Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

Advertisements

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

Expect nothing.jpg

1. Don’t come in with too many expectations

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Don’t complain about the price

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

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

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

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

6. Do not put your instructor on a pedestal

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

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

This week’s Krav Maga and BJJ curriculum: November 20 – 26th, 2017

Posted: November 20, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Uncategorized

20171120.jpg

On this Haloween day, this seems an appropriate topic. On Halloween, we dress up as things we might not actually be. We pretend to be things we are not to fantasize and step out of our personal reality if only for a brief moment. Perhaps we dress and act as we wish we could be, and for a brief moment, we are allowed with out judgment to be just that. So how well do you know yourself based on what you do for Halloween, do you know yourself as well as you think? or just like Halloween are you just pretending.

 

Sun Tsu Quot Art of War.jpg

 

Sun Tsu is a Chinese military strategist who lived thousands of years ago. There is still much debate about who the person really was but one thing is for certain who ever they were they managed to leave a legacy longer than most. The quote above is from the Art of War. A book on military strategy and philosophy still taught today in Military academies around the world.

Personally, I think it is one of the few pieces of literature that should be mandatory to learn and study at some point in everyone’s standard education. For these lessons can be applied to far more than just war. They have been applied to business and relationships and pretty much every interaction that involves interpersonal connections through out history whether people know it or not.

I believe that everything there is to know about being human was already learned thousands of years ago the various ancient civilisations that once were now gone but not forgotten. Though have we forgotten that which is most important? Sure we know a bit about ancient history and philosophy, but as humans, we seem to be constantly relearning the things they already knew.

So thousands of years ago, Sun Tsu, knew that knowing one’s self is the most important thing to victory. For most humans, Ego is the enemy of Self. It can prevent a person from looking within and accepting who they truly are whether they like what they find or not. Accepting yourself. Accepting your limitations. Accepting your skillsets. Accepting what you can and cannot do, can only come from knowing one’s self.

For some, this is easy. For others, it is a long and painful journey. No matter who you are, however, it is a journey you must take if you ever hope to succeed.

One of the first and hardest questions you have to ask is, do you like who you are as a person. If the answer is yes, ask again, are you lying to yourself? If the answer is no, they find out what it is you don’t like about your self.

Generally, when the answer is no, you have two options.

  1. Change your self –Change that which you don’t like about yourself or your life no matter how hard so that you can become the person you want to be. The journey can be hard, harder still if you let your ego overcome and allow yourself to lie to yourself on what you must do to change.
  2. Accept your self for who you are – The positive side is you may find the path to happiness shorter, the negative is if you have attributes that others find problematic, you may constantly find stress in interactions with others. However, if you truly accept yourself, you won’t care.

Regardless of which of these two routes you take, as both are correct answers, once you know yourself and accept yourself, you will still face numerous external challenges. People will often accuse you that you don’t know yourself that well, even if you do. Sometimes a person fails to articulate effectively how well they know themselves. Or worse, they fail to take the steps necessary to show others.

The later of these statements usually applies to people stuck in option One. They know themselves, don’t like themselves but don’t know how or are unwilling to truly make the changes necessary. In my observation again it is usually ego that prevents people from knowing and accepting their limitations. YES, you have limitations and NO you cannot do what ever you set your mind to no matter how much you believe, because no you cannot defy the laws of the known universe or the reality of the world around you.

While choosing option 2, because you don’t care, you will be called egotistical along with numerous other names. Or the classic, let me help you. Sometimes when a person says they don’t want to be helped its because they don’t. Though it should not be confused with a person who doesn’t want your help because they are letting their ego get in the way. Since we do not mind readers, you will never really know which applies. Know the issue with option two is that sometimes it can be quite isolating, but this too is something you must accept should you wish to be happy.

Another big problem is keeping things realistic. Sometimes belief in one’s self can blind. You must not confuse ego, with evidence based beliefs in one’s self. It can be again, a difficult line to tell. If you know yourself, but are 5’6 and know you want to be a basket ball player in the NBA then chances are you are lying to yourself about the reality of the world you live in. Part of accepting yourself is knowing legitimately what you can and cannot do and what is realistically possible. Believing anything else again is a lie and will only lead to more self-doubt and misery. Accepting such realities can be a hard thing, but it is something you must too if you truly wish to know yourself.

Though I am sure this post is nothing but words on a page to you and will do little to bring some introspective reality into your search for self and happiness within, Know this. Everything that has ever been needed to know about being human has already been learnt. You just need to open your eyes, look within and accept. Accept what the ancients already knew, that accepting one’s self in all the beauty and ugliness both within and without is the only true path to happiness and ultimately personal success.

