up to you silently and throw a punch at you.

This also offers you a chance to practice your stage 2 self-defence, de-escalation. Again, this can be a very uncomfortable stimulus, so it is essential that you be aware of how it feels. I have startled training partners simply by yelling HEY or ARGHHH at them; this verbal action was enough to disrupt there defence. Similarly, imitating the behavior of drunk, high, or deranged people can also be a beneficial training component.

Again, making people feel safe and comfortable is very important, so communication is very much key here, but it is a part of training that should not be ignored. I have found that people I have trained with for a while, and am very comfortable with, understand the importance and we were able to get quite aggressive with each other, really simulating some distressing street situations.

Putting all this together can make for some really great training, but, most importantly, you need to communicate with your partner so that everyone feels safe, comfortable, and knows the benefit of the added realism.

Written by Evan J (UTKM Yellow Belt)

Audio by Jonathan Fader

As I have mentioned earlier in my series on being a good training partner, it is important that people feel comfortable while training, but also that they are challenged. If you have trained with Jon (UTKM Co-founder/Lead Instructor) for any period of time, you have probably heard him say “you can’t cheat physics.” This is true, and it becomes especially important to remember for the bigger, more athletic, members of the class, though can be just as important for the new, inexperienced students, so I will tackle this topic with these two groups in mind.

If you are a bigger person, let’s say 82kg (180lb) and above, you should be aware that, even without putting in a lot of effort your, body can generate a lot of power. I mean, have you ever had someone much bigger than you bump into you by accident? Even if they really didn’t mean it, you feel it. So it is important that if you are in this size range you remain hyper-aware of your body dynamics (force of movement, speed of movement, range of motion, etc.) while striking, obviously, but also during grappling techniques, placing people in holds or control, and any time your body mass comes into contact with another person. The concerns are amplified exponentially as the size difference between training partners increases; ie. a larger than average person with a smaller than average person. So how do we work around this issue?

  1. Think Critically – Be aware that it can be a problem, and why! If you’re training with a 80lb‘er, simply saying “It’s not my fault! I barley touched them!” as they go flying across the room, doesn’t cut it. YES, IT IS YOUR FAULT!! (And, NO, the problem isn’t that they “just aren’t tough enough.”) Don’t take it personally (we’re not calling you fat), you simply failed to consider that physics matters. So, stop and consider who you’re training with and realize that this may be an issue, then adjust accordingly.
  2. Communicate – “Hey, let me know if I’m going too hard” or “how hard do you want to go?” are great ways to open the conversation. As you train with people more regularly you will get a feel for what each person can handle, as well as what they are comfortable with. Again, with communication comes the understanding that you will likely have to be the one to do the adjusting; if there is a size difference the bigger person has to accommodate the smaller. It’s not personal in either direction, it’s just physics.
    • Communicate More! – Information flows both ways; smaller people must speak up if their partner is going harder than they are comfortable with. This applies even if there isn’t a size difference, as a disparity in your skill level or the presence of an injury will also necessitate more caution and really diligent power control. If there is any concern that your partner should be aware of, TELL THEM!
    • Communicate Always! Keep that communication going throughout the session, as you will almost always, with out realizing it, slowly ramp up your power. Checking in is a good thing for both parties; it maintains safety and gives your partners the chance to tell you if they are ready for a bit more “heat.”
  3. Ease Into It – Respect the fact that, be it skill, strength, or toughness, your standards are not everyone else’s. Go extra light and then notch it up ’til every one is comfortable. What does going “light” or “extra light” mean? Well, for example, if you’re striking, limit the amount of power you put behind your strikes. This doesn’t have to mean sacrificing speed or form, just dial back the power like you would if you were shaking a small child’s hand vs shaking The Rock‘s; how you go about it doesn’t change, just the power. Similarly, when engaging in grabs and holds let your partner struggle. Start with the just the minimum amount of power to really make them work through the technique. As they improve, your pressure and “realism” should increase. You will figure out pretty quickly what your partner is capable of (and learning to feel for an opponent’s reactions is an important skill for you!) This can also apply to pad holding: We do many drills where you, as the pad holder, are required to activate or engage the your partner by bumping, tapping, or pushing them with the pad, so be gentle ’til you establish the right amount of “bump” required.

