Tuesday, 8 March 2016

March 2016 Practitioner Grading, Stratford upon Avon

March 5th  2016
Stratford upon Avon High School

by Lance Manley

Still unable to retest for the much dreamed about P5 patch due to knee injury, I was determined to go along and cheer on the guys from my club and also eavesdrop the feedback from examiners to the P4 and P5 candidates.

Stratford upon Avon hosted its first national grading (courtesy of arrangements made between Krav Maga Global UK and my own club Krav Maga Midlands) last October. This proved a godsend for those of us in the middle bit of England. Before then a commute to Bristol or London was in order. Also, due to the event being hosted by KMM, there would be a P1 test, something the other national gradings didn't feature as all Practitioner level 1 exams are now held "in house" at the individual clubs throughout the country.

I got there about 11.30am and a lot of guys were already in the corridor outside the sports hall, waiting for our allotted time. Faces were looking nervous to say the least I spoke to Andy Wilkinson who was up for P3.

"Feeling nervous, ready but nervous. Graded in October and been in KMM for 2 years this June. If I'm not ready now I'm not going to be ready".

Expert level 1 examiner David Slade from Krav Maga Elite said:

"We've got a lot of people here. About four hours, three people examining so everyone's going to get a fair crack of the whip. They'll be a lot of attention, lot of focus, especially on the 2s and 3s".

Another examiner Alan Dennis, also Expert 1 from Elite Midlands said "P2s always a tricky one I find because they've done P1, the nerves have gone. There's a lot of new stuff on P2. You've got the add ons from P1. Overall, I'm expecting a good one."

As the practitoners made their way into the hall I got a quick word with P1 candidate Gulshen Bano who I'd chatted to at the knife defence seminar last month.

"Feeling OK not too bad, now or never. Done lots of training. Should be good".

Everyone got into it with a brief pep talk from KMG UK director Jon Bullock plus Alan and David. Jon stressed the importance of keeping safety at the forefront of your mind and that your safety plus your partner's was the most crucial thing.

The groups then split off into respective areas of floor with the P1s being overseen by Russell Brotherston who I work with at kiddy krav club JSKM on Mondays and Wednesdays. There was only ONE P5 candidate, Michaela Del Buono from Total Krav Maga who I had seen take P4 in the same venue last October.

KMM has 4 instructors, the most recent addition to the team being Tomasz Galuba. It was rare to see all four in a room together and inspiring that Bartosz, Al and Tomasz who weren't examining, had come out to see their students grade and cheer them on.

P1 finished first, shortly followed by the P2 group. 3 to 5 however were still going hard at it, proving my belief that these grades are "The Big Kids Club" and the perseverance required goes way beyond what's expected in the first two grades.

Once the techniques were done and dusted the gloves and shin guards (not to mention gum shields) were locked in place and everyone went at it in their respective levels. Michaela Del Buono had worked with the P4s for most of her grading and now was sparring with them. I know from my own sparrings at levels 3 to 5 that this is a gruelling and ultimately exhausting experience. You have to "suck it up" and carry on as you are being judged not only on fighting ability but more on your resilience in the face of a soaking wet T-shirt and a face like an overripe tomato.

Everyone gave it 100% and when time was finally called the groups split off to face either Jon or David for feedback. I listened in to the P4 and 5 chats from David and was pleased to see everyone had passed from KMM.

As people were glugging Lucozade or protein bars I got a few words from the candidates.

Andrew Wilkinson hadn't passed P3 but was optimistic and took the news with the determination to come back and try again.

"I didn't feel on my game. It was a couple of basic disciplines I failed on. However like the phoenix I shall rise again to fight another day".

Gulshen had passed P1 and told me:

"Absolutely brilliant, so pleased chuffed to bits. Today's been exhausting but so much fun at the same time. Won't stop grinning for the rest of the day."

Goz Goswell from KMM Solihull had passed P4:

"I feel shattered, challenged but really enjoyed it. Did my best, that's all I can do".

Great day, even as just an observer and now I'm going to head down to Bristol to watch it all over again.


