Posts Tagged ‘Martial Arts’

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.

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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.

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Krav Maga is a system based on reality, or at least it should be. The real world is dirty, and our continued belief that people are all good, or they are all stable, or they are perfect is a false narrative. Its just not real, and we need to stop believing such things.

Sure. Some people don’t drink, do drugs, party or do anything that some people might consider enjoying life. The reality is, however, anything but as the majority of people are not “pure” in the traditional conservative sense. Look at the current scandals in Hollywood. These people who are the “leaders” of culture at least in North America and being uncovered to be real people, with faults and dirty secrets. and not the pure people we keep pretending they are.

My point is that life is messy, people are messy, and things are rarely what they seem.

Krav Maga is no different. Though there are many problems in the Krav Maga world one of the issues, I would like to discuss is the idea of the puritan Krav Maga Instructor.

Often, traditional martial artists who have been doing it for years find Krav Maga. For one reason or another, they decide they are going to teach it or integrate it into their programs. Of course, if you taught any traditional martial arts, your mentality and school culture will be heavily ingrained in that styles culture, which may not be realistic in nature.

Take the Bushido code, for example, an ideology that is more modern in many ways than we like to think. If you as instructor adhere to it strictly in your life and school and yet teach Krav Maga, I am not sure if you understand how to teach Krav Maga.

“Do you really understand the reality that is Krav Maga and the violence associated with real self defense scenarios?”

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting people go to any of the following. However, if your life is too pure I ask, do you really understand the reality that is Krav Maga and the violence associated with a real self defense scenario?

If you have never had a drink. If you have never done any drug(s) (coffee is a drug ) or even have never been around drugs. If you have never been in a fight or have seen a fight in the street. If you have never been exposed to the harsh realities or hardship that so much of the world has to deal with like being broke, being hungry or you have never exposed your self to the abuse that some people have had to endure, are you really equipped to teach real Krav Maga?

Real self defense is dirty, real self defense isn’t preatty because real life is neither of those things. If you don’t at least understand these aspects of life I am not sure you are equipped to teach any form of self defense let alone Krav Maga.

Again, I am not saying go on a bender so that you can understand what so many people have experienced but what I am saying, if you were never exposed to the real world then perhaps you do not understand as much as you think you do.

A saying that I like in one variation or another is as follows.

“A fool repeats his mistakes. A smart man learns from his mistakes. But a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

 

In the context of this article, it means that you don’t have to experience it personally but at the very least expose your self to the harsh realities of the real world that so many people have to deal with.

If you have never gone hungry for a few days, if you have never even been around people on cocaine or other drugs. If you have never left your suburban neighbourhood and taken a walk down a dark alley where it’s not so nice, then I ask again. Do you understand the harsh realities of the world? I think not.

If your life has been too pure, you may be lucky, or you may be a fool, but I think you shouldn’t be trying to teach self defense of any kind because I genuinely believe you don’t understand.

One of the reasons this is an important thing is because many people are attracted to Krav Maga because they have been exposed to these realities and they want to learn how to protect themselves from the real world better. So if you have never been exposed to any of it and you live your life according to any kind of puritan code then how can you possibly relate to the majority of your students? I just don’t think you can, and I think you are doing a disservice to them.

Of course, if you only teach to people like you then perhaps you are ok, but I just don’t think these kinds of schools properly prepare people for violent conflict of any kind.

If you are a student, ask your self, does your instructor really understand the real world?

If you are an instructor, ask yourself, do you really understand the real world?

If you are honest and the answer happens to be NO, then perhaps you should either get some more experience or do something else for a living. and for the record, age is not always a factor when it comes to experience. Though it is a correlation, remember correlation does not equal causation. I have met some 12 year olds who have experienced more in their lives than some 50 year olds, for good or bad.

Just my two cents.

 

Warriors Den Podcast

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Bruce Fontaine is a local martial artist, Stunt Coordinator, Actor and Director. He was lucky to get experience in the Hong Kong movie industry in 80 and 90s. He was even fortunate enough to have worked with Jackie Chan in the Movie Operation Condor. Though his primary style is Wushu he has dabbled in other styles. Since his return in the mid 90s, he has worked as a stunt coordinator for both the movie industry and for a time for Electronic Arts. We talk about his experience in both martial arts and the movie industry with a few off-topic conversations.

 

Bruce in a movie called Curry and Pepper

Bruce in the Hong Kong Movie scene back in the day.

 

 

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This is part of a series on our instructor training program. To understand this series and how our Assistant Instructor Course and Full Instructor Course work, please start with Part 1. This post is a self-introduction from one of our current Assistant Instructor candidates.