All of the above apply to grappling as well. Try not to rely on your size as a weapon! Muscling your way to victory may feel good, but always applying strength to overpower an opponent prevents you from improving your actual skill with the techniques. Some day you will encounter someone stronger than you…

Then there is the other part of the equation.

If you are new to martial arts, even if you’re small or training with a bigger, more experienced person, coming out guns blazing, before you have learnt correct technique, can pose it’s own problems. Whether this behaviour leads to injury to yourself, by putting stress on your joints in positions that they are not able to handle, or results in sacrificing learning of the proper technique because you are moving too fast or just muscling your way through a problem, your training suffers. I have said this new people more times than I can count; “Slow down.” Take it easy until you understand the movement, then slowly up the speed, power, and intensity, as your skill increases. This also reduces the (very likely) chance that you will injure your partner by throwing an uncoordinated attack that goes nowhere near where the drill intended it to.

So what can you do to mitigate inexperience? Well, same as above:

  1. Think Critically – Accept the fact that you are new, and be aware that being overly enthusiastic can be a problem. All of us started out looking like crap throwing our first few punches. No one is judging you (and if they are, find a different school, because these people aren’t into learning or teaching!) You are just new, keep that in mind and adjust your expectations for how classes are going to look for you for a little while. Self-defence, fighting, and violence in general, are a foreign concept for most people, give yourself the time to learn.
  2. Communicate – “Hey, I’m new, bear with me while I get the hang of this” or “ I’ve never done this technique, let me know if I’m doing something wrong”. People aren’t going to run away from you because your new, nor will they judge or make fun of you, so tell them. You will get a lot more out of the session if you are up front with your training partner and keep communication going, ask questions, look at what they do and ask them why they do it like that or how it works.
  3. Relax – Take into consideration everything above; adjust your expectations and allow the process to work. Breathe, slow down, and focus on the technique, there will be a time and place for adding in aggression, power, and intensity, but let that time come naturally don’t force it.

All of this is very important to keep everyone in the gym safe, comfortable, and progressing through the learning process. But don’t fall into the trap of making things too easy and not challenging your partner. I will cover the nuances of this in more detail in my next post; Providing a Realistic Attack.

Written by Evan J (UTKM Yellow Belt)

 

If you didn’t Avoid, couldn’t De-escalate, and chose not to Strike First, you are Reacting!
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Finally, we are here. The last, and least desirable, stage of self-defence. If you have reached this stage you have failed to follow the previous steps and advice, or your attacker simply had better tactics and skills than you. In which case, why did they want to attack you and why did you allow such a situation to happen in the first place?

Too often people think that they should wait for the other person to start the fight for legal reasons, but this isn’t always true (and definitely isn’t safe!). If it is justifiable, and you can explain that, you should strike first.

The worst case scenario for this stage is that you have already been punched, kicked, or grabbed, and you are now forced to react; fighting fire with fire. However, you must understand that you should only use as much force as is required to stop the threat (in most cases). When they stop, you stop. If they don’t stop, or they escalate the violence, then you must keep going using retzef and other principles, or you must either escalate the violence yourself or find your exit.

Remember, at this point there is the possibility that you have already been, or are about to be, overwhelmed. This means your reaction needs to be fighting with everything you have; digging deep inside for aggression and sheer willpower, not stopping until you are safe.

Something to consider with this stage: If you have lots and lots of personal stories involving you having to react to violence, then you have repeatedly been making bad decisions and have not improved your verbal or awareness skills. So, unfortunately, the stories here are limited because, you know, while bad decision making brought me to these stages, smart decision making limited the violence.

