(By Candice O.)
Self defense and combat: an age old marriage of survival and the need to overcome adversity.
There are times when normal day-to-day activities are limited due to factors such as injury, illness, or an unfavourable environment. In many situations the cause cannot be removed; as such, adaptation is crucial.
I was driven to learn self-defense as I was subject to a hostile environment. A couple of fellows at the office found favor in using foul language and chokeholds to shock and force their demands on the ladies in my department. Complaints and grievances were brushed away by the owner as ‘boyish mischief’ or “that’s the way they are”, or even worse “that’s just how they treat women”. My department endured this for months and the fellows increased the level of insults - becoming fouler each week.
Admittedly, after months of abuse I lost my temper, I lost control - I kicked one of them in the shin and unleashed an angry tirade of words that lasted an hour. His face was pale and ashen, he beckoned to the ladies behind me for assist - they turned away. When I was done, I sat in my chair. I was dizzy and shaken, I felt hugs and heard applause from the women behind me.
The next morning I packed a box. I was going to be fired. The boss called me into his office. The door shut after me, on the speakerphone was the co-owner - laughing “Candice is 100 pounds dripping wet … no way she can do that… wah ha ha… that’s the best thing I’ve heard all week... ha ha haaa!”..
My job was safe, but I was not. I felt malice in the air, but as a matter of principle I had to stay.
I told my spouse that I needed to learn how to defend myself. Fortunately, my spouse had a teacher in mind that lived in our part of the city who had a similar background to us.
The next week, one bright September morning; I entered the realm of Krav Maga. It was an hour before class and the studio owner Sam met with us; he was soft spoken and sounded weary reclining on the gym sofa. The gym was located below ground. Walking down the vinyl stairs you reach a dimly lit glass paned wall, the smell of oiled leather combined with menthol, and lemon grass is faint but expected. Half the gym was covered in thick vinyl mats marked with well used body-sized indentations. The walls were dotted in multiple posters in multiple languages depicting seminars in Europe and tournaments both old and new.
Class started shortly afterwards; the students filed into the gym; all the lights came on, Illuminating the bright red and blue boxing ring, the dozen heavy bags and knee bags hidden earlier, along with the loud patterns of the student uniforms. Sam emerged from his office in his own bright yellow uniform and barked his disdain at the tardiness of one of the students, a contrast to the Sam reclining on the couch a moment ago.
Sitting at the edge of the class I realized I could not move. Sam sat next to me “Are you scared” while he put little gloves on my hands. I nodded. “Come, stand, hit me as hard as you want - you will go down - get up and hit me again”. I swung and felt my centre, my body, being pulled down to the ground... it didn’t hurt. I got up and attacked over and over…each a little more harder than last. I was thrown to perhaps every corner of the gym, I simply got up and attacked again… moments later, the lesson was over.
The next Monday I excitedly mentioned to one of the ladies in my department that I was taking self-defense class and how great I felt. To my horror, word reached everyone in the company in a matter of hours. Surprisingly the fellows did not step foot in the office that week. If they did, they were polite and used civil language. That year I was made to sit at the boss' table during the annual year-end party while they bragged to their friends about this tiny female that beat up “that guy”. At that same party I had to use my new techniques to break up brawls and neutralize situations between drunken staff members.
It has been 6 years that I have been training with Sam and also the most challenging, terrifying and fascinating 6 years, which more than likely moulded my healthcare practice today:
Control is the first step, strength is the last:
Dealing with confrontation results in the instinctual reaction of fight or flight. The best case scenario is to shut down the confrontation by departing it immediately. However, retreat is not always an option. Control is the most important skill you can learn in any martial art as there are a few outcomes from a fight: you win, you lose, you could die, you could be severely injured, or you could be prosecuted for the injury or death of your attacker. Once you have gained control of an attack, it can be guided and subdued without damage to the attacker and the defender.
In Krav Maga every defense is at the same time an equal counter-attack.
For my practice, control is key: an injured joint, or muscle, is undergoing a state of instability from damage to a connected part. By carefully stabilizing the connected part, the joint, or muscle will be able to function as it should.
Knowing anatomy can only benefit your training and improve your outcome.
The body was designed to move and function in a specific way with multiple interconnected parts (each with their own range movement and capacity). If for example a joint is forcefully moved beyond its maximum there is a natural reflex that creates a lock to prevent breakage. One of the reflexes includes moving the entire body around the joint to prevent damage.
In Krav Maga, knowing the limitations of each joint can allow the defender to move the attacker using the joint's natural reflex.
This became a goal that I have pursued for a few years with anatomy studies and Osteopathy leading to hands on flexibility case studies in the gym, leading to a discovery of using the same knowledge to help flexibility problems and training injuries.
For my patients, knowing the limitations of each joint, the correct positioning of each interconnected part (nerves, blood, muscles, connecting parts) along with the knowledge of the movement involved assists with guiding each patient to reach their health goals.
Multiple enemies may be present, and will attack given the opportunity:
Every year in Krav Maga - there is a test where you street-fight everyone in the class all at once. Each person will attack differently even if they are attack using the same technique. This is due to the difference of power, accuracy, height, stamina, and flexibility in the attacker.
As for my patients, every case is unique; the origin of pain for one patient may be different to the origin of pain for another patient with a similar case of pain. Pain has no boundaries, and can be present in many areas of the body
Alongside my studies in Krav Maga, I also studied MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing), and Savate (Kickboxing), as my teacher also taught these disciplines. Learning multiple striking and grappling styles allowed me to be exposed hands-on to different methods of movement, maximum joint range of motion, and alternate training styles to better understand my patients.
Keep It Balanced,
MOA Living Wellness
Candice Ohrablo is a Manual Osteopath; Personal Trainer Specialist in Exercise Therapy and Practitioner of Thai Massage with a special interest for Impact injuries in combat sports. She is currently practicing at M.O.A. Living in Toronto. To schedule go on the "Book Now" icon for her availabilities.