Part 4: A Land before time – Day 3 & 4 – The Fairy Grove & FIshing

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I have talked about the litany against fear many times. It is from one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time Dune, a true masterpiece and one of the few books I have read that truly changed my perspective on life and how to interpret it and the people in it. The litany against fear is an important moral that we should all learn yet don’t. It discusses fear but not in the way you might think at first. There is a concept of No Fear, and it was even a popular slogan trademarked by a clothing company many years ago. The thing is, however, that a person with out fear is dangerous. This is because they are out right ignoring their intuition, that feeling internally telling us there is severe risk ahead. It is foolish and often leads to actions with little regards to those around us. The litany against fear, however, talks about overcoming fear through acceptance. About allowing us to use the fear as a productive tool to move forward and build inner strength. I find too many people live their lives through fear for what ever reason. Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are two of the biggest things I see controlling people and their decisions. Instead of accepting these fears and moving forward and growing to many individuals choose stagnation rather than facing their fears. This mentality is one I hope people to over come through my teachings in Krav Maga or these blogs. So that they may walk in peace allowing their fears to pass over them and through them to be better, stronger and happier.

Today was suppose to be the day we got up to go on that mountain trek Terrance had kept telling us about. It was, after all, suppose to be the second part of the camp. For numerous reasons and set backs on all camps, it never quite happened. We ended up waking up late for what ever reason, I suppose people were all too comfortable letting go and relaxing. It wasn’t a bad thing. When I awoke, after coffee I immediately started to pack up my tent and gear because for me rushing is not something I like to do. Like a good soldier, I was ready to go at moments notice knowing the wind and lake conditions may affect departure as this was one of the reasons we held of leavening the day before. After another late breakfast, there was a discussion of whether we should go or not. The waves though not too bad were certainly not calm. The assessment of whether the risk was worth it was the real challenge. Several of us decided that we would try our luck and go out on the canoes to the second beach where the therapy had taken place before. If we could comfortably do it, then we would leave camp a little later. We made it no problem, and I ended up hearing some of the stories of the both Terrance of the others during their drug rehab and before. Perhaps we hung around for too long, but when made it back Terrance was cautious, and the others were unsure as to whether we should collectively leave or not. I voted to go now before it got too bad. For if you allow fear to overcome you and you keep putting things off then things will never get done. Again, I do not allow fear to control me when I consciously can. In the end, I was outvoted, and the decision was to stay for another day even though it took a long time. For me, there is nothing worse than indecision. For me, the longer it takes, the longer things may pass you by. This and having not been on medication (SSRI’s)for a few days made me irritable, and it reminded me why sometimes I just don’t like people.

Either way, we waited too long, and the waves picked up. My point about indecision was proven correct, though I didn’t say much about it. We could have left earlier if we had stuck to the plan yet didn’t. Now with the rest of the day free, it was decided that we would walk up the river and do the walking meditation that several of the group had yet to experience. Eventually, we found a log crossing that had been constructed previously, by settlers or campers, who knows? There was a more modern rope on one side indicating that someone had used this crossing more recently. Eventually, we found the abandoned cabin again.

I was surprised at how quick a walk it was considering it was in the bay over that we had previously canoed too. Another discovery at least to me is that at one time this cabin had numerous fruit trees, some of which were still producing fruit. We explored the cabin a bit more and then picked some apples. Terrance asked me to explain how the walking meditation works to everyone and again one by one people set out. This time I went second to last.

We admired the waterfall once again, this time with more pictures. Someone noticed another trail that went farther up the mountain, and we decided to go up to the second water fall higher up. This time it was less of a calm winding path and more of a steep hike. I was starting to understand why so many hikers take hiking polls. At least we didn’t have our backpacks which for me made it easy work as my Vibrams allowed me to stay low and nimble. The second waterfall was probably twice the size of the first and much farther back in the mountain. We could only watch from the cliff side as it would be impossible to safely access this pool with out serious climbing gear and experience. Again we noticed that there was another less obvious path going further up the mountain. Terrance had never seen the next waterfall and suggested we explore. So up we went.

This time it wasn’t just steep, and the path was not so clear. The mountain side, littered with loose shale and steep, uneven terrain proved tricky. We hug the cliff side. Shortly after much of the group got too nervous to continue as it was not such an easy climb. My self and another decided to push farther to explore and see if this was a viable path for future camps. We discovered that shortly after the trail died in what appeared to be the scorn of winters rath, an avalanche path covered with fallen trees. Perhaps at one time, there was a trail but not anymore. After climbing up and around to look down the cliff side, we decided that there was no point in continuing as it would most likely take hours to scale to the peak and we didn’t have the proper equipment, so we carefully went back down to the group. Some indicated that it was a dangerous decision, but to me, it was just a calculated risk as the weather conditions were good. Again, my relationship with fear seems to be vastly different than others. Back to camp, we went, this time we found a path that came through the fairy grove, which was easy to find as the purple towel was still there floating suspended on some twine.

