Tuesday, 3 December 2013

“Come Closer, Very Fast!” - The Bus’t Up - by Lance Manley

“Come Closer, Very Fast!”
The Bus’t Up
Harlow Leisurezone, Essex
1st December 2013

             Having missed my own club’s last seminar (KravMaga Midlands’s “Warzone” 2 weeks ago) I was very much looking forward to this one. Organised by Joe Ambrosiano of the Institute of Krav Maga UK and featuring Expert level 3 instructor Jacek Walczak, it promised to be a good un.
The basic premise was that we would be trained to defend ourselves on a train or bus, taking into account the close quarters that fighting in such an environment would have, and adapting our techniques accordingly.
The gold plated bonus though (and 50% of the reason that I signed up for it) was that we would get to try the techniques out on each other…on a real London double decker bus.

          The 100-ish mile journey to Harlow was fairly smooth and I booked in at the Leisurezone at 11.15am to get my free seminar t-shirt and bung on the ever necessary groin guard. Once I’d got changed it occurred to me that anyone seeing all of us in one place (there were over 100 students, with Jacek, 5 or 6 assistant instructors and a paramedic) might think we were coach drivers learning self defence, judging by the cartoon London Red buses on everyone’s backs.
I was the only one from Krav Maga Midlands in the room but there were loads of other societies there and I got chatting to a few guys from London and Kent clubs.
We were introduced to Jacek by Joe and had a quick warm up before going into the techniques. All required close proximity to your partner and it was interesting to actually be taught to headbutt, something I had only seen in reference up to now. The confined and claustrophobic nature of a fight on a train or bus, means you have to get in fast, hard and brutal to put an invader down. One useful technique was that if an aggressor puts their hand in their pocket you grab the wrist, punch to the face and then lift the hand out with both of your hands, controlling it all the time. Jacek acknowledged that they might actually be reaching for a mobile phone, but added that in an aggressive situation you must assume the worst. He also showed us about shoving someone away and taking control of a knife.

               During Jacek’s demonstrations, one bloke asked what you could do if trying to take a knife off someone who is standing beyond fist or shoving range. Jacek shrugged and said “just do this” then booted the other instructor really hard in the groin. Cue much laughter and a round of applause.
After about an 90 minutes we were split into two groups and me plus another 50 guys traipsed out to the double decker parked outside. The whole thing reeked of stale beer, which kind of hit the right note as we were about to recreate the average night bus experience in the grottier parts of London at 3am on a Saturday.

               We got stuck in doing releases from the side and back strangleholds from a sitting position. Only problem was 50 sweating, struggling bodies on two decks steamed the glass up in about 30 seconds. The scenario was halted for an instruction to open the windows. Cue more laughter.
The claustrophobic nature of this type of thing really came to the fore as we had to be aware of the people next to us, ahead of us and behind us at all times. After a while we then had the surreal pleasure of “Person About To Miss Their Stop” and one at a time barged through everybody else from one end of the bus to the other while they stood in our way.

              We then switched with the other 50 and spent the final 40 or so minutes learning how to defend against punches, kicks and knife attacks while sitting. This was something I’d covered in my own club, but it was interesting to utilise the (folding) chairs as a weapon if attacked.
After a raffle and awarding of certificates we wrapped things up. Jacek got to be JK Rowling for 15 minutes as he sat at a table and we queued up for his autograph on our diplomas, while Joe pleaded with us to leave Jacek alone so he could catch his plane back to Poland. Me and a few others managed to grab him on the way out for photos before he finally escaped.

              A cracking day. Many new techniques learned and Jacek is one scary looking, ferocious dude.
I also don’t think that I’ve recently seen anything as surreal as 50 guys in identical t-shirts, attempting to kick the hell out of each other on a London Double Decker bus.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Lance Manley - The Wet T-Shirt Competition

Krav Maga Global (UK)
Practitioner Grading
Birmingham Gymnastics & Martial Arts Centre, Perry Bar
October 12th 2013

Lance Manley - The Wet T-Shirt Competition

       I had heard various rumors that, after the delights of P1 and its big brother, P2 the grading for my next level, P3 would be H.A.R.D.E.R.
It was big boys’ pants time, with 2 guys going for P5 specifically stating that P3 was the most difficult grading they’d taken. This was “the other side of the curve” with the first two gradings merely setting the scene for what was to come.