Side Note: Being happy with being morbidly obese is not ok. Or being happy with other things that affect your health in a way that is overtly negative, outside of moderation is also not ok.  You are not doing your self, or your loved ones a favour and continuing to believe other wise is you simply not willing to do the work to overcome your ego and be a better version of yourself. So please, stop with this kind of nonsense beliefs.

Krav Maga teaches aggression which allows you to over come your opponents no matter the size? Sound familer? Or how about this. Learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will allow smaller people to beat bigger people every time?

While partially true statements they only show part of a much larger picture. Believing either of those two statements out right can be dangerous. Like everything else, we must approach it with realistic eyes and not beliefs that baseless in reality.

So let’s start with the basics.

Time for some Newtonian Physics! Which I am by no means in any way shape or form an expert on considering I didn’t even take high school physics and yet some how came to understand through practising martial arts. Yay Practical experience!

Newtons Second Law: In an inertial reference frame, the vector sum of the forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration a of the object: F = ma.

Newtons Third Law: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

So what does this mean? It means, there is a reason there are weight classes in professional fighting. Of course, if a person who is 100lbs has 5 black belts and has been training for 30 years, they will most likely win a fight against a person who is 200lbs with 0 fighting experience.

However, an individual who is heavier and has more mass can because of physics exert far more force with relatively less energy. If a person who is 100lbs hits a person twice their size, they will have to hit considerably harder to do significant damage compared to the opposite. For them, the larger opponent with out even doing anything is exerting and force back simply by having mass.

This is the reason we target soft targets in Krav Maga, like the groin, the throat and the eyes. By using Biological weak spots, we are not ignoring physics just finding a “cheat” around it.

However, in training, we should never intentionally be trying to hurt our training partners. As such, we should always take physics into account to avoid mass related injuries and unnecessary head trauma like concussions.

In Sparring, we often tell our students to go 10% as we want them to work on range, speed, technique, movement etc. rather than trying to kill each other every time. This means that a 200lbs person’s 10% when sparring a person who is 100lbs also going 10% they are not equal in force due to their mass and size difference. So really to encourage a healthy training environment the larger person might actually need to go 1% of their power

So what does this mean in real street situations? It means that just because you have training and skill that aggression and speed alone cannot always overcome larger opponents. And believing anything to the contrary can be dangerous.

Imagine a scenario where you are 100lbs, and for whatever reason, you cannot use the biological cheat to down your opponent, it will be a momentous feat if you can overcome a much larger opponent with strikes alone. While not impossible it may take far too long for practical self defense.

It also means that for smaller practitioners it is probably a good idea to cross train Krav Maga or other forms of practical self defense training with some kind of Grappling. I recommend BJJ of course, but other types are also acceptable. This is because with little effort a much larger opponent will have an easier time putting you on the ground either intentionally with skill and technique or unintentionally with simple physics.

So remember, because of the laws of physics size DOES matter in hand to hand combat situations. The smaller you are, the more you need to train to raise your overall skill level to cheat physics safely.

Don’t feel bad though, being smaller or shorter as a human I have heard means you get to live longer as your heart has to work less against gravity through out its life. (Fact Check Please) Though, even if its proven wrong I will still like to beleive it to justify being short…

So remember, No Groin, NO KRAV MAGA!

Every morning in the wild a gazelle awakens. One thing is for sure for the gazelle for that day, as every other: She must run faster than the fastest lion. If she cannot, she will be killed and eaten.

Every morning, a lion awakens. For the lion, too, one thing is certain. This day, and everyday, he must run faster than the slowest gazelle.

Whether fate names you a gazelle or a lion is of no consequence. It is enough to know that with the rising of the sun, you must run, and you must run faster than the day before, for the rest of your days, or you will die.

We all have to run; run the race of life. – An African Poem, Race of Life, Netflix 2017

Occasionally instead of putting on my usual Netflix debauchery, I find it soothing to watch a nature series or documentary. Recently, I started to watch the shot Race for life on Netflix. The beginning starts with the poem as written above.

Of course, I have seen variations of this quote prior usually on motivational posters or in business guides, but this is so far my favourite.

It seems to me despite what the Lion King taught us about the circle of life, the newer generation either do not understand it, accept it or simply ignore it. This two is applied to evolution and how it operates. There is a common myth believed by most that evolution has some kind of definitive set end goal. The truth is it does not. It is simply a mechanism following some kind of not tangible universal code based on the principles of action and reaction.