Upon arriving it was noted that something was not quite right. 1, 2 and…wait… there was no 3. Apparently, the Tin canoe was nowhere to be found. It had been left sideways on the shoreline rather than pulled right up and the best we could figure it had been swept away by the wind and the waves. Terrance and several others were still making their way back. In my head I thought, if we don’t get it now there will just be more excuses tomorrow, and we will never be able to hike the mountain. As John Sambo was standing right next to me and as he had claimed he had been in rough canoeing conditions previously I asked if he wanted to come with me to find the canoe. He obliged, and just as we pushed off into the water, Terrance and company came out of the tree line just in time to see us pushing off the shore. Theirs was a look of worry. To me though, this was a mission no different than any challenge I had faced previously.

On the way to find the canoe, we were moving with the waves, which made things easier. We, of course, made sure to take lifejackets. I should note, that had we not had life jackets there is no way in hell I would have done this. I neglected to mention earlier, that I don’t like deep water, for you see I had a near drowning experience when I was younger and since then I prefer to keep my feet on the ground. Despite this fear, I was confident in my ability to face it and overcome it…with the life jacket on of course.

We stayed close to the coast so as not to be swept out into the centre of the lake where the waves were the larger. As we moved forward, we spotted what we thought might be a canoe. Nope, just a large boulder.

We kept going, and in the faint distance, we spotted something blue. The Tin Canoe had blue wooden structures on it which I believe was at one point meant for a person to treat it like a row boat. Too bad, they were not set up as such, it would have made things far easier. As we approached, I noted that not only was this beach a rocky, bouldery one making it hard to land, but the waves were crashing onto it every few seconds. It was lucky in reality that it was the Tin boat that had been taken as it was likely here for hours and any of the fibreglass canoes would have probably been smashed up by now. Never the less we had to attempt to return this boat, so we very carefully beached our fibreglass boat and pulled it up to the shore as far as we reasonably could.

We were pleasantly surprised to find, that not only were both the oars and life jackets were still in the canoe but also someone’s boxers who had made the ill fated decision to use the canoe as their drying rack.

The priority was pulling the canoe up the shore so that we could empty the water now gathered inside. Initially, we tried to bail the water out using an old empty plastic bottle we found and our hands. This proved far too tedious with the waves crashing in every few seconds. We decided to pull it up further as we then tipped this cumbersome boat on its side to allow most, but not all of the water to drain out.

The plan was to tie one boat to another using the paracord I had brought. Then one person would get in a boat push out a bit, then the second would jump in, and we would paddle out. This, however, failed. John sambo tried twice to launch in the tin boat but twice capsized. I assessed that it was too shallow, the boat and John were just too heavy to move out safely. Plan B. I would get in the tin boat get it off the shore and John would get in the fibre glass boat and together we would go out into the wildness of the lake. This too did not go exactly to plan. While I managed to get the lead boat out and John managed to get the second boat out it was a struggle. For you see, John had clearly exaggerated his ability to paddle and steer in rough waves. I found my self-being dragged back as John paddled his boat in circles. His inability to control the direction of his canoe kept causing my starboard to be facing the on coming waves. It was now becoming dangerous as we both now risked cap sizing. I attempted to give firm clear directions how to steer while trying to do this same. After a few minutes of this I said, ” I am sorry, but I have to cut the toe line”. I pulled out my Leatherman and while keeping the canoe as straight as I could I cut the line. While team work is preferred, sometimes it is just is not possible. The waves were too big, the wind was too aggressive, and I just did not have the strength to steer and pull both boats. Off I went. I righted the direction of the canoe and began what would be a longer journey than I had originally thought.

After watching John capsize previously at the shore, I assessed that the seats of the canoe were far too high allowing for a dangerously high centre of gravity. I decided I was going to sit on the floor at the bow of the boat. It turned out to be the correct decision as It kept my centre of gravity low and kept the weight in the front preventing the waves from flipping the boat. However, I knew this was the right decision I don’t know, but it just felt right at the time. Later I justified it by explaining that by weighting the front I could break the waves easier and paddle hard to keep the front from being over come with water. The truth is it was an instinctual decision, as having little to no previous experience in such conditions and in a canoe no less I really can’t tell you how I knew other than I just did.

I looked back and saw John still paddling in wide circles; I didn’t know what to do. I yelled at him to try to get to shore and wait while I went for help. I don’t think he heard as he kept going in circles. I had no choice but to move forward. I started to paddle hard when the waves came and continuously so that they wouldn’t push me back and the little progress I was making for nothing. After a while, I started to think about all the warriors of the past that would endure such situations. I thought of the Maori in New Zealand, the Polynesians in Hawaii and the Vikings. I too felt like a modern day warrior. It was not a great situation, but I felt great. For thousands of years, these kind of situations were common. Many had to prove themselves a warrior would have to complete such tasks alone with out help. It made this easier as I fought through it and kept paddling.

I looked back and saw John going in circles still and then trying to beach himself. He succeeded but then tried to make his way out to water again. It failed. It must have been 2 or three attempts in total but none worked. Since leaving camp, it must have been about 2 hours now. I must have been alone for more than an hour of it and was probably only halfway back to camp. The swells up until this point must have been between 3-4 feet, it what seems like a never ending battle with the gods of the lake. No, I don’t really believe that, but hey I was just trying to get into the Viking mentality.