  1. It was high-school (again) and, to be honest, I don’t recall what had been said (probably a “he said, she said” situation), but here I was in a local community centre, minding my own business, when a group of people, whom I knew and was friendly with, surrounded me. I wasn’t at all expecting an attack because, after all, I thought we were friends. However, they were from a different ethnic group, and though some of them had told me that they respected me, if it ever came between me and someone of their own background, even someone they didn’t know, they would always support the latter. This is a lesson I learned early; while it is not popular to discuss, different groups of people can operate by different social and cultural rules. Even if you live in the same country. So you really should be culturally and socially aware, in order to understand that what you thought was “no big deal” might be interpreted completely differently by other people. Anyway, back to me being surrounded. I was legitimately confused; as far as I knew (at the time) I hadn’t said or done anything out of order. It seemed like another person, or persons, whom didn’t like me was trying to get me jumped. The largest of my aggressors, maybe 300lbs, was the defacto “ring leader” (though I knew he wasn’t really the one I should be afraid off). He made some comments and then promptly punched me hard in the solar plexus. I smiled, then asked if that was all he had. Plus one for building up my abs the previous few years, I guess it paid off. It also goes to show the difference combative training can make, though he was big, he didn’t actually know how to use his weight affectively in a punch. (Otherwise I would have been on the ground getting my head kicked in.) Here is where you probably think I immediately started swinging back and fought my way out because this is reactive self-defence. WRONG! Remember, I was literally surrounded by a circle of people who were looking for a reason to do some damage. It probably would have been a terrible idea to return the aggression at that moment. If you know anything about use of force models, you know that you must always try to go back down the scale whenever possible. So I jumped back to stage 2 and tried to de-escalate. Obviously, the fact that his “hard” punch did little, and my reaction being that of amusement, threw them off completely, as this is probably not how this scenario had played out for them in past. I used it to my advantage, saying [whatever it is I said in the moment], managing to convince them it must have been some kind of miscommunication by someone else, and it was over. Though for a hot minute I was definitely freaking out (on the inside). They left, possibly pondering the overall situation, and I went on my way to safer and hopefully greener pastures… well, not really, I probably just went back to hanging around at school or home… So remember, react last, but if you are clearly in a bad spot try to scale it back down the stages of self-defence to give yourself better odds. – Jon
  2. Another reactive situation occurred not in high-school, but rather in an allegedly more adult and serious environment, ie. the army (the IDF to be precise). For much of my time in the army, I was not really in a good place mentally. Not because of the army, per se, but due to the manner in which the difficult environment exacerbated my depression (which had not yet been diagnosed and therefore I had no tools to deal with) That difficult environment came in the form of little to no sleep, crappy Hebrew fluency, and even worse people skills. This meant I didn’t get along with most people or didn’t like most people enough to bother getting along with them. I generally kept to the small group of close friends I had made; usually those who spoke English and were, I thought, a little more intelligent than the average soldier. Others, whom I felt lacked discipline or intelligence, and was shocked they were allowed into the army at all, were the ones I often had arguments, or worse, with. Most of the time people just thought I was the “slightly older and kind of crazy Canadian,” but I was respected on account of being a volunteer, while they were drafted without a choice (service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18). However, some people I just couldn’t stand and made it clear they were neither my friend nor someone I could care about at all. Some people got it, some did not. One individual whom I did not like and whom often didn’t get the hint, failed to fuck off on one too many occasions. Sleep deprivation and a foreign language, combined, resulted in poor decision making and even poorer understandings of how things may translate differently. For example, in English if you say “son of a bitch,” most people (at least where I am from) don’t take it too seriously. Whereas saying “son of a bitch” in Hebrew, in particular to a Mizrachi or Sephardic Jew, usually didn’t go over so well. One time, during a heated argument with the aforementioned individual, who was annoying the shit out of me, again, I called him a “son of a bitch.” He dared me to say it one more time. So I did. He threw a hard, wide, hook punch. Luckily, I was well-versed in 360 defence and blocked it, bursting in and stopping just short of his face with my fist. I knew he wasn’t really a threat, in addition, the moment I moved in I could feel that he was pulling his punch (realizing his mistake). I told him he was a moron and walked off. But imagine if I had not had my hands ready, what would have happened? He probably could have knocked me out. Though the escalation was likely my fault, and I was tired, and pissed off, he threw the first punch. Something I should have seen coming by his body language, but I didn’t. Nevertheless I was ready and I defended it without injuring him (other than a bruised ego). Once again, I was also lucky that he wasn’t much of a fighter and didn’t immediately follow it up with something else. At this time my skills were limited, though I often convinced people they were more than they were, which, combined with my still unstable reactions to things, usually kept me out of serious trouble. Had it escalate further it is possible we would have had to stay on base when everyone else was off, or worse, army jail. These were the only reasons I stopped at the time, but looking back, it was the wise decision anyway. – Jon
  3. I was out drinking with a buddy one night, in my misspent youth, and he had overindulged by quite a bit, so we headed back to his apartment to drink some more (logically). Unbeknownst to me, at some point in the night he had got it into his head that one of the women I was talking to at our regular bar should have been talking to him instead. An unseen anger had, apparently, been welling up in him all night (because that is certainly a healthy way to deal with emotions and friendships). At his place we cracked a few beers and were chatting about the events of the evening when he suddenly hit me with a right hook. No warning, no outburst, nothing! It wasn’t a hard hit (seemingly a common theme in those who open with sucker-punches), more surprising than impactful. I looked at him, confused. He threw a second one, I blocked it with an inside tan sao and pushed him onto his couch. I had no idea what was going on, but for whatever reason my immediate instinct was to shake up the beer bottle I was holding and spray him head-to-toe with it (perhaps to discourage further action?). I turned, walked out, and never heard from him again. – Corey

