Posts Tagged ‘martial art’

Warren Gets his orange Belt Cert

Warren receiving his Certificate of Achievement


Warren Leading Stretches

I recently took my Orange Belt test and I’d like to share the experience.  I knew that there would be a written portion, but other than that, I wasn’t sure exactly how it would be conducted.  I was told that there would be less cardio than was required for the Yellow Belt test but in the end, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  In fact, there was probably more, but more on this later.

In the weeks leading up to the test, Jon took me through the techniques I needed to know, and he kept saying, with his usual grin, “You’ll be fine.  You should pass it no problem.”, so I was under the mistaken impression that perhaps the Orange Belt test was a more theoretical test than the brute force Yellow Belt test that was meant to challenge your resolve and confirm your commitment to the training regimen.  It was also scheduled for “only” an hour, as opposed to the two hours required for the Yellow Belt test.  He did, however, advise me to drink water throughout the day of the test so I’d be fully hydrated.  Sound advice.

Testing period begins.

The written portion comprised of 20 multiple-choice questions and you needed to get 80% to pass.  Quick math told me that I could get 4 wrong and still pass, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the questions were no-brainers but there were a couple of questions that made me go “Hmmm…”, or to ask for clarification.  In any questions that had poor grammar, Jon said that Borhan wrote them.  In the end, I was satisfied with my answers and handed the paper in.  Next.

Then came the technique portion of the test.  Another small surprise, Jon started to ask me to do techniques that were required for the Yellow Belt.  It made sense, of course, but I hadn’t specifically reviewed them.  As he asked me to do this or that, the hours of training kicked in and it didn’t give me any problems, although I had to ask for clarification now and then to confirm exactly what it was he wanted me to do.  All the while my body is going through the motions and like it or not, you start to get tired.  Also, there were many, many punching combinations.  It was relentless.  Straight punches, crosses, hooks, elbows, uppercuts, kicks…it all gets tested, and in all kinds of combinations.  Meanwhile, my body continued to tire.  After it appeared that I knew what I was doing in the techniques for both the Yellow Belt and Orange Belt, it was time to apply them in an unknown situation.

I’m then asked to close my eyes and (no cheating now) wait for an attack that can come from anywhere.  Front, back, left side, right side…who knows where it’s coming from.  And there may be a knife mixed in with the attack, or there may not.  A choke here, a head-lock there…who knows?  But you need to respond accordingly, not panic, and finish off the move properly.  Now, it’s one thing to see an attack coming, but it’s quite another to lose one of your prime senses and still do the right thing.  Once you close your eyes the adrenaline starts pumping, your heart rate increases, and your fright factor goes up.  Where is he coming from and what type of attack will it be?  Will I know what to do?  Will I freeze?  Suddenly the attacks start, one after the other.  Open your eyes, defend, counter, finish it, then close your eyes again and wait for the next one.  Your body takes over, your instincts kick in, and suddenly you know exactly what to do and how to do it.  As with most things in life, the anticipation of something coming is often more psychologically impactful than the event itself.  It’s the waiting that gets to you.  Then multiple attacker scenarios were tested.  Believe me, when you have three people wanting to beat up on you and swinging punches wherever they can land them, you get very tired very quickly avoiding them and counter-attacking.  It’s truly exhausting and intense.  In the end, I managed to stave off enough attacks to satisfy Jon, and I was very fatigued by this time by both the adrenaline rush and the actual physical activity.  Was that it?  Could I go home now?  Please?

At this point Jon says I can take a breather, rest up, and take a water break.  After the break I was starting to feel normal again, but already the sweat wouldn’t stop streaming down my face. Whatever water I was putting into my body was just as quickly going out again.  Little did I know that what I had just completed was a warm-up to the main test, although it was an important milestone.  If I hadn’t executed the techniques correctly up to this point, I wouldn’t have been allowed to continue and it would have been the end of the test.

