Ann asked me to write a little bit about my recent trip to Israel. Maybe it was just to explain my absence from the studio from the last few weeks, but I like to think it’s more about sharing my experiences & encouraging others to be lifelong learners. Either way, a little turned into a lot. There are no surprise twists at the end, but I hope you find some time to read through it and enjoy it.
I started my time in Israel with a workshop on fitness training with Peter Lakatos. Peter is an E3 and the Director in Hungary. He is also the strength coach for the Hungarian National Judo team, Master Instructor in StrongFirst and the creator or Ground Force Method. (On a side, note, we are working on getting a GFM seminar here at First Defense in October.) The focus of the 3 days was less about strength and conditioning & more about stability & mobility. This is especially relevant in Krav Maga where improving these qualities in ourselves will decrease the risk of injury and increase our performance on all levels. This is the 2nd time I’ve spent a couple of days with Peter learning about these methods & although I definitely still feel like a beginner, I’m looking forward to integrating some of the exercises & theories into our classes.
KMG Director’s Meeting
The next two days were dedicated to the Director’s Meeting. We had over 60 participants from 40 countries attending. It’s really a very impressive site – Krav Maga Global is truly global & to be part of part of it is really an honor. Day one started with a bus ride to a very nice kibbutz in northeastern Israel. And because this is KMG, how did we spend the 90 minute bus ride? Yep, by attacking & threatening each other with knives & pistols on the bus!
After opening remarks & a few short lectures by some of the Directors (including myself), we took a little afternoon break. We all hoped on the bus again & drove to a close by river to do some rafting. It wasn’t very big, just a small tributary to the Jordan River, but it was deep enough to swim in in a couple of places. For me, this made the trip. In our raft was Jon Bullock (Director of the UK), Adam White (Director of Australia), me & Eyal. Any thought of a nice lazy river type of rafting experience immediately went out the window as soon as our raft hit the water! To say we had a competitive crew was definitely an understatement. We were in constant battle with the other Directors’ rafts. At one point, Eyal noticed one of the other rafts had an extra paddle (we were only supposed to have 2 per raft). So, he told us to get close & once we were about 5 feet away, he stood up, took a flying leap into the other raft & wrestled the paddle away from the other rafter. We paddled close enough so he could jump back in, but he was nice & gave their paddle back after anyway. The rafting trip was about 2 hours & it was completely full of moments like that. It was just great – to be able to laugh so hard for so long with great friends, colleagues, and teachers.
After the rafting trip, we were right back to work for another couple of hours before heading out to a special dinner at a Bedouin tent. It was amazing hospitality & the food just kept coming & coming!
Day 2 was more lectures and small group work. I have to say, I’ve very excited about the future of KMG & it’s impressive that they have such a talented & intelligent group to help push their vision forward. The meeting wrapped up with some gifts to all the Director’s – a really nice gift box of some Israeli goodies. There was a local wine, some honey, tahini, and of course, olive oil. There was also a presentation of awards recognizing Directors for exceptional work developing KMG in their countries. There are 5 Silver Awards, 3 Gold Awards and 1 Platinum award. I am very grateful to have received a Gold Award & already have my sights on Platinum. Go USA!
This was my 3rd Expert Camp in Israel & I came into it not really interested in testing. The plan was to test with some of my friends during the November Camp in Las Vegas. However, after the encouragement of Eyal and the other Directors, I decided to test while in Israel. Much like the rafting trip, my hope of having a laid-back, fun training camp was over the moment I got into the gym. Not that the camp wasn’t fun, it was great, but you have a different mindset during the week when your testing. And although it wasn’t my first rodeo, there is still the pressure to do well and nerves that come along with testing.
Day 1 started with a morning session on the beach dealing with knife attacks. We then broke up into groups around our rank. The first few days of the camp, we focused on Expert level curriculum and did a lot of fighting drills. The Expert 2 group worked mostly on knife, machete, stick, pistol, long gun, and sub-machine gun. Taking a glance over a the E3+ group, they were also working on chains & hand grenades! Always more to learn. . . .
During the 6 days of training, we had another session on the beach and one in the water, dealing with the, let’s say, the discomfort of the sand, surf & salt water and, oh yea, someone trying to drown you. Working in the water is definitely a different experience & I’m hoping to be able to share that with you in a members workshop this month.
Day 7 was testing day. Definitely a bit nervous, but been through these enough times that I’m able to treat them, mentally, as just another training day. I was partnered with the 2 Aussies that I spent most of the week training with, so there wasn’t the surprise of working with someone I didn’t know. Having trust in your training partner is always a big thing, but at these higher levels, it’s an absolute must if you want to perform 100%. The test took about 7 hours, including some breaks, but I’m sure the testers – Tommy Blom, Pavel Zuev, & Jon Bullock – would have liked to go longer if they could have. I had Pavel as my main examiner with Tommy overseeing. Pavel is known as a pretty tough tester & it didn’t help that we had a group of 3 to coordinate & his English is not great. All in all, it was a pretty good test, though & I felt confident that I at least passed once it was over.
Day 8 is for feedback & corrections. This was the day we found out if we passed or not. In my group, the Expert 2 group, we started with 26. 16 said, at the beginning of the week, that they wanted to test. On the testing day, only 13 actually did. And out of that 13, I believe around 9 passed. I’m happy to say, that I was one of the ones that did. With an 85%, I think I was around the middle of the pack & although I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t score higher, a pass is a pass & thanks to the feedback by Pavel & Tommy, I at least know where to focus my training for the next few years.
At this level, the focus is so much more on principles than individual techniques. It needs to be. There are probably more than a few hundred different individual techniques in the curriculum from P1-E2. The focus needs on that warrior mentality – the ability to adapt to changing situations and make effective decisions on the fly. It’s no longer “show me straight stab to the chest”, it’s “show me all possible knife attacks from all angles. And sometimes strike before the knife attack or attack again with something different after the first defense”.
Like I said before, this is my 3rd Expert Camp and I probably train with Eyal & other Global Team members about 14-21 days every year. And each time, I’m learning something new, I’m improving, I’m growing. This mentality, this love of learning and desire for self-improvement is something I’ve learned from my teachers over the years & want to instill in my students as well. That’s why you’ll always see me and the other FD instructors going off to training all the time & talk to you about attending seminars & camps. Of course, there’s a lot you’re going to learn directly from us at First Defense, but to get the full KMG experience, nothing beats these camps.