My name is Andrew.  Jon made us give our names. Our real names, too. Dammit. I so wanted to be called “Hawk of Hell”.  I’m one of the people up there in the image above. The rest are my family.

I’ve been studying Krav Maga at UTKM for, oh, a year and a half now, barring downtime for work, illness, etc. I’m currently enrolled in the six-month long Assistant Instructor course, which comprises of hours of weekly classroom study, physical practice, many written and verbal tests, culminating in a final exam and an orange belt test.

By the time I’m an Assistant Instructor, I will know plenty more about every aspect of Krav Maga than I’d ever even thought existed. Technically, I volunteered for this process and this blog post is to explain why. Also, I have to write it or else. Fear is the little death. I must not fear…unless you’ve been kicked a lot in the groin. Then fear. Anyhoo.

As a child and young man, I took a fair amount of beatings, being too smart, too chubby and, mostly, too mouthy in a small rural community where none of those attributes, especially combined, were particularly… appealing to other children. This gave me an early respect for what physical harm can do in terms of motivation and deterrent, as well as a serious desire to not be on the receiving end of said harm.

In the 30+ years since I first tried a martial art (Karate of some kind when I was about 12), I’ve enjoyed the idea that there could be a system to not getting beaten up, as opposed to my more generalized don’t-talk-so-much-oh-crap-run-fast methodology. I’ve tried Karate of various kinds, Kung Fu, and Aiki-Jutsu, mostly dabbling in these as life took me from one place to another. I’ve liked all of them. Some I’ve loved, like Tai Chi. My tiny, murderously precise Tai Chi teacher helped as well. Suffering brings focus, kids!  Wait… small, murdery, hyper-fussy… I may have a “type…” Hmm.

I’ve also been in a few (probably too many) real-life fights and I noticed that outside individual techniques (snap kick, straight punch, etc.), relatively little of what I learned in a dojo or studio translated very well to sudden application in the rain or on the cement or while walking home thinking about math classes (math – where getting punched in the face isn’t the lowest point of your day). Sadly, part-time martial arts training wasn’t really helping me fight safely and by the time I’d learned it well enough, I was actually old enough that people had stopped using their angry bits to get me to stop talking. Mostly.

However, I’d long had an interest in Krav Maga, mostly because I’d read the founder, Imi Lichtenfeld used what became Krav to punch Nazis. Nazis.

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The fighting style for Nazi-punching. Hell yes, I’m interested! Sign me up! And my children! And my wife!

This might have gone on as an unrequited love affair forever except my teenage daughter moved to the city with us and (wisely) demanded some self-defense training. A more in-depth study of practical defense systems indicated that Krav Maga was a very solid choice for someone interested not in out-boxing or out-grappling an opponent on a mat, but more in surviving an attempted robbery or rape while on their way home, thinking about math. Also for punching Nazis, should any be so foolish as to rear their dyed blonde heads again. Anti-rape, anti-nazi, so much goodness in one eye-gouging package.

Today, my whole family does Krav – schedules allowing. The young ones for protection, the older ones for fun. Since I’ve already proven I can raise larvae without all of them dying (yet), our Lead Instructor decided that I should be applied to the (theoretically) more durable students. I might have said no, but having been a frequent groin kick-ee has reduced my will to oppose said groin kick-er. It’s a very Krav method of promotion. Just like real life, sometimes “choice” is just a synonym  for “sudden stabbing pain.”

So far, my experience with the Assistant Instructor program can be summed up in that Jon is a cruel bastard with the compassion of a dying wolf spider. Less legs, though.

 

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Our lead instructor, Jonathan among UTKM students after a Yellow Belt test.

 

I hope only to make it through the six (6) two-hour-long exams (no multiple choice, what, are you kidding? You mad fool!), the midterm and the final exam in order to throw up all over my Lead Instructor during my Orange Belt test. Gonna eat hot dogs and clams in oyster sauce just before the test – good luck cleaning that smell out.

Then graduate and do to others what has so thoroughly been done to me. Yesss.

Gotta have dreams, right? Good! Hands up! Look around! Condition yellow, kids. Never know when there’s a big guy with a (padded) bat right behind you…

Since the internet was made publically available, it has changed the world in so many ways. In general, it has increased the connectivity of ideas and thoughts, which can be positive but also gives the ability for any idiot to have a voice. Don’t get me wrong, I am generally for free speech, but now with so much information, it can make it difficult for the average person to know what’s what.