It was time to see how I could do under threatening conditions with real-time attacks.  I was placed in the center of a group of other students all decked out in protective head-gear and other protection.  Each of them was assigned a number which represented a specific type of attack with which they were to come at me when called upon.  I stood in the middle, scanning all around and waiting for the first attack.  I was surrounded and felt like I was in a movie, where the camera would start to scan in a circle to show all the threats that were going to come hard and fast.  Borhan started calling out numbers and the attacks began.  After I finished one attack then the next one came.  Then the next.  Then the next.  Someone choked me from behind, someone put me in a headlock.  That knife is coming at me fast, but I time it right and counterpunch right away.  I grab the arm holding the knife and secure it while laying some knees to the body, before I take him down.  What’s the next threat?  Where’s it coming from?  Somebody grabs me from behind.  He’s strong.  I can’t break free as easily as I thought so I start hitting him in the groin (yes, he was wearing a cup!).  The grip loosens and I’m able to come back under the arm and hold it tight while I apply some knees.  On and on it goes until finally, Borhan stops the attacks.  I’m spent, breathing hard, and feeling pretty much done while sweating profusely.  Jon said I did well and survived because I didn’t get fatally stabbed.  Thinking back to the knife attacks it didn’t even enter my mind that they were rubber knives.  In my mind they were a threat.  Fortunately my muscle memory kicked in and I was able to defend myself with the proper technique instead of freezing.  As exhausted as I was, I was then told to get my head protection on because the final test was coming up.

Arrgh.  Time to fight.  The sparring partners appeared to be arranged in a certain order.  I was to spar with the better fighter first, then go on down the line to easier fights.  At this point I had no idea how many people I had to spar, nor did I know how long the rounds would be (I found out later they were 2 minutes), all I knew is that because I was already greatly fatigued, I nearly used up the last of my reserve in the first round.  I finished the round and had a short break before the second round with the next fresh person.  It turns out that I was given only a 30 second rest between each round and in that time, I would throw off my head-gear, spit out my mouth guard, and suck in as much air as I could before I had to go at it again.  I had to think, “Keep it at 30%.  These are your training partners, not real threats.”  I knew that intellectually, but emotionally at that moment they felt like real threats.  I fought the second round, the third, then finally the fourth, which I thought was the end.  To be honest, I don’t even remember how I did in the second round.  I remember the person I fought, but nothing about the round itself, so I’ll have to ask Borhan what happened in that one.  After what I thought was the last round, they said I had one more (!) to do, and that was to go back with the first fighter who was able to rest up for the last 10 minutes while I was sparring with the others.  At that point I wasn’t thinking anymore, I was purely exhausted, and all I could do was let my body take over.  Punch, kick, cover up, keep your hands up, don’t give up.  Don’t give up.  Breathe, breathe, calm down, get your head straight.  Don’t over-think anything, just react.  As I’m in the middle of my own personal Hell, I hear Borhan’s voice in the background shouting, “Go! Go!  You love this s**t!  Do it!!  You LOVE this s**t!!”.  As much as I was disagreeing with that statement at the time, it was oddly motivating.  It’s coming down to the last 30 seconds so everyone starts shouting, everyone starts cheering, I’m doing whatever I can to stay on my feet and continue to fight back…and then….it’s finally over.  I’m vaguely aware of people congratulating me, of saying things like “Well done!” and “Way to go!”, but it doesn’t really register as I take off my head-gear and nearly collapse.  Jon asks how I am, and I reply “I’m too old for this.”.

And that was the Orange Belt test.

It took a while for the accomplishment to sink in, but after some time I started to feel proud of myself.  Not because I thought I did the techniques well, or that I sparred well, because I probably didn’t, but because I didn’t give up, I didn’t ask for a longer rest than what I was given, and I did everything that was asked of me.  No quarter was given, and none was asked.  Also, I had initially thought that a more conditioned person would have done better than me.  Perhaps in the beginning they wouldn’t have fatigued as quickly, however it became very apparent that no matter how conditioned you are, you’ll be beat down until you’re finally tired, and then that’s when you’ll need to perform.  And at that point you’ll really find out what you’re made of.  The other thing is that you really have to know your techniques, or rather, your body needs to know them.  I can honestly say that I was not thinking about what attack was coming, analyzing it, then pulling the counter-attack out of memory and applying it.  If I did that my response time would have been too slow.  My body just responded as it should have.  I do believe that one needs to put in the hours necessary to train their body to respond on its own, and to firm up the muscle memory.  There are no ways of getting around it.  You need to put in the time.

