Krav Island 2014


Well it was a pretty intense two days at Krav Island this year. This is an event started by my friend John Miller, Director of Institute of Krav Maga Scotland, just over 5 years for about 30 of his students and instructors. This year there were over 170 participants, the majority completing two great days of training.

The format was different this year with the head honcho Eyal Yanilov teaching on both days alongside John Miller, Jon Bullock, Nick Maison and Neil Walton, an awesome instructor line up. The weather threatened us on the Saturday and blessed us on the Sunday and each brought its own challenges but the midges were largely absent.  Loch Lomond was freezing, dark and foreboding for those who took the plunge, but this event is also about stepping right out of your comfort zone, literally off a pier and into the dark, cold watery depths.

Altogether there was over 15 hours training plus a fantastic BBQ and time for a few beers. The training was really good and the event drew people from Scotland, hardly surprising, a large contingent from all over England, particularly the Southampton mob from the ‘No Fear Academy’, Germany, Holland and America, and there it was great to meet up with friends old and new.

I love Krav Island, I wish there was a Ju Jitsu Island but there isn’t but it is the atmosphere, the buzz, the vibe that is infectious. A small but keen contingent from the Gracie Ju Jitsu Barra in Glasgow were clearly enjoying themselves as the training was pitched to be challenging but accessible to all. I enjoy watching quality instruction in whatever art or form it comes in, it is a craft and to deliver it well is a real skill.

Having taken over a Ju Jitsu club in Sheffield very recently has caused me to revisit how instruction should be delivered, what are the necessary underlying skills and knowledge base and how do we place the student, not the instructor, at the centre of the learning process? Well I can tell you anybody who instructs could do far worse than get along to Krav Island for a masterclass. I learn more each time I go, I like some of the techniques, not every one, and I nick bits, we all do that, but I also study the art of instructing and use what I experience to help me to perform better.

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I will be writing a further, more detailed article on Krav Island 2014 on the Conflict Research Group International website shortly, get on the site and check it out. I interviewed many participants this year, satisfaction was very high, words like brilliant, fantastic, superb were used a lot, as was tough, demanding, exhausting, hard work. I think the fantastic Sgt Maison slots summed this up, take a look.

You knew Sarge was in the mood when you awoke to the call “Hands of c**s and on with your socks” in our Lochside accommodation. I decided it was best to get up sharpish and start cooking that bacon and mashing a brew.

It was a long drive up there from Sheffield on Saturday morning and a late night and early morning to follow, then the long drive back home on Sunday night. Was it worth it, you bet. Will I be there next year, you bet.

Do I hope that other martial arts groups set up their versions of Krav Island and get out there and train in our beautiful countryside, yes you bet I hope for that too. And yes, I have an outdoor training event planned for next year myself, will you?

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Conflict Research Group International


Its OFFICIAL, CRGI website now open for your enjoyment.

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Conflict Research Group International is the result of an alliance of individuals with very different viewpoints and experiences but a common commitment to expanding awareness, insight and options related to all aspects of interpersonal conflict and violence. Our goal is to make you better.

The goal of CRGI is to provide a diverse resource for people with an interest in learning more about all aspects of conflict management. The self-defense, martial arts, professional security, and anti-violence industry is rife with misinformation, self-serving agenda, tribal thinking, ideological wars,  and down right lousy information.  The CRGI will counter some of that by providing a comprehensive source for the fearless truth.

As a group of different people with varied backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs, we don’t always agree on everything. But, we do agree on the basic principles of self-improvement and evolving through training and exposure to new ideas and differing viewpoints.

The bottom line: The CRGI will filter the enormous amount of information available on conflict management so you can focus on the material most applicable to you.

The last few paragraphs are lifted straight off the website, this is already a huge site and there is a lot more content in the pipeline including numerous guest articles from internationally renowned authors.

Please visit the site and take a good look around, this is the place to go for informed discussion and information. This has been and continues to be an incredibly exciting project and part of my own ongoing journey as I learn and develop in my martial art and self defence training and as a person. I have met and trained with some incredible people in recent year and consider myself very fortunate to have done so. The journey goes on, it gets more and more exciting, the other night I was writing on Google docs, a joint article with Marc MacYoung.

I sat in Sheffield as Marc sat in Denver and we were working together on the same piece in real time, a joint article that will be posted on the CRGI website very soon. Let me tell you that for a period it felt very surreal, watching Marc’s thoughts appear letter by letter and me replying, remember I was reading his books a few years ago and never thought we would meet let alone this. Well truth is proven to be stranger than fiction for me as if somebody had said any of this would happen a few years ago even I would have thought they were off on one.

But it has, it is here and it is here to stay because sometimes you need to dare to think the ridiculous if not the impossible. Yes there is a lot of hard work involved, in this case by numerous people especially Erik, and perspiration and inspiration in equal measure, thousands of emails, thousands of communications on private forums, agreements and disagreements, discussions galore, but look what popped out in the end.