For martial arts, I think it has been a good thing. For a long time, individual styles have been isolated to specific regions and cultures. Through the advent of the internet, it has allowed a mix of martial arts ideas and thoughts to arise all over the world. The internet is probably what helped MMA expand so rapidly, for instance.

Now, in the world of martial arts, this means that it is time to adapt or die. It also means that anyone can put up their videos, whether good or bad and sell their brand of martial arts.

For some videos like the ones below, it can be easy for the average person to decern bullshit or not.

But for other videos like the following, it can cause confusion to both those in the know and those who are not in the know.

I came across the above video on a page for one of the numerous Krav Maga organizations I follow. This video faced criticism in the comments section and rightfully so. However, some of the criticism had me concerned mildly.

First, let’s start with the valid concerns:

  1. I am generally against women only classes due to the unrealistic nature of the attack scenarios often presented. On the bright side, I did see a male in a demo which seemed to be an instructor, but it is unlikely he was attacking with realistic pressure or aggression which causes an unrealistic expectation for a woman in their ability should they ever need to defend themselves. There are some other males, but again the pace of and training of this class seems to be oriented to the woman. Personally, I see no difference in training women vs. men. It’s just a matter of building every individual into the best version of themselves. I structure my classes the same regardless of the balance of gender in my class. Also, if a woman is uncomfortable training for violence in and around men, it is a consideration that some form of counselling may be advised. Women need to understand that whether right or wrong, most attackers will be male and bigger and stronger and often more aggressive, so they must train for reality and not ideas or fitness. In addition, I refuse to teach people who demand that I cater to their version of self-defense. A colleague of mine was recently asked to teach a Krav Maga class without any reference to violence or anything that may seem traumatic. Remember, as Bruce Lee said, you are ready to learn when your cup is empty.bruce_lee2
  2. It is unnerving fact that many people only seem to want to learn self-defense when violence around them rises, rather than preparing for it even during peaceful times. Remember, Krav Maga is so you may walk in peace. Even during times of peace, you should learn and practice. With that being said, Anti-Semitism against Jews never went away and is on the rise in most countries again. Though in Canada, it has a low occurrence, this is probably why so little Jews (at least in Vancouver) participate in Krav Maga or other martial arts. Remember, it is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.
  3. Praying isn’t going to save you in a violent situation, only violence will. If you aren’t training properly with aggression you may be in trouble. Also, while Krav Maga is not about fitness, being in reasonable shape to act and move quickly is important for proper self-defense. The reality is in a given situation, you may have to run for a few kilometres and the techniques and athletism shown in this video is slow and sloppy. So how prepared are these woman really? This doesn’t mean they cannot become something more, but the training needs to reflect this and in this section of the video at least it does not.
  4. Some of the techniques shown, such as the “cavalier” or knife disarm are old and risky especially for such a group of people. The fact that numerous Krav Maga organizations still use such techniques is shocking to me as to much can go wrong with them.

Now, I have a couple of thoughts regarding some of the comments I saw on the page where I found the video:

  1. Something is better than nothing. Even if this training is mediocre and unrealistic, it is a start.
  2. The people on the page seemed unfamiliar with the older cavalier technique. This is a historical Krav Maga technique and should be known by all practitioners regardless of whether or not you like it. The fact that they were unfamiliar suggests the individuals of this organization very rarely train with other organizations and lack perspective in Krav Maga. It also shows that they are not familiar with the historical development of Krav Maga. To me, this is bordering on an insular and cult-like mentality, which I am strongly against. I always encourage individuals to cross train, even when they are not convicted of another organisations abilities or moves.

Now, of course, the folly of the internet is releasing a video without proper context. I very rarely like to release a simple clip without some kind of explanation. If you show too little of a specific move or concept without full background information it is very easy to pick apart on the internet. I see videos all the time, from people I respect, that I think are ridiculous because there is no context.

Especially for Krav Maga, a move or concept should be fully fleshed out. If it is a move, you should show it both in slow motion and in its full speed application. This way, it solidifies the argument you are trying to make. I get it that people do not wish to give away to much for free, but the reality is if you release one bad video, it can be picked apart easily by those on the internet.

Let’s be honest, the quality of your video matters as well. A flashy, well-produced video, even if it isn’t that great technically, can draw out the sales. But if you have the money for such a video, why not produce something that also shows off technical prowess under realistic stress and conditions?

The internet unified the martial arts community and the world, and yet we are still so divided. Krav Maga, for example, is more fractured than ever. There are so many schools and organizations some which are better than others, but most which are garbage. Too many people pretend to know what they are doing and still get students because of the content they release. In addition, in many cases, the fact is they have a captive audience from a group of people who may not have the proper perspective or background knowledge when it comes to Krav Maga or self-defense.