Finally, in most other martial arts getting an Orange Belt is no big deal.  It’s still very low on the totem pole and you have a long way to before you can really protect yourself.  However, in Krav Maga achieving an Orange Belt definitely means you can do some serious damage on the street if it came down to it.  It’ll be another year before I’ll have enough hours to test for my Green Belt, but I’m in no rush.  It’ll take me that long to recover from the Orange Belt test!

By: Warren Chow



Though many of you may not know it, I have given a presentation on stress management. Why? Well what is more stressful than being in the Israel Defense Forces as an infantryman and sniper? Especially when I’ve been told that my platoon during that time was one of the most active in the entire army. On top of that my squad was the busiest in the entire platoon. So I think I learned a little about stress. But this is not the only reason I give talks about stress management. Many of you may not know this but I have battled depression for most of my life. One Manic depressive episode later I learned that stress management comes from within.

In my quest to improve myself I have learned many things about how to manage stress.

Here I want to talk about a few, two in particular. One is managing realistic expectations of your self and others, and two is managing priorities correctly.
I always run into the same problems when I am teaching students. They are usually along the lines of “I cannot come to class because I have to study for my school, my education is more important.”

Don’t get my wrong, education is extremely important. I am after all going to university for the second time. However, too often people mix up education and traditional academia.
Really, education comes from every where and every one at any time, you just have to pay attention and learn. Academia is extremely structured and rigid and tells you what it thinks you need to know to succeed.

Unfortunately, times are changing. I cannot tell you how many people I know who went to school out of high school, got their BA, and now do not work in their field, but instead have a menial, low paying job or are still in school.

I am not sure about your definition of success, but I am not so sure that’s it.

You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with Krav Maga?

I say everything. Perhaps it’s my own fault for having unrealistic expectations of students but the reality is that Krav Maga, or rather learning your own personal safety strategies, is probably one of the most important bits of education you will ever get.

I hope you are never placed in a situation where you will have to use it, but it is a skill set that can, and will, benefit you far greater than any degree. Yet, when it comes to students I always hear the same excuses. They all want to come to the class but they are too busy with studying, their life is too stressful, or they don’t have time. To that I say, Bullshit.
Most students I have taught, do not have a clue what stress is, don’t know how to manage their time properly, and cannot fathom what real priorities even look like.
I am not saying your traditional education is not a priority, but your own personal safety should NEVER take a back seat to a midterm, final or paper.

Let’s say you decide not to come to Krav Maga because of one of these reasons. You need a break and you decide to go to the bar with your friends. On the way you are attacked. Guess, what? The class in Krav Maga that you missed was exactly what you needed to know to survive. But you chose different priorities, you did not learn it and now well.. I dare not to think.

Yes I am being a bit melodramatic, and yes, I understand I am very passionate about what I do and the safety of others. But I still find it frustrating when people choose other priorities rather than come to class.

I know life happens, and this is totally ok. But frankly, giving at least an hour of your time once a week is not that difficult to achieve.

I hope my words have inspired you and if not then, oh well. But remember, your personal safety is in your own hands. Other people will not always be there to protect you.

So I ask you. What are your priorities?

Written By: Jonathan F


If you asked me in high school if I would have my own Krav Maga studios I would have told you; “What have you been smoking?” (Remember I live in Vancouver).

In traditional martial arts the Sensei, Shihan etc… is God. You do what they tell you and do not ask questions. While this may work in some cultures it doesn’t work in all cultures.

Personally any time I walk into a dojo and I see this attitude towards the head sensei I usually don’t stay there long. Don’t ask me why, but it just creeps me out. Maybe it’s because I am Jewish and I was taught to always ask questions and not to follow blindly.

This mentality was certainly not lost from me being in the Israeli Defense Force. I can remember numerous times where I told my lieutenants to F*** off. To those of you who come from more traditional armies, this is unheard of. And no, I was not punished for saying such things; it was just the nature of things. I suspect this free thinking attitude is the reason that Israelis are so innovative in general. Why is this important? It is important because Krav Maga is from Israel and as such, the mentalities associated with it often follow suite.

