The first part of this post series, my interview with The Forge instructor and Fight the Bite organizer Tim, was published on Monday.
Note: this is a sponsored post; while In Case of Survival was not paid for this series of posts, I did receive a significant discount on the class because of it.
Also note: this post is long, yo.
On October 22, I attended the first part of the two-part Fight the Bite zombie apocalypse survival/self-defense workshop. The classes are put on by The Forge Western Martial Arts and held at Dynamic MMA in Calgary.
If you’re wondering if I willingly went to a class where I get my ass kicked, the answer would be yes. But! It’s for a good cause! No, not for ICoS. I mean, yes, it’s good that I’m writing these posts, but it’s also good because if a zombie ever comes after me, I know what to do to get away and, you know, run like hell out of there.
You may be wondering how I know I can get away from a zombie. I mean, in theory I shouldn’t know that unless there were actual zombies around, and aside from a few bath salt-induced zombiefication, there aren’t any. Right? Well, yeah. In theory. But lucky for us students, The Forge happened to have some pet zombies on hand, so it was all good.
Let me back up and start from the beginning. After all, the pet zombies didn’t come out of their cages until we’d learned a couple things.
Let’s start with what western martial arts actually is (that’s the WMA part of The Forge WMA). The short version: it’s the fighting style of medieval knights. You know, the ones in chain mail, carrying swords and shields and riding horses. The long version: WMA is experiencing a resurgence, mostly in Europe (unsurprising, since those medieval knights were, you know, in Europe). Like many historical fighting styles, WMA faded into oblivion—but not completely. Those crafty nights wrote everything down, and in detail. Which turned out to be a good thing, because people like Tim can come along, five hundred years later, and dust off the ye olde swordfighting (among other things). Which is also good because now schmucks like me can learn it. I know, right?
The Forge, however, doesn’t just focus on swordfighting. They also do hand-to-hand styles and weaponry (but not guns, because that’s something different altogether). At least one of their instructors is trained in Eastern martial arts, and is doubly deadly. (Not kidding.)
The Forge, one of two WMA clubs in Calgary, is a nonprofit organization, so they don’t have a fancy dojo or anything like that. They currently have thirty students, but do welcome more; if you’re in Calgary and are interested in WMA, make sure to check them out. Your first class is even free. Classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays, in the evening.
So, Fight the Bite. At its core, Fight the Bite is a self-defense workshop. The idea is that if you can defend yourself against a thinking attacker, you can defend yourself against an undead attacker with a one-track mind. Er, decaying brain. Er, whatever.
Every student receives a white Fight the Bite t-shirt, which stays white the first class but which will get ridiculously dirty after the second class. You know, after we get to smash shit all over the place in an appropriately called Zombie Smash. Fun, yes? I will try to take pictures for y’all.
The workshop is run by Tim, Mark, and Gareth (one of their senior students), who are some of the nicest guys you could ever meet. (Hell, Mark looks like he could’ve been my calculus professor in university.) Except, of course, all these nice guys could kick my ass and break me in two (or more) pieces if they really wanted to, without breaking a sweat. Well, slice me in two in Mark’s case, since he’s an expert swordsman and all. Moral of the story: do not piss these guys off, even when they’re drunk. I take no responsibility for what happens to you if you don’t listen to my advice.
Tim and Mark are exceptionally well trained, and have a string of achievements and black belts to their names. (I’m not sure about Gareth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s got a black belt or two himself.) They’re experts at what they do. In other words, these are Guys Who Know Their Shit. They’re also really good teachers, letting students go at their own pace. If there’s something you can’t handle, or you’ve pushed yourself to your limit, you can stop. They won’t yell at you if you do. (But they’ll probably yell at you if you quit. So take a break, but don’t walk out. You know.)
All right. So, after we were introduced to the instructors, saw the swords we’d be possibly using for the zombie smash at the end of the second class, yadda yadda, the class started.
Now, unfortunately, it’s really difficult for me to give you a minute-by-minute account of the class. I mean, it’s a class, and a fairly fast-paced one at that. We covered quite a few topics, all of which were informative and important to know, not just for the apocalypse but also for day-to-day life.
Here’s a quick overview of what was covered in the first class. I will try to describe each technique as accurately as possible, but I’m bound to make errors. (You really need to take the class.)
- Supplicant stance: because it’s important to look like you’re not itching for a fight, whether or not you are. This stance is standing with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, with your hands up, palms out, as if to say, “Hey man, I don’t want any trouble.” (Which, if you’re going against someone with a knife, you might actually be saying.)
