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.

souza

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 So what for the old fashioned hard slog, is it so out of date that dinosaurs like me are the only ones left doing it.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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I Will Survive – Part 1


Well much has been written about the use of the term ‘survivor’, not least by my friend Marc MacYoung, and I agree with him it is a much misused and manipulated title that people use for all sorts of conscious and subconscious reasons. Well I am about to label myself as a survivor, right here, right now in front of the whole wide world, well at least those of you who read this blog. I am out and proud about the fact that I survived Krav Island 2013.

This is an event organised by the Institute of Krav Maga Scotland and last year I attended as an observer for some research for a book I am writing, last year I stood on the sidelines, observed, filmed, photographed and recorded interviews with participants. Last year I adopted the position of the neutral although at times I was quite tempted to join in. This year I was to be in the thick of it, actually taking part from beginning to end even though there was every chance it could be the end of me. So with a little trepidation I set off for Krav Island with a huge bag of kit, weather forecast = rain, rain and more rain, plus various treats like sultana cake, bananas etc and the will to see through whatever they threw at me.

After a few lovely days with friends on the Galloway coast where the weather held fair and warm we set off for Balmaha on the shores of Loch Lomond on an increasingly brightening Saturday morning, in fact over the past few days a rather miraculous turn around in our climatic expectations had occurred, the forecast was now for sun, sun and more sun, particularly on the Sunday, happy days indeed. So we hit the high road, alternatively known as the M74, and motored on through the beautiful scenery as lowlands gave way to the gateway to the highlands and after a slog through some of the less salubrious parts of Glasgow, the Trossachs hove into view, steady there Missus!!!!

Scotland has some majestic scenery and as we headed down toward our destination it was at its best with light clouds scudding across a sunny sky, heather, moorland and mountains and somewhere amongst the horizon the loch itself. We, yes the royal we, my wife was accompanying me to watch me suffer I think, stopped off for a wee bit of lunch in Drymen then drove the last five miles to Balmaha.

As we approached our destination we spotted small clusters of people in black t shirts sprinkled liberally amongst the tourists, most of them bearing the legend IKMS and it was at this point I began to feel the urge to get the game on. So we met up with the organisers, it was great to see John Miller again and meet Jonathan Bullock for the first time and a number of faces I recognised from last year, however, these were busy people with a big event to get going so we went for a little walk round little Balmaha then back for room allocation and the official welcome and briefing.

The briefing was very enjoyable and informative and the genuine welcome from the National Park Ranger was much appreciated, however, we were here for some action and eager to go so it came as a great relief when the instructions to bring your kit, water and suncream lotion (who would have thought it), and make our way to the muster point. From there we walked to our location for the first session led as last year by the very capable and entertaining Alan Clark. The local football field was the location and this was one warm afternoon in which to train and it may sound silly but the light cloud cover that appeared shortly after the start was appreciated by most I am sure, water supplies diminished quickly.

After a good warm up we were led through a series of drills and exercises with some excellent demonstrations and quickly got to work with different partners, good icebreakers built into the drills got strangers talking, smiling and most importantly, working. At one point my wife sauntered past and took a couple of pictures, take a look.

2013-08-24 17.02.38

2013-08-24 17.04.20

So lots of drills repeated again and again, interspersed with pad work, some great team competitions and Al’s infectious humour and a rip roaring finish of explosive work on the melon’s. To be honest I was amazed our three hours were up, They say time flies when you are having fun and this was clearly the case, I had become so absorbed in the training I had completely lost track of time, my watch and phone were back in the room in the Oak Tree Inn, and I was gobsmacked we had finished, it felt like 2 hours, if that, not three and others shared my surprise. We had been so busy and the frequent water breaks were very short, so short that on a couple of occassions I did not bother as I felt fine anyway, that time had literally flown. Walking back to the accomodation we were all anticipating tonights session and prior to that the buffet BBQ, mmmmmmmmm. Food is often a metaphor and it is here because Alan, Phil and the other IKMS instructors had just served up a great starter, it was tasty and fulfilling in its own right, the proportions were enough to digest without spoiling the desire for what was to follow, a damn good start in my opinion, well presented and well worth the partaking of.