Lance Manley is a member of Krav Maga Midlands and author of the book

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Extreme Knife Defence Seminar

Krav Maga Midlands
Marcin Reszka, E2
Stratford upon Avon High School
Saturday 13th February 2016

by Lance Manley

Knife fighting and dealing with an armed aggressor.

Krav Maga Midlands' latest seminar was a shade different to what we'd done before, especially in the Armed Attackers workshop, 3 years ago to the day in the same venue. Unlike other seminars, this one would teach students how to fight WITH knives, not just how to disarm those who attack while holding them. The information stated that "Our aim is to maximize the chance of an effective defence against an armed, aggressive and determined attacker. By learning how to use a bladed weapon and use it while sparring it will give you a better understanding of more skilled knife attacks and teach you how to respond to them effectively. It is guaranteed to improve reflexes and footwork, something that will pay off in general fighting skills".

The instructor for this was Marcin Reszka, an Expert level 2 Krav Maga Global instructor from London's Krav Maga Tactics club in Kingston on Thames. What was interesting about this event though was the amount of instructors who had signed up to participate, including Krav Maga Midlands' Chief Instructor Bartosz (E2), along with KMM instructors Al Natrins (G2) and Russell (G5). Also there was Edmund Sobczak from Fit2Fight Back and Stuart Gould of Elite Midlands.

I spoke to Marcin just before things kicked off.

"The idea of what we're doing is to teach people how to use common objects in self defence. The focus will be on edged weapons. The training will also pay off in general awareness. People will learn how to deal with a more skilled attacker. We will be here for three hours. We've been doing this since 2012 when I gained extra knowledge on using the knives as well as defending. The difference between this and a usual armed attacker seminar is that here you are being taught how to use the knife as an extension of the hand. It's not taken from a totally different system, it's based on Krav Maga."

After an introduction from Bartosz, Marcin got the students got into things with one of the warm up exercises being one person with a stick trying to touch the other on the feet with it. Marcin stated that the unarmed person was not allowed to hit back but to "make him nervous, he might want to."

Everyone was sweating well by this point and the technical side of things was brought to the fore. Marcin showed various holds for a knife when attacking and pointed out that slashes are tricky when it comes to control of an assailant. Retaliation when using your own knife was demonstrated with movements to attack the clenched knife hand of the other person. Marcin stated that "you won't kill him, just disfigure his hand".

As the guys got into this it was clear that a focus of mind and accuracy of hand and footwork were paramount. Russell and Al Natrins were partnered in a group of three with Edmund. Watching them practice reminded me of the gladiatorial drills from TV show Spartacus: Blood on the Sand.

In between showing techniques, Marcin pointed out on several occasions that the purpose of retaliating with another blade (or any weapon to hand) was to disable the opponent, NOT to kill or severely injure them. One move he pointed out was knocking the knife hand away with your knife hand, then slashing the back of their fist and then the leg.

True to the principles of Krav Maga, Marcin also showed the practitioners how to utilise everyday object to protect themselves and disable an opponent and focussing on redirection of attack. Marcin emphasised the importance of accuracy and control, pointing out that to be aggressive on certain targets is more important than trying to stab. He also said that things shouldn't be "overcomplicated" and that trying, for example, to trap the hand of a someone attempting to slash you will probably result in getting cut.

When the guys moved into the sparring at the end of the seminar, it was made clear that ALL disciplines could be used for knife defence, not only Krav Maga. Watching the various pairs going at it, it appeared everyone was having a great time, albeit showing obvious signs that they'd had a good workout.

Afterwards I spoke to Solihull KMM student Golshen Bano who said: 
"Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Love it! So much more on the techniques that you pick up in class and training with people who are not your grade and sparring with P3 and 4s".

I then asked Russell what he thought.
"I really enjoyed it. Something that has the root of Krav in it but also something that's new for everyone. A lot of it was new for the students but the instructors had a lot of new stuff in there too. It was interesting to see it from a slightly different angle."

Very informative and instructive seminar and it was a first seeing 3 KMM instructor training together. 


Lance Manley is a member of Krav Maga Midlands and author of the book