Eventually, I saw the little dinghy in the distance. It so happened that the waves had calmed down and I used my paddle as a signal. They got close enough for me to yell, ” I am fine, go help John and I pointed in his direction.” as I gave a thumbs up. They received the message and continued passed me.

They too tried to help John the way I could, but even with the motor, the waves were just to pick and well, poor John was really out of his element. They eventually gave up, beached the fibre glass canoe on the beach and told John to walk. They then came out to me. It was Terrance and his helper Alex. They came around and pulled up along side me. I wasn’t sure what their goal was. I assumed that they were going to toe me, which I was mildly relieved as it was still a long way to go, and the waves were only getting bigger. I was wrong. The dinghy and its motor were not designed for these rough conditions. Back to my warrior’s mind set. They tried to tell me I needed to bail the water out of my boat which I kept trying to tell them it was fine. In the time it took them to decided what to do the boats had turned side ways. I got impatient and recognised they were not helping but making things worse. I yelled, ” either one of you gets in this canoe to help me paddle or disengage.” Startled, Alex got in the canoe grabbed a paddle. Terrance disengaged and headed back to the beach disgruntled.

So Alex and I would finish the journey, while I am fully confident I would have made it on my own, I was glad I had help. The waves were now probably reaching 6 foot or more. It would have been an epic struggle like something out of an ancient Greek story had I been required to do it by myself, but it was still epic even with two people.

We started to go on what would be another hour paddling. At some point, Alex began to chant in a loud booming voice.

“NOW I AM THE VOICE.
I WILL LEAD NOT FOLLOW.
I WILL BELIEVE, NOT DOUBT.
I WILL CREATE, NOT DESTROY.
I AM A FORCE FOR GOOD.
I AM A FORCE FOR GOD.
I AM A LEADER.
DEFY THE ODDS.
SET A NEW STANDARD.
STEP UP!”

It was epic. It turns out it was a Tony Robbin’s mantra, while I am not a fan of his, an argument Alex and I would have later, at the time it truly was epic and very appropriate. It gave us both strength for a time and quite frankly makes this story even better.

Eventually, though, the mantra wore off, and the long hard grind was starting to wear on Alex. Despite the fact I was exhausted long ago, I had to dig deep and embrace the suck. I told him this, he had to embrace it and not give up. Slowly, one paddle at a time and with a little team work we made it closer to camp. The problem was that we couldn’t simply bee line it to shore. Because of the waves, we had to paddle past the camp and then turn around so that the waves would guide us to shore. If we turned too soon, the waves would push us past our beach. Imagine, the goal in sight after what was getting close to 3 hours, but unable to reach it for a time because rushing could mean imminent danger.

We paddled passed as our comrades look on from the shore. Eventually, we got to the point where we could turn around. Unfortunately, it took several attempts as the waves weirdly kept pointing us back in the same direction (rather than flipping us). Finally, we got coordinated enough to turn around.
Finally, we were back on dry land.

As we landed on the beach, there was what I imagined a collective sigh of relief from all parties. Ironically John had just beaten us to the camp not a few minutes earlier. Perhaps We should have beached earlier too, no I thought, as then we would have been down two boats and not one. I made the right decision.

I attempted to lift myself out of the canoe but couldn’t. The moment I stopped paddling my arms gave out. It took me several attempts, but I finally managed. Soaking wet and with a smile on my face I was back at camp. I think people thought I was crazy as is common in my life but I didn’t care, at least I had something interesting to write about.

It took me a second to settle in and then me and Alex high fived. Then, Finally, some luck, while we had been struggling they had made food. At least I got to eat to replenish some strength it was a good day after all.

I then took off my wet clothes and put on my some long johns and a thermal shirt. I knew all to well from the army how quickly hypothermia can set in. I told both Alex and John they should change to warm clothes so they could avoid it as well.

The day ended with me, John and Terrance looking up at the stars once again. Discussing the universe and me attempting to explain what little I know of it from an astronomical point of view. Despite the hectic day, it ended it calm. Because I was tired and had previously packed up my gear, I decided that I was just going to sleep out in the open looking up at the stars. It was the right decision as I looked up at the milky way I smiled as I was at least for a brief moment happy. Then with heavy eye lids, I faded off to sleep.

Part 6: A Land before time – Day 5 – The Lonely Mountain

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I was just thinking about when I started the Assistant instructor class at UTKM – was it March? It feels like forever that I’m spending Friday nights at the gym, watching presentations, discussing techniques and try to memorize as much as I can. Not to forget the tests! To become a UTKM instructor you really have to commit yourself. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect but I don’t quit because I want to become an instructor, I like teaching although I have to work on my personal approach – having a Judo background makes me sometimes very strict and I don’t like it when students don’t pay attention or are too chatty. I have to loosen up on that part and be more relaxed.

Having taught my first class on Thursday I really appreciated the students’ support and commitment – Thank you so much! I was nervous because Jon “Eagle Eye” Fader was breathing down my neck and scribbling notes that I still have to read. But knowing that I can count on you guys makes it easier.

 

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What we imagine Jon looks like when auditing classes. 

 

 

Becoming/being an instructor comes with a load of responsibilities – I want students to feel safe and to trust me which means I have still a long way to go learning every tiny little detail of the techniques that we are teaching. The assistant instructor class at UTKM is just the beginning – it shows you the opportunities you have but also the hard work they come with and it is up to us to make the decision whether or not we want to go that way. I personally decided that I want to go that way.