It is interesting that most of us do not have many stories involving stage 4 self-defence. Those we could think of were over quickly, as, when your are “playing catch-up” in the encounter you must react swiftly, with intent. This, of course, is a good thing, as it indicates we either live wisely or we are all efficient in stages 1 and 2 (occasionally 3). Consider that, if you find yourself always on the tail-end of someone else’s first strike, you are failing, in a fairly significant way, to follow good self-defence principles, and are making seriously bad decisions on a constant basis.

With that being said, there is a common element between all the stories that were told through out this series: In almost all, if not all, we were under the age of 25…

This should say something. Science has suggested that we reach adulthood, or rather brain development stops, around the age of 25 and not 18 (as we often legally define adulthood). It is also a known fact that young males under the age of 25 are also more prone to making bad, rash, or more extreme decisions. Usually they are of the social and physical nature told in these stories. Sometimes they result in severe injury or jail, and worse they lead to a death(s). It is as though, at least according to nature, this impulsiveness is expected under the age of 25; we frown upon it but seem unsurprised by it. Beginning in the 25-30 range there is far less forgiveness for such acts because you are now adjusting to your more stable brain chemistry. After 30, however, it’s not cute anymore. If you haven’t figured your shit out and, outside of job requirements, still find yourself in stage 3 or 4 self-defence regularly, you are doing it wrong, plain and simple.

I hope that this series has provided you better insight as to how to apply each stage of self-defence. Though the stories told are limited, the reality such that, if we spent the time to compile stories from more people, it is likely we would have tonnes of examples to choose from. The theories, concepts, and principles of Krav Maga and self-defence are sound ones, which apply most of the time. But they, like most theories or ideas, mean nothing if you, as an individual, do not know how to contextualize and apply them in real life.

I hope that, at the very least, this series has helped you to better understand the reason behind the definition of the stages, and their unique challenges, and how you may better use them to stay safe and walk in peace.

Written by Jonathan Fader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, lets start with some examples from my youth:

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

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

Written by Jonathan Fader

Getting a workout in could be as easy as challenging the kids to a “sit-up contest” (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

When my first daughter was born, my martial arts training faded into the rear-view mirror, and my overall fitness with it. It is a big adjustment to have another human being be more important than you in your own life. At some point you have to make serious changes to compensate for the new stresses, obligations, and pitfalls, otherwise you are in danger of becoming someone who you don’t want your children to look up to.

Finding the “Time”

I am a firm believer that, as a parent, you don’t “deserve time to yourself” (“deserving” things is a marketing ploy, an appeal to emotion in order to sell you spa packages and chocolate), in fact, sacrifice is your new normal. However, as parents we are still human (mostly), and therefore still NEED to take care of our bodies, maintain social ties, express creativity, and pursue passions; otherwise what type of role model are we?

Let’s be honest, we all “found” the nearly 3 FULL DAYS it took to watch all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones, so we aren’t really talking about “time” here, we are talking about “energy.” At the end of a long day you are tired; work, life, and the kids/partner have drawn the life force from your body, and the last thing you want to do is expend more of it on exercise.

Ironically, multiple studies have indicated that as little as 20min of low-to-moderate intensity exercise, just three times a week, can reduce feelings of fatigue. Whereas more committed regimes (30-40min of moderate-to-vigorous) will improve on your mood and fitness, in addition to your energy levels.