Now that we have started, and this is just a start, the work starts in earnest and in fact has never stopped. It is our aim to build an unrivaled resource for those interested in a wide range of issues around human conflict. We want to include the brightest and best in their respective fields to come on board and share our vision. We seek not to lecture but to learn alongside subscribers making the best use of the freedoms the internet provides.

Please visit the site and sign up for free, we hope you like it enough to subscribe and join us as CRGI grows and develops. We welcome fellow travelers with open arms, click the link and enjoy.

http://conflictresearchgroupintl.com/

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It’s Complicated


Where did the rest of March go, and where the hell did April go for that matter. Blimey, time certainly flies when you are having fun. Well much of March was spent working in various schools, preparing for the Rory Miller roadshow I was organising and training away as usual plus lots of lovely times with my family. The latter being the most important part, the bit that keeps us grounded, embedded nay cocooned in their love and goodwill. If you think I am feeling a bit emotional here you may be right as my wife has been away in Copenhagen for a few days and my daughter and grandson moved out recently too so I am all alone in this big old house that we brought up a family in. Well times change and they are all healthy and happy and doing their own thing in the world  and that I celebrate. We brought them up to stand on their own two feet and they are all doing that each in their own way.

Being alone for a few days, though I saw quite a few good friends, focuses the mind and allows for a brief period of selfishness. Proper selfishness as defined by Charles Handy in ‘The Hungry Spirit’, is a good thing, a time to invest in oneself, to strive to improve and eventually to contribute more positively to those lives you share with others. My weekend was not monastic but did have some quiet periods, that often get squeezed out of the daily run of things, that allowed me to focus on a few points I had let the old subconscious dwell on a bit. To be honest I have been really occupied by a number of different projects and possibilities recently as well as all the daily stuff so it was nice to have time to take stock.

Early April saw me working in Winchester then meeting up with Rory Miller in Swindon before traveling into London to do a seminar with Dave Aiton at British Military Self Defence and Fitness, then it was home to Sheffield, then up to Gateshead with RIPSAW Self Defence with Stevie Forrest, Wirral Krav Maga Studio with Tony Preston, Doncaster for Andy Crittenden Martial Arts Centre and then down to the Way of the Spiritual Warrior in Coventry with Tony Pillage. Then we just had a three-day instructor level Scenario Training course to deliver in Sheffield in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, so a pretty tough timetable with loads of fun, happiness and pain on the way round. We also managed whistle-stop visits to Avebury to see the standing stones, Windsor, Durham and Chester as we hammered the motorway system.

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Rory at Avebury Stone Circle. Irresistable Force meets Immovable Object. You make your mind up which is which.

It was good to catch up with Rory as we had loads to discuss and mull over, one of the reasons I have not been writing as many blogs is because we have been working on a huge project this last year, along with a group of friends in creating the soon to be public Conflict Research Group International (CRGI). This has meant lots of work and discussion and from a simple dinner table conversation at the same dining table I sit typing now, a whole new concept is about to be born. The website is looking awesome and is the result of the coming together of a group of disparate individuals who all share a set of core values like honesty, openness, a willingness to learn and not preach, to create and to share and to recognise the multiplicity and complexity of violence and its forms. We do not oversimplify self defence not over complicate it either but recognise the need to go deeper than fear based training and hope to have created a platform to help others join in the journey. Why because it’s complicated.

Marc MacYoung, Erik Kondo, Kathy Jackson, Toby Cowern, Terry Trahan, Teja Van Wicken, Clint Overland, Rory Miller and little old me make up the happy band but we have some fantastic contributors ready to join the party very soon.  This is an incredible resource and you will see why when you read what each person brings to the table, thousands of hours of work have gone into this and once out there CRGI will create a real buzz. So putting that together has meant neglecting this blog for a while, it has been like a naughty secret that I really cannot wait to share. You can register for password protected access now, using this link.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1NK8jGoCZeDqIMcQ7OB1lxgRE7mJ3ix6w1Jo9PfhaOwE/viewform

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Simple but true, if you get this GRGI is for you. Also available as a t shirt (message me).

Well, major transatlantic project developments to one side the training goes on and a CRGI draft article by Toby Cowern recently got me thinking, in particular about my last blog. He wrote from his position as a survival expert on the theme of train hard, fight easy. Well I had to respond, read the article at CRGI. I have been training hard in and out of the dojo, to be fair harder out than in. I have covered many a mile on the old bicycle in all weathers, fair and foul. Pumped weights, swam, walked, done press ups, situps and burpees too. You know I love this stuff and the train hard chimes with me all the time but we all have slacker periods where we rest and/or get absorbed in other activities, so to the latter part of April and the first half of May I have pushed myself harder in the fitness training.

