Friday, September 23, 2011

My review of The Fighter's Workshop

The Fighter’s Workshop this past weekend was good.  I mean REALLY good.  Like, out-of-control good.  It didn’t meet my expectations; it introduced itself briefly, then politely excused itself so that it could go far beyond them.

No joke.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since it ended Sunday afternoon, especially how perfectly what Pavel and Eyal each taught meshed together.  It was like a marriage of the minds, and the participants were fortunate enough to attend the wedding.  What I really liked is how closely it can all be summed up by two of my favorite quotes by Bruce Lee:

“You think a fight is one blow?  One kick?  Until you can put combinations together without even thinking, until you learn how to keep moving, and to endure, hire a bodyguard or lead a less aggressive life.”

 “Before I studied the art, a punch was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I studied the art, a punch is no longer a punch, a kick is no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick is just like a kick.”

The first quote best typifies Eyal’s approach to teaching.  It’s really more about the fight at face value; ultimately, you have to perform, and, as Pavel often repeated during the weekend after a drill, DON’T THINK.  The emphasis was on getting good at the technique, followed by the ability to simply react to a threat without thinking.  That’s the hallmark of a good martial artist and a crucial element in winning any fight. 
In the beginning Eyal broke the techniques down to single strikes (punch, kick, elbow, knee), but from there on out, all the emphasis was on combining the techniques and repeating them over and over to make them second nature.  As the lessons wore on and reached the territory of defending against armed assault or against multiple attackers, he slowly added how to defend against basic knife and gun attacks to the combinations we learned.  It was very effective.  So much so that looking at the group at the beginning of day one to the end of day two was like what you might expect from looking at classes spread weeks apart.  From my vantage point, experienced martial artists as well as total novices had improved by leaps and bounds in a remarkably short amount of time, thanks in large part to Eyal’s keen eye and deep, unparalleled insight and knowledge on effective fighting.

The second quote best characterizes Pavel’s approach.  What Eyal taught in combinations, Pavel taught in isolation.  Many of the participants had little to no martial arts experience.  For them, a punch or a kick was simply putting your arm or leg out really hard and hitting your opponent.  And at face value, that’s all it is.  But, much like a Hard Style swing, a LOT must go into each technique to make it as effective as possible. 
He deconstructed the most basic strikes – linear strikes (jab, cross), hooks, front kicks and roundhouse kicks, and worked his Russian sports voodoo to add power, ROM, and speed to everything in a way that has to be experienced to be believed.  I had a smattering of previous experience with similar things, as Senior RKC Jon Engum (also an expert on martial power) showed me and my coach, Scott Stevens, a thing or two at an HKC workshop in Omaha.  We started on the front kick, during which he pointed out the importance of wedging yourself between the ground and your target.  Check out the video below for a demonstration.  

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Pavel stressed the importance of practicing these techniques rather than merely repping out and letting your form deteriorate (sound familiar?) as well as the importance of NOT THINKING.  Paralysis by analysis has killed many a good lift, and while it’s disappointing with weight lifting, with martial arts and self defense applied in the real world, “PBA” can be life-threatening.  Pavel quotes Tim Larkin in The Naked Warrior as saying “under stress we revert to training.”  If you let part of your training include stopping to think or overanalyze something while you’re practicing, you can be sure that you’ll do it when it will count against you, like on the streets.

In addition to Pavel’s teaching martial power generation, he went to great lengths to focus on flexibility and mobility – a skill that, in my humble opinion, all too often gets put on the back burner or gets only cursory attention from waaaay too many people, whether they’re RKCs or just your average student.  The practice we got in the flexibility/mobility department paid in dividends when it came to practicing the techniques again; the parking brakes had been taken off, so when it came time to hit the gas pedal the difference went from Toyota to Ferrari.  I noticed greater ease and power generation in all of my strikes after even just a little training in this department.  Coupled with Pavel’s tension and relaxation drills, Pavel’s insight on power and strength in martial arts technique training interwoven with Eyal’s no-nonsense destroy-and-escape combinations and Krav Maga tactics made for an incomparable weekend for all who participated.

I began training in Krav Maga for the first time in 2007.  I’ve been to several workshops in the U.S. and have even done some training in Israel.  This was by far the best, most in-depth, and results-producing Krav Maga workshop I’ve ever been to.  It has rekindled my love affair with Krav Maga and all things martial arts.  I highly recommend a workshop like this to all RKCs and anyone interested in kettlebell training.  What you’ll learn about power production and its applications – both to martial arts and to other sports and activities – will be well worth the price you pay.  If this becomes a yearly event (like it should, hint hint to JDC, Pavel, Eyal, and Peter Lakatos!), you can bet you’ll see me there again!

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