Logically, if you improve your energy level (and mood) you will find that you have more “time” for your family and a greater willingness to attain the balance we all need between Family and being human (ie. your physical, emotional, mental health)

Beyond energy, overall fitness is important for a few reasons:

  1. Maintaining your fitness means you will be around longer for your family.
  2. Physical fitness contributes to mental and emotional fitness, allowing you to contribute positively to family interactions.
  3. Teaching your family good health habits will mean they are happier and around longer too.
Finding the Actual Time

“I don’t have time to ______, I have kids!” is a classic excuse for not doing … anything. Once we have tackled the real, underlying problem of energy, it can, depending on your family’s schedule, be difficult to find the minutes or hours to engage in non-parenting activities. (Remember that “sacrifice is your new normal” concept?)

Step 1 is to make good health a priority. Not just “make time for it”, but actually make mental, emotional, and physical fitness a family value; talk to your kids about what you are doing, and teach them why it is important (especially as you get older), and invite curiosity.

Common tips for carving out this time:

  • In the morning
    • Get up before everyone else and fit in a work out, read, or meditate. Everyone else is asleep, so they won’t miss you. (Sleeping in is bad for you anyway!)
  • At night
    • As above, but hit that 40min routine after the kids are in bed.
  • Break into small chunks
    • If you cannot find a solid 30-50min span during your day, then sneak in exercise in the smaller gaps without being totally absent. I find that opportunities for an elevated heart rate arise throughout the day with my kids; running beside them on bike rides, playing tag, swimming,etc.. HIIT routines are great for utilizing gaps in the day, as they can be done effectively in as little as 20min (though you may need a quick clothes change and wipe-down if you are doing it properly).

Remember, this isn’t just about “working out.” While exercise has knock-on effects for your emotional and cognitive well-being, you should be seeking opportunities to maintain balance in the non-physical aspects of your life as well. If you can make time for exercise, you can make time to call an old friend, draw, meditate, etc..

Make Self-care a Family Activity

A fourth tip (more of a philosophy), for finding the actual time for your health and wellness is to involve your family in the activities you are engaging in. Combine any or all of the first three tips and incorporate the rest of your clan, directly or indirectly. For some families this becomes a bonding experience, a point of pride, or even a family tradition.

Whether you are sharing time in calm silence, challenging each other’s creative skills, cooking (a great way to teach nutrition, self-reliance, and science/creativity), or starting a basic exercise routine, you need to be aware that you are working in a group with varying levels of ability. Make sure that your expectations are realistic and plan accordingly. For example, have variations of each exercise that your kids can do safely, give time to your less proficient readers and have material they can work with, allow kids to “help” you if they can’t do something themselves. (I got lucky, both of my girls are very physical and are fascinated by the martial arts)

There is plenty of advice out there for how to tweak the activities you already love so that your “new recruits” can participate: Icy Mike, over at Hard2Hurt, has a great video on pad holding when training martial arts with inexperienced family members. And horror/B-movie superstar, Bruce Campbell, espouses the benefits of “Lollygagging” as a means of mental health maintenance. He defines Lollygagging as “the act of doing exactly what you want for an indeterminate period of time (preferably outdoors) for no particular reason.”

You will likely find that there are a lot of options for getting your crew into full-body health. The earlier you instill good habits in your young people, the easier it will be for them to maintain those habits throughout their lives, seeing these as an essential art of life (as we all should!). Children often don’t know the difference between play and exercise; you can use this blissful ignorance against them!

Be Wary of the Two “Busy Parent Fallacies”

Two common imbalances that I have seen among my fellow parents come in the guise of good choices, but are, in truth, thinly veiled excuses for neglecting yourself or your family:

  • Hiding from Family via Self-care
    • This occurs when you are never around due to the over-prioritization of your own health. You are always escaping family obligation and time with your kids (which can be tedious!) by forever having a workout, training session, or other “me time” requirement. Your brood needs you. Yes, working out or engaging in self-care is harder when you have to schedule it around others, but, re-read the above tips and you will be able to figure something out. Often you will end up with a hybrid (balanced!) approach, where some activities are done together, and some are on your own. Having a supportive and informed partner helps A LOT!
  • Hiding from Self-care via Family
    • This comes in the form of justifying the lack of action on your health and mental/emotional stability (and that of your family’s), due to claims that you are over-prioritizing “quality time” with your kids, or putting their needs first. While this may be noble in intention, it is often a socially acceptable excuse to let yourself go. I’ve been there, I know! It is really easy to say “I don’t want to be tired when I have to deal with the kids tomorrow.” But, eventually I discovered that shirking my workouts resulted in it being difficult to keep up with them and lift them over my head, plus I fell out of shape I became irritable (that’s not good for me or them). Again, re-read the sections above; exercise gives you the energy and mood stability to keep up and be chill!