It feels damn good, I do it because I love it. I am off to Austria on Saturday for some walking in the mountains, Krav Island is on the agenda again this August with the my many friends Institute for Krav Maga Scotland, I was planning some extra sessions with my mate John yesterday for the coming weeks and with some training partners this morning the issue of some extra sessions this summer came up and I am looking at some new stuff for them then too. The thing is to be creative and also to learn from what is already out there. I am really looking forward to talking to some more contributors to my book today who are really pushing their martial arts training along in innovative ways. My friend Jayne who I train with in Ju Jitsu has just texted me to say that she will not be rolling around in dog poo???? Well neither will I but I will me looking at ways to my training different, stimulating and fun. You see I agree wholeheartedly with one of Rory Miller’s central teaching philosophy’s that we learn better when we play, we train better when it is fun.

So yes I intend to play with myself, NO DO NOT DARE, and with my friends if they will let me. WE can all play together if you like on a giant metaphorical hamster wheel. Lets get the thing spinning and enjoy the ride. On Saturday just gone I trained in the morning, a nice rewarding session. I made myself go out on the bike in the afternoon too. It was windy and showery, it got worse the further from home I got. I was pushing up steep hills in driving rain and wind and got soaked and cold. I kept going and did my full circuit. I have knocked 20 minutes off this circuit since my last blog on March 11th. I really enjoyed the hot shower at the end and the large mug of Yorkshire Tea after the shower. However, what I really loved was the warm feeling of satisfaction that flowed through my veins that came from knowing that I had bit my teeth together, squinted through the rain and pushed my way up those steep inclines with the will to get to the top and nothing would stop me. The battle is sometimes against the self and is as psychological as physical, like it is in combat, we know this but do we train for it? I know many who do, but sadly more who do not.

Tenacity in the face of the elements and our own tiredness and even exhaustion are, for me, key elements in my training, are they in yours. We all need a day off occasionally, rest is a vital part of the training regime and ignored at our peril but sometimes biting the bullet is what is needed. So is pushing the quest for knowledge and listening to others, I have two great books to take to Austria, Steven Pinker’s ‘The better angels of our nature : a history of violence and humanity’ and ‘Predictably Irrational : the hidden forces that shape our decisions’ by Dan Ariely. Both are available through the CRGI Bookstore by the way. Pushing our understanding of how the mind works is central to understanding human performance in general and under stress in particular.  The brain needs exercise too and whilst we know this we often neglect it. Do we really not need to work the mind and body in tandem (cycling pun intended)? I would argue it is essential and to train the physical and neglect to train the mind is a form of self-abuse.

Strong words and I do not use them lightly, sometimes we have to look to what we do and how we do it and analyse the purpose of it all. What is the intrinsic reward to push through the pain barrier in the face of the wind-driven pouring rain up a hill that, without this blog being written, no-one would know about? Why spend hours reading text books when everyone is watching reality TV (reason enough for me)? Why work with others across the ether to create a new web entity? Why sit alone writing my book and blog? Well surely it is about mastering our skills, declaring our autonomy affirming and reaffirming our sense of purpose in life. Not sure? Try watching this, then make your comments.

Now go out and play, be creative, have fun, and learn ;-)

 

 

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Wake up and Smell the Coffee


March, it is mad hare time, the nights are getting lighter and there is the scent of spring in the air. I have been doing a lot of cycling lately since the wet, wet winter weather broke a few weeks ago. Putting in the miles on my trusty old mountain bike, a GT Aggressor that cost a massively reduced £150 some 13 years ago or thereabouts. I gave it a good scrub on Sunday after a particularly muddy and rocky descent down Fox Hagg up above where I live, a path I have never, in my soon to be 55 years of living in the South West of Sheffield, never before trod let alone rode. I reckon I have had my moneys worth out of this bike and still some to go as I stand apart from this throwaway generation.

My last blog written eons ago stated my intention to work gradually at my fitness and I have done just that. Working steadily, uprooting no trees, and determinedly slogging away at the coalface, feeling the aches and the afterglow in equal measure. In my experience quick wins are all too often quickly forgotten and eroded, trends and fashions come and go and fads continue to attract those seeking the gain with no pain. Often this latter involves cheating the mind and usually the body too, they offer short lived solutions to cravings that are socially constructed. We live in the ‘I want it now society’ where deferred gratification is pushed to the side by far too many people and this manifests itself in training as in life in general. Strangely, as I was writing this one of my training partners, Bill sent a round robin email about a guy who has appeared in the press today in the UK and on Facebook more than once.

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Arlindo de Souza risks serious infection or even death for his look and he has already lost one friend to the practice, which is sweeping Brazil, Daily Mail, 11.3.14.

Injecting himself with a mixture of oil and alcohol is extreme and I guess there are underlying body image issues here that facilitates the distortion and fuels easy column inches in newspapers. Thing is whether it is the latest get fit gizmo or diet or gym class, they all promise something for not very much, often the payday comes much later after the money has been banked. So what for the old fashioned hard slog, is it so out of date that dinosaurs like me are the only ones left doing it. Is eating healthily, despite the odd packet of biscuits, training regularly, cycling, walking, pumping a few weights all that bad? Well I say not, indeed I declare that as we should try to eat what nature provides at a given season so we should train.

