He’s Got Your Back: How a Protection Specialist Keeps Clients Safe

He’s Got Your Back: How a Protection Specialist Keeps Clients Safe

“If things do get violent, having a can of pepper spray, or a martial art like Krav Maga, at your disposal can often prove more useful than a gun, particularly in tight quarters.”

 

A top security specialist protects our reporter for a night—with a set of eye-opening tactics

True protection is about risk analysis and careful preparation. It’s about transforming what protection specialist Mark Fair calls a ‘sheep’ (a target who doesn’t vary his movements, and hasn’t considered his vulnerabilities) into a ‘tiger’ (one who is unpredictable in his patterns and minimizes his exposure). Photo-dramatization photographed by Stephen Voss for WSJ.Money
MIDWAY THROUGH AN evening party at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., my date and I encounter a strange and off-putting man. He’s edging closer, awkwardly trying to horn in on our conversation as we mingle by the pastry chef’s table. There’s something disconcerting about him. Chances are he’s harmless (if also charmless). But what if he’s not? What if he’s more than merely annoying? What if he has bad intentions?

Now, raise the stakes: Imagine I’m the CEO of a large company. I’ve recently laid off thousands of workers and, unbeknownst to me, this man was among the pink-slipped. He’s frustrated and angry. He’s somehow gotten his hands on a copy of my daily schedule. He knows I’m slated to make an appearance at this party, and he’s spent his last dollar on a ticket to get in. He’s about to impose himself on my life in some way. Maybe it’s just a loud verbal tirade in my face. Or maybe it’s something much worse

Situations like this are why executives and many other well-off individuals hire protection specialists like Mark Fair. Fair is at this embassy party too, standing several feet away in an inconspicuous manner. (Remarkably inconspicuous, given that he’s a 240-pound, extremely muscular guy in a suit.) Should anything go awry, Fair will instantly close in and—with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency—separate my date and me from this weird fellow, spiriting us away to safety.

Fair is trained in the nuanced art of providing close-in protection for CEOs, royalty, dignitaries and the wealthy. A former Marine who was deployed to locations including Liberia and southwest Asia, Fair went on to spend 15 years at the global security outfit GardaWorld before launching his own Maryland-based firm, The Modad Threat Management Solution. I met him in Washington and asked him to treat me as he would a client.

Photos provided at the source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303563304579445271785755970?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303563304579445271785755970.html

First, we discussed what sort of threat scenario I have in mind. Different threats call for different models of protection. A group of high-profile executives traveling to a dicey region of Venezuela might require armored cars and a dozen specialists toting assault rifles. A controversial television personality addressing a crowd of fans in Dallas might need the company of only one or two unarmed (if hefty) individuals to deter any disgruntled viewers from tossing a pie in her face.

Fair and I decide, for the purposes of this exercise, that I am a Midwestern executive traveling to Washington for a public event. Perhaps my company has recently been blamed for an environmental disaster, with activist groups condemning me personally. There’s no specific threat against me—no anonymous letter threatening acts of violence—but it seems quite possible that radical activists might want to confront me, embarrass me or even harm me.

You might imagine Fair’s job is simply to stand by my side, look intimidating and intervene if anyone accosts me. He disagrees. “That’s reacting,” says Fair. “That’s being a bag of meat behind the principal’s shoulder.”

True protection is about risk analysis and careful preparation. It’s about transforming what Fair calls a “sheep” (a target who doesn’t vary his movements, and hasn’t considered his vulnerabilities) into a “tiger” (one who is unpredictable in his patterns and minimizes his exposure). When done right, reaction rarely becomes necessary. You, not the bad guys, are dictating the course of events. “No one wants to go after a tiger,” says Fair. “If I’m a bad guy, I go after the sheep when I know he’s going to be watching his son play tennis.”

The day before our mock security detail, Fair walks me through his advance work. He checks my itinerary—including a lunch meeting, a visit to a museum and the evening embassy event—and plots it out on a map, noting the choke points along the driving routes where my hired car will be most vulnerable to an ambush. He knows the ins and outs of the local private airports. He considers the best escape routes, in case we’re forced to evade an attack. He has memorized the precise locations of key hospital facilities and the quickest way to reach them, in the event that emergency medical treatment becomes necessary.

Zeroing in on the specific venues on my schedule, Fair then gets down to the crucial nitty-gritty of preparation. We pay an advance visit to every spot, going over each with a fine-tooth comb. A principal is most vulnerable during transitions—walking between a car and a building entrance, or vice versa—as the assailant needn’t overcome the extra obstacles provided by an armored vehicle or a building’s control and security systems. So Fair carefully assesses the “apron”—the area between the sidewalk curb and a building’s front door—to choreograph how he can get me in and out smoothly. He even checks the curb height to ensure the car door will clear it, avoiding a snag that could slow us down. He might have the car drop me off at one entrance and then pick me up at a different exit, to be less predictable.

At the Palm, the venerable D.C. steakhouse where I’ll be having my lunch meeting, Fair strolls in during a quiet afternoon shift and takes the measure of the space. He decides he’d prefer I sit at a table far from the kitchen door, with my flank protected by a wall. Meanwhile, he plans to take up a position near the bar, sipping water at a spot where he can keep an eye on me while also clocking the front and rear entrances. At one point, the restaurant’s general manager walks over and—once Fair has explained that he’s doing advance security work for a lunch meeting tomorrow—offers to let us pull our car straight into the basement garage and make our entrance through the kitchen. “We deal with high-profile people all the time,” he assures us.