Ultimately, this is a balancing act (the theme!), you will find that it is probably best to transition slowly at first; do some things early, some things late, and some as a group. This is a process, don’t be afraid to re-start, re-assess, re-think, and you WILL find something that works to get you back in the gym while fulfilling your duties as a parent, or back in the family while staying fit and sane.

In Summary

The goal is balance. Doing what you need to do to maintain your family life, while at the same time ensuring that you maintain yourself (so that you are of use to said family). Let’s not forget, as a parent you are now responsible for the well-being and development of a Human. They are famously complex creatures, and, like it or not, they are looking at you as the model for how to live and act; so it is of the utmost importance that you figure out how to maintain balance between improving their mental, emotional, and physical wellness, and your own. Ask yourself, honestly, what do you want them to see when they look up to you? For those moments when you feel weak, find strength in the example you are setting.

Written by: Corey

Attaining physical balance can be daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Last week I wrote about the need for balance, using the metaphor of the Jedi, Sith, and Grey Jedi. On a surface level it may seem it’s just about morality in Star Wars, something I hope you enjoyed (unless you had a severely deprived childhood). Really, however, it was a mirror of real life. Today, and perhaps always, us humans have a tendency to be drawn toward extremes when really the centre is where you must be.

On the macro level the “centre” is somewhere around the average of society as a whole, or the median behaviours and beliefs of that society. On the micro or personal level the centre can very wildly, as what the centre is for one person may be considered extreme by another. Yet we must all find our own centres if we expect to enjoy the rest of our lives.

The first aspect of centre balance, and in today’s world perhaps one of the most important, is finding balance physically.

Diet/Nutrition

Often we beginning making healthy changes by, logically, introducing exercise, but, really, what we fuel ourselves with is a more important starting point. The modern consumer advertising landscape can make it difficult to know what is healthy, given all the confusion created by marketing and cost-saving measures. The first thing you need to understand is that the food industry is demonstrably corrupt (ethically and technologically), which is why we have been dealing with so much misinformation for so many years. (Listen to this episode of The Rubin Report featuring Dr.Mark Hyman to get a idea of the big picture.)

Remember how, for many years, the Healthy Eating Pyramid focused on breads and grains? (Canada preferred circles and curves) This was partially due to the (continued) corrupting influence of various food & beverage lobby groups, but also due to the fact that, at the time it was developed, the major global nutrition problem was lack of calories (or rather access to food), so governments focused on getting people easy and cheap calories, like bread. Though, as we now know, heavily processed foods, like many breads out there, may not actually be good for us.

Now that the modern goal really is health and nutrition it’s time for the marketing machine (of corruption) to try to convince us consumers that their products are the best option, one way or another. In the same ad-space there are companies and groups touting the benefits of vegan/vegetarianism while others promote a fully carnivore diet. Polar opposites! While some people may benefit from restrictive diets due to specific issues such as the various autoimmune diseases, the best advice for most is actually a balanced diet, containing fats, protein, and healthy carbohydrates. In other words, eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish (with out hormones or additives), and a good dose of fats.

Fats are good you say? Yes, they are very important! For years cholesterol was demonized outright, and while there is good and bad cholesterol it is still not properly understood by and large. The CDC simply says that “too much cholesterol” puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. and that “cholesterol can be confusing“, but new research out of the Mao Clinic (and others) suggests it is actually your cholesterol ratios that matter. Of course, most doctors will still recommend some kind of medication for higher cholesterol instead of checking the ratio or recommended dietary changes.

How about the word Carbohydrates. Lets make this clear in most cases you will at some point need them. Even the Keto diet is not meant to be long term, but rather a reset diet for your body and metabolism. By carbohydrate, again, I mean whole vegetables and fruits. Some breads may be okay, depending on your genetic make up and whats actually in them. Fresh, homemade bread will always be better on account of your control over the ingredients. “Wonder Bread,” for example, is so processed it is hardly bread at all.