Is this radical? No of course it is not, except to the ‘look at me selfie obsessed poseurs’ who buy the quick fixes. Nothing about what I am doing is rocket science. I have no schedule, no targets, no charts or apps. I train according to the weather, my body, my desires. I could go all philosophical here and say that I train therefore I am but I would not know what that meant. Training is just part of me, it is integrated seemlessly into my life and is part of what I am, who I am. Training helps to define the I and the me, it is part of who I am to myself and to those I share this world with. That is it, it is very simple.

So what has rattled my cage that made me want to write this blog. Let me explain. Recently I have been working as cover in schools, secondary schools, when teachers call in sick. It has been really eye opening, I can be off to any school in the area with just a few minutes notice in a morning covering any subject. The work is set and my involvement differs day to day, school to school and class to class. There is great variety in the days and the young people I meet and every personality type has been present including some very challenging individuals. That is what they are called now. Last Monday I sat in my old school waiting for my timetable for the day outside the old headmasters office door, it is the business managers door now. It was where I spent large chunks of time as a miscreant back in the day, occassionally waiting to be caned by the deputy head and shortly afterwards my first lesson was in my old form room, a room I often stood outside looking in due to my naughtyness, karma?

Well as a supply teacher you are a sitting duck for those who feel it is their lucky day and there has been plenty of fun and games along the way, thing is the deck is always stacked in my favour and I dispatch miscreants from the class faster than I was ejected myself in the past. Firm with clear boundaries, pleasant and helpful with an edge of steel is how I think I am. I will not bore you with the daily struggle for authority in the classroom but it changes not from their day to mine but for the scourge of the mobile phone. Again a symptom of the need for instant gratification in the hands of many. Nowadays it is not the cane but the ‘isolation’ unit that awaits the persistant offenders, a mysterious and unknown, to me, entity until yesterday and that, together with a few coincidences is why I am writing today.

Yesterday I spent two hours supervising the inmates of an isolation room. I would have laughed had it not been a little sad. In a worn old classroom in a run down estate I sat facing a row of booths fashioned from that black artificial timber cheap furniture is made from. In these booth, like battery chickens, sat four sad individuals of various ages, and there ranks were swelled to eight in the next two hours. They are there because they are not wanted elsewhere, the isolation room is where schools dump their residium, the unwanted, often unmanageable young people that have no connection with learning. Many, this may shock you, are just uncultured yobs, products of parts of society that no longer functions anymore and to be fair is surplus to requirements. Both the left and right of the political spectrum line up, and have done for generations, to take pot shots at the lumpenproletariat or underclass, and here the next generation sit, in their booths deprived of clocks with work they will not and/or cannot do.

Does the isolation room work? Well I guess not, the cane never worked either really except on the good kids who made one mistake, the rest of us laughed in the face of it. The incumbents of isolation will move onto the streets in their hoodies and their ignorance and fulfil the necessary role of social bogeymen. That is the most likely outcome. It was reinforced today by a report on the BBC that shows that inequalities in life are reflected in inequalities in our ability to read, something Pierre Bourdieu called cultural capital many moons ago. What a surprise, not. As a student of sociology and education the fact that what we were describing twenty years ago is still what we are describing today and neither have changed for many generations is not a shock to me. The cycle continues, the wheel turns and everything changes and everything stays the same.

Hidden behind the isolation room occupants on the one hand and the high flyers on the other are countless other young people grinding their way through a difficult system as best they can, the unsung majority. Not for them some quick fix oil and alcohol based learning injection, no gizmo or app, just hard toil, daily, for years. It is the least attractive route but the one most commonly trod. Whatever the outcome desired we need, as a society to rediscover the sense of reward that is felt from an achievement truly earned. Something that we have invested time and effort, often sweat, blood and tears to achieve be it personal fitness, a black belt or a degree, whatever the final destination it is often the journey remembered that is the biggest sense of success.

That is what keeps my legs turning as I pedal up those hills time after time, as I punch and kick drill after drill, as I run carrying rocks or logs and as I read voraciously to improve mind as well as body. It is dogged determination that will separate out the fighter from the fashionista, it is something we need to help our younger generations find and experience, all of them not just the disaffected. There are no quick wins worth having, there is not an app for everything just as we cannot all become x factor overnight millionaires.

There is no short cut injection to happiness, no oil and alcohol to make things look better faster. Wake up, smell the coffee the go out and work your socks off and enjoy it.

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Time for a New Order


Well back home in the New year after a lovely 2 weeks in Playa Blanca, Lanzarotte enjoying the lovely sunny weather. My wife and I walked miles each day for the fun of it, enjoying the sunshine and breeze, loving the sea breaking onto the rocks, enjoying our time together. On the middle Saturday my wife went shopping in Arrecife the capital and I hopped off the bus at Uga and walked back to the hotel over the mountains via Papagato nature reserve. Hardly met a soul all day and walked for around 5.5 hours with a couple of good climbs on the way, wonderful views and good clean air, here are a few pics.