During the afternoon I had noticed one guy training with what looked like a heart monitor strapped to his chest, turns out it was a video camera, (I WANT ONE), take a look at part of the afternoon session from David Burrow’s chest!!!! You may even spot me in mt nice red vest.

More clips from David and his amazing mini chestcam later. Well a welcome shower in our really, really nice room at the Oak Tree was very welcome as was the cup of tea. Shortly after a trip down to the marquee at the rear of the Oak Tree Inn for the evening BBQ. As last year this was excellent, the food was plentiful and delicious and eating amongst great company in the early evening sunshine with a glass of bitter made it all the more special, the atmosphere was really relaxed and comfortable where friends old and new refuelled for the big evening session.

Actually I refuelled a little too much, the king sized burger, two sausage and two pieces of chicken, pasta, salad and coleslaw was added to by an additional sausage and piece of chicken as my wife faltered. My herculean efforts on the grass earlier were now matched by those at the table and, unfortunately, the lemon cake proved irrisistable too. Time for a rest back in the room before the night session and a bit of social networking, that is what they call it these days, though the signal was weak.

Evening drew in and as the light faltered we assembled at the musterpoint in a warm gentle evening knowing that gentle was not a term that would last long. After numbering off and the safety and activity brief we moved off along the West Highland Way up the craggy eastern shore of the loch to a long narrow strip of beach, full of nice soft sand that was soon to enter every orrifice (almost) and become the chief tormentor of our legs.

Night beach

And here we are arriving at said beach and yes that is me just edging into the picture in the combat jacket. I am not going to go into each exercise we did, but running up and down that beach, slow fighting, up down, press ups, burpees, more and more fighting drills, repeat the knife drills done in the afternoon and run some more all helped to get us ready for The Gauntlet. Unfortunately at one point I felt the possibility of the BBQ making an unwanted return appearance, the pace was good with water breaks as needed but the effort was relentless, people were not here to go through the motions and as the light faded the momentum did not.

The beauty of the sunset over the western shore faded as we trained on, we were then split into two groups with the first group dissapearing up a now lightless trail to set ambush parties along a trail that the second group would negotiate in pairs. Whilst the setting of the ambushes took place we underwent a mini-beasting on the beach, no we did not look for bugs and insects, we did some very taxing exercises and drills until it was time to go and it felt like a long time indeed. Then it was off up the trail, torch optional, we chose not, and see what happens. Well this was great, the climb was up a rough, rocky path through almost pitch dark woods, hearts pounding from the previous exercises and the adrenaline being produced in anticipation of attack, albeit an exercise.  When the first ambush happened I exploded in there with repeated palm heels and knees and some very ripe language, no point pussying around, give it everything or do not bother.

Not knowing what or who is coming next, polite enquiry, sudden ambush, knife attack, keeps you on edge and it is fantastic pressure testing, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the woods were alive with screams, threats and lots of muffled striking sounds as palms, fists and feet found their targets. Luckily no innocent walkers were harmed in the making of the following film, go to 9.09 for the nighttime madness.

Well it is difficult to see and that is the point, there is no comfort on that beach and certainly none when you step off it and begin the gauntlet. Forget the sterility and safety of the dojo, here is where it counts and the relative comfort of this afternoons football pitch seems more than desireable now. Except it is not. We are here for this very thing, this stepping into the partly unknown and testing what we have learned, it is not just a Krav thing, I am Ju Jitsu trained and this is a great field application, no I did not throw anyone or do any fancy kicks I went back instinctively to those basic close quarter tactics I know works, funnily enough the overlap with Krav is right there, in the quick brutal application and rapid subduing of an attacker.

I loved walking the gauntlet, I could have done it all night but roles needed to be reversed and I had to become an ambusher/attacker, I loved this too and it was far less taxing but the adrenaline rush continues. Not going into detail is to not rob future participants of much of the fun and let me tell you for sure it was great fun, taxing, testing and exhausting but overall fun. Well once all the mayhem in the woods was over, we mustered for a head count and luckily we had lost no-one, walked back to the beach to collect our kit then walked back to the Oak Tree Inn.

It was half past eleven when we finished, another three hour session that had flown by, I was so into what we were doing time ceased to be relevant. So quick shower and clean clothes and sand removed from places it should not be and it was downstairs to the bar for a couple of pints of best bitter, a damn good chill out and some great music from John Morgan who still had the strength left to play, sing and drink lots of lager.

