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.
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.
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.
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’.