Hello my name is Paul Corcoran and I won the privilege of writing the blog for the MasterClass Reality in the Park. Before I attempt to inform and possibly entertain you, a little background on me.
I had a wayward youth and decided the best way to avoid time at her Majesty’s pleasure would be a spell in the military. This worked and led to a spell in the London Fire Brigade (I know, I know, uniforms but I just don’t like choosing my own clothes). All through this time there was a fairly high level of fitness and normally some form of “martial art” boxing, karate etc. I spent some time as a Close Protection Officer and went on to specialise in security as a career. Once I came “off the tools” as it were, I found myself office bound and with a taste for lager, wine, kebabs, cigarettes and pretty much anything else that can mess with your health and fitness. I did this for 10 years.
I retired out to India – Goa specifically – and lived there for 3 years guzzling curry and beer and listening to my skin creak in the night as I grew ever bigger.
Whilst in Goa, I spotted a small ad in the local paper one morning over my breakfast of deep fried naan bread and potato curry for a Krav Maga class and thought I might like that. Upon my arrival I met Elroy Vaz my instructor and the guy who put me on this road. He assured me I was not too old to start as I was the same age as him. It turned out I was too unfit for the warm up! 10 press ups? yes eventually. 10 sit ups?, “Or whatever it is you are doing Paul!”. It was like an enormous turtle just rocking backwards and forwards! The sweat drenched broken reed of a man who returned home initially alarmed his wife until she spotted it was her husband grinning all over his fat bright red face.
I was hooked and continued to train twice a week until coming back to the UK 6 months later where after joining the Institute and having some seriously rough edges knocked off by Andy and Rick, I managed P1 at 49 years old. The focus and commitment required to progress in my training at a rate and level I desire is what has changed my life around, you want to do sit ups? Get lighter! You want to kick? Stretch those legs. I now barely drink and those of you with me at the Christmas do know why. My diet has changed and I try to train as often as I went to the pub. This has improved my focus in many areas of my life and the use of goal setting and visualisation has added a clarity of purpose to things in general. I have now passed my P3 and am lucky enough to train in the senior’s class now which is like the first day at school all over again; so far my head has stayed out of the toilet but its early days.
Reality in Regents Park begins with a few of us meeting up on the train from Southend to London; John Jenkins Jakub Pernak and myself may have raised a few eyebrows with our talk of inside defences and knife attacks on a train full of tourists!
After a comprehensive tour of Regents Park in search of the clearly sign posted Hub and despite the helpful advice of people who actually knew where they were going we arrive in good time to be greeted by a large group of uniquely attired Krav students. The charity shops in many areas may well have seen a serious upsurge in takings over the last week or so!
In glorious sunshine with a little merciful cloud and a light breeze we have a gentle warm up, another routine event made slightly surreal by the various clothing choices, watching a man doing knee lifts and standing leg stretches in a natty two piece grey suit may stay with me a while.
Our Glorious Leader Joe Ambrosino uses his usual insidious technique of appearing to start you working at an easy pace until 20 minutes or so later you find yourself bathed in sweat and breathing hard. Forward and backward breakfalls are followed by forward and backward rolls, something I never fail to look glamorous at, picture a bag of laundry falling down some stairs and you are close.
We progress to doing this wearing a rucksack and diving forward over an obstacle. Finally I achieve a passable semblance of the required action and my ensuing self-satisfied finishing mode (walking away head high going “yes”) was correctly and promptly picked up and corrected by the ever present instructor team. Thank you Rick Baker and Paul Dwyer, scanning scanning always scanning.
We were lucky enough to have a large contingent of Instructors with us, advising, correcting and answering questions. One of the facets of a master class is the opportunity and time to discuss and explore the “why” as well as the how with the instructor team that time restrictions in class normally preclude.
The rucksack went to on be used as both a distraction and a defence against various knife attacks, we broke a lot of knives, sorry. This was a good time to remind the class about carrying and using training knives in a public place where people may not understand our intentions. Lots of examples and advice about the various ways of carrying a rucksack for the most effective practical use outside of carrying your stuff, some good and others less so but this is the point – don’t be afraid to try this way or that way, yes you may well end up in the same place but you will understand much more clearly how and why you got there, another benefit of these classes.
We moved on to using a belt as a distraction and as a weapon, to prevent any embarrassment of falling trousers Joe had kindly provided us with black belts. Sadly I feel this is as close as I will come to having one in this lifetime, not defeatist or negative but a hint of reality check on my part.
We use the figure of eight attacking method and an over enthusiastic attack mounted by an overexcited large man led to what my instructors had been looking forward to and that was the fat man landing firmly on his backside on the grass. Hands slapping down chin down defensive foot up, all accompanied by the supportive laughter of the man who leads me in the quest for improvement my instructor Andy Conroy. This was just the start of a rewarding day for Andy.
We next produced a selection of jackets in all shapes and colours to be given what was for me an illuminating demonstration of its effectiveness as a weapon. Again the instructor team were moving amongst demonstrating and explaining how to make a simple cotton bomber jacket sound as if you were hitting the kick shield with a large stick.
All of these drills were carried out in a two on one format with the added challenge of keeping three heads in a row and staying out of the middle. Temperatures were rising along with heart rates possibly leading to a couple of minor injuries, bruised eye, bloody nose etc. All of these dealt with promptly and professionally by the resident Paramedic. Joe claimed it was his brother but don’t quote me.
Next came the appearance of traditional yellow tennis balls used to represent an additional weapon for the attacker, a glass or a stone to be defended against using a 360 defence. Another point well illustrated as I made the defence and did not duck my head correctly and found a tennis ball bouncing firmly off my head and rolling to the feet of a smiling Andy Conroy. His day just kept improving, it’s not like he hasn’t taught me this is it?
The drills and the class were drawing to a close and an element of frivolity had crept into the use of the tennis balls giving rise to smiles amongst the variety of spectators who had gathered over the preceding hours to watch a selection of people attack each other with a variety of mundane objects.
A muted presentation of certificate followed a comprehensive clear up of our training area having taken nothing but photos and left nothing but footprints we departed the park.
The use of master classes to address specific areas of the syllabus is a valuable part of the training calendar giving all levels of student access to techniques that they may not encounter until later in their Krav Maga journey. The variety of topics and locations is all beneficial in the student’s development. From a personal point of view I also enjoy the “day out” side of it where the group you train with on a regular basis are in a different environment and in a slightly more relaxed but just as hard working atmosphere. You not only come away with a smart certificate but hopefully a clearer understanding of a set of techniques or better still questions about how to develop your own abilities in that area and an idea of where you may need to improve what you thought you had already grasped.
I would like to stress that these are purely my opinions and not meant as a sales pitch for future master classes as of course these are all down to individual choice and circumstance. It would be so much easier to train more if life did not keep getting in the way, but I am moving into Jon’s sphere of life choices and goal setting.
I would like to thank Joe Ambrosino and the whole instructor team for an excellent and informative day, these events don’t just happen and I appreciate the time and planning that went into it especially with some of the team on a countdown to their Expert test in Israel.
I hope you have enjoyed my modest efforts to recount and amuse and if you have not console yourself with the fact that my prize for being picked to write this blog is a two hour training session with Jon Bullock after his return from a period of intense training in Israel. I feel I may get an idea of how my dog’s chew toy feels.