Bar

Yes that’s me in the corner losing my religion…. No just sat in my red Ju Jitsu tshirt enjoying the craic with my Krav comrades, a lovely end to a great day. We were early to bed at 1pm ish. Some partied until 4pm!!! Not me, I need my sleep and the toughest tests were yet to come and rumour had it that a cracking breakfast was instore too, so it was a short walk up to the huge, comfortable bed that awaited and the alarm set for six hours time in what shall be ‘I will Survive – Part 2′.

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Words Fail Me


Well I thought I had seen it all with the snake oil salesmen, thought my last critique was enough to scare off the scam monsters but no, who am I fooling, certainly not little old me for sure. This morning I was innocently procrastinating on Facebook, no that is not some new sexual offence, when I came across this thanks to Tony Hughes, well I think I thank him, because when I watched it my heart sank once again. and for a short while words failed me. Take a look, how these clowns can do this and keep a straight face is way beyond my comprehension;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qsfT5qyT8gw#at=31

Where oh where do we start to pick the bones out of this one well I visited their website to see what other wonders I could see. Well he is not exactly lightening fast is he and neither is he a slip of a lad, neither is the attack that quick either, but it is not the ability to step sideways, honed with years of practice no doubt or the attack by Mogodon man that amuses me, it is the slow controlled descent down the wall by the attacker. I worry about the medical consequences of suffering repeated Chi blasts in such a short time after all there is only so much punishment the mind and body can take. It is as if there is a continued control over the attacker after he is stunned that is only released once he is tapped out of it, this is confirmed by his shake of the head, what happened response, fantastic, what else can this guy do? Well look at this it gets better and better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54g2op_Ts2I

I think you will agree that this is indeed a stunning set of defence against a punching opponent attacking from 2 metres away, check the mats. Would you attack with this punch from 2 metres away? Maybe the attacker has an inner ear problem that is triggered when he attacks someone from distance with an inefective strike? Who knows, maybe old Chi balls is just one incredible guy? Personally I think the distance is the key so lets see what happens when the attacker closes the distance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb8hkTCDCn0

Well I was shocked, despite cunningly inching forward inside the 2 metre distance the sudden, unpredictable attack fails to drive home as the attackers arm stops suddenly before impact and he is cast to the ground like a rag doll with no obvious effort from the master, for surely that is what he is with what I can only deem to be supernatural powers. I can offer no other explanation, or can I?

Well I can and you can, these guys believe their own bullshit. They are fakes and a laughingstock. Unfortunately it is jokers like these that get us all laughed at. Martial arts vary greatly from one another and quality control is lacking in many disciplines. this is less the case where there are recognised governing bodies but where there is no regulation at all, fantasists like these Walter Mitty’s crawl out of the woodwork and post themselves all over Youtube. Am I bothered, well yes and no, yes for the above said reason, their stupidity can taint us all, but then I have not laughed so much in ages since watching them perform, and it is a performance, well rehearsed and polished, but it is a turd of a performance, and as the saying goes it does not matter how much you polish a turd, it is still a turd.

When so many martial arts practitioners are trying their utmost to deliver their training to the best of their ability jokers like this, however much they make us laugh, are an insult to our intelligence. We need to publicise their uselessness at every opportunity and out them for the frauds they are and if they are not frauds then let them accept open offers of challenges, lets see how much faith they have in their hocus pocus techniques then.

Until then I will leave you with a short blast of real martial arts skill by a true exponent of the world famous English Casuals System, enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KGL_vNtelrM

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Riding the Heat Wave


Well things are really nice at the moment as we enjoy that rare thing, a heat wave in the British Isles, both my daughters 21st and grandson’s 3rd birthday parties were glorious occasions as a result. It is interesting too how people react to the change in the climate especially the ones that moan about it being too hot. About damn time in my opinion and I am loving it, I have been doing my weights out in the garden and it is really refreshing to train out there in the fresh air especially if there is a light breeze. We have been taking it a little easier at Ju Jitsu too these last 2 weeks due to the heat, just easing off the pace and intensity, adapting, sensibly in my opinion, not just due to the heat but most people’s main holidays are coming up and no one wants to pick up an injury that may spoil this for themselves and family.