At every step, Fair has his eyes peeled for anyone who might be surveilling us, so he can get a jump on preventive measures. He looks for people who remain motionless among a generally active crowd. He checks for hands in pockets, bulges in suit jackets. Is that a real taxi? Or are its door decals just slapped-on stencils, providing clever cover for someone to idle at the corner while observing us?

“ The A-list type doesn’t want to draw attention. They go out the back of a nightclub, through as many as 12 doors, through a kitchen, to a waiting limousine. They want zero hype, and their security team needs to blend in. ”
THOUGH MANY COMPANIES and wealthy individuals curtailed their security spending during the recession, the private-contract security-services market in the U.S. has grown 5 percent since then, to $28.2 billion, according to research firm IBISWorld. Globally, the United Nations has said, the industry is poised to reach $244 billion by 2016.

Many large companies, of course, have their own chief security officers and protective teams. But there is only so much they can handle, so they typically limit their services to a select level of officials. In many cases, when their executives travel, they’ll augment their teams with agents from local private security firms that know the roads, customs and language, and that perhaps can provide experts licensed to carry a firearm there. Smaller firms and wealthy individuals may not have full-time security operations, instead hiring on an as-needed basis.

But private security can mean different things to different people. Is it a rent-a-cop who shows up on the morning of an event and asks what his role is, or a squad of ex-special-ops soldiers who train together for weeks in advance, establishing communications protocols and working in shifts? Sometimes even clients don’t know what constitutes good protection.

“We deal with two types of principals,” says Steven Striker of Striker VIP, a Las Vegas-based concierge and security firm that employs up to 20 specialists. The celebrity or A-list type, for example, doesn’t want to draw attention, he says; they go out the back of a nightclub, through as many as a dozen doors, through a kitchen, to a waiting limousine. “A-listers want zero hype, and their security team needs to blend in,” he says. But the B-listers are different. “They’re looking for cameras,” he says. “They want to be on the red carpet with a big, ominous Samoan guy at their side.” Many experienced specialists scoff at this style of celebrity protection—the thug-with-sunglasses-and-an-earpiece model— as more about image than actual safety.

Not surprisingly, security pros say, clients do sometimes get in the way, thwarting the efforts of their own teams. But these teams have failed of their own accord too, which hasn’t gone unnoticed in cases where cameras were hovering. Some critics have noticed celebrities swamped by unruly mobs at U.S. airports, for instance—a situation that can often be avoided by using VIP doors. “It looks like a clown show,” says Bob Oatman, president of the executive-protection training and services firm R.L. Oatman & Associates, referring to one high-profile example.

In 2011, a stalker attacked Paris Hilton’s male companion as the couple walked outdoors, circled by paparazzi. Hilton’s bodyguard tackled the stalker to the ground, put a knee in his back, and restrained him—but critics say that might have left Hilton, who had drifted a few yards away in the chaos, briefly unprotected. “The first attack could have been a decoy,” says Jason Hanson, founder of Concealed Carry Academy, a security-training outfit in Cedar City, Utah. He says the guard might have instead stunned the stalker with a martial arts chop, and then evacuated his client. A Hilton representative declined to comment.

Other failures can lead to graver consequences. It’s difficult to compare presidential-level security teams to smaller private details, but many protection specialists find useful lessons in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Experts say the initial failure was allowing assailant John Hinckley Jr. to get too close with a weapon—the U.S. Secret Service now requires much tighter cordons. But the reactions of the law-enforcement officials on the scene are telling. “The police officers first duck for cover and then go after the assailant,” says Fair. “But you see the Secret Service guys employ totally different techniques. Agent [Timothy] McCarthy makes himself big and gets in front of a bullet. Another agent grabs Reagan by the belt and shoves him in the car.” The president, not his attacker, was their focus.

Max Milien, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, says that although the agency won’t discuss details, changes have since been made in the handling of arrivals and departures of presidents, such as “the increased use of magnetometer,” an instrument that detects the possibility of explosives. “Supervisory oversight of protective trips and events has increased greatly since 1981.”

COSTS OF PRIVATE SECURITY can vary widely but reach as much as $1,500 a day for an expert specialist. That doesn’t include travel expenses (if there’s a trip involved) or extras such as armored vehicles. An American bank executive traveling to Israel who might require two armored cars, four specialists and a week’s stay at a five-star hotel would spend about $30,000, experts say.

Security pros say cost-cutting, of course, is tricky. Some clients rein back on advance work fees, while others hire just one protective specialist after their security firm advises them that up to three would be stronger. Working alone while protecting a principal is sometimes dubbed “the witness formation” by pros, who fret that when solo they might be more likely to witness an unfortunate event than to be able to prevent it. Some blame the 1998 incident in which Bill Gates took a pie to the face on Gates’s lack of personnel. Video of the event reveals that he had no guards in front of him as he was frontally assaulted while walking toward a building entrance. A spokesperson declined to comment.