For the gazelle to avoid the lion it developed speed and agility, and for the lion to catch the gazelle it must rely on explosive power, strength and strategy. Evolution is simply the action of one species or entity reacting to its environment or predators so that it can best continue to exist as a species. The saying, Adapt or Die could never be truer.

As you can see above, each species reacts to the others defence mechanism so that it can better survive.  – Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

When it comes to the environment for example, though I fully support sustainable practices, it is also a myth that the environment must stay in a constate static state. With or with out human intervention or existence it operates on an action reaction potential. Species have lived and died for millions and millions of years prior to human existence because they like us now operate based on the same universal code that guides the evolutionary process.

Let’s take a look at the free market and apply the evolutionary process as well. Cars to be specific. If you look at any decade you can often see a distinct style and specification for cars. There was once a time for example when big cars with big engines were popular. Now it’s all about fuel efficiency and safety. So how do the evolutionary principles of adapt or die apply here? Simple, Auto makers must adapt their product lines to which are being sold based on the consumers purchasing power. If an automaker continues to make the same thing because that’s what they are known for unless they are trying to be a small niche market, they too will most likely die because they failed to adapt. As the consumer no longer demands the product that they are offering.

We can sit here and pretend things will always be the way they always were or are but this is foolish as this does not seem to be how things work, anywhere.

lion-vs-gazelle quote.jpg

I recently wrote an article called The Specialist vs the Generalist. One of my students told me there definitely needs to be specialist which I do address albeit briefly, and yes I agree. However, just like in nature specialist do not adapt well to change. Usually, species that are overly specialised will parish should anything drastically change such as their food source adapting to them or the environment changing. While species that are more generalistic in nature can either adapt to the new settings, such as find a new food source. or move to a new location and adapts as has happened many times in the past. For example species in the past that were once land dwelling but are now aquatic or were aquatic but are now land dwelling.

I again make the argument that for the time being humans when compared to other species are in general generalists.

As always I like to connect things to Krav Maga and Self defence when possible. In a given self defense situation, it is unlikely that things will go according to the way you trained in the gym. And this is to be expected. A good Kravist can evolve and adapt in the moment based on their training, experience and ability to survive any given situation. This is why I focus heavy on critical thinking in training in addition to our moves. The ability to critically think in the moment gives you the greater chance to evolve and adapt while still applying Krav Maga principles like retzev (Continous Attack).

This is probably why so many traditional martial arts fail to be practical in realistic self defense. They chose to stay rigid and strong to the cultural and regional beliefs or methods that did not apply in other areas of the world. Or they adapted in the wrong way to focus more on sports application thus making them less adapted for the street.

I really do not know, at least on an intrinsic level why people fear change so much. I guess it’s currently a primal reaction that we are having difficulty evolving out of. The reality is, whether you are a gazelle or a lion, rich or poor, black or white, a planet, a sun the universe. If you cannot adapt to the change around you, you will only struggle, stagnate and die (literally or figuratively).

So just like the Gazelle or Lion keep on running and learn to adapt in a way that gives you a long, healthy and meaningful life.

BJJ Promotions

Posted: May 18, 2017 by Donna in Uncategorized
84fbe6e505686bafe25cddbec4763229
Promotions are responsibilities, not gifts.

If you really want to own a black belt, you can buy one on Amazon for less than $15. But without it being earned, it is an accessory with no meaning.

It’s also not something you choose for yourself, aside from the effort you put into your own development. Promotions are chosen for you, by a mentor experienced enough to know your progress and put it into context better than you can. That’s the thing about progress – it’s never linear, and is incredibly difficult to see clearly from the inside. Almost no one feels they’re fully at the next level yet, so there’s an adjustment period where you “grow into” your new belt.

Image result

That being said, there are minimums and standards for being promoted. Here’s my take on what the expectations are at each belt level. Technical ability develops throughout, but it’s only one facet of BJJ learning.

White belt: The beginning. The focus is on learning, on developing a new instinct, and on physically learning the motions. This is where the humbling process begins, where we learn strength is not the greatest virtue.

Note: Children have an additional three belts – yellow, orange, and green – which mark their progression before they are at least 16 and eligible for their blue belt.

Blue belt: Students demonstrate proficiency across the basic positions, attacks, and escapes. Students should already be showing mentorship to their training partners and demonstrate a commitment to each other and to the sport.

