Before me a man paced, his hands whisking about as he attempted to draw motivation from the band of 24 participants lining the floor.
You must quiet your inner chimp, reiterated the course’s instructor—referring to the inner voice responsible for whispering discouragement and dissuasion.
My inner chimp was dangling from the rafters of my mind, cheekily swinging in and out of my thoughts.
Would I be able to survive the vigorous physical pressure of the CT707 Krav Maga course? Would I just make a fool of myself trying to remember the techniques?
The only exercise I’d had lately was cycling to work, some infrequent badminton and an occasional dive for the last crisp.
But, I finally did it! I spontaneously signed myself up for a self-defence course.
Ok, so the editor at the newspaper I’m freelancing at asked if anyone was interested in the course and I went, “ooh! Me, me, me, mememememe!!!!!” while flapping my arms around like a wild goose.
Still, after my experience in Laos I was hoping for a chance to attend a self-defence course. It turned out to be quite the ride too. I’m glad I did it despite the price (my muscles weren’t too happy)!
I think my proudest moment was enjoying the course despite my anxiety at the beginning.
When I’d arrived for the course I was greeted by a mass of participants wearing black shirts proudly displaying the local Simply Krav Maga school’s symbol.
They looked professional.
Krav Maga was originally developed for people of all kinds of fitness levels and ages so I should be fine, I managed to remind myself.
A man named Imrich Lichtenfield in Bratislava, Slovakia created Krav Maga as a self-defense system for Jews against Nazi death squads and other anti-semetic groups. Later others would develop the system further to make it more efficient and streamlined for civilians. The Israeli army would also adopt the system, adapting it to further military use.
Jolting out of my thoughts I realized that Dave Wignall—the director for Simply Krav Maga in Cambridge and one of the two instructors for the course—had finished his introduction. Shoving my inner chimp aside I stood with the rest of the group and leapt into movement.
During the warm up alone I learned two things: one, I was thankfully listening to Dave’s advice to stick to my own pace and it felt good and two, I have absolutely no arm strength. Lord, push-ups suck.
I was never reprimanded for being a bit slower and shouts of encouragement emanated consistently from the two instructors, Ryan Hodgeson and Dave.
The two had trained in the US under Sgt. Major Nir Mamam, the creator of this specific form of Krav Maga, and represented two of the three qualified instructors in the UK.
Their qualifications became clear as they demonstrated each tactic to deal with armed attackers.
The participants of the course learned how to control an attacker armed with an impact weapon at the “pre-draw phase” and the “drawn phase”.
At the pre-drawn phase the steps I moved through in the follow-up drill looked something from an action novel—well at least in my own mind it did.
Grasping the wrist with the pole while smacking the same-side shoulder with my free hand I shoved my elbow up, driving my arm into the neck of my attacker and pushing him back. Now with his thinking pattern disrupted I was instructed to release the wrist, snake my arm around his elbow to the lock the weapon arm and then use my opposite arm to shove the man’s head down with a “goose-neck” hold. From there I could proceed to kick or knee my attacker in the stomach or groin as deemed necessary.
After the execution of these moves I’d drop out of the role quickly though, releasing my fake attacker and apologizing, worried that I’d somehow managed to hurt him. Every “attacker” assured me he was fine, so you’d think I’d stop apologizing, but nope. I kept at it.
Must be a Canadian thing.
Next we moved on to what was dubbed the “superman” move where we flew over our attacker’s arm with the upraised weapon and locked it down while simultaneously locking their head and subsequently “kicking the crap out of them”.
I know it sounds like a superhero move doesn’t it with super speed and everything…
Director’s note: Kids. Violence is wrong!
I kept getting in trouble for bouncing rather than flowing toward my attacker and I tended to not be willing to tuck my head down between my outstretched arms which would leave me open to a head blow.
By noon, after two hours of technique and drills, my head was spinning a bit despite by “attackers” failing to cash in on the opportunity to squash my brain.
The head spin was either from having my head dipped down so many times or the house warming party the night before. I hadn’t had THAT many drinks, but the lack of sleep coupled with the dehydration from the exercises was probably leading me into hangover territory.
With the explicit instructions from the instructors to nab a drink whenever we needed one I dashed away from the drills whenever I could find an opening to quench my thirst.
Section two of the four-hour course would lead into dealing with multiple attackers. I was becoming at ease with the other participants since they seemed to respect my beginner speed, hesitation and naivety.
Many were very helpful and offered suggestions to tighten my grip (which was super odd coming from the guys who would soon be locked in the grip).
Shuffling into groups of three we started out with an innocent game of he-taps-me-I-tap-you-and-visa-versa to learn the time it takes to react to someone poking (or worse) your buddy. Then we stepped things up a notch. We were instructed to smack both “attacking” people on the forehead to fake stabbing at their eyes then whip behind one of them and create a human shield.
How do I feel about using a human shield?
Well I doubt it would be that easy and smooth.
We were told we should dump our hostage as soon as possible so we could confront our other attacker with a lock and kicks.
This section of the course was all about judgement, disruption, speed and agility. You judged which person to take out first, disrupted your attackers’ thoughts by smacking their faces then dashed behind one and manipulated them into a constant position between you and your other opponent.
While the moves looked really effective, I think I’d need at least a year to learn how to use them properly and instinctively. Hesitation was one of my key hang-ups.
The other issue…. was the delayed reaction from my body to all this lovely exercise.
The day after the course (and the CamCon event I attended after) I was pretty much as stiff as a post. Standing that morning I assessed my body and realized that my thigh and upper arm muscles were the main casualties. All the squats and half-assed pushups had caught up to me. It’s day three after the course and I still can’t fully straighten my arms.
I’m pretty sure it was the last burst of exercise drills that really massacred my muscles. It was so vigorous even the instructors were only joining in on and off. At some points I just gave up and watched. My floppy push-ups weren’t going to help much anyway. Plus, I wasn’t about to sacrifice sauntering though CamCon, a local comic convention, for this.
In the end it’s a good thing I didn’t need the techniques. I would hate to have creaked up to my attacker flapping my fancy new Krav Maga course completion certificate in their face as proof of my “prowess”.
Though maybe that might be a great bluff tactic?
What do you think?