Best-selling author Brad Thor has received numerous anonymous threats, some in response to his book “The Last Patriot,” which presented controversial theories about Islam. He wasn’t willing to face those threats on his own. “I knew to take the death threats seriously,” says Thor, whose book tours are held in public and announced months in advance. Thor hired Oatman to provide his security, which has included rolling through Mexico in multiple armored Suburbans during a perilous reporting trip, keeping watch outside Thor’s home and thwarting pranksters who hoped to embarrass Thor at an event. In looking for help, Thor sought a team that could exhibit restraint and reserve. “I don’t want a slab of beef who will slap someone around,” he says. “I want intelligent guys who are reflective of my brand, and will barely get noticed unless they need to take action.”

Contrary to action-movie imagery, many security specialists don’t carry weapons, since local firearm laws vary and because the goal, of course, is to avoid an attack and move the client out of danger. In general, Fair says he advises other protection specialists to spend less time on the shooting range and more time practicing first-aid and driving techniques. If a principal is injured far from a hospital, medical knowledge can be crucial. And with many attacks aimed at vehicles, knowing how to execute a reverse 180 (Fair says anyone can master this with a little practice) or how to ram another car out of the way (aim your front headlights at the bad guy’s rear tire) may mean the difference between a sitting-duck ambush and an escape. If things do get violent, having a can of pepper spray, or a martial art like Krav Maga, at your disposal can often prove more useful than a gun, particularly in tight quarters.

But perhaps the most overlooked executive-protection skill is not physical at all. It’s social. The protector must develop trust with the protectee. “When I tell you to go left,” says Fair, “and everyone else is telling you to go right, I need you to trust me.”

SURE ENOUGH, when my day with a detail arrives, I barely register Fair’s presence most of the time. I often can’t see him, as he’s lurking just beyond the periphery of my vision. But he’s got his eyes locked on me. And I begin to notice the little skills he’s putting into play.

When we enter or exit my hired car, Fair has a particular choreography he employs. He opens my door from the side closer to the trunk instead of the hood, to ensure I’m never exposed to plain view. When a van pulls a three-point turn in front of us at an intersection, Fair instantly has us brake to leave evasive breathing room, while he simultaneously checks out the bus stop shelter at the adjacent curb to see if anyone there is eyeing us. Later, at the embassy party, he plucks a half-drunk glass of wine from a waiter’s tray as a prop, so he can appear to be another reveler even though he never, ever drinks on duty. Every time we leave a venue, he’s communicated with our driver in advance. The car waits just outside the door, as Fair scans the sidewalk for threats.

He’s warm and friendly with my date—even when she blurts out in a lounge a few key details of our evening’s itinerary, for any nearby bad guys to hear. He’s always respectful and appropriate. And he has a knack for knowing when to blend into the scenery. I imagine it would be easy to forget he was with us, at times, even if he were trailing us for a week. I also felt assured that we could talk openly in front of him, with no secrets in danger of getting spilled.

More important—especially if there were a legitimate threat against me—I felt supreme peace of mind the entire time I had Fair watching my back. It’s a calming, freeing feeling, and one I had never quite experienced before. And it’s a difficult thing to put a price on.

How to Use Krav Maga for Self-Defense Against a Shirt Grab!

How to Use Krav Maga for Self-Defense Against a Shirt Grab!

Would you know what to do if an attacker grabbed your shirt in a bar, at an ATM or on the street? Krav maga expert Alain Cohen shows you a simple yet fiercely effective krav maga counterattack for exactly this situation in this excerpt from his six-DVD krav maga set, Krav Maga Personal Protection: The Israeli Method of Close-Quarters Combat!

This simple yet effective krav maga counterattack to shirt grabs involves a joint lock and gross-motor pressure-point manipulation to take down an attacker quickly and decisively in a one-two movement!

The key to this krav maga technique is in making the attacker’s body part of yours. As Alain Cohen explains, “When he’s grabbing me, I have to make his fist a part of my body. And if my body will turn, all his arm will turn.” The one-two movement is described as a press-down on the attacker’s grabbing hand with a slight forward press with the shoulder, followed by the abrupt turn of the whole body to effectively force the attacker into a submissive position, taking him down to a more manageable place for strikes, joint locks such as elbow locks, wrist locks or other vital-target counterattacks.

A slight variant of this technique involves just the body turn, which disrupts the attacker’s alignment and opens him up for the forward press with your shoulder. This acts as a blunt pressing force against his wrist, his arm and his shoulder in their weakened positions and brings the attacker to the ground.

KRAV MAGA VIDEO | Alain Cohen Shows You How to Use Krav Maga for Self-Defense Against a Shirt Grab!

VIDEO AT THE SOURCE: http://www.blackbeltmag.com/daily/martial-arts-entertainment/martial-arts-multimedia/how-to-use-krav-maga-for-self-defense-against-a-shirt-grab/

Psychological Health and Well-Being

Psychological Health and Well-Being

Psychological Health and Well-Being

by Jeff Levine and Tina Angelotti with Nathan Robert Brown

It is very common these days for doctors to prescribe drugs for anxiety or depression or to suggest treament with psychotherapy. These methods are effective, but exercise can be just as beneficial.

All types of exercise are effective, but it has been shown that the longer the duration of the training bout, the greater the anti-depressant effect. Although exercise alone can help, it may be best to combine exercise and psychotherapy to obtain the greatest results.