IBJJF minimum: None

Purple belt: Purple belts demonstrate an understanding of advanced positions, attacks, and escapes, as well as the concepts and body mechanics behind them. Students should be adopting the philosophy of jiu-jitsu in their life, including through strong mentorship and teaching skills, and an eagerness to impart knowledge to others.

IBJJF minimum: 2 years from blue belt

Brown belt: Students are giving back to the BJJ community. At brown belt level, students are continuing to develop a wide array of techniques to a high level of proficiency and regularly engage in teaching/mentoring.

IBJJF minimum: 1.5 years from purple belt

Black belt: Beyond giving back to the BJJ community, black belts demonstrate strong leadership. They show an interest in continued learning and evolving their skills, as well as an eagerness to share with the community.

IBJJF minimum: 1 year from brown belt

90971-9581a2f4edb74b4e872b52b7bfca5d10.jpeg

Some students are eager to climb the ranks, and their belt is a huge source of pride. Others try to deliberately avoid promotions, skipping seminars and dodging responsibilities. Here’s the truth: you are where you are, stripes or not. It’s only a matter of whether your rank matches your abilities.

This week’s Krav Maga and BJJ Curriculum: May 8-14, 2017

Posted: May 8, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Uncategorized

*Note: What specifically is taught in class, how it is taught, and examples used are subject to the instructor, their level and experience. These posts are not an excuse to miss class as they are only a snap view of what skills are covered.

My Wife, Krav Maga, and I: A Love-Hate Relationship

Posted: November 1, 2016 by Forge Fitness + Martial Arts in Uncategorized

A few weeks ago, we published an article from BJJ instructor Donna Marion about the perks of having a partner who trains in the same sport. Krav Maga instructor Josh Hensman decided to share his experience from the perspective of his wife, who does not train, on how Krav Maga impacts their relationship.

JoshAt the time that I first met my partner over 6 years ago, I was not training in any martial arts. Many years before meeting her, I had done karate, had dabbled in Wing Chun Kung Fu, and played with Capoiera. I decided to start training in Krav Maga relatively early in our relationship, so maybe she did not feel like she had much say or impact on what I did in my life at the time.

In hindsight, that was probably lucky. My wife admits to having a love-hate relationship with me… the Krav Maga practitioner me. She loves to see me doing something I enjoy immensely, but she hates to see me come home with bruises, scrapes, strains and sprains. So what does my wife think of her husband training in this intrinsically pragmatic self-defense system? 

My wife’s perspective of Krav Maga

Me: What were your first impressions when you found out I was learning KM?

Her:  There were definitely mixed feelings of excitement and sadness. Excited that you found something you were so interested in partaking and sad that it meant you were going to be even busier than you already were. Keep in mind, at the time I didn’t know what Krav Maga was aside from a style of self defense.

Me: What did you think when I started coming home injured?

Her: I was concerned. It shocked me how bruised you would be sometimes after KM, but more concerned that you didn’t seem bothered by it. I was quite upset at you a couple of times. You had some injuries that were more serious: muscle and ligament injuries, and head and neck injuries. I mean, some of these could impact you for the rest of your life!

Me: What did you think of KM when you tried it?

Her: I thought KM was super cool. I didn’t feel too out of place in class and I learned a couple of self-defense techniques I hadn’t known before. We practiced over and over again the head butt, eye gouge, ear clap and running away. Oh! And let’s not forget the painful 360 block – bruises all along my arms. I definitely felt a tad more confident walking out the doors.

Me: Has your perspective changed as time has gone by? How?

Her: I still think KM is a super cool and useful! I’d say it over and over again – KM is a very unique style of self defense as it’s effective and suitable for anyone to learn.  I personally went back to KM couple more times hoping to continue learning different techniques, but found myself learning the same techniques and that demotivated me to continue.  I do understand that practice makes perfect – I just don’t have the patience for it.  

Me: Does having a husband who knows KM make you feel safer?

Her: I hate to admit it, but yes.  That doesn’t mean I’ve felt unsafe before you started KM, I just feel more safe seeing the techniques KM teaches and watching you practice at home. It also makes me feel safe knowing you are personally safe wherever you are.  

She loves Krav Maga because…happy-wife-happy-life

She loves me. Being such a loving and considerate person, my wife loves to see me happy. She knows that training in Krav Maga makes me happy.