The very sad deaths of two servicemen in the Brecon Beacon Mountains this weekend just goes to show that even a British heat wave can be a game changer if you are working the body hard. This is difficult to handle for goal orientated, focused individuals who feel that in the face of adversity, including extremes of weather, the response is to ramp up the training rather than to tone it down. Well been there done it and worn the sweat soaked t shirt. If that floats your boat then go for it, prepare properly, drink lots of fluids before, during and after and work the body and mind hard. Maybe it is an age thing but I am easing off, just a little at the moment, soon I am off doing lots of walking and cycling in Austria for a couple of weeks. In the mornings a series of bodyweight exercises on the veranda before breakfast and a swim or two each day.  Good healthy eating and a good 8 hours sleep a night and then back home to start to build my training regime during August and then start ramping it up again in September.

At the end of August I will be visiting Krav Island in the company of some fantastic kindred souls from the Institute of Krav Maga Scotland and 2 days of hard physical and mental endurance training. Including fight drills in the icy waters of Loch Lomond.  Last year I was an observer, photographing, filming and interviewing this event and feeling the urge to get involved, particularly in the night time training. This year I am going into the action and my anticipation is growing at the thought. I think I could do with finding some icy water in Austria but experience tells me this is not that easy, not like the colder than ice waters of the top lake at Interlaken I swam in a few years back, glacier melt fresh off the Jungfrau, third highest mountain of the Bernese Alps in Switzerland.

http://youtu.be/kZY7rZfQpBU

Training at Krav Island in the incredible beauty of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is something I am really looking forward to, and, as I prepare physically I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the weather is kind to us. Last year was good and the light drizzle for the first session kept the notorious Scottish midges at bay, that and regular applications of DEET based insect repellent. It is going to be great to actually train with some of the really nice people I met last year, when I complete the training I intend to write a survivors guide to Krav Island. I love the outdoors, I am lucky to live where I do with beautiful countryside and moorland on the doorstep almost. I really enjoy the incredible boost that being out surrounded by nature gives me both physically and mentally, that boost is multiplied when we take our training outdoors too, sometimes we get down and get dirty ;-)

http://youtu.be/lAVnJlVLsjY

Simply moving my weights bench out into the back garden enriches the sensation as those cheeky little endorphins begin to circulate and stimulate, the feel good factor increases as we breathe in good clean air and feel that muscle burn. The intensity is increased again when I step out onto my balcony in Austria and in between sets of exercises I drink in the incredibly beautiful view of mountains and meadows and breathe deeply the extra clean air. Usually we visit in May but this year it is going to be August, so depending on the mountain micro climate, we will make up our plans as we go and yes there will be much reading and relaxing by the pool because rest is a vital part of any exercise regime. Rest, including good sleep and healthy nutrition all go into making our holidays a special time where the wife and I can spend quality time together and recharge our batteries. Balance is the key word and it is important to find one’s own both in terms of life itself and training as part of life.

This is important because our life is not a set of separate components that we divide and organise spacially and temporally, but part of our personal whole, for me my training fits into and connects with family, work, my other hobbies, my social networks and relations, my cyber activities and my writing. We here much talk about the work/life balance being a problem for many people and I can see why with the multiple pressures of everyday life bearing down on people. The world’s troubles are huge and worrying and frighteningly multifaceted, I used to think I had answers, now I know I have none, only perceptions fashioned from my experiences. What I do think I know is the importance of creating a space in your life where you can invest in yourself using the concept of proper selfishness as outlined by Charles Handy in his book ‘The Hungry Spirit’. Proper selfishness is a paradox to quote Handy, “we only really find ourselves when we lose ourselves in something beyond ourselves”, and this for me is my martial arts training, its accompanying fitness training and my love of being active outdoors. What is it for you? It is not escapism, far from it, it is investing in some me time, and time spent making things work for me, for you.

So whilst it is still sunny outside I am off to spend some time working some bench presses on my patio followed by a nice walk up the valley, recharging the spirit and satiating its hunger.  So starting today it is the Mayfield Valley followed by the Austrian Alps then back to the valley to prepare for Krav Island, not a bad schedule, somebody has got to do it, might as well be me ;-) Take a little relaxation time and look at my summer playground and training camp.

http://youtu.be/BC7piQG-JN8

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