The Elation of Exercise

Have you ever noticed when you finish an exercise session that you have feelings of satisfaction, happiness, or elation? These feelings or moods can last for hours, sometimes even days. Psychotherapists will say that exercise is an effective technique for changing a bad mood. People who exercise frequently know this well and use this technique to work through their anger, anxiety, or any other emotional state they may be feeling.

As mentioned earlier, regular exercise enhances one’s body image, thus enhancing self-esteem. It has been found that individuals with low self-esteem, and even individuals who have no problems with low self-esteem, are affected by this phenomenon. When it comes to children, positive changes in self-esteem have been associated with the involvement of physical education classes and after-school programs where sports and physical activity are emphasized. If it’s possible to begin this behavior in children, it is likely they will continue with this throughout their lifespan.

How and Why Does This Phenomenon Occur?

There are several ideas or theories to explain why exercise enhances psychological well-being. Unfortunately, there is not one theory that has enough support as the primary mechanism for causing these changes. On a physiological level, there is an increase of blood flow to the tissues of the brain.

This increase in blood flow also results in an increase in oxygen consumption to these tissues, which may create a sense of euphoria. Another explanation is that there are changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters so hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (feel-good hormones) have a more powerful effect on the brain and human emotions.

Sexual Assault – Krav Maga Womens Self Defense Seminar

Sexual Assault – Krav Maga Womens Self Defense Seminar

A really good seminar video found at source we thought we’d share:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5572789/sexual_assault_krav_maga_womens_self_defense_seminar/

We did a Women’s Self Defense Krav Maga training for some 90 women as part of a benefit for the HEROIC Jennie Carter. Her two children were murdered by her physically abusive ex-husband. Her story is horrific but she is fighting to get legislation, spearheaded by the great Tara Laxer (chief of staff for representative Ted Deutch) to help others fighting custody with abusive spouses. This is about 4 minutes into my intro for the women to train. They were great and kicked our butts. Search Jennie Carter Lake Worth for details of her story.

What to Expect at a Krav Maga Class

What to Expect at a Krav Maga Class

Need a lesson in self defense? Just one class of the Israeli combat system might do the trick.

By Amy Reinink

While packing my workout bag for an introductory Krav Maga class at Krav Maga DC Monday night, I clicked on the promotional video on the gym’s website to find out what I was in for.

What I was in for, according to the video: punching and kicking. Elbows and knees flying everywhere. And, according to the glowing testimonials from earnest participants, the increased confidence that comes from knowing you can thwart an armed robber with a swift kick to the groin.

“If someone jumped me, thinking they were going after an old man, they’d be surprised,” a gray-haired, bespectacled man declared during the video. “I’ve learned to defend myself.”

That old man could kick my ass, I thought. I kept watching.

I learned that Krav Maga was developed as a hand-to-hand combat system for the Israeli military in the 1940s and ’50s, when the Israelis were essentially recruiting all comers to join their military. They needed a self-defense system that would work for a wide range of ages and strength and fitness levels. Krav emphasizes practical techniques for realistic self-defense scenarios. I headed to Krav Maga DC’s Chinatown gym feeling excited–and a little bit nervous.

The 6:30 PM intro class started with a brief primer on the basic stance and punches–the jab and the cross, familiar to anyone who’s taken a kickboxing class. Instructor Felipe Torres demonstrated the movements before having us imitate them, and when he punched, he let loose a terrifying, guttural noise–less like a declaration of human force and more like the bark of a very large, very strong dog.

“Your voice is one of your most powerful weapons of self-defense,” he told us. “Your attacker wants you to be as quiet as possible.”

We started the official class by jogging around the large, padded gym in a straight line, follow-the-leader style. We add some dynamic stretches, such as high knees and butt kicks, then moved on to a series of calisthenics, such as squats, pushups, and burpees. After about ten minutes of that, we were all panting–and that was just the warmup.

For our first drill, we paired up with a partner, then attempted to touch our partner’s shoulders while avoiding our partner’s attempts to touch our own. The effect was like a grown-up game of tag. I had to resist the very un-Krav-like urge to giggle.

After reviewing the basic punches, we transitioned into a series of partner drills with pads. In the first drill, one partner held a pad while the other threw punches according to Torres’ direction. In another, called the “fury drill,” the student throwing punches simply performed one jab-cross combo after another, screaming at the top of his or her lungs–which was more cathartic than I could have imagined (after I finished, I had an overwhelming urge to beat my chest, or at least high-five someone).

We repeated the process with knee and groin kicks–both with our partners holding a pad, of course. The groin kicks underscored a key difference between Krav Maga and some other forms of martial arts. In Krav, the emphasis is on real-world self-defense techniques, so hitting below the belt is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

“You’re not aiming for your opponent’s groin, but his head,” Torres told us, giving us pointers on our groin-kicking form. “You want to split him in half.”

We finished the hour-long class by combining all three skills in one big fury drill, with a few baseline-style sprints thrown in. My heart rate and adrenaline stayed sky-high as Torres congratulated us on a good class and the owner explained how a student progresses in Krav.

Walking to the Metro on my way home, I felt happily exhausted and a little sore–especially on my knuckles, which would have benefited from gloves during the punching drills. Surveying the dudes lurking around the entrance to the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro entrance, I felt the same confidence portrayed by the gray-haired gentleman in the promotional video.