And then there is Jon with his high standards. I fully understand that he wants to make sure that UTKM students get the best training which means that the instructors need to be able to provide that high standard of training. Being a perfectionist and creating a lot of pressure already by myself I sometimes feel like a headless chicken. I don’t want to disappoint or let anyone down. I know that experience comes with time and over time I will learn all these tiny little details but being patient and cutting myself some slack is not my strongest feature.

Interesting enough I also started to reflect about myself – where am I in my life? Am I happy? I have to admit that I had my life planned out differently – you know, same old story – getting married, having a kid, building a house, planting a tree. And here I am, 37, no husband (thank god! Dodged that bullet), no kids. But I am in a good place. I don’t feel I’m missing out on things. At some point, I understood that I like doing Krav, BJJ and Judo and I also like to share my knowledge.

I still think that leaving Germany behind and moving to Vancouver was one of my best ideas ever! And no, I’m not planning on going back. I like where I am and I like the direction my life is going.

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Part 3: A Land before time  – Day 2 – Back to Nature

The search for purpose and meaning is a challenge for most people. Some people are lucky enough to find it early on whether through a specific upbringing or the simple lack of a series of events the lead to a passion. Others struggle to find it or give up before their passion is found or materialized. In a book written in 1946 called Mans Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl it discusses how finding purpose in life helped many Holocaust survivors survive the death camps. Those lucky enough to avoid the death marches or gas chambers had two options, find purpose and meaning in their lives despite the horrid situation they were in, or succumb to the death and despair around them. Why though would I bring up such a terrible experience in this blog series? It’s simple because our search for purpose or more exactly our own meaning in this often confusing existence can often mean the difference between finding happiness and not. Those with purpose or meaning, whether right or wrong are generally happier and live more productive lives.

So in this land before time, with no stimulus, and people who I don’t know that well what could I do with the seemingly endless time. While we had ample food, I thought about what people used to do. There were Builders, hunters, gathers, warriors, child rearers etc. Of course, given my nature, I see my self as a warrior or hunter type. As quite clearly the opportunity to be a warrior was not on the table, hunting on the other hand was. Fishing was something I saw as an enjoyable thing. So imagining that I was truly in the land before time in a tribe, finding my purpose as a hunter seemed the obvious choice. Given no modern stimulus and all the time in the world, what would be your purpose?

 

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The Fairy Grove courtesy the masseuse

 

The next two days would be mostly about doing nothing but enjoying myself, the beautiful surroundings and attempting to catch a fish.

Waking and making my self some coffee was still a luxury I afforded to myself. Luckily for me, I had a small portable MSI Burner and Tin cups which allowed me to quickly brew my own coffee without hassle. Albeit instant coffee but I was not about to be picky. Growing up I had never been much of a coffee drinker as my father hailing from England made sure that our house as a constant supply of tea, Tetleys to be exact. Though in the IDF I was exposed to the Turkish style of coffee which I would gladly have when offered but it still wasn’t something I got into. Turkish style if you don’t know, or at least the way I was taught in the army was to boil some water, put the grounds right into the water letting it boil to the point of a mild froth. Flame off, letting it cool and the grounds to settle. Then either black or with heaps of sugar. Of course, you have to be careful near the end that you didn’t get a mouth full of grounds but it taught me that in a pinch you really don’t need a filter.

On a side note, I found my fondness for coffee, like so many at University. On my second round of University to be precise. While taking a major in psychology (which I stopped in the third year for numerous reasons) I also re-discovered the Canadian love of Tim Hortons. Which was conveniently on every campus and was where every student rushed to on the breaks.

Ok so I digress, but coffee addiction is one of those addictions that seems to be acceptable, and hey most studies I have seen recently suggest it’s even good for you. The irony of such things considering several of our group were recovering addicts. The world is funny like that sometimes.

On this day, I knew I would be getting a massage from the therapist but I didn’t know when. It would be something I would have to patiently wait for. Though I had already made my coffee and had granola and honey when the group all awoke they decided to make a grand breakfast with the little BBQ that could. French Toast, Smokies and Bacon for everyone except the two vegetarians who had vegetables and other items to satisfy. Terrance has recently bought a percolating kettle but the demand for coffee and the BBQ meant it didn’t last long. Someone thought it would be a good idea to close the lid on the BBQ while it attempted to brew. As one would expect or didn’t as was the case, this melted the various plastic parts on the percolator. This also meant that any time I made my own coffee with my tools someone inevitably asked for some, which I obliged until I started to run low on the third day.

Full from 2nd breakfast it must have been close to noon at this point I decided to take a nap. Terrance and several of the others went to a second waterfall back up the lack that was safer to access. I opted for the nap because well I hate cold water. I think I made the right choice, they, however, beg to differ. I awoke probably two hours later after they came back.