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It was a good walk in its own right but also a great workout for the legs. Those of us who live in the UK live in an incredible place for walking, within this small island we have a fantastic variety of terrain to enjoy underfoot. I used to go walking in the mountains very often in the lakes, Wales, Scotland, especially in the hills and valleys of the Peak District near my home. Just before Christmas I realised how little I do this now, I also realised how much I was missing it and decided to make it a part of my new reorganised fitness regime in 2014,

Now I do not go in for resolutions and that BS, and I had already recently dug out the bike and started using it for journeys replacing the car and a few pleasure/fitness rides in the surrounding countryside. I have been out three times on short rides since I came back home a week ago so a trip to the city centre now equals a 7 mile bike ride, a trip to the library about 4 miles, see how this can start to add up. I am planning a really good walk next weekend putting in around 10 miles over the moors and hills, this will all wrap around my Ju Jitsu, circuit and weight training.  It will make the whole package more holistic, give it a more rounded feel. The countryside is out there just waiting to be used and enjoyed.

On holiday I visited the gym for around an hour each evening using the free weights, it was an act of discipline to do this each day. I enjoyed the monotony and the routine, switch off and work, I do some weight training at home, not heavy stuff but a steady working of the upper body. I find gym’s a bit soul-destroying for long-term use, it is a personal thing, better than nothing, however, if I had a gym like this I think I would be there more often although I am not sure about the winter months.

That is some gym and I suppose winter would not be too bad with the right clothing, and fur gloves maybe. I, like you, have probably seen loads of makeshift gyms, some of the ones in Africa show real commitment and genius utilising concrete and scrap to create an opportunity to train. If you want it bad enough you will find a way. For me the idea of creating a wider system of training, that some may not see as training properly, is also a rejection of the corporate hijacking of the fitness world.

I am the first to admit that the gym offers for many an opportunity to gain and maintain their fitness in a convenient way, it is better than no exercise at all. Unfortunately it becomes another routine, time controlled activity where it is earplugs in, machine programme set and stare at the TV on the wall. When this happens you are the hamster i the wheel. The problem with getting outdoors is its unpredictability, it can be hot or cold, wet or dry, windy, dark and there are humps bumps and lumps in the ground, rivers in the way too. Yes, that is nature, do not be put off by it enjoy it. Walk, run, cycle. canoe in it, get wet, dirty, muddy even, through yourself into it and feel the wind in your face. Take some spot pads and do some punching and kicking drills every so often as you move through fields, moor and rock. There are no walls to the imagination, what you do out there is completely up to you, go grappling before your picnic, try some take-downs on the South Downs, some partner carries, river crossings, just do it and enjoy the freedom.

The corporate machine will hate you for it except when you buy some nice outdoor gear which is cheap as chips nowadays. Maybe it is time to get a few mates and get out into the countryside on those bikes that litter your shed, burn up a few miles, go off-road a bit, be a kid again. I still cycle through the same parks I did as a child, the memories flood back as I time travel just for the hell of it. Soon I will be 55 going on 5, and I intend to keep it that way. In 2014 I have many things about to happen, exciting things, my training is core to these things. I am not doing anything new just redesigning things to create a new order in my life, renewing my sense of purpose and commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and attitude to life. Train well and train hard but more importantly just train.

Here is a clip from a short while ago of Bill and myself doing a mini circuit after a good hours training in the woods on a warm sticky night. Just two guys with a bit of dedication to train come what may even if we are the only two doing it.

Some may laugh, that is fine by us, some may do so whilst cramming another doughnut in their mouths, for them there is no new order other than obesity and ill-health. I want my future to be full of good things and to continue to share them with my family, especially my grandson who I cannot wait to take to the mountains for those overnight camps up high. Creating a new order in my life is about re-assessing where I am now and where I want to be.

This year will see me deliver my first environmental training seminars and publish my first online training guides amongst other things, if you relish a real challenge for a weekend, including a former army assault course then contact me and I will keep you informed, numbers will be strictly limited. This will be a series of very tough challenges, I am preparing now so that I am ready to enjoy pushing my limits a bit, are you?