“If someone jumped me, thinking they were going after a little lady, they’d be surprised,” I thought to myself. “I may only have one class under my belt, but I know now I wouldn’t go down without a fight. A very loud fight.”

Psychological Health and Well-Being

Psychological Health and Well-Being

by Jeff Levine and Tina Angelotti with Nathan Robert Brown

It is very common these days for doctors to prescribe drugs for anxiety or depression or to suggest treament with psychotherapy. These methods are effective, but exercise can be just as beneficial.

All types of exercise are effective, but it has been shown that the longer the duration of the training bout, the greater the anti-depressant effect. Although exercise alone can help, it may be best to combine exercise and psychotherapy to obtain the greatest results.

The Elation of Exercise

Have you ever noticed when you finish an exercise session that you have feelings of satisfaction, happiness, or elation? These feelings or moods can last for hours, sometimes even days. Psychotherapists will say that exercise is an effective technique for changing a bad mood. People who exercise frequently know this well and use this technique to work through their anger, anxiety, or any other emotional state they may be feeling.

As mentioned earlier, regular exercise enhances one’s body image, thus enhancing self-esteem. It has been found that individuals with low self-esteem, and even individuals who have no problems with low self-esteem, are affected by this phenomenon. When it comes to children, positive changes in self-esteem have been associated with the involvement of physical education classes and after-school programs where sports and physical activity are emphasized. If it’s possible to begin this behavior in children, it is likely they will continue with this throughout their lifespan.

How and Why Does This Phenomenon Occur?

There are several ideas or theories to explain why exercise enhances psychological well-being. Unfortunately, there is not one theory that has enough support as the primary mechanism for causing these changes. On a physiological level, there is an increase of blood flow to the tissues of the brain.

This increase in blood flow also results in an increase in oxygen consumption to these tissues, which may create a sense of euphoria. Another explanation is that there are changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters so hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (feel-good hormones) have a more powerful effect on the brain and human emotions.

How to get back on track after holidays

How to get back on track after holidays

December 24, 09:57

Christmas is on the horizon, and our stomachs are in a perpetual state of full. There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence this time of year—who can resist a cup of peppermint hot chocolate? However, it can be extremely hard to get going for your daily jog or yoga class with a belly full of holiday spirit, Fox Newsreports.

Try to resist the urge to get lazy! Here are 9 tips to get your fitness back on track during the holiday season.

1. Start ASAP. The longer you are sedentary, the harder it is to get your body moving again. Don’t wait until January 1st to start working out again. Do something to get your body and mind back in the game as soon as possible.

2. Think of it as stress relief. The holiday season can be extremely stressful. There are a million errands to run, a million presents to buy on a tight budget, and a million people to see. “I don’t have enough time” seems like a good enough excuse to skip the gym, right? Wrong. Think of exercising as your stress reliever, because after all, it’s a great one.

3. Social hour. Now is the time of year when we often get together with our long lost relatives and friends. Your old college roommate wants to catch up. Your cousin is in town for 2 weeks and is dying to see you. Combine this social time with something active. Chat as you walk laps around the high school track then jog on over to the local coffee shop. Invite them to your Pilates class and then grab lunch. Not only will it make exercising more fun, your friend will be impressed by your dedication.

4. Just go. The longer you are away from your fitness routine, the more you build it up in our mind. Take that first step. Show up at the gym.

5. Try something new. Sometimes it’s hard to get back at something because you’re bored with it. Move on! Find something new. Try a CrossFit session or a Krav Maga class. There are a million classes and workout programs out there. Find one that resonates with you.

6. Change your frame of mind. I’m so out of shape. I’m so fat. I’ll never be able to get back to where I was. The problem is that this type of thinking is not a good motivator. Who wants to work out when they’re feeling bad about themselves? Now is the time to change your tune. Consider the positive aspects of taking a break. Maybe it has given your body time to heal from an injury. Maybe that hour a day has given you more time to spend with your spouse or kids. Whatever it is, acknowledge the positives. You are not a horrible person for slipping up on your fitness habits. We’ve all done it. Now’s the time to get back at it.

7. Easy does it. Your first workout after a slump will probably feel more difficult than you remember. Don’t let this deter you or get you disgruntled. Tomorrow go further and push harder. 

8. Commit to a plan. It’s hard to get back at it without a plan. Come up with a short term plan that is achievable and specific. For example, I’m going to work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week before work. On Monday and Friday I will do my CrossFit plan followed by 2 miles of running, and on Wednesday I will take a cycling class. All you have to do is follow your plan.

9. Reward yourself. Pick a reward to give to yourself after a certain fitness milestone. Been back at it for 2 weeks? Get a pedicure. Been going strong for a month? Buy those cute yoga pants you’ve been eyeing. 

 

Defeating My Inner Cream Puff: The 7 Hour Krav Maga Test

Defeating My Inner Cream Puff: The 7 Hour Krav Maga Test

Abel James Krav Maga

I was told that this would be far more difficult than running a marathon.

Oddly, that excited me.

7 hours of suicidespush upssquats, and delivering and receiving blunt force trauma? Sign me up.

It was a perfectly clear and crisp spring day in Austin. And I’d be spending the daylight hours inside surrounded by the smells of sweat and swampass getting the crap kicked out of me.

By choice.

What is Krav Maga?