I decided to attempt my luck at fishing again. Initially, as I was casting from the lake side I was only frustrated for every time I would try to reel it in It would only get caught on the rocks. I hadn’t figured out how to easily get it unstuck, something I wouldn’t figure out until the next day. As sat on the rocky beach trying to fish one of the others who had gone out on the boat managed to catch a rainbow trout. It was exciting though I was mildly jealous I just wanted to catch something. It got me thinking again about how primal humans lived. They might go days with out something and now I can begin to feel the communal excitement every time someone came back with fish or animal meat. We have the privilege today of simply walking down the street in a leisurely fashion, or rushing in a car just to point at a package, put it in our basket and walk or drive home with out much trouble. This makes it far too easy for us to forget just how hard it is to get food with out the convenience of the modern world.

It also makes it easy for us to forget the excitement from everyone, the congratulations, even a little envy that occurs every time hunters bring back protein for a village that relies on hunting for its sustenance. It also helps build a community, something often lost in the big city. No luck for me in the end, but I was happy that I was learning and that at least someone caught something.

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A Hobbit, Barefooted in the forest…

Lunch time or what ever time it was, it was the 2nd err, 3rd meal of the day. With my small stature and bear foot nature on this trip, with all these meals I was beginning to feel a bit like a hobbit. Perhaps this life suits me. Once again, I probably ate too much. Though I didn’t feel bored I didn’t have much else to do but eat. Doing nothing still, despite the adjustment is still and always will be something difficult for me. Later some coffee again. The massage therapist came back from another session and told me that I would be next and when she was ready she would come get me.

 

Back to sitting, contemplating and fishing from the shore. At Last! Massage time. I had wondered where she kept going with everyone for so long and I was about to find out.

Into the heavy brush in the forest we went. There was no clear trail, and again I was barefoot, all the little dry twigs and uneven forest ground was a challenge yet an easy one. Eventually, after a short time, the ground became soft, covered in heavy moss. A purple silk towel hung above a circle of rocks, a yoga mat and a sleeping bag. This is what we would call the fairy grove. Clearly, the masseuse had put more than just effort into this, she put passion. It seems she at least, was one of the lucky ones to find her purpose.

Tucked away from the shore, in a clearing on the moss, I was to receive a massage. This to me is the definition of natural healing, or healing in nature, whichever you prefer. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a massage. While I fully enjoy them, they are expensive and again I have a hard time relaxing. This experience though was sorely overdue. Time continued to melt away as their hands did their work. Somewhere else in the world the same thing might cost hundreds of dollars, but without a care in the world, I think I finally relaxed. I am not sure how long it was, half an hour, an hour, I don’t really know. When it was done, we talked. Talked about our lives, where we were at and personal things you might not normally share, yet in this idyllic place, it seemed appropriate.

Dinner! Yup, it was the hobbit life for me. This would be the last day for the entire group as the Germans and Angel hands therapist would be leaving in the morning. The goal for us would be to leave the next day after a late breakfast and head up the mountain hike that Terrance had mentioned but for now food and relaxed. When it got dark the stars were out again I remember how much I missed looking up at the starry sky from the desert when I was in the Military. The milky way, satellites whizzing by, shooting stars, the constellations. All these things we sorely miss in the city and something I believe where are at a great loss for not seeing. You can’t help but wonder in Awe as you look up into the vast expanse.

 

Hubble Deep Field

Hubble Telescope Ultra Deep Field

This would be the last day for the entire group as the Germans and Angel hands therapist would be leaving in the morning. The goal for us would be to leave the next day after a late breakfast and head up the mountain hike that Terrance had mentioned but for now food and relaxed. When it got dark the stars were out again I remember how much I missed looking up at the starry sky from the desert when I was in the Military. The milky way, satellites whizzing by, shooting stars, the constellations. All these things we sorely miss in the city and something I believe where are at a great loss for not seeing. You can’t help but wonder in Awe as you look up into the vast expanse.

 

The next day rolled on by. I Awake and made coffee as was now my morning routine. The Germans etc had already left. They must have left at 5 am or so just as the sun was rising, I did manage to say good by the night before. It seemed that though the sun would rise just after 5, and up by 6 I would wake up anywhere from 7 to 8. Even if I awoke early I would go back to bed despite the fact I kept telling myself I would get up with the sun and go fishing. The early bird catches the worm after all, but alas, I was too lazy, or relaxed either justification is fine with me. It had been decided the day before that today would be a day of relaxation for all. A slow morning, and 2 breakfasts as usually. I knew though the lack of general activity would make me pay as is the nature of things. A group of us decided to walk up the cost into a sheltered bay, one in which the waves couldn’t quite reach. This we thought we be a perfect spot to fish. As we clambered across the shoreline to reach the spot we could see little minnow like fish hiding in and around the rocks. We eventually reached the spot. It turned out to be a good spot, as 2 others caught fish. for me, however, I had no such luck. Both my self and the fourth of the party continued to get our lines stuck, then I figured out a way to get it off most of the time. Except for the time I lost a lure, I think that made 2 for me so far this trip.

At some point, one of the lake families decided for no reason to come in with their speedboat stop right in the middle of the bay and then leave. This would be the last of the fish caught for the day. Some people clearly have no consideration. Back to camp for dinner and more relaxation. Tomorrow we would be leaving to start our mountain trek that had been put off in favour of relaxation.

 

Part 5: A Land before time – Day 5 – The Lost Canoe 

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Learning Hurts

The Continuing Adventures of a Would-Be Krav Teacher.