    So, with nerves a-jangling and my Sat Nav being a petulant brat and sending me the “pretty” way to Perry Bar, I set off on a rainy Saturday morning to face the baptism by fire.
When I got there the P1s were still on the mats and peering through the windows I could see them doing ground sparring under the supervision of Rune Lind, a KMG Expert 4 examiner who I met a year ago on my P1 grading. One fat guy was at the end of his energy levels and simply lay on the floor, on his back gasping for air. Well, he did until Rune poked him repeatedly with his foot and yelled at him to get up. There were 4 or 5 KravMaga Midlands students from my class in there and they looked knackered as they came out and shook hands with me and the other guys waiting for the later levels. All had passed which boosted my confidence and we wished the P2 guys well as they marched in to register.
Due to some undisclosed problem, the gradings for P4 and 5 had been moved forward to merge with P3. This wouldn’t have been a a quandary apart from the fact that it was decided on the day. Frantic text messages were apparently sent out. Scott sent an SMS to our Chief Instructor Bartosz saying “Not sure if I’ll make it on time” to which Bartosz simply replied “Drive faster!”
    Everyone made it in good time and I watched some of P2 doing their stuff and chatted with Anna who runs Active Krav Maga in Cheltenham and suggested a twinning between them and Krav Maga Midlands. Time will tell.

             Two people failed P2 which put a slight dampener on the mood. Felt sorry for them but as Bartosz pointed out, there are Expert levels out there who failed at least one grading on their way up the ladder.
When we took to the mat we had a quick warm up and were then formally briefed on the differences that I’d heard about, from P2 to this level. The instructor said that they didn’t want people who “collect patches” and that he hoped we were all there as we believed we were ready for it. He then handed us over to Rune who said that the first time he saw us throw a technique he would regard THAT as the one he was assessing, so we’d best make it good. He pointed out that in his opinion a “pass” was something that would work “on the street.” He then split us into groups according to our levels, with the 4 guys doing P5 in one corner and us and P4 on the other side. He asked for slow fighting at the start and I was seriously worried about my energy levels after 10 minutes as I was feeling like shit and gasping for breath. We then moved onto techniques and worked through the various stuff we’d spent the last few weeks practicing. I had no problem with kicks and was quite pleased when my partner holding the strike pad went flying a couple of times. He could kick hard too and it was difficult not to end up sailing back into the chairs around the edge of the mats.
I guessed we wouldn’t be given formal water breaks so took the initiative to ask. Rune was a gentleman and said it was fine, cue much glugging of H2O, orange juice or Lucozade before we got stuck in to knife and stick attacks. Rune had us do the basic techniques then asked us to try and get the knife off the attacker. I took my partner to the ground and we were squabbling over the blade until it snapped and I sheepishly handed in the broken bits afterwards.

        Forward rolls was something I tried briefly but my ropey right shoulder put paid to that. Krav Maga Global have a common sense approach to injuries and we were specifically asked at the start if we had any existing ailments they should know about. I got excused from “jumping over your partner while they kneel down as if impersonating the Pope kissing the airport runway” but managed a couple of rolls. After 2 and a bit hours of hard work, we moved on to the biggest bastard of the session.
Rune told us to put gloves on and said that those of us (including me) who’d only brought MMA as opposed to 16 ouncers, could only punch lightly, even if our opponent had the proper big jobs on. He said to slow fight to start with and then we would move up in tempo.

       We were all completely knackered by this point and I had to find reserves of adrenalin that I’d stashed in a hidden bank vault in order to continue. After a couple of minutes Rune then told us to spar at normal speed with a new partner, but said that as one had to be on the ground we had to do 10 push ups facing each other, with the winning presser upper getting to choose which one of the pair had to lie on the floor on their back. I won, let my partner go to the mat and then simply held him down in a body hold while he struggled to get up, until Rune shouted “TIME!”

