“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.