Anyone who has taught will tell you that, at least at first, you are your greatest obstacle to being a good teacher. For a variety of reasons, it’s unlikely that a neophyte instructor is going to be particularly good right out of the gate. Sometimes it’s lack of confidence, sometimes too much confidence. Sometimes it’s just that the base -you- isn’t necessarily a great fit as a teacher. Yet.

 

This is not a bad thing because that’s what learning is all about. Before we can teach well, we have to learn well.

More than halfway through my time in the Assistant Instructor Course for Urban Tactics Krav Maga, I have (re)learned the above a few times. Multiple written and verbal tests later, it has at times been a struggle to adapt to a curriculum and regimen not of my setting, while learning skills I don’t yet have. You forget simple things – names, dates, even techniques – you knew. You trip over the different methods for teaching different people, getting the methods and even the people mixed up.

The bright spot in this has been the students. You’d think people that sign up to learn how to survive and defend themselves when things go bad would be a grim, focused lot, bent on the destruction of weakness. Not so. Krav students that I’ve met have been interested, eager, cooperative and fun to teach. Patient when I do something obviously wrong or say something too quickly to understand. It’s a cliche that teachers learn from their students as much as the reverse, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

Learning to teach Krav Maga is an exercise in not only technique and memorization but also forethought and empathy. Patience and perspective. The first two are rote – the rest is the real work of a student teacher. And to get them right means having to adjust how you think and speak and react to people.

Midterms and exams, arduous though they may be, are not where you learn what you don’t know. That comes in class when you’re in front of all those watching eyes. Actually knowing the techniques is just step one. It gets harder after that.

On the bright side, it is pretty fun and it’s a job worth doing. So, onwards towards the final and the oh so fun orange belt test. Onwards!

 

 

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Part 2: A Land Before Time  – Day 1 – An attempt to relax

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We often forget despite our advances as a species, our concrete and steel cities, our iPhones, Computers, Video games and another day to day technologies that once upon a time we the people of this planet lived in and with nature. When I was a child the Disney movie lion king came out. One line stuck with me.

“When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.” Disneys Lion King – Mufasa

Despite our attempts to deny it, through religion, or science, we like everything else living on this planet are of nature. We can deny it all we want but it doesn’t change reality. Our 21st-century morals and beliefs can change to be “modern” yet the planet will still act and operate the same no matter what we do because just like it, we are of nature and of the universe and are subject to the same rules as everything else.

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A View of Things to come – Part 6 – The Lonely Mountain

Prior to this trip, I had come to the realization that I actually didn’t have that much camping gear. A friend and student of mine had recently got the prepping bug into me in addition to me wanting to start to hunt I decided to go full army mode and get everything I could possibly need. Not just for the camp but also for a change of pace in my life. As I was not entirely sure what to expect in the camp, however, I ensured I had enough food for myself and the various things I might need. I planned to take only what I could carry in my own bag.

It turns out I was the only person who came with this mentality. I was a little surprised to find out that most people had a full cooler per person and far too many things for such a short trip. Or in the case of same, almost nothing in the way of camping preparedness. I guess I was the only one prepared for a true backpacking trip. As usual, it seems my own nature makes me stick out like a sore thumb.

Prior to heading out to the boats, I made the conscious decision to leave any time keeping devices and phones in the truck. How could the land before time have any meaning if I still have the ability to measure it? It was surprisingly easy for me, but not so easy for everyone else who still brought their phones despite the fact there would be no data or wifi.

The issue of too much gear was not a real problem. We still managed to find space for all of it in the canoes. Which as camp my way is still in its pilot phases were borrowed from most of Terrance’s lake neighbours. Anything that could not safely be put in the canoes with their matching owners was piled on two one of two Tin dinghies, one with a small 7hp motor This included Terrance’s half working BBQ and myself, the real extra baggage. Terrance had told me that on previous pilot camps they had even fewer canoes (we had 4, plus two dinghies for 13 people) and had to carefully pile up all the gear and some people into the not so sea worth dinghies. Lake worthy maybe, but not sea. Good thing we were on a nice calm lake, where nothing could ever possibly go wrong.

With a life Jacket for everyone, a partner and a canoe. With the exception of my self, as my partner was the BBQ. At least we were being towed by that little engine that could. Camp Fires would have been so much easier, and far more in line with a land before time, but at this time much of the area was on a Fire Ban due to forest fires and dry conditions. Like a rag tag band of gold panning pioneers, we set off onto the lake to start this mysterious adventure.

More than one group comment on the fact I didn’t have to paddle with comments like, “I thought you were supposed to be a soldier.” To which I simply replied, “Exactly, Strategy. Work smart, not hard.” to which I usually followed with a paddling motion in the air. This easy start and doubt by others would of course later be confronted on the calm lake that wouldn’t be.

We with the monstrous engine sped ahead to our camping site for the next few days. It would be an idyllic place, right at the mouth of a glacial fed river with two rocky deltas on each side and a forest leading up the mountain behind. The rocks and pebbles ranged in size from small smooth stones perfect for skipping across the water’s surface to softball sized ones who clearly had not been weathered by the elements yet. The image of this is something you might see out of a tourist brochure promoting Beautiful British Columbia. Looking up the river into the forest it reminded me of one of my favourite horror movies and psychological thrillers the descent. This image gave me a sense of awe, curiosity and a little fear. It made me glad I had a survival hatchet and hunting knives just in case.