And as far as meat is concerned, I can speak for myself in that whenever I have gone off meat for too long my body breaks down. Some people may be able to get away from that for the long term, but others may not. Remember, genetics and other factors can change who needs what. Without proper testing (which costs money) it can be hard to know how your body processes certain foods and nutrients. When it comes to meat, organic, grass-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, fresh fish, and free range chickens, are what you want. Factory farming is disgusting, and should be banned, that does not mean that we shouldn’t eat meat, rather, that means we should change the acceptable methods for raising and harvesting our meat. (And, yes, the damage that cows do to the environment has been widely exaggerated, so get over yourself if you are still confusing bad farming practices with eating meat in general.)

So how do you decide? Well, balance is what most of us need. Therefore, find a ratio of meat/fish/chicken, whole foods for carbohydrates, and fats that works for you best. Maybe even throw in some intermittent fasting and you will find that attaining the balance you seek, for all aspects of your life, was actually made easier by simply changing how you fuel yourself and what you put in your face-hole.

Exercise

This is normally our first thought when we consider getting healthy and finding our physical balance. It is a huge market and, yes, of course, full of BS and corruption. How many trends and “magic fixes” have you seen that took your money or your sanity?

Remember, in the absence of fancy programs or equipment, all you actually need is your body, some time, and movement to get in shape. Bodyweight exercises are some of the best, as they can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone, and don’t put excess strain on our body. Which makes them a great place to start from.

Walking, jogging, and running are also easy to get into, even if you have to start slow and work up to full runs. Although, running, if done excessively can damage your knees and other joints, so change up your cardio and try not to do it too much. Sprinting is, in many ways, more efficient, especially if you do not have a lot of time. Try doing ten, 100m sprints, as fast as you can, and you will feel like you just ran 10 marathons.

Other ways you can work out to build muscle and other hormones, is the classic method of lifting weights. Personally I think the Russian methodology of “never going to your limit” is probably a healthier way to approach this type of exercise. I know many powerlifters out there will disagree, but, much like those who run all the time, the practice can eventually (and often rather quickly) wreck your body.

Yes, some people can run and lift super heavy their whole life without problems, but, remember, if we seek balance then using the outliers to measure ourselves may not be such a great idea. Most of us are in the middle of the bell curve on any given thing, and if we try to do what the outliers do, we may just wreck ourselves.

No matter how you choose to get physical, from running, to lifting, to the martial arts, you need to find something to do.

The importance is not what you do (although this does depend on your goals) but the fact you are doing it and doing it consistently.

Conclusion

If you eat poorly and don’t exercise, which is so many people these days (for example 40% of America is obese and the idea that it’s okay to be unhealthy is being pushed by pop-culture) just remember, you are not living a balanced physical life. Additionally, you will be prone to poor health and at higher risk of premature death.

Seeking balance means getting active and staying active by finding activities you actually enjoy doing. For example, I have enjoyed running and lifting for a while, but, in the long run, I don’t actually get that much enjoyment out of them. This is why I choose to train in the martial arts. However, for the sake of balance, I use the other activities to balance out my physical fitness the best I can, as that is the goal. Do what you enjoy most of the time, but supplement that with other, supportive activities, enough so that your body can stay healthy in a balanced way; not just cardio, not just strength, not just agility.

No matter what you do, stay active and eat properly, and don’t jump onto the next trend just because it’s what the media has told you to do. Look at the research, on all aspects of health and fitness, and you will see that the vast majority of health science points towards balanced diets and balanced exercise programs which involve activities that are enjoyable but also push you (without destroying you).

So what are you waiting for? Channel your inner Grey Jedi and start your journey towards physical balance. Correct your weaknesses and improve your strengths.

Written by Jonathan Fader

*I am not what you would call an “Expert” on these things as I do not have any letters after my name saying so. However, with direct access to those at the forefront of nutrition and health through the internet in many cases I (or you) may actually know enough to make informed and updated decisions.

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

 

Audio by Jonathan Fader

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

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

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

The Jedi Code is as follows:

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

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

The Sith Code is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the Grey Jedi!

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

They adhere to the following code:

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

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

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

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

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

So most don’t.

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

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

Written by: Jonathan Fader