Briefly, Krav Maga is an Israeli form of self-defense that’s designed to be highly practical and bone-crushingly efficient. Defenses aren’t dodges and ducks, they’re simultaneous counterattacks.

Movements are efficient, blows are punishing, and there are no rules. The dirtier the better. So instead of practicing Katas and talking theoretically about what moves could possibly work in a self-defense situation, you spend most of your time getting kicked in the nuts or returning the favor.

If you ever actually manage to get a Kravver in a headlock, you’ll be concurrently slammed in the banana hammock, gouged in the eyeballs as your spine is cranked backward and promptly donkey-punched in the throat before slamming into the floor.

Take that, fratboy.

But Why Learn Krav, Seriously?

Reason Number One: I’ve Always Wanted to Be a Badass

I don’t know if it was my Rambo big wheel, finding a Buck knife in the woods, or seeing The Rock for the first time, but I’ve secretly always wanted to be a total badass.

Was I a purple belt in 4th grade? You bet I was… You should have seen my spinning backfist.

But having dialed-in the process for getting muscles, a six pack, and a bodybuilder’s physique over the past few years, I still felt like a cream puff.

What’s the point of being jacked if your barista can wipe the floor with you?

And Abel, it’s been a few years since you did something batshit crazy like running 30 miles for no apparent reason.

Which brings us to:

Reason Number Two: I Was Stagnating

The same exercise routine for too long: tabata sprints, heavy lifting in my shed-gym once a week, and occasional jaunts with the dog.

Yawn.

Did the exercises work? Totally. But it was time to shake it up, sign up for a challenge, and get stoked again.

If you want your life to be meaningful and rich, you need new experiences.

No one remembers the nights watching Lost reruns in your bathrobe. You remember your first kiss in the back seat of a car, the time you backed into a tree in the same car, and that night you peed in the middle of an alley in Paris…

Why You Need to Make Yourself Uncomfortable

If you want to die without regrets, you need to make yourself uncomfortable. And it needs to be habitual.

When I realized I didn’t enjoy my “perfect” consulting job (You’ll be a VP by 26!!!), I quit, spent the next few months driving around in an 85 Mercedes Diesel, camping at national parks, city-shopping, and playing music.

When I was sick of my a-little-too-comfy life in Austin last summer, I bought a 23-year-old camper van and drove around the country for 4 months with my girlfriend and a terrible puppy.

So when I realized my aesthetically-pleasing body was mostly useless, it was time to learn how to move.

I loyally attended the beginner-level Krav classes for the a few months, and the Krav belt test loomed.

In the test, your fate isn’t decided solely upon how well you can execute the techniques alone; you’re also judged on hustle, mental toughness, and that “fighting spirit” – how do you react when you’re completely out of gas but you need to keep going?

The test is designed to take you past your limit. Whether you succeed or fail depends on how you react and perform in the face of adversity.

This will be important later.

The Test

When I walked in, there were 7 of us.

I recognized the kick-boxer who had, in my second class, “accidentally” kneed me straight in the dick, missing the pad completely.

“Hey… Abel, right? Want to be my partner?”

It was going to be a long day.

7 Hours Later…

Since the result of your test hinges on your mental toughness, it’s essential to keep your wits about you.

In my last drill defending myself from 4 attackers, I could really feel that adrenaline cranking. Though my body was broken and I was out of tricks to keep it moving, at precisely the moment I needed it, I felt a shocking and undeniable jolt of energy and emotion.

Surrounded by attackers, I felt like crying and opening a serious can of whoopass at the same time. Honestly, it was a 50/50.

But I kept going.

In a flurry of combatives, I threw straight punches, knees, and hammerfists, culminating with (I must say) an impressive jumping elbow number 7 aimed at the attacker’s brainstem. (Don’t worry, I didn’t kill the man).

A total of 80 tested techniques and a bone fide thrashing later, my hands, legs, arms and neck were bruised and bleeding, everyone was delirious, and the guy next to me literally could not stand. But we were done with the test.

We’d learn whether we passed or not in a few days.

But regardless of how it turned out, my partner and I agreed that we’d be friends. After beating each other senseless for 7 hours, we felt like we knew each other pretty well.

“Cool man, let’s hang out. What’s your number?” I chirp.

“Yeah dude. Uh, its… six.. oh…”

[awkward pause]

“I… I’m so smoked… six, oh… three… I can’t remember my number…” he says, just as confused as I am.

“I actually can’t remember my number right now! Holy shit!” He says, baffled.

Tough day.

“But you look like you’re just getting warmed up. How do you do it, Abel?”

How to Survive a Bona Fide Thrashing

Krav Maga Wounds

He’s right, at the end of the test, I was still kicking. It’s not because I’m the fittest, strongest, quickest, or anything else.

It’s because I chose to keep going.

But having run marathons, survived football training camps as a little guy, and persevered through traumas like my apartment burning down and losing everything, I knew that I needed to stack the deck in my favor in the face of physical and mental adversity.

Here’s what I did.

Nutrition:
You guys probably know this, but I go low-ish carb most of the time and practice intermittent fasting. This morning, though, I certainly didn’t fast. The test started at noon, so I had time to fuel up. And I did.

In a classic carb-up, I enjoyed a generous Japanese sweet potato slathered in butter and salt (need those electrolytes), an egg and cheese omelet, goat yogurt, fatty coffee, and plenty of water.