It reminded me once again that I love the outdoors, something to which I discovered in the military yet is something that I have spent little time exploring in my own backyard. Yet here I was, in the outdoors, with a group of strangers getting back to nature.

This day would be one of assessment and adjustment as we got used to the environment and to each other. Apparently, we were to be split into two groups. One would stay at camp and one at a time get a free massage from our volunteer massage therapist. The other my group would go off on a walking meditation and that partake in a trauma therapy session with the two men we met at the bar earlier who would not tell us who they were. Turns out they were from Angel Hands Wellness centre in Vancouver.

Back to the canoes, we went on the still calm lake as we made our way to a second beach around the corner. This was the site of a previous camp as Terrance mentioned that last time the water levels were too high to camp where we were now. It was more woodsy with tall trees on all sides stretching back from the beach side.

 

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A Cabin Forgot in Time.

Terrance then lead us up a trail where we stopped at an old homesteader cabin. Also, like something you might find in some psychological thriller. It was clear that this cabin had been left and forgotten in time and yet at one point someone had clearly made some improvements. The original log cabin walls could be seen in the upper parts of the walls or rotting away on the inside. It had been shored up, who knows when with a proper foundation and cement walls but these two were now crumbling from neglect. There was still what appeared to be the original wood burning stove that would only need some wood to work. In the opposite corner, another more modern stove from what I can only guess was the 50’s that was not in working condition. The roof made of old wood planks was still being supported securely even if it is now in no shape to stop the rain. A place like this makes the mind wonder about the solitude of living in the middle of nowhere, secluded. How many people had chosen this cabin as their home? were they permanent residents or just passers-by. For the time being, we will not know.

Terrance stopped us outside and told us to take our shoes off. Now we would begin a walking meditation to the waterfall that supplied the water to our campsite river. Through our bare feet and with, slow, deliberate steps, we were to take our time and contemplate as we one at a time made our way to the end of the path.

I went first, though for me going as slow as Terrance demonstrated was a challenge as going slow is something I have always had problems with. I eat fast, I work fast, I talk fast and I think fast. Coming back to nature was a way for me to attempt to slow down. The Barefoot thing was not an issue as so far though I had my Vibram 5 finger toe shoes had mostly opted to be barefoot for most of the trip so far. It just felt right to me to be barefoot as I attempt to slow down and try to get back to how things might have been for us as a species in the past.

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The source of life in the mountains.

One step, two step, three step. Breath. Slowly for me at least, I was made it to the waterfall. Whoever had made the improvements to the cabin down the trail had also opted to make a rock and cement wall at the one edge of the cliff. Clearly, this was not only a great place for us but for them as well. The waterfall itself must have been 20 or 30 meters tall as it fell into a basin of water feeding the river perhaps 15 meters wide. The rock formations dipped away from the wall into the pool on one side and might prove a challenge for anyone who got too close. Another scene out of a nature brochure, or a horror movie. I could only imagine seeing some cannibalistic native standing at the top peering down only to be gone the next time I looked. This, of course, did not happen, but it has been so long for me since I was back in nature that such scenes only appear in movies for those who opt to be in the city most of the time.

Back to the beach. Sitting down on logs or the ground Mihael of Angel hands gave a talk about trauma and what it means in the modern world. Detlaff his partner in crime turned out to be the president of the Canadian hypnosis society. Under normal circumstances, I would be very sceptical of both practitioners but here in this environment, I thought I would give them a chance. They told us about the therapy session we would one at a time be going through. Detlaff would put you in a light trance while Mihael would use shiatsu techniques to assess your body and relieve pain or stress.

First, we watched as Terrance was put in the trance and asked a variety of questions about his life and past traumas. The concept of colours and auras were also discussed. I wondered if watching it first might actually “prime” our responses to the treatment as I had really no idea what to expect. But it is certainly a possibility.

Eventually, it was my turn. and 3, 2, 1. Gone!

I was actually mildly surprised at how difficult it was to open my eyes. I am fairly sure if I really wanted to I could have but I didn’t want to disrupt the process, none the less they did feel heavier. As they walked through the series of questions, I was asked to imagine different traumas, points in my life, or people in my life as well as to do various things with the images in my head. At no point was I being controlled I was still fully conscious. For me though, I am not sure how effective the process was. I tend to have a very strong mind with regards to such things and I am not easily manipulated. It was difficult for me to even imagine some of the tasks they gave me for me my mind was more blank as I tried to assess what they were doing while also trying to imagine the things they said. It was certainly an interesting experience and is something I may be open to again. The conclusion from

The conclusion from Mihael was that happiness is a difficult thing for me. Or at least my interpretation of his words. I think many in my life might agree to this statement though its hard for me to figure out if it’s simply his years of experience as a therapist interpreting my words during the therapy session or if he intuitively felt it. Either way, his words were thought provoking as I contemplated my existence.

