Thursday, May 26, 2011

Protect Ya Back

Sometimes a little change can make you or break you.

We go hard in Krav and ouchies like big bruises and sore muscles are just the cost of doing business if you want to train. As one of my early trainers told me when I was whining about being sore:

***Everybody has aches and pains. You can have the aches and pains of an athlete or the aches and pains of an overweight couch potato. Pick one.***

However, there's a difference between an ouchie and an injury. An injury to the shoulder or knee (I'm icing my knee as I write this) can significantly inhibit your training. A back injury can take you out of the game permanently.

So it's extremely important not only to train smart and know when to attack and when to ease off, but also to protect your spine by strengthening your core. It may not be fun to do core exercises, but you only get one spine. You're never going to get another one.

Does it sound like I'm lecturing you? Yeah, I kinda am.

Here's a video of some core exercises suggested by Stuart McGill, world renowned Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. McGill is the guy professional sports teams, governments, and rich dudes fly from all over the world to be treated by.

You will find that he dislikes crunches, and we do loads of those, don't we? So does every other gym I've ever stepped foot in, so take his advice and make it work for you. (Spoiler alert - here's your little change.) When you do sit ups or crunches, raise up from the chest & maintain a neutral spine and neck. Imagine there's a string attached to the ceiling and to your sternum and it's drawing your sternum straight up. It's hard, which is awesome, and saves your back.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

No Spoon Feeding

I was talking to my friend Heather the other day, about teaching and how to do it right. Heather is a behavioral specialist, specializing in Special Education, for a few Central Texas school districts. Did you like how I worked "special" 3 times into one sentence? I do. I worked with her at Austin ISD for several years and after watching her consistently be the smartest and most competent person on the planet, I pretty much take anything she says as gospel.

She taught me that one of the reason students come out of school with no problem-solving skills is that all the necessary pieces of information to solve a problem are handed to them. Consequently, they don't know how to puzzle out for themselves what they really need and don't need to reach a desired conclusion.

So I thought about how that might apply to teaching Krav Maga. We do generally (not always) say "here's how you handle this particular problem. Practice this technique." Which is great - up to a point.

So in today's Women-Only class I decided to make them figure it out for themselves. We sat down & I asked, "What if you know you're in some danger but the fight isn't on? What can you do to head things off before they even begin? And what are the probable consequences of those actions?" They sat and waited for the answer - but nope!. They were giving the answers today. Here are the excellent answers they gave:

*walk/drive to a crowded area (yes, we want witnesses!)
*ask for help from someone who works there (assuming that applies)
*pull out your cell phone (I love this, as you can take a picture of them - an act which has solved some crimes - or you can show you are prepared to take action without escalating the situation.)
*maintain strong eye contact
*use social engagement, or try to talk your way out of it
*maintain distance
*call 911
*loudly order them to leave you alone (if they refuse, you just learned a lot about their intentions)
*make a scene (if in public)
*yell or scream

These last 3 are actually some of the most difficult for many people to perform. The social pressures to NOT yell, make a scene, etc. in a public place are very, very strong. Each of these actions can have different consequences. When you consider which of these options you are most likely to choose, you must consider several things:

*Are you accustomed to drawing boundaries in your normal life? That will influence how strongly you are able to tell them to leave you alone. That will influence their reaction.
*If you yell or make a scene be prepared for people to back away from you. Consider saying things like, "I don't know you, stop touching me, I don't know you, you're scaring me, etc." You will have witnesses that the other person was the aggressor. That may not translate into help in the moment, but if they don't believe its a family or couple's squabble your chances of getting help improve.
*If you prefer to run, are you fast? Will you be hindered by a child, an elderly person, even your shoes? What if they catch you? I'm not saying you shouldn't run (I have run away from a dangerous situation!), just that you need to put some real thought into your choice.

Later we moved to the hallway leading the the garage and worked on drawing boundaries, then palm heels, elbows, and knees. Then defending our friend against another attacker, which was nice.

The last exercise was walking the gauntlet. Each pair of partners had to quickly discuss what they were best at, of the techniques we had worked on in class (drawing boundaries verbally, combatives, running to a pre-determined safety zone). They also had to decide how they would attack the pair who were walking the gauntlet. Would they just taunt them? Would both attack one person of the pair? Two on two? The goal was to make a decision in the moment how you were being attacked about how to defend and escape. Do you defend as a team? Does one defend and one go for help?

Frankly, I also had a secret goal. By having the students decide how to attack different people they are forced to look at the defenders perceived weaknesses. I want them to look at someone and decide how to attack them without getting hurt themselves. I want them to think like predators, just for that moment. If they understand how to be a predator, I hope they understand better how to defend themselves from one.

A final note: During the drill one woman panicked and ran, leaving her partner to defend herself alone. She felt terrible about abandoning her partner, and now I wish I hadn't teased her about it. Of course I didn't realize at the time she was upset. But here's the thing: she got away. She's a survivor. I like survivors. She'd said earlier she thought she'd be likely to run when faced with danger, and she did. Her partner successfully fought her way through, so it was fine. I doubt that young woman would have fled on her own if she'd been with a loved one, but she was with a stranger, so she split. Works for me.

Please know that your first job is to survive. Please know that violence in real life is nothing like it is in the movies. If you panic, your body is going to take over and do what it needs to do to survive. That's its job.

Thanks to Kelli for her general awesomeness in class today, and to everyone who came!