ADVERT: This 2014 autumn bank holiday I will be training with Institute for Krav Maga Scotland at their superb Krav Island event. This year we will be training with none other than Eyal Yanilov. See you there? Check it out, it ticks all my boxes.

http://ikms.co.uk/index.php/krav-island

KI me

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Your Own Personal Lionel


Sometimes I feel like giving up, throwing in the towel and taking a good long walk. Sometimes. Rarely though, we have all been there at some point when it gets tough, life, and we wonder why we bother. We think we have reached rock bottom, when really for most of us there is actually a lot further to fall, mentally and socially, before we really land in the brown stuff and it is this sobering thought that pulls us through. Luckily for me this has only happened a couple of times in my life and, tough as things are at the moment, I still feel good. I am surrounded by a loving family and superb friends, things are tough but I will tough it out and some of the stuff in the pipeline for next year is very, very exciting, I keep having to pinch myself. Every now and then though, often from out left field, something pitches up that causes a ripple in the normal run of life.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a clip on you tube of captured police and military men in I assume Iraq, being paraded before the cameras before being made to kneel and then, one after another, and there were a lot of them, executed with a single pistol shot to the back of the head. Their lives ended in the dirt, bound blindfolded and waiting on your knees for your turn as your lifeless comrades body hits the ground beside you, horror unimaginable. I did not watch the whole thing and it was taken off Youtube pretty quickly.

This was not some kind of sick voyeurism on my part, I watched it, as a colleague in a group I belong to that is to be launched in the new year, raised a question arising out of what was graphic and extreme violence sadly carried out in the name of religion. I watch many videos containing real life, often extreme, violence, I have read extremely widely on the subject too and out into neighbouring academic fields to find explanations and theories that help me to understand what it is that underpins a person’s ability to commit such acts, ideology, religion, group needs, personal gratification, sexual gratification? There seem to be as many conflicting explanations as there are acts and as a sociologist and student of human behaviour and interaction I am not surprised.

However, not for the first time it was a stumbled upon work of fiction that had me joining the dots together. I rarely judge a book by its cover but the cover of this one did attract, and an author I had read nothing of before strangely, despite his fame or possibly because of it. I digress, When I saw this on the library shelf it shouted out to me to take it home and read it. Once I started it I remembered another fictional character I had used in a blog back in August 2012, ‘Enter the Bear Pit’, Dennis Pike. Dennis was a violent man but a thinker who questioned his ways, and changed them until events conspired to make him become violent again, try ‘Full Whack’ by Charlie Higson sometime, it is great. But, I need to stay on track and come to the point and stop mixing metaphors.

Last week I read ‘Lionel Asbo’  by Martin Amis, I have read a number of his father, Kingsley Amis’s novels but none of Martin’s It was a great find and unexpectedly quirky.

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This is a different cover but the graphic theme is the same, I read it very quickly and will not give away the story but here is the back cover description;

“Lionel Asbo – a very violent but not very successful criminal has always looked out for his nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. He gives him fatherly advice (carry a knife) and introduces him to the joys of Internet porn. Des on the other hand, desires nothing but books, a girl to love and to steer clear of Uncle Li’s psychotic pitbulls, Joe and Jeff.

Lionel is going about his morning duties in a London Prison when he learns that he has just won £139,999,999.50 on the National Lottery. This is not Necessarily good news for Des who has a secret that could unleash his uncle’s implacable vengeance.”

So are your taste buds salivating, the pleasure receptors in the brain tingling? Well they should be. My wife is reading it now and as a criminal lawyer she can see some clients of hers in there, plus how they think and reason. This is my point They do not think like you (pun) ordinary people, they think but in a strange, to us, and convoluted way. I listened to a pod cast by Teja Van Wicken today as part of an online women’s self defence course she is piloting, Teja is a board member of the yet to be launched group, and she covers the fact that crime is a process and there are ways to understand precursors and prevent acts of crime developing in many if not most cases, it is an agreed theme of our group who class ourselves not as experts lecturing others but seekers of the truth.

It is in the role of seeker that I really loved the tour through Diston, an impoverished in every way, fictional borough of London, that world city, and the characters that inhabit it and for me the skill of the novel is the accuracy of the observations made by Amis. Our own world view  is shaped by our own socialisation, our beliefs, values and morals that we have absorbed and adapted to our own that allow us to participate as members of our wider culture. As many of us are practising martial artists we hold dear things like patience, discipline and fairness, we recognise the benefits of living a good, wholesome life, training hard and earning respect the right way. This colours our life view too, it feeds of and reinforces the effects of ’normal’ primary socialisation (in the family) and secondary  socialisation (in school). So what happens when over numerous generations some sections of society and the individuals that make them up evolve into things the rest of us dislike, the Jeremy Kyle section of society. Here is an example. Mad Dog Deon;

Many people disliked Charles Murray’s theories about the underclass back in the nineties, but were his views and dislikes any different from those of Karl Marx and his loathing for the lumpen-proletariat several generations before? Both right and left of the political spectrum have railed against the rump of the social system, that layer beneath all others and mostly because they do not understand them.

On Facebook today there is circulating a story from today’s Daily Mail, must be true then, of a girl who is about to be a mum at age 11 years old, smokes 20 cigs a day and her own single mum is proud of her. If you look hard there are plenty of similar underclass stories around. On a short drive through Sheffield yesterday we saw a number of Lionel Asbo stereotypes strutting around with their big muscled status dogs on great chain leads leading to studded leather collars.