For our students in our regular classes, this might explain why we are so casual. Neither myself nor Borhan like being put up on a pedestal like traditional instructors. We are simply there to teach you the knowledge we have. Though we are instructors, we ourselves are still young and we know that we have a lot to learn. While we expect a certain level of respect from our students we also consider our students our friends and teachers for so for many of our students have taught as just as much as we have taught them.

I would also like to point out that no instructor, no master, and no leader is infallible. At the end of the day we are all human and to put your instructors blindly on a pedestal without question may lead to disaster. I myself am not perfect, many of my students know I like to drink and have fun, and I am not ashamed of this. I am human, and I am what I am. Does this detract from who I am as a person and instructor? I don’t think so. I would rather my students and friends see me for who I am than to put on some false face like many of the people in power out there do. I would rather be judged for who I am than someone I am not.

Instructors or leaders that are ok with themselves being put up on the pedestal are often detached from reality. A famous internet example of this is below:

The video is fairly clear. It shows that this master has evidently created a cult-like aura around himself. His belief that he can control others without even touching them is not based on reality. For his belief to be valid it requires pure obedience from his students who play the role as the unquestioning student and perhaps have been brainwashed into believing their master has powers that do not really exist.

When the master faces reality, it is obvious he was not prepared, both physically and mentally.

Of course, I acknowledge that this is an extreme example. However, it serves the purpose of proving my point.

When I sit and reflect on the situation I have put myself in, one which I never expected to be in, I am in awe. Here I am, merely 26 years old, teaching people of all ages, some twice my age, and yet they still come back to learn what I have to offer. I find this both rewarding and crazy at the same time. I know for a fact that if you ask people I went to high school with if they thought this is where I would be now, I am sure they would give you looks of shock far greater than I could imagine.

Yet this is where I am, sitting on the edge of the pedestal. I have always considered myself someone who likes to operate behind the scene and yet here I am up front and center. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps I should just jump, but then I remember I have a responsibility to my friends and to my students to continue doing what I am doing.

I just want my students and myself to always remember, I am only human, I have messed up, I have flaws and I am not perfect. Please do not look at me as something I am not, and as long as we have that understanding, I wish to continue to teach you everything that I know, everything that I will know, and I hope that you can all do the same.

Humbly yours,

Written By: Jonathan Fader

Urban Tactics Recuriting Poster- 2013 edition

Urban Tactics in Arctic

Posted: April 29, 2013 by urbantacticskravmaga in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Urban Tactics in Arctic

Adam Yip Rocking Urban Tactics T-Shirt in Arctic (Iqaluit, Nunavut) !!  


In Urban Tactics, Krav is our Craft, we take Krav Maga training very seriously.  At the same time we require our students to take the same dedication as we do. Yellow Belt is a very serious rank within Urban Tactics. Yellow Belt represents that you as a student has a solid foundation as a Kravit ( fighter ) and is ready to learn more about Krav Maga.

  1. attend Minimum 70 hours of class
  2. Contributed at least ONE article on Urban Tactics Monthly ( E-Newsletter )
  3. Physically fit and mentally prepared
  4. Able to do 50 push ups and 50 sit ups


The knife- is a simple yet deadly weapon that has been around since the dawn of time and comes in many forms. The switch blade, Gravity blades, Fixed blades, Double sided blades, Shivs (home made), Single sided blades and Butterfly knives just to name a few. The reality is a blade could be anything with a sharpened edge and can be made from metal, plastic, glass, rock etc… The ever changing nature of this weapon does not take away from its ability to injure and kill, and it is arguably more deadly than the gun due to how easy to acquire and procure a knife. In fact, the blade is the number one cause for homicide deaths in Canada. ( reference: 1 & 2 )

Throughout your life you may hear many different thoughts on blade techniques and defenses but your greatest weapon when dealing with blades is simply, YOUR COMMON SENSE.

