British Krav Maga Head Coach Paul Grey
In 1971 I slipped into my first Judo suit and the start of a martial arts career that has already spanned over 40+ years. I trained at a wonderful Judo club run by Sensi Gilbert in Sherborne, Dorset. Sensei Gilbert was a great instructor, modest, supportive and committed to Judo. These first few years of training were formative and were the start of a lifelong career in martial arts. I was lucky, I got off to a good start with a genuine Instructor. His values influence me today, over 40 years later.
In the 1970's here in the UK, the Martial Arts scene was very different than today. Japanese martial arts dominated and you could do usually do either Karate or Judo. Cross training was positively discouraged and could get you thrown of your club. There was a rare and exotic Martial Art called 'Kung Fu' but few really knew what it was - and my own experience of king fu consistedof seeing some old Black and White Magazine articles with strange and unsual stances. Wild claims ran rife and many of the Kung Fu schools made outrageous claims about how deadly their systems were Karate was the same, and many of these martial artists believed their own publicity and often came to grief in real life when street violence occured. A Black belt was a rare thing, typically the holder had travelled to Japan and really suffered for his art before being awarded a Black Belt. As students we often heard how tough the training was, especially for non Japanese students who had to prove themselves even more than native Japanese students.
People reflect back and some how believe old training was better. In some ways it was.
There was more emphasis on basics - we had less techniques available so this was not by choice. You would run over basics again and again. Instructors had less techniques to teach (remember they were often green or blue belts), but what ever the reasons - students basics skills were stronger than most today. Information was harder to come by, the odd book, the odd magazine article and claim of deadly skills were rife. This approach is the traditional Japanese way of teaching skills. Repeat, repeat, repeart until its natural to you. Its not a bad method but would not be well tolerated by students today who want something faster moving with more variety.
Some training was positively dangerous. Stretching was one I remember well. You would stretch and stretch well past what was functionally required. Instructors would pull legs apart, stand on your knees and do various things to make you stretch further and further. One day when I was around 14, I was being stretched in the splits, (no real warm and instructors pulling your legs apart). I thought I heard my gi bottoms tear and suddenly experienced a burning sensation inside my inner thigh and groin. I had literally torn a muscle in my groin/inner thigh. The pain was intense and walking home was not going to happen - and walking in general did not happen normally for months after). The inside of my leg went black and i could not train for months. The instructor who 'helped' me stretch was not overly concerned - after all what had it to do with him. . That was the way of training and thinking. Even now in my early 50's this still troubles me.
Still, it was not all bad. I got out of football at school for a whole season at school which delighted me. I hated football with a passion (cold and boring with no Karate involved ;-) I later discovered that if I simply refused to take my kit I got a to read for 45 minute in detention each week and missed 90 minutes of tedium in return. A fair exchange.
Occassionally you would learn a new technique, or new moves from a kata and then you would drill them for months. However teaching skills were often poor. Anyone could teach - there was no formal Instructor training so good or bad Instructors simply repeated what they had learned. Health and safety was non existant and I still carry that groin injury today. However I thrived on the discipline, the hardship and the camaraderie. Training was tough in a way that would get you in trouble today. As a teenager (12-16) I would often have bruises and marks from training, my arms and shins were often black and blue. I learned at this time that toughness was not about posturing, crewcuts and acting out, as I had seen kids do at school. Toughness was a mental skill that improved with training and application. Several "tough kids' from my school started training.
To be fair I was intimidated and uncomfortanble. In my minds eye I could already see the hard time I would get the next day at school, possibly the dreaded fight in the playground where one or other the next day at school. It never really happened. They came into class, were fairly quiet - timid even. And left one by one and remarkably quickly, especially after a hard session. I soon realised that playground tough was not necessarily actually tough.
Over the next 20 plus years I trained for varying periods in a wide range of martial arts eventually settling in Wing Chun for 14 years. I was always a committed student, though never an outstanding one.
This enabled me to really learn a system and become accomplished within my sphere. But it was then I found quite clearly that Wing Chun did not have all the answers. I later added JKD and some Philipino systems to my CV.
Over the following 30+ years I gained 3 Black Belts, 4 Instructor certifications and 20 plus years experience in a range of 'challenging' environments. I was dealing with a wide range of violence and aggression in a professional capacity or teaching others to do so. I worked as a Psychiatric Nurse, Nurse manager, Control and Restraint trainer and team leader. I have also worked as a Clinical auditor specialising in auditing the use of restraint, and as a consultant to organisations dealing with conflict on a regular basis. This gave me a terrific insite into how ordinary people react to real life situations and the opportunity to analyse the outcomes from training.
To this day I remain a white belt, (a novice), at heart, always learning, open to new training, new concepts and new approaches.