But she hates Krav Maga because…

She loves me. (Editor’s note: Awww!) Since my wife cares for me so tremendously, she intensely hates seeing me get hurt. For example, when I recently did my Green Belt Test, she couldn’t bring herself to come and watch. But, she did look after me in the aftermath!

Where to draw the risk-reward line in Krav Maga?


As one of the lead KM instructors at UTKM says, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.”
I tiptoe the line and try to practice sensibly to avoid major injury. However, if I sustain a major injury, I will always choose to put my wife and family first. This may mean indefinitely hitting pause on higher level Krav Maga training, particularly the high intensity and high risk components. But hey, that means instead of practicing, I can spend more time teaching Krav Maga. There is always a silver lining!

Locked ‘n’ loaded in Tel Aviv

Posted: September 27, 2016 by urbantacticskravmaga in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

 

I have traveled around the world, encountered and observed many places, and from my experience, there is no country like Israel. Once, I was sitting in a cafe in Tel Aviv’s central bus station on a Sunday morning, and looking out I can see uniform-clad young men and women carrying weapons returning to their bases. Tourists watch in awe at the sheer amount of weapons being carried on the streets. Residents pass by without even seeing it.

It is a normal part of their lives.

Taking a closer look, I see that not every weapon is the same, nor are their owners. Each weapon is different. Some have carrying handles, some have flashlights, some are old, some are new, some are made out of plastic and some are made out of metal. Each soldier is also different. Their colorful unit shoulder tags, strings and berets tell people which unit they belong to and what kind of specialty they possess. Some soldiers wear their uniform like pajamas and others iron their shirt straight and tight.

A soldier’s personality is shown through his or her rifle

Throughout history, soldiers everywhere have put effort into decorating their swords, bows, knives and other weapons. It is not just for the sake of art, but to make a statement and show one’s character. However, none of these warriors of the past could have imagined that in today’s Israel, weapons would be part of the youth culture. In Israel, weapons take the place of the backpacks and sneakers worn in North America.

Soldiers with an antique model belong to either an armor or artillery unit, but in battle they use tanks or cannons, not their rifles. They are saying, “I only carry this rifle around because I have to, I do not think I will have to use this old piece of junk.” Soldiers with newer models are saying, “I am a first-line combat soldier and this is my pride and joy. I am cool because my rifle is the newest.” Additional gadgets, such as sights or an extra tactical foregrip, become a statement telling everyone, “Look! I am different from rest of you guys.”

It’s just like taking your phone with you

These young troops don’t just carry their weapons to and from the bases. They also have it on them while performing their ordinary daily routines: shopping, walking on the street, sitting down for lunch, or even kissing loved ones. I once saw a young soldier at a cafe using a laptop – she held her rifle between her legs to protect it, while drinking coffee and surfing the internet. Another intriguing sight was a young male soldier wearing a sleeveless tee, sandals, a backpack, and his rifle. The whole picture was an oxymoron. Is he relaxing? Or is he getting ready to fight? His outfit tells me he could be merely taking a stroll, heading to the beach, or waiting for a train, but his loaded weapon tells me otherwise.

In a country like Israel, carrying a weapon is a statement of youth. Rifles are often a statement of toughness and machismo, but in a place where being dauntless and courageous is everything, the warrior ethos is unisexual. Even before the creation of this nation, both men and women fought side-by-side here, protecting their homeland.

Once, I asked a young Israeli woman who had her rifle slung across one shoulder and her purse on the other, what was inside her purse. She said, “You know, the usual girl stuff: make-up, lipstick, tissues, and my extra M16 magazine.” In that moment, I realized that the Israeli saying was true, “If you are going to break a girl’s heart, make sure to do it when she is not carrying her rifle.”

//giphy.com/embed/v8omVdExrQ9ig

via GIPHY

Gun culture is a normal part of growing up in Israel

Seeing these young soldiers with their duffle bags, rucksacks and weapons, I was violently awakened from the peaceful illusion of Tel Aviv. This country is at war. After a few days of comfort in their homes, these youth – barely old enough to buy a beer in Canada – are going back to their posts, checkpoints, tank turrets, jeeps, or the streets of Gaza. In contrast, most Canadian youth know nothing about self-sacrifice and giving some of their best years to serving their nation.

I know for sure that these young Israeli soldiers would prefer not to spend those three years of service in khaki uniforms, receiving less than $40 a month, and dealing with dangerous terrorists or boring paper work. They would rather use that time to do whatever they want, like travelling, working, or studying as young Canadians do. However, despite the hardship and dangers, every Israeli I have encountered tells me that he or she would do it again for their country.