If someone with a blade approaches you the simplest and most logical defenses are:

  1. Do as they say
  2. Run!  ( fast ! and don’t fall )
  3. Use objects such as a bag, chair, stool etc.. to block the knife and hopefully disarm the individual

When it comes to blades there is one thing to remember, if you choose to engage the individual wielding the blade, – EXPECT TO GET CUT! Due to the simplicity, fluidity and speed of bladed attacks even the most proficient knife fighter & self defense expert will still get cut.


There are two main categories of Knife attacks:

  1. The Simple/Static attacks
  2. The Complex/Fluid attacks

The Simple/Static attacks

The first category ( Simple/ Static Attacks ) is the one that is most dealt with in Krav Maga. The reason for this is that these are the most common types of attacks. These attacks occur when a person stabs straight down like an ice pick, straight up in a thrust, or straight forward to the head, midsection or groin area. These are all Stabbing motions. In these attacks the attackers arm is usually locked in a particular state. These attacks are usually crimes of passion, such as attacks of rage and are usually the first attack of an untrained individual. Statistically women are more likely to thrust downward and males are more likely to thrust upward.

Here are some examples:

  1. One prisoner is talking to another; one had a blade in his pocket. The conversation goes badly and the one with the knife puts his hand in his pocket pulls it out at waist level and thrusts it upwards into the gut of the other.
  2. You are waiting at a bus stop. A drug addict approaches you and pulls a knife out and asks you for money. You make a sudden movement that spooks him. In his questionable state he panics and thrusts forward into your chest.
  3. A woman walks into the kitchen only to find her husband cheating on her with another woman. In a fit of rage she grabs a knife, charging at the adulterous pair and thrusts downwards.

Because they are direct stabbing motions they can be instantly fatal should they pierce a vital organ or artery. The Roman historian Tacitus commented over 2000 years that only require “two inches of steel to kill a man.” Though tough to deal with, due to the untrained nature of these attacks, they can be managed. In Krav Maga system this is why the 360 degree defense was developed. It uses natural reactions and gross motor function as well as sweeping motions to deal with the straight attacks.

Examples of the 360 defense below:

These defenses are designed from natural human flinching reactions to defend against an initial straight attack. However, the defense is only one part. If it is not followed immediately by an attack to stun the knife wielder then they can simply strike again. The point is, if you don’t know how to defend properly, you are going to get cut or stabbed. This brings me back to my first point, If in doubt:

  1. Do as they say
  2. Run! ( fast ! and don’t fall )
  3. Use objects such as a bag, chair, stool etc.. to block the knife and hopefully disarm the individual

The Complex/Fluid attacks

The second type of attack is in some ways less dangerous and in some ways more dangerous. These types of attacks involve much more slashing and means either the person is just waving the blade trying to hit something or the blade is being wielded by a trained individual. While initially a slash is less deadly than a stab, a slash causing a cut anywhere can cause your heart rate to spike initiating your fight or flight reaction or cause your body to enter shock. In an untrained individual this response can cause panic resulting in further cuts or stab wounds from the attacker. The slashing attacks are also much more difficult to stop. They can be quick and short or wide and erratic. Either way the likelihood of being injured from these attacks is great if someone chooses to engage in it. The best way to deal with these attacks is simple:

  1. Run!
  2. Use objects such as a bag, chair, stool etc.. to block the knife and hopefully disarm the individual


Choosing to engage someone who is slashing in a controlled or wild fashion is usually a losing battle for any individual. Simply put, if you do not have the speed and timing to deal with these quick attacks you have then gotten yourself in a lot of trouble.

The Knife Fighter


Movie: The Hunted. One of the best & realistic Knife fighting scene in movie history.

A knife fight is fundamentally different than a random attack and making the mistake of thinking they are the same will result poorly for you. These days, it is all too common for young people or those from other cultures to regularly carry a knife on them at all times. Example: Punjab youth may carry their ceremony dagger (reference:3). The scenario of two individuals pulling out a knife and engaging in combat is all to real in other parts of the world. (reference: 4) For example – Pilipino Kali ( Escrima & Arnis )  sect feud in the 70s. North America might not have its blade culture in modern society but many recent immigrants still keep theirs. A knife fight is knowingly entered and with conscious thought as one can always choose to run away from such a situation. Fighting a trained knife fighter with weapon or empty hand is a very scary and stupid thing and personally I would be more afraid of being attacked by a trained knife expert than someone putting a gun to my head. A systematic knife fighting attacks involved both types of attacks, the more fluid slashing attacks and the more static stabbing attacks. Often a slash is a set up for a stab.