    My next partner also lost the push ups, so he went down and again I held him, with Rune stopping by on his rounds to tell us to punch each other as well as just wrestle it out. The guy eventually said, “I have to tap out mate, I can’t breathe!” (so how did he verbalise that?) and being a gent I stood up and we then moved to stand up scrapping. I was ready to drop dead by this point and went hammer and tongs with the remaining energy I had left. I was reassured by a couple of instructors I didn’t know, who cheered me on saying, “That’s good, good job, keep going.” My partner caught me a right meaty smack in the chops and then muttered “I’m sorry”. I replied in a croaking rasp, “Don’t apologise, just fight!”
Finally the longest tussle of my life ended and I dragged my soaking carcass to join the others in a line. Rune and another instructor walked up with a big pile of certificates and smilingly asked, “So step forward anyone who thinks they DESERVE to pass!” Me and about 8 others stepped one pace out and they looked at each other and then back at us before Rune said, “Good start. But if you ever test with Eyal Yanilov never let him hear you say ‘I think I might pass the test’. That means you have already failed it.”
All of P3, 4, and 5 had passed and we proudly walked up to get our certificates, dripping sweat and in some cases limping. I shook hands with my technique partner and the guy I’d sparred with. The latter had  a busted lip where I’d hit him and when I pointed out that he was bleeding he replied, “Yeah, I hoped the instructors would stop the fight but no such luck.”

       Finally a few photos and I peeled one very wet t-shirt off in favour of a fresher dry one, before driving home.
Tremendous yet gruelling day and all I can say now is….bring on P4.

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Monday, 22 July 2013

Night Park Scenarios 3rd Edition - 3rd Party Protection 19/07/2013

Night Outdoor Park/ 3rd Party Protection seminar
Friday 19th July 2013
RSC Park, Stratford-upon-Avon

By Lance Manley- Practitioner 2

           Having attended the Armed Attacker Seminar last February I was hyped up for attending this one too. Bartosz had promised 3 hours of training in how to protect “loved ones” (or in my case “some girl I might pull in a bar one night”) from attack in open spaces such as parks or woodland.
I arrived about 6.30pm and found a lot of guys already there, chatting near the river while Bartosz waited at the gate to shepherd people over. It was mainly club members, with one ortwo “civilians” thrown in, brought as the hypothetical 3rd parties in need of protection. In all there were about 40 of us.

           At around 7pm Bartosz and Russell l got us warmed up and then we split into pairs for the initial “protection” training. This consisted of numbering ourselves 1 or 2, then jogging around the lawn. Bartosz would intermittently bellow “ONE!” or “TWO!” and whoever’s number was called had to find their significant other, and run to stand as a shield in front of them.
Then we had the always enjoyable “slap other people on the head” addition. This meant that while jogging around you could hit anyone within reach. A couple of the civvies didn’t seem to like this too much but it broke the ice and meant we were nicely warmed up for the main session.

            After some stretching we split into groups of 3 and worked on protecting someone from perceived or actual attack from ne’er do wells. My partners were a fairly muscley guy and a very small woman. While she was totally gung ho with regard to getting stuck in, her technique needed a little work as she was unable to push either me or the other guy out the way. Eventually she cracked it and we had a lovely time shoving each other around. The Educational Block is something I’d forgotten about but a quick reminder session had me coughing and spluttering. It consists of pushing someone away with the palm of your hand and then pushing your fingers into the soft bit just above the top of their rib cage. Not nice!
Later on we had some amusing themes to work with, one of which was shoving your VIP out the way of an oncoming cyclist or skateboarder careening towards you. Very Indiana Jones.
Then it was “protect the VIP” from actual attack. We had to take it in turns to be Attacker, VIP or Defender. Punishment for letting the Attacker actually reach the VIP was 5 push ups. We couldn’t stop until Bartosz shouted, “Switch!” so a lot of grunting, shoving and headlocks were on display as people tired each other out on the grass.
             An interesting variant on this was the “VIP Acting Like An Idiot” scenario. In real life, those who are attacked will usually run or stand still but some get lippy and either try to fight as well, shout and scream or wander around like a headless chicken. The most difficult situation was dealing with the oncoming Attacker while simultaneously trying to keep a protective eye on your VIP who was now strolling round like a loose cannon.
Stranglehold techniques were gone through, which aren’t as hard to break as I’d imagined, albeit somewhat complicated with regard to what arm goes where. Imagine a Chinese puzzle but with human limbs instead of wood or string.
             After a 5 minute break we then moved on to knife and gun attacks and how to disarm an attacker. Golden rule of training for pistol disarm is NEVER put your finger in the trigger guard…unless you want it broken when your partner twists it out of your hand. Funniest thing was that 4 police officers wandered through the park just as Bartosz was demonstrating by pointing the fake gun at Russell l. Luckily it’s bright yellow (as are 90% of the training pistols) so they didn’t take cover behind trees and push the panic alarms on their Airwave radios for an Armed Response unit to attend.