I doubt the feed their dogs curry soaked in extra Tabasco sauce and get their dogs drunk of Special Brew like Lionel but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The thing is we all know that the Lionel’s are out there, they come in all colours shapes and sizes and allowing for regional and ethnic differences the all think in a similar limited way. Because for them the world is a small mean place where their limited intellect deals with getting through one day then the next. Very often there is no life plan, no objective, no dreams to chase as they do not possess the vision. They are the proles from Orwell’s 1984 singing happily whilst hanging out the washing. It is a mean view of a mean world and when their strategy for survival includes the use of violence it endangers us all. Is that not why most of us train and train others, to prepare for the day we meet our own personal Lionel? We do not need to be psychologists, sociologists or even psychiatrists to know these people cannot be dealt with using social skills and sadly, as I tell my students, whilst avoidance, escape, de-escalation are priorities, with Lionel violence is probably the only answer because it is his answer to everything.

By the way, the book is really funny if the subject is frighteningly serious, I recommend selected readings to my students and  as you guessed they are not always text books. It is important that they learn many things as part of their self defence training or as a self defence application of their martial art, sometimes reading something humorous can be a novel way of achieving that, for me it helped me rethink some issues re social breakdown and a fragmented social structure. Joining the dots helped me reshape my views on certain members of our society that are not part of my culture. To understand them you need to think like them, a very difficult task indeed, then you can add value to helping your students and training partners to understand them too, lets hope we never meet our own personal Lionel.

Now join in for a little sing-song but changing Jesus for Lionel, it’s catching.

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I Will Survive – Part 2


Well here is a turn up for the books, sat on the 9.27am train for St Pancras, London as I am of to teach two private clients in Westminster. Tickets booked last night after car battery began to play tricks when I was going to teach at the University, self defence class not nuclear physics. It is great sat here, no 3 hours of madness on the motorway and chance to catch up with my blog that I have neglected of late. So after an interesting few weeks that included a snap decision to bunk-off to Majorca for 10 days of all inclusive laziness, apart from my many lengths in the pool and one hour in the gym each early evening as the sun was setting, here we are with part two of my Krav Island  2013 experience. First, just to be awkward, here is the team that survived.

KI Sur

Well after an excellent evening the Saturday night before training on the sand and the craggy wooded hillside in the pitch dark, finished off with a couple of pints of creamy bitter in the bar and a really comfortable nights sleep we awoke to sun drenched Balmaha. As you may recall this was not what had been predicted at all a few days previously when we were preparing to be drenched as we trained. So after a nice refreshing shower it was off downstairs for an absolutely excellent breakfast. The Buffet in the Oak Tree Inn was comprehensively stocked and the self service suited me just fine. Just as the BBQ had been tremendous the night before so the breakfast proved equal to the job, good fuel is vital if you are training hard.

The domestics on an event like this really do underpin the whole experience and my wife and I dined royally with Sean and Vasily our company until the table grew in numbers and all too quickly it was over, washed down with copious pots of tea, we strained at the knees as we rose, well I did, as we made to go prepare for the day. Fully fueled and ready to go, midge lotion applied, although it was virtually and uncannily midge free, I collected a five litre bottle of water from the shop (be prepared my motto), packed my kit and after a short relaxing break letting the breakfast settle I  joined the tro0ps in the queue for the ferry out to Krav Island. My wife who has never watched me train before was coming out later in one of the safety boats, nice.

John Miller and his team were moving around pulling the strings and making sure everything ran smoothly, and it did, as he had been all weekend. Having run numerous events of different scales I understand and appreciate how much work goes into something like Krav Island.

The little ferries out to the island are lovely boats and it was especially pleasant in the warm sun, however, the slow release of adrenaline began on the dock as this was no sunny summer picnic, this was going to be tough. I had my old fishing rucsack with folding stool frame, it is a nice piece of kit and was full of spare kit, towel food etc, the five litres of water was cradled in my arms like a baby, a precious resource. There are no shops on the island, you take your own supplies on and you take your rubbish off. As we disembarked onto the old wooden jetty we got our first surprise, We could dump our belongings for the safety boats to collect later as, just for a treat, we were going to jog up and over the island, and I mean up and over. Well it was warm, I was going to get warmer running, so I tightened the rucsack straps, cuddled my water close and off I went with a combination of running and walking alternatively.

It was fun, the fitter people used to running set off at their pace, the less fit at fast walks, with me trundling along In between. Ten minutes later, I was over on the other side where the days training would take place, swigging my huge bottle of water and chilling whilst everybody else made their way here too. So the start of the morning session led by Jonathan Bullock Director of UK Krav Maga Global, after the day was outlined by John and the safety briefing given.  The session was explained by Jonathan and we then went through a quick but useful l warm up and then into a number of drills that developed as the morning progressed. Lots of use of the melons, tons of striking, punching and kicking galore as we gradually worked on applying our explosive aggression.