Knife Fighting Ranges:

1. Far – At this range the opposing fighter is too far to directly stab you. Your best bet is to parry their attack by striking/slashing their wrist with your blade causing a cut. Hopefully this one parry will cause them to drop their knife and thus winning you the fight.

2. Close – At this range they are close enough to strike your face or body. At this range, you not only are going to have to strike with your knife but also defend with your free hand. If you do not also use your free hand to defend yourself, then even if you strike them they will also strike you. This causes a lose, lose situation.

3. Clinch – At this range if you do not already have some control of their knife hand you will most likely be stabbed MULTIPLE times. If you have managed to control their knife hand, then even if they have controlled your knife hand as well, you can use attacks such as kicks, elbows and head butts to do damage to your opponent.

Types of knife


As mentioned previously, knives can come in many shapes and designs, and can have different functions depending on their intended use. All designs can be equally deadly.

Closing Notes

I hope this article provides you with some principals of the knife defense. When dealing with knives as I stated many times the best action is to simply not engage the attacker, run ! The moment you decide to close the distance you are now putting yourself at risk of being cut or stabbed ( Noted: There are still moments closing the distance might be the better option ). Remember, when it comes to dealing with knives, ASSUME you will get cut if you engage. With this mentality you will not be surprised if and when you do. Also, you will be aware that if you think you are going to get cut you can attempt to minimize the damage by controlling where you do get cut. For example: blocking so that you get cut on the outside or bladed side of the forearm rather than the soft inner portion that has all the veins and arteries. There are many school of thoughts when comes to knife defense. This articles is base upon my own trainings and actual experience in operation in West Bank.There might be points you disagree; nevertheless, No matter what you hear and who you hear it from, the fact remains the same, Knives are dangerous and very deadly.

Written By: Jonathan Fader

Edited By: Warren C & Borhan J



A student of mine, Doug sent me a youtube video and asked my opinion about this video:

I replied to Doug that I agree with most of what the instructor in this video said but I also have my own points to add. I believe punches are still valid attacks. First of all: it is a human reaction to make a fist under threat or other extreme stress. I would suggest that all my students in my class, except for law enforcement officers, make fists when they attack. I’d rather trade broken phalanges for fluid, powerful and natural attacks.

Secondly, in Krav Maga we punch with at a 45-degree angle to reduce impact to the finger bones, and from there we can quickly transfer to hammer strike. Also, by doing this, we condition our knuckles to take impacts. Last but not least, the instructor (camouflage pants) is “telegraphing” his attacks a lot prior to his strike as normal people do. But we are trained Krav Maga fighters: Any trained fighters want to strike the person with his fist rapidly, and with accuracy, power and speed. He or she can do it without telegraphing and giving the other person a chance to flinch. The following sequence attacks should be knee-elbow-kick instead of punches.

Now, this is just my own approach. Like the instructor in this video I have my own beliefs base upon my own training and experience. Doug and other students should form their own points. My body shape and life experience is different from my students and who am I to tell them this is the only way? I believe in telling students the textbook method, other school methods, and asking them to form their own method.

Krav Maga is Science+Experience. Science does not change but individual experience differs from people to people. I do not have all the solutions but I can give you all the science (knowledge + tactics + techniques) and you can find your own answer though your own experience (real life dangers + scenario, play + sparring). The trick is to always be able to find one’s own solution. On the street, I do not know how you will react or what kind of situation you will be in. No matter how seasoned and experienced I am as a Krav Maga instructor or combat psychology expert, I am not you. I can give you some general guidelines on how people react but I am not god nor I can predict the future. Real life situations are chaotic and unpredictable. I recall back in the days when I worked as an armored car guard for cash transport. Our AO (Area of Operations) was in the worst neighborhood of East Vancouver. We were a three-man crew, highly trained and armed to the teeth. We drilled on the worst types of situation’s we could imagine finding ourselves in. One night we came out of the bank and there was a junkie woman climbing on our car and trying to rip off the side mirror of the armored truck. Because of our rules of engagement, my partner and the driver and I could only look at this lady ripping the truck’s side mirror off piece by piece while pounding on the window. All we could do was call the police and hope they would come on time to be able to stop the woman in time to prevent major damage to the car. That’s right; one 80-pound East Vancouver junkie stopped three strong, armed men. There is an SOP (Standard Operation Procedure) for this, and an SOP for that, but no SOP telling us how to deal with a junkie, high as kite, who was ripping our truck apart.