              We then had another quick break and got stuck in to VIP protection against knife, gun or strangling techniques on a pressure drill. This was hard as you had to walk to the left of your partner and attempt to disarm or avoid anyone who was “armed” coming at you. As all 40 of us were in one small area it was very intense but a lot of fun.
As we were getting ready a drunken Chav with a rather flabby belly wandered up and stood near to me watching what was going on. His breath reeked of beer and I was starting to get drunk off the passives when Bartosz asked him, “You OK?” He smiled and went, “Yeah, just interested that’s all” which was fine until he picked up a fake knife and swung it around saying, “So what would you do if I attacked you with this?” Bartosz snatched the knife off him and shoved him away growling, “Just go away f!!!” He mooched away with his tail between his legs looking very embarrassed.


             As it got dark we then had the “surprise” that we’d been promised. Near the river was a bit of pathway with lots of overhanging trees and dense bushes. Bartosz asked, “Who wants to go first?” and I volunteered. He sent me to stand out of sight while he got 4 or 5 other guys to hide along the path. When he called me back he grinned and went , “Right Lance. Just walk down that path until you come out the other end, OK?”
It was very dark by this point and hard to see. As I set off I saw Charlie Hale come bursting out of the bush to my left, I was about to kick him when he shouted, “Alright mate! You got the time?” I relaxed a little, realising this was the Red Herring and said, “Sorry mate no. You gave me a fright jumping out like that!”

              Then a female student came at me with a fake knife. I booted her in the groin and took the knife off her, spinning round to find someone crouching in the bushes. I was about to give a pre-emptive kick when I realised it was Bartosz’s girlfriend Iwona, who was taking photos. Two more lads then came hurtling towards me shouting threats and swearing. I kicked one of them and pushed the other away, warning them with the fake knife I still had and yelled, “JUST FUCK OFF OK!!!”
Bartosz said to back away but that I’d done well and to return to the main group round the other side.


             As other guys went through one at a time a group of four elderly people wandered up to see what we were doing. They all had baseball caps on with “STREET PASTOR” printed across the front and were working for the local church, offering spiritual advice to people. To my utter delight they came up just as a student went through the “tunnel” who misunderstood Charlie Hale’s role in the scenario. It went a bit like this:
Street Pastor: “So what are you doing here then?”
Me: “We’re with Krav Maga Midlands, we’re learning about how to protect against attacks in the dark. The guys over there are…”
Charlie: “Excuse me mate, you got the time?”
Student: “F**K OFF YOU C**T!!!”
               The Street Pastors looked horrified until I reassured them that this was just a scenario and Bartosz was walking behind the student to make sure no one got hurt. It then turned out that one of them was a guy I work with (hey, it was dark!) and we shook hands and had a laugh. I’ll no doubt be ribbed remorselessly over this on Monday morning.
Then I had a go as a “bad guy” in the bushes and Bartosz said, “Just abuse and push them.”
First guy through was OK, pushing me back and then facing my neighbour who simply stood in his way being a nuisance. The third lad through was a big, Indian bloke and when I shouted, “Think you’re f**king hard do you?!! Come on then!!!” and shoved him, he dropped me with a push kick that sent me on my arse into the bushes.
The last-but-one bloke is a former kickboxer and wanted to have a stand up fight with everyone who tried to “mug” him. This isn’t the principle of Krav Maga but was fun to see as he wouldn’t back down no matter what was thrown at him.
Finally everyone was done and we gathered with the “civilians” and Russell . Bartosz decided to give one last piece of advice and pulled Charlie Hale over and put a fake knife in his hand. He then said:
“A lot of you are trying to take the knife when you see it. If it is only being held, you should do this instead.”