KI JB

It was great how Jonathan placed each drill clearly in context and underpinned the reason why we were where we
were by referring to my friend and undisputed expert, Rory Miller. Meditations on Violence was recommended to all there and as Jonathan spoke I could see the words on the pages and remember conversations with Rory at our kitchen table.

For me, as a practitioner and student of Ju Jitsu, albeit one who thrives on smashing my comfort zone and training to really test myself it was a real treat to spend my morning smacking and breaking things, people, at least in my head, knowing that whilst we had many differences we shared far more similarities and that the work of Rory and Marc MacYoung was well received. We were singing off the same hymn sheet so to speak with our eye on all the difficulties and variables training for reality brings. This was a nice session, good sound drills interspersed with little bursts of exercises periodically and the weather was warming up as were we, quite a lot actually but refreshed by regular short water breaks.

KI Woods

There were some team drills on the beach to get people working together and once again our team, different people this time, excelled and finished first a few times. Maybe I was the luck factor? Who knows. The thing was we moved from working as individuals to working in pairs to working in groups and everyone was moving around so as on the day and evening before you got to train with many different partners. This is important as you work with all sizes and shapes and varying levels of experience as the training progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with my Krav chums and say here and now being an  outsider is not an option here, there are no fringes to hang around on, everyone is included right from the off.

I remember one drill where I wheel-barrowed my partner down to the waters edge where he dipped his face in the cool semi-clear water. Then he lay on his back with his arms folded across his chest and lifting him by his armpits I had to drag him back up the beach, backwards, in the soft sand. Then it was wheel barrow time back down to the water then he la on his back as I pulled him, or attempted to, back up the beach backwards through the soft sand, this time pulling him by his feet. This was a killer as thirty plus groups of pairs gritted their teeth and gave their all.

KI team

Given the military emphasis on Krav Maga, and its pre second world war development as an anti fascist defence system, you can see where rescuing a downed comrade would be important. Shift that to the streets and I can see where the same applies in some of the fights I have experienced where leaving them behind would guarantee them a kicking, however, in the context of our training on the day it was just one, amongst a number of really tough drills made harder by the soft sand and soaring temperature. That and quite a bit of piggy back carrying between sparring drills with lots and lots of going to ground and getting up again really drains the body quickly.

KI Drag

Then after a series of forward rolls zig-zagging across the beach, again sapping in the soft sand and heat, it was a short jog off to the jetty and a welcome leap into the nice, deep, cool water. This was a million miles from the chilling experience from the previous year, it was lovely in the water, bit like the med only the water was brownish. My entry was via a flying somersault over the top of Kelvin one of the safety stewards. Then a swim to slightly shallower water and the afternoon session really kicked in. We practiced the drills we had done on the now relative comfort of dry land in chest deep water, we grappled and struggled and went under quite often. We did burpees where you breathed as you jumped, underwater sit-ups, I was really pleased with my 12 in one go as I jack-knifed away suspended in the water not breaking the surface, try them on your hols, they are great.

KI pu

Piggy back fighting was great fun, splitting into two teams of 30+ each and both attacking the beach and defending it were great fun as was the every person for themselves controlled brawl that lasted for ages. Trust me this was one fantastic training experience and you will not get a  real feel for it from this blog but I hope it wets your appetite, pun intended, Krav Island may well be imitated but John and his team have every base covered right down to the smallest detail. Here is one of coming off second to Shaun, the beast.

KI me

Every now and then we would literally charge back onshore to engage in more break-falls, forward rolls, press-ups, burpees etc than you can shake a stick at, or so it felt, wet through, covered from head to toe in coarse sand and having the best training time I have had at a seminar in years, I had found my inner child I think, he has been hiding for years and the dogged little sod put in an appearance today.  This was tough training but the excellent atmosphere and comradeship amongst the participants helped is make good when it would be easy to drop onto ones knees. The pictures tell a better story than I can ever write and my own dear wife witnessed her 54 year old husband loving every minute of it. It is impossible to get to know everybody there in just a few action packed hours but I count many of the participants as firm friends now, I thank them all for being there and making Krav Island 2013 the fantastic experience it was. The weather gods played their part but the team from Institute of Krav Maga Scotland played theirs and I for one am grateful to them.

I have enough experience in the fighting arts, self defence and events business to be a fairly hard person to please. This Saturday and Sunday were incredibly well spent and my long suffering wife who has not really seen me train in all these years now understands me a little better.

KI Bu

For the record she thinks we are all a bit mad and I tend to agree with her, get soaking wet then do burpees in soft sand in the really hot sun, that will do me sir. If you want to sit in front of the telly on an August Bank Holiday weekend or take a gentle stroll with the family there is nothing wrong with that. Me, I would rather be out here rocking and rolling with my Krav brothers and sisters and showing them that the old Ju Jitsu guy still likes to play in the woods, and in the dark, and in the water, in fact anywhere we can.

KI happy

And just to finish, if you did not see this coming, seek help whilst I dance around the kitchen, again, go Gloria.

 

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