- Fighting stance: for those times when the Other Guy wants trouble and ignores your supplicant stance. Your feet are still roughly shoulder width apart, but take a step back on your stronger foot, and bend your knees a little. Stand on the balls of your feet. This lowers your center of gravity and makes you harder to push over (which is a good thing in a fight). Your arms are up, shielding your torso, with open fists (this is important).
- When punching/hitting people, do it with an open fist. Because you don’t want to break your hand on the other guy’s face.
- How to get away if someone grabs your arm: work against the thumb. It’s the weakest point on the hand.
- How to get out of a bear hug, if someone grabs you from behind and intends to do you harm: drop straight down, elbows up. This will get you out of their direct grip. Then turn slightly, elbow the bad guy with everything you’ve got, which will hopefully release his hold on you. Then run like a bat out of hell. Preferably away from the bad guy.
- Hitting someone in the face: stick your fingers in his eyes, but aim for the cheekbones. Make sure you turn into it (use your hips), to give yourself momentum. And then turn the other way, and smack the dude in the face with your other hand (remember, use an open palm). Make sure to use your hips and turn into it, to use your momentum. Once you’ve attempted to break the other guy’s nose, he will hopefully be too occupied trying to figure out what the hell just happened to chase after you. Use that opportunity to run like hell. Away from him.
- How to properly fall. Um, this one’s really hard to describe. The idea, though, is to not crack your head on the pavement and to not break your wrist. Land on your side.
- The mind-set: you have to give yourself permission to defend yourself, should the need arise. Basically, you have to be prepared to defend yourself, and you have to be prepared to act with a split second of notice. Because you don’t exactly have time to weigh the pros and cons of fighting back while you’re being attacked, you need to have decided beforehand that you’re going to fight back. You’ll also have to decide which situations you’ll fight, and which situations you’ll do your best to walk away. It’ll be different for each person; for example, for me, a fight situation would be one in which my kids were threatened. For you, it might be one in which someone was trying to steal a first edition Asimov novel. Or something.
- Do not apologize when you hit your training partner: because you would never apologize to a bad guy for hitting them, right? Exactly.
- Never hand anyone a weapon: because if you do it in training, you might do it in real life. And giving a bad guy their weapon back would totally defeat the purpose of disarming them in the first place.
- The OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act): basically, this is the loop your brain follows when deciding what you’re going to do, especially in fight or flight situations. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to disrupt the bad guy’s OODA Loop such that he sounds like a short-circuited robot, rolling around saying, “Observe. Observe. Observe.” This will prevent him from orienting himself, which will then lead to him (probably) smashing your face into the sidewalk. I think we can all agree that this is not what you want.
Of course, for something like self-defense (or any martial arts), you need to practice to learn the techniques. And practice we did. We did each move at least three times, because repetition leads to learning. However, since you don’t want to injure your training partner, The DUDES pulled out their pet zombies. (Pet zombies. I KNOW.)
The pet zombies are students of the club, so they’re incredibly strong and could also break me in two with probably very little effort. So really, they’re like boss-level zombies. Let me put it this way: if we were, hypothetically speaking, playing a well-known MMORPG, they would be, say, Level 90 Undead Mages. The instructors, on the other hand, would be, say, the boss that takes your guild eight weeks to defeat. Possibly longer if anyone in your party pulls a Leeroy Jenkins. (Also, Horde FTW.)
So, yeah, practicing techniques on ye olde pet zombies was a learning experience with a ridiculously steep learning curve. Which is actually a good thing when you’re learning something that could, you know, save your life later on. I mean, better to learn it all now, when you know no one’s going to actually splatter you all over the sidewalk.
It’s important to note that The DUDES don’t advocate fighting if you can avoid it. Very few things are worth your life (those few things being those situations in which you’ve decided you’ll fight). This is why they teach the supplicant stance; they want you to diffuse the situation if at all possible. However, if you can’t get out of fighting, they want you to know how to defend yourself, such that you can still walk away afterward. You may be bloodied and bruised, but you’ll be alive.
This first class teaches only the basics of self-defense. You’ll need to join The Forge and take classes to learn more in-depth and advanced techniques. But the point of the class is not to make you an expert; it’s to give you the tools to defend yourself. And knowing the basics can certainly help you do that.
For more information about The Forge Western Martial Arts, the instructors, and the Fight the Bite workshop, go to www.forgewma.com.
Special thanks to Tim, Mark, Gareth, the boss-level pet zombies, and the workshop participants for an awesome first class!
Coming up: the second (and last) class, where we learn the basics of swords. SWORDS, you guys. Stay tuned!