British Krav Maga: The Training Ethos
British Krav Maga Clubs share a training ethos that is fundamental to who we are. We provide professional coaching in authentic Israeli Krav Maga but first and foremost we teach people to protect themselves. Instructors strive to create a high standard of physical ability in the shortest time possible. But this comes at a cost - Sheer hard work and effort. We emphasise physical intensity and simplicity in all things. It's tough, it's proven and it gets the job done even in worst case scenarios.
I often get Instructors from other disciplines or schools come and see how we train. They always ask how we do what we do expecting some secret technique or unknown factor my answer is always the same.
British Krav Maga Schools typically emphasise:
1. Strong emphasis on foundation skills - the basics
2. Tough, intense training
3. Principle not technique based combatives
4. Working where possible with the simplest, natural reactions of the body.
Toughness is developed, courage is built and self confidence is earned, in this room there is no room for egos
The results can be astounding however in general we find the following dont work against an actively resisting partner;
1. Elaborate techniques - anything that cant be learned in 2 or 3 minutes practice.
2. Multi stage techniques
3. Arm locks and wrist locks
4. Anything that has not been repeatedly pressure tested
About Krav Maga Training
Training hard and training regularly is an incredibly powerful tool for self-development. Physically, our training is tough, but always achievable. Krav Maga was always meant to be accessed by everyone - not just the most able.
Training is hard, but always focused on achieving a positive outcome. We reject a "Macho" ethos - prefering instead to train everybody hard but within their limits. Every session will be demanding
We demand intensity and commitment. The results are achievement, confidence and tough well trained Krav Maga Students.
We have forged a tight community of like minded individuals. All understand that the only easy Krav Maga lesson was yesterday and that each new lesson brings its own demands and challenges. The result has been the development of a community of highly motivated, commited students with none of the egos and one upmanship found in many clubs.
The vast majority of those walking through our doors understand the real value of this type of training. The investment is inevitably sweat, sometimes courage and always physical effort. Like many other more combative forms of training, our accomplished trainees are typically modest, hard working and humble in their own abilities.
It has been a delight to train a broad range of students, many of whom have gone on to be finer exponents of Fighting Arts than me. As an instructor this has been a delight and privilege to whitness.
Why Krav Maga
I came to Krav Maga as it offered a refreshingly honest and simple approach to self defence. Krav Maga was what I had been looking for over all those years. No muddled techniques, No 'your doing it wrong', or 'approved attacks" Just a Simple, usable and effective approach. In short the Krav Maga approach is a logical one. Here is the problem, what is the solution ? Does it work ? Lets pressure test it and see.
The search for an honest, reliable system and a high standard of training inevitably took me to Krav Maga Worldwide - an organisation I believe whole heartedly offers the best Krav Maga in the world. Like Judo and karate before it, Krav Maga has reached the point globally where the best practioners are not necessarily based in its country of origin.
To condense my own training philosophy into one sentence:
Be honest with yourself, be modest and train dilligently with good people.
On Traditional Martial Arts
I love the traditional systems. They all have something of great value to offer the committed student. In fact, to this day the traditional systems offer a road to self development that is not matched by the MMA or sporting systems - especially for children. Research in the USA, found traditional martial arts training more effective than psychotherapy in developing self esteem and impulse control in troubled teenagers. The traditional systems offer an unparralelled opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually - especially for younger practioners.
Traditional Martial Arts offer many benefits but are not a realiable method of Self Protection. No matter what they claim. There will be exceptions to the rule, but only with fundamental changes to the training. Many systems are little more than an athletic activity - not a fighting system.In fact I would go so far as to say that most 'traditional systems' in the west have been modified so much that it is debatable if they are still a martial art in the recognised sense.
From experience, if its got forms, people striking the air marching up and down or controlled pre ordained attacks - its not a serious self protection system. In fact many traditional systems are so far removed from their combative routes - they bear little relation to the traditional fighting system they originated from.
Many traditional instructors and organisations still confuse martial arts and self-defence. Many still dont seem realise how large the difference is, or simply spout terms such as "Reality Based" without any real idea of what this means.
Several of these Instructors have tried Krav Maga and learned a humiliating lesson usually at the hands of the fitter, tougher and younger novices with a few months hard Krav Maga training behind them.
- Graduate Krav Maga Instructor (G4) IKMF
- Krav Maga Instructors Diploma IKMF
- Krav Maga Certified Law Enforcement Trainer (Krav Maga Worldwide)
- Kapap certified Instructor
- F.A.S.T Certified Trainer and Bulletman - (Adrenalised Training)
- Jim Wagner Reality Based Training Instructor L1
- Wing Chun Sifu - 3rd Degree
- Jeet Kune Do - Former Instructor - Lamar Davis
- Brithai 1st Dan under Paul Griffin
- Wado Ryu Karate 1st Dan
- Certified Control and Restraint Trainer
- Certified Staff Break away Trainer
- L3 Advanced Fitness Instructor
- Crossfit Certified Trainer
Krav Maga. So that one may walk in peace.