Real life dangers can come in many forms; as instructors we cannot foresee every scenario. It is best if we teach the students the tools of fighting and the mindset of experimentation and exploration so they can form their own methods against dangers on their own paths.

Written By:Borhan

Edited By : Max Birkner

Beyond the Dojo: When the Stakes are High, Martial Arts Discipline Becomes a Valuable Asset.

By Max Birkner

Masset, British Columbia.


Few Canadians will ever see the archipelago called Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. But for 21 soldiers from 39th Canadian Brigade Group, the archipelago became the site in January of a Basic Wilderness Survival Training course run by the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, a component of the Army Reserve. Among the candidates was Krav Maga instructor Borhan Jiang. The 29 year-old martial arts expert was a long way from his dojo, but the city slicker did pretty well for himself, and me, his partner in survival on our final 72-hour skill confirmation exercise.

The site where the training took place is called Rose Spit. Easily found on Google Maps the long spit is a geographical Pinocchio on the North Eastern side of Graham Island. On a clear day you can see Alaska, but there are no clear days, at least there were none when we were there. The place is ideal for survival training. The wet coastal conditions are unforgiving and January temperatures often hover between 5 and -2 degrees Celsius.


What we drink 🙂 Whiskey


This is not a Christmas tree but a signal fire

For the first three days of the exercise the candidates rotated through stands on the beach, each featuring a particular survival skill such as shelter building or food gathering. Every soldier was re-familiarized on the Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun, and learned about bear spray and other predator deterrents. On the first morning of the confirmation phase candidates woke up at 0500 and gathered outside the tents at base-camp to be shuttled out to the areas (sited at intervals of one kilometer) where each group of two would survive on their own for three days. As everyone stood outside waiting to load into ATVs, the sergeant major walked through the ranks and split up the pre-determined partnerships, putting everyone with a stranger. We had minimal equipment for the three days and three nights. Two ponchos, a space blanket, knife, hatchet, lighter and fire starter, plus one ration between us and a small bag of deer meat was all we had to go on. We did not have watches or any way to tell the time, and only a disposable camera to take photos with.

The first two days were largely spent working on and improving our shelter – a lean-to with two wind walls, the fire very close to our sleeping spot. We invented a backpack for firewood out of the panel on an AC unit. There was a lot of useful garbage washed up on the beach. The darkness lasted 15 hours per every 24 and our shelter was 200 meters from the beach because of the sparse terrain, so it was a challenge to haul enough firewood. The last day was spent only gathering firewood. It was humbling to think how much energy it would take to gather any food other than seaweed and other plants if it had been real and we had no idea when rescue would be coming.


Home ! sweet home

On the morning after the third night the Rangers drove by the stands honking their horns. Everyone at their shelters ran out to light their signal fires on the beach and wait for pickup. An hour later we were eating breakfast at a motel in Masset, waiting for the flight out. We learned that over the course of the 72 hours two groups had given up and bailed out early. During our time in the wild Borhan demonstrated constantly the usefulness of martial arts discipline when applied outside the dojo or a combat situation. While he had very little experience in the outdoors, the mental and physical fitness obtained through constant training were important factors in our ability as a team. It made surviving a lot easier that it would have been otherwise.


Max and Borhan ~! oh yes and their manly beards

Max Birkner is a member of the Rocky Mountain Rangers in Kamloops and is enrolled in the Bachelor of Journalism program at Thompson Rivers University.

Additional photos of this training can be find at





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Photo By: Leon Underwood

Model: Camile Reynords