During the test, I had grassfed beef, macadamia nuts, grassfed whey protein (from my manufacturer – stay tuned, you’ll be able to get it soon), an AMRAP bar, Athletic Greens, and a Synergy Black Chia kombucha.

Training Prior to Test:

  • Tabatas sprints once a week (20 second sprint, 10 second rest 10 times in a row)
  • Heavy lifting once a week (compound movements – deadlifts, squats, bench press, kettlebells, and pull-ups)
  • Krav classes 2x week
  • Daily walks with the pup

Biohacks:
Don’t know what biohacking is? Basically, it’s optimizing your body and mind for superhuman performance. Here are a few of my tools.

  • UCAN superstarch/protein blend (for carbs and sustained energy)
  • Aniracetam/piracetam/choline with fermented cod liver oil (for mental sharpness)
  • Phenibut and St. John’s Wort (for positive mood)
  • 5 hand-roasted coffee beans (for energy)

If you want to learn some of my other biohacks, check out the Lean Lifestyle Insider.

Developing Mental Toughness

Abel James Punch

I want to be very clear. You can exercise for just minutes a week and have a terrific body and relaxed lifestyle, but if you want to have mental toughness as well, you need to make yourself uncomfortable. You need to take that leap where you’re completely out of energy and you’re tapped out, but you still make it happen.

7 hours… is that a long time? It all depends on your point of view. If I go in with a negative mindset, it’s extraordinarily difficult. But if I’m a marine (like my friend George Bryant), 7 hours in an artificial survival scenario is nothing, especially when your life is NOT at stake.

People were throwing punches at me, sure, but they certainly weren’t shooting at me or trying to blow me up.

[Rant]

My generation is full of cream puffs. Most of our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers (as well as the many thousands of ancestors before us) endured the physical and mental challenge of war. While that sort of experience is accompanied by unconscionable horrors, I also have to assume that we’re wired to not only endure adversity, but grow because of it.

[/Rant]

So I pretended it was a survival situation. After all, that’s why I’m learning Krav – to increase the chances that my loved ones and I would make it through a survival scenario.

I also made a concerted effort to smile and have fun the entire time. Was it a challenge? Yes, but that’s the point.

Reframe the challenge. If other humans can run a mile in less than 4 minutes, be constantly broken and retrained as Navy Seals, and survive WAR, then 7 hours of sweating is a piece of cake. (Here’s a great post from a member of the FBM team, Chris, on embracing discomfort.)

Was it hard? No, it was a challenge.

See what I did there?

You can do it, too.

But Abel, Did You Pass the Test?

Yes, my ball-kicking partner and I got a “conditional” pass. I wasn’t fluent in some of the techniques (especially the myriad of choke defenses), after a few more classes practicing those defenses, I’m a “yellow belt.”

I didn’t pass because I performed all of the techniques perfectly (in fact, some of them were unacceptably sloppy). I passed because I demonstrated the fighting spirit.

And that’s the secret.

So find that challenge and sign up. Today. A triathlon, a Tough Mudder, your first 5k, it doesn’t matter. It’s good for your brain.

 
  

Maria Menounos’ Krav Maga Workout

Maria Menounos’ Krav Maga Workout

Maria Menounos doing elbow strike, knee strike

Elbow Strike, Knee Strike

Targets: Shoulders, arms, legs

a. Stand in fighting stance with feet staggered, left in front of right, knees slightly bent, elbows bent, hands in front of face.

b. Lift right elbow out to side at shoulder level, bringing right thumb to right shoulder. Drive elbow forward while pivoting to left.

c. Return to fighting stance. Keeping elbows bent, bring right knee up in front of you, pushing hips forward, torso in line with hips. Do 15 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

 

Maria Menounos doing side kick from ground

Side Kick from Ground

Targets: Abs, glutesquads

a. Lie on left side with hips stacked, left elbow under shoulder, forearm on ground, and right elbow bent, hand by face. Bend knees 90 degrees in front of you, feet flexed; bring right knee in toward chest.

b. Shift hips forward, off ground, and extend right leg straight out. Bend knee and lower to start. Do 15 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

 

Maria Menounos striking down

Striking Down

Targets: Shoulders, arms, abs, glutes, legs

Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, elbows bent, fists in front of face, a pillow between feet. Squat, keeping knees behind toes. With back straight, hinge over from hips and punch right fist down to top left corner of pillow. Lift chest, holding squat, then hinge over and punch left fist to right corner. Quickly alternate right and left punches for 1 minute. Rest for 30 seconds. Do 3 reps.

 

Maria Menounos doing sprawl, knee tuck

Sprawl, Knee Tuck

Targets: Chest, abs, gluteslegs

a. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat low, placing palms in front of you.

b. Immediately jump feet back, landing in full push-up position (palms under shoulders, legs extended) with feet wide. Then arch back into cobra pose, lowering hips toward ground. Next, jump feet back into squat.

c. Jump straight up, bringing hands to chin and tucking knees into chest. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

Tip: “To avoid injury, stop every strike just before your arm or leg straightens completely — keep a slight bend in your elbows and knees,” says Jarrett Arthur. And for added power and core strength, exhale during the moment of impact every time you strike.