Beware of videos on the internet, which can make or break you as a self-defense practitioner. Put content out there with some discretion and make sure it doesn’t misrepresent you if you are good, or over represent you if you are not so good. Although, you probably don’t even know…

*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.

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The fourth dimension is a complicated concept for many people and you can get a general idea of what it means here and here.

What is the fourth dimension?

Time. In the art of self-defense, the element of time is often a forgotten factor: taking our past experiences into the present while learning new skills in the now. Self defense is to prepare for the worst of the future, while hoping you never have to use what you know now.

The 4th dimension is the often a forgotten aspect of good self-defense

How many styles of martial arts out there have got you practising forms and katas? How many of them teach a set of moves that are solutions to various offensive and defensive strategies? The answer is many, if not most, traditional styles. Now, how many of them are still teaching strategy or the art of war?

Not, many.

In today’s progressive societies which are driven by image and consumerism, even those who claim to be against capitalism often reject violence as a part of the human reality. An individual in a wealthy neighbourhood on the West Coast who has never been exposed to physical violence can easily renounce violence as bad. Unfortunately, the majority of people on this planet cannot do or say the same. Thus, when policy makers who have had privileged lives, no matter their ethnic background, try to dictate to everyone to be peaceful without understanding the nature of violence or use of force, we often end up with pointless documents that don’t always do anything to protect people.

As you may know, I am a big believer in teaching individuals not to rely on law enforcement or others for their own self-defence. If you don’t know, this is because in the moment, a split second is all it takes to change from a survivor to a body bag. In most violent situations, individuals do not have the luxury to wait on the phone and hope someone shows up in time.

So what does any of this have to do with the fourth dimension?

Well, time is relative. Depending on the situation, it could mean many things. Learning proper self-defence is so much more than just learning what to do in a specific physical confrontation. Self-defense is also about learning the strategy to avoid conflict in the future by learning from our past. This is where time and experience comes in.

There is a saying I like, it goes something like this:

“A fool does not learn from his mistakes. A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

This saying has been used in one form or another over the years and it echos truth no matter how it is said. Time is an important factor of self-defense because learning not only from your past, but also the past of others gives you context for violence and how to avoid it. It also teaches that sometimes violence and not peace is, in fact, the best solution to stopping more violence. This is where good strategy comes in, which based in reality in the past, present and future.

Knowing an opponent’s past will prepare you for a future confrontation and will better allow you to apply the appropriate strategy for a higher survival outcome.

A more simplified example could be thinking twice about heading to particular area of a city that is historically known for its crime or violence. (Situtaional awareness!)

A great self-defense program, no matter the style, will consider time in all its forms to teach proper strategy. Because without a proper strategy based on experience and knowledge as dictated by time, a person could easily be overwhelmed by a violent situation because it’s not at all what they were expecting.

Another easy aspect of time with self-defense is of course practice. There is often a flawed idea with regards to self-defense which is “oh, that’s easy to learn” and thinking you can be proficient at it in a very short amount of time. I know we have written about this previously, but it cannot be overstated that this is a flawed belief.

The only way to really be ready for conflict is to continue to practice, even if it is easy to learn, so that you become proficient enough to apply what you know even in overwhelming odds. Thinking you know how to defend yourself just because you took a few classes and broke a sweat is presuming far too much. Sure, we see stories all the time about people, usually woman or girls who took a little bit of self-defense and managed to fend off their attackers. Of course, these are great stories, but the truth is that these individuals got lucky. How many situations did we not hear about where the person wasn’t quite so fortunate. Just like time is forgotten, physics is also forgotten when it comes to self-defense. If you took some self-defense classes, but are not proficient under stress because you didn’t put in the time required and your attacker is someone skilled and considerably larger, then you have failed to account for such an overwhelming strategy and the outcome may not be so desirable.

Signs a self-defense school is not serious
  • If they only ever show set moves and answers for specific attack patterns
  • If they don’t encourage you to come and practice, even only once a week or month

If you’re at a place like this, maybe you are not in the right place for serious self-defense. In my opinion, a good self-defense school should take the time to go over strategy, explain current events regarding violence, and regularly put people of different sizes and skills together to challenge individuals so that they understand sometimes there are situations in which you may not be so lucky.

The fourth dimension in self-defense

Time means experience. Time means practice. Time means perspective. Time means strategy relative to the situation. When it comes to self defense, knowing the element of time can prepare you to deal with reality. Did you think of time as part of your self-defense system? Are you prepared to deal with all possible realities of self-defense?

*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.

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