             He then slapped Charlie’s knife hand away and booted him in the crotch. Charlie immediately groaned in pain and fell to his knees. Turned out he’d already taken his groin guard off. Bartosz was very apologetic and said, “Sorry I thought you were still wearing it!” while Charlie staggered to one side to recover.

A brilliant night’s training and I really hope to do this again soon.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Krav Maga Grading by Lance Manley

GMAC, Perry Barr, Birmingham
16th March 2013

          After P1 last October I had been forewarned that P2 is P1’s older brother and therefore in a different league, i.e. HARDER.
          At Reading for P1 we had about 50 guys doing the grading simultaneously. This time the grading was down the road in a new venue Birmingham, so no 5.30am alarm calls BUT there were a lot less people, with around 20 doing my level due to the increased options on venues. There’s something reassuring about having loads of people besides yourself. Like being at a school disco when you’re 12 and don’t like dancing, it means that you can try to blend in a little more.

        The instructor was an Israeli guy and very focused but friendly. We watched the P1 guys finish and realized just how different this grading would be, as the instructor had made notes for each person and gave them verbal feedback in front of everyone else, which hadn’t happened last time. It was good to see guys from KMM get their certificates and we shook their hands before taking to the mat for our turn.

 Instructor Ran Laskov Expert 1 from Israel.

         The instructor welcomed us and said that not everyone might pass but to regard the experience not with a heavy heart but instead as an opportunity to improve and as “extra training.”
After a quick warm up we split into A’s and B’s. As there was an odd number of guys, me and my partner agreed to take another lad on board with us. In some ways this made it easier for us (less workout time, time to quickly practice a move) but in others it was harder (alternating focus, breaking off to let the other guy have a turn). 

        My one weakness during the build up to the grading had been backward rolls. I kept either coming down on my neck (which HURTS!!) or rolling off to the side like a drunken sailor slipping on the deck. I had finally nailed this a couple of days before, with extra training from Bartosz and was relieved when it went smoothly and I didn’t go spilling off the mat with my arse in the air, into the P3- 5 guys sitting around the edge waiting for their go.

         A touch that I appreciated to the proceedings, was that if the instructor realised that more than a couple of us didn’t understand what he wanted us to demonstrate, then he would pause the grading and show us himself. This happened with both body defences and palm strikes to the groin (the latter of which had him explaining why it hurts so much, as the nerve endings are at the top of the testicles which is why you should aim to hit “up” (we all laughed but I am clenching now just remembering that).
At the end we had a bit of slow fighting and then sat on the floor dripping sweat to get our feedback. The instructor demonstrated moves he felt that all or most of us needed to improve on (such as blocking a hook punch) and then came The Moment.

      I once saw a documentary on TV about the Royal Marines. After gruelling assessment over a period of weeks, the candidates sat on three  benches in an army sports hall and one at a time a Captain read their names out. The soldiers were not allowed to show any emotion, regardless of outcome and it went like this:

Captain: “Smith?”
(Smith stands up): “Sir?”
Captain: “Fail”.
Smith: “Sir”. (Sits down again).
Captain: “Jenkins?”
(Jenkins stands up): “Sir?”
Captain: “Pass”.
Jenkins: “Sir”. (Sits down again).
        The instructor warned us that not everyone had passed but again said that we should regard this experience as a positive one and try again if it was us. He added that he himself had failed a couple of times on the way up and not to be too downhearted about it. He finally said that we would be receiving feedback via email from him within a couple of days. This last bit was a nice touch and much appreciated as it is beyond what we either expected or had paid for.

       As the names were read out we took the certificate from another guy and shook the instructor’s hand, while everyone else clapped. Both the guys in my “pair” got their certificates before me and when my name was finally read out I think the air rushed from my lungs with the force of a hurricane.
       We then had a quick word with Bartosz and Russell and a couple of photos before heading home.
A positive experience and I can’t wait for P3 in October.