 

The workout that transformed TV star Maria Menounos from a size 14 to a size 4. Want to recreate her success? Do this routine three times a week, plus at least four cardio workouts of up to one hour.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/videos/m/32072273/maria-menounos.htm

Trading Karate Kicks for Deadly Force

Trading Karate Kicks for Deadly Force

 

Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

TAKE THAT! Erika Barolli, 10, and her brother, Robert, 12, in a Krav Maga class.

 

CHESHIRE, Conn.

“The groin!” exclaimed Madison Schiavi.

Madison, an 8-year-old with a reddish-brown ponytail, had minced no words with her quick (and correct) response to the suggestion that she “talk about some vital spots we can hit.”

“Pop their eardrum!” suggested Erika Barolli, 10. “Or gouge the eye socket.”

Jamie Arute, 37, a brawny man clad in black exercise gear, nodded approvingly before the seven young charges in his studio here. Just to make sure they got it, Mr. Arute — an instructor in Krav Maga, the Israeli hand-to-hand combat technique whose premise is “blow your assailant away, then run” — added, “then kick them in the rib, pull out, another round kick, and you take it to town!”

He turned to an onlooker.

“We talk a lot about hitting in the face with a palm check,” he explained, “but there are some other good parts we can strike. We want to know where to hit to create some damage.”

Krav Maga is enjoying an unusual burst of popularity among American children who might otherwise be practicing karate chops. Born in the Jewish quarter of Nazi-infested Bratislava, then part of Czechoslovakia, in the 1930s and embraced by the Israel Defense Forces after the founding of Israel in 1948, Krav Maga (“contact combat” in Hebrew) spent decades in America as a cult activity inside a handful of gyms in Los Angeles and New York.

But in recent years, the no-holds-barred technique has been introduced as a martial arts class in cities and towns across the country. Among the students are children whose parents worry about “stranger danger,” women who want to protect themselves, security guards at psychiatric hospitals and teenagers scared of high school bullies.

The spread of Krav Maga follows its quiet adoption by police departments, including those in Chicago, Memphis and Lubbock, Tex. Government agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the F.B.I., along with — not surprisingly — the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, have been training in the technique for at least a decade.

Now even Hollywood is getting in on the act. For his role in the romantic comedy “Killers,” Ashton Kutcher studied the method for several months. For his real-life role as bridegroom in his coming wedding to the pop singer Katy Perry, so did Russell Brand — as a way to get in shape, not to gird for prior paramours who might crash the reception.

At Premier Martial Arts, the studio Mr. Arute opened in March 2008, around 100 schoolchildren train weekly in the fine art of tearing attackers to pieces. Tuition is $2,000 a year for unlimited classes.

There are no Zen-like moves, à la Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is all about getting down and dirty in the interest of saving your own skin.

“All right, let’s move on to two-handed chokeholds,” Mr. Arute called out.

The children paired off, one throwing the other up against a wall, hands around the neck, and the victim using a signature Krav Maga move involving raising a bent right arm, then coming down and twisting out of the hold.

Krav Maga is taught regularly to Israeli schoolchildren and is even approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education. But would this work in real life? Could a child really fend off an adult four times as big?

Yes, insisted Mr. Arute. Madison’s father, Richard Schiavi, who owns a stump grinding company, nodded.

Abel Kahn, a certified Krav Maga instructor in Hamilton, N.J., was more cautious. “If a child can react efficiently and with speed, it may be possible to get out of the situation,” he said. “And if the child is taken by strength and by force, the child will have other opportunities to get out.”

What if the child tries to practice on a sibling, perhaps, or the family cat? At each lesson, Mr. Arute reminds students that the moves are to be used only defensively, and only in case of serious danger.

“It’s about controlling your body and having self-discipline,” he said. “You don’t just take a swing. But if a stranger’s trying to grab you, fight’s on.”

Because Krav Maga is still a mom-and-pop business, no one tracks how many studios have opened in recent years, or how many traditional gyms have added classes in the discipline. But a Web search shows hundreds of new studios opening in recent months, from Raleigh, N.C., to Katy, Tex., and various associations vying to “certify” instructors.

One of them — Krav Maga Worldwide in Los Angeles — says that it has certified some 240 training centers around the world, with each center having anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand members, half of them women.

Besides teaching skills that the students hope they never have to use, Krav Maga offers a good workout. Toward the end of Mr. Arute’s 45-minute class — which included wind sprints, push-ups and punching against black pads — the children were sweating.

He reviewed the basics. Always back away facing your attacker before turning to run. Never hit the ground — you’re vulnerable. Stay in the fight. Remember to breathe. One easy technique that seems to work surprisingly well: if a stranger grabs you by the wrist, make a ball with your grabbed hand, bring your other hand over to grab the ball, and pull up quickly. Then turn and run.

Joshua Neff, 6, declared the class fun. “You get to protect yourself and know what to do if you’re in danger,” he said.

Madison Worthy, 11, who attends school in a rough neighborhood of New Haven, nodded. She said there had been nearly a dozen fistfights in the hallways of her school during lunchtime; a teacher had suffered a concussion; and last February, the principal had been slugged.

“It’s a scary place,” she said, sweat dripping from her brow. “I know I’m strong, but I want to know how to use my strength if I have to.”

Mr. Arute nodded. “This is not to be used if someone takes your parking space at the mall.”