VOERENDAAL, 27-28 OCTOBER 2018 – Last weekend, Jair went to the Kalah seminar, organized by Kalah The Netherlands (https://kalah.nl/), in Voerendaal, Limburg (NL). Kalah is a self defense system, focused on the fighting aspects of self defense, developed by Idan Abolnik. Check out the at the end of this article to get a whiff of the intensity and effectiveness of what was going on last weekend…
You can watch all the Youtube videos, read all the books, train as much in the dojo as you want without really putting your stuff to the test – it’s all theory until you add “reality sauce” when it comes to self defense.
Chances are pretty slim that you, as a “normal” citizen in The Netherlands will end up in a situation where you need to fight for your, or your family’s life, but life can throw you a curveball and random bad stuff happens. And that’s not a good moment to find out you’ve been conditioning yourself for a fantasy world and your black belt didn’t impress the aggressor.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you would replicate reality for 100% in every training session, those would be pretty short lived – otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of hospitalized students, or worse; either because whatever they were doing worked – or didn’t. We’re talking about turning up the volume of the intensity, resistance, chaos, and pain stimuli to a functional level, to help you realize what’s what. It can be overwhelming, and scary.
And that extra bit of volume can go a long way.
The seminar was tough: physically, mentally, emotionally. This is by design, and not something for the participants to boost their egos over. It’s central to the idea behind Kalah: you learn self defense for survival.
Instructor Idan Abolnik is an intense guy, who will drill you to push your limits. And that’s because whatever you’ll face when things go south will also be way out of your comfort zone. Also – and this is my interpretation – he truly cares about whether you walk out of the door with skills that really – and I mean REALLY – work and might save your life one day. So when he goes into drill instructor mode and looks into your soul with those piercing eyes and asks you “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I SAY UNTIL NOW!?”, you have to keep this in mind.
The seminar was well structured, even though the carjacking part unfortunately couldn’t go through. Everything was explained based on solid principles, within context. No “monkey-see-monkey-do” stuff. And to build muscle memory, we were instructed to repeat everything after a new drill was introduced.
Of course, when you add chaos, things don’t go as planned. We were constantly told to stop thinking in terms of doing it “right”, but to make it work within the principles. It was very satisfying to to see the muscle memory kick in. It was also very sobering to hear “ok stop, you’re dead” from Idan, or “good for you” when you survived. A friendly reminder of what we were doing there.
So where does this place the stuff we’ve been doing in our dojang? Well, yesterday I semi-jokingly posted a warning, that visiting a Kalah seminar might make you wonder what you’ve been doing all this time (as a martial artist).
It’s not that you don’t know (a version of) the techniques that are used, you’ll recognize all the moves – it’s the mindset in which everything is trained. It makes all the difference. Now I’ve experienced how you can add “reality sauce” in a relatively safe way, despite my mangled body. I completely agree with the principle-based approach: principles are finite and forever valid, applications are endless. I love the efficiency, and that it’s not a “finished” system, you can clearly see the evolution if you look back at the old videos on Youtube. And that’s exactly what a “martial art” should be, as opposed to a rigid set of rituals that can never adapt to new realities, or question what’s practiced.
If you’re looking for a fun combat sport, or a self defense class where everything you do just “works” and the teacher knows all the answers: don’t do Kalah. If you want to significantly improve your chance of survival in case you get into some seriously violent trouble, and are willing to invest in the learning process (physically, mentally, emotionally): this is your ride…