Is happiness hard for me? I am not really sure. Perhaps I am so driven and goal oriented I never stop to smell the roses or live in the moment. Perhaps my version of happiness is simply different than others. Perhaps my clinical depression makes it hard for me to maintain happiness. At this point in my life, I am not really sure, but I will only ever keep moving forward one way or another.

Back to camp. By now the others had all finished their massage therapy and apparently, it was great. It was certainly something I was looking forward to.

Something that had also been brought to camp was fishing rods and a tackle box. Fishing was something I had only ever done as a child. And as I found out it really is an exercise in patience. I found a fishing rod that I liked and figured out how to cast. But I did not really do much more than that, but I certainly wanted to try more as it like so much on this trip.

The rest of the time was mostly eating and talking and relaxing. I had anticipated losing weight on this trip but with the amount of food that was brought it didn’t end up happening. Not that I complained much, I mean I do like food and having little to do with my time, what better way to pass it than eating, talking and contemplating.

At least today I felt relaxed, being back to nature felt good.

With that, I leave you with one of my favourite artists Matisyahu and his song: on nature

Part 4 – A land Before Time – Day 3 & 4 – The fairy Grove & Fishing 

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Orange Belt Testing – Sat, Sept 23rd

Posted: September 13, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Testing
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Just a reminder that we are doing Orange Belt Tests on Saturday, September 23rd at UTKM HQ in Richmond, BC. Yellow belts are required to volunteer to participate if they expect to test for their orange belt when the time is ready. If you have not already signed up then let your instructor know if you would like to volunteer. Remember, tests are cancelled if we do not have enough volunteers.

*Test Candidates have already been notified.

The Specialist vs the Generalist

Posted: September 12, 2017 by Jonathan Fader in Krav Maga Opinions
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On Sat August 26th one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history occurred. If you do not know what I am talking about, then you live under a rock. For one of the greatest Boxers of all time, albeit not such a nice person, Floyd “Money” Mayweather squared off against UFC Bantam and Feather weight champ Conor “Notorious” McGregor. They would be of course be fighting in a boxing match under the appropriately established boxing rules. In the end, the champion boxer won out with a mildly controversial TKO in the 10th round. Despite Conor’s domination in the early rounds eventually, his gas tank ran out allowing Mayweather to turn it on. However, had this been an MMA fight or a fight with no rules than with out a doubt Conor would have easily won and probably quite quickly.

The fight brought up a good question. That is the one of specialisation vs Generalisation both in life and in Self Defense.

If you follow the traditional academic model, they will often push for specialisation. The entire post secondary structure is set up for this. Take a B.A. with a major, then masters focusing more on that topic and then a P.h.D further specialisation. Because of these or society or at least in the west has been heavily convinced that specialisation is the way to go. As many Millennials will know, all their post secondary education still has them working at the corner Starbucks or some other low paying job. So much for the dream right?

Or how about the trades. I know more people in the trades employed right out of school than traditional education. So are they specialists or generalists? By definition, they are experts usually specialising in plumbing, electrical, frame work etc. However, I would make the argument that the excellent tradesmen are a mix. 60% specialisation in their trade and 40% knowledge in the other occupations. This is because a building requires many trades with many skills all working together to put up the same thing. So a tradesperson that only knows his craft as experience will tell is more likely to make decisions without regard to what the other trades needs are causing problems in building construction.

So how about Krav Maga or self-defence. Well, in a real fight, it was established Conor would win and that’s because he is a generalist. A good Kravist will be a little good at every style and maybe very good at one, usually striking but not always.

When it comes to self-defense, and I would make the argument in life it is better to be a generalist. Why? That’s Because generalists are far more adaptive to any given situation and can draw from more information and general experience to come to the correct solution for all. When it comes to life or death situations, you do not get to pick what form of attack your assailant will have. Nor do you get to pick when or how. As such being prepared for anything even if your skills are only mediocre in each gives you the greater probability that you will succeed. It’s not like you will be going 12 rounds after all wear a specialist can wear you down. You have 10-20 or 30 seconds to block the attacks and get to safety.

In life, I also make the argument to more of a generalist. While once upon a time the average person had maybe 1 or 2 jobs their entire life meaning specialisation was a requirement now we are probably looking at anywhere from 6-10 or even more jobs in their life. Not only that with technologically advanced life changes so rapidly it can be hard to keep up. By being generalised or less of a specialist, you will have an easier time adapting to a situation no matter what it is as you have not painted yourself into a corner with a specific mindset that limits you when you are outside of your comfortable parameters. This is particularly the case as in the past your entire family were known as the blacksmith or the farmer, and you could make a guaranteed living. Now in the 21st centurury, there is so much competition for almost all fields that unless you are the best of the best then specialising is risky business as you now have limited your options should the world change.

Not only that, the success of a species when it comes to an evolutionary perspective is all about adapting. The environment can change around you, and you may not know why or how, but if you can adapt and change you will thrive. For as they say, adapt or die.

Now I am not saying we shouldn’t have specialists. If I needed brain surgery, I would rather go with the specialist who has done it 100 times that the generalist who has only done it once. What I am saying is that though in particular scenarios such as medical surgery specialisation is needed, in general, it is better to be a generalist. Let the best of the best be the specialists. For everyone else, both in self-defense and in life I guarantee you if you have a more general and adaptable skill set your life will be better off for it.

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