First Fight In Paris

The FEKM Winter Course is the premier event of our federation’s training calendar.

Almost 600 students from across the globe come to train in Paris each December. Some come to grade for their belts and many others to train with the federation’s most senior instructors under the leadership of Richard Douieb our federation’s founder and patriarch. Training with 3rd, 4th and 5th Darga black belts is an honour and a privilege; add Richard Douieb into the mix and you have a truly unique experience.

Kravists are usually in top shape, preparing for many months to grade at the Winter Course. We routinely spar at club level as part of our training, however, fighting in front of over 500 of your peers is a whole new experience. It is a serious test of a Kravist’s courage, mental preparation and technical ability.

Having recently graded for my Green Belt in London and following the advice of Matt McDonough and Martin Webber our aspiring black belts from London, I really wanted to test myself in Paris.

Four minutes in the ring can seem like an eternity when your adrenalin is pumping and you have another Krav fighter standing in front of
you. Your opponent potentially knows everything you know, and possibly more, as you can be partnered with an opponent who is up to two grades above you!

Having prepared physically for some months I also prepared mentally. The thought of competing in front of a huge audience of knowledgeable Kravists is a humbling experience. On the day however, all such considerations flew out the window.

When your name is called out and the nerves and adrenalin start coursing throw your system your mind moves from fight strategy to a narrow focus. Suddenly the crowd disappears. The noise in the gymnasium disappears. It’s just you and your opponent. I remember momentarily
thinking about the famous Mike Tyson quote, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

My opponent and I were scheduled for a ‘soft fight’. This means not landing the full force of the blows when striking. That soon became a
technicality – and I’m sure this happens to everyone. You’re nervous, you’re excited, you want to look good. Sometimes that element of ‘control’ that we are taught repeatedly tends to be forgotten. You take the hits but they don’t seem to matter. You register the impact, but you don’t necessarily feel anything. Your perspective shifts from planned, wide and strategic to very focussed and present… OK, got to keep moving… how do I counter the next attack… can I pre-empt the next strike?

Gloves can limit your options. You so often want to grab your opponent and put on a choke or wrist lock but you have to get those gloves off and often you forget in the heat of battle. You notice that the more seasoned fighters only half fasten their gloves and as soon as they see and opening they flick them off and grab!

Suddenly, the referee calls an end to the fight. You’re relieved. You’re elated. You hug your opponent and you congratulate each other. The sweat comes like a waterfall and all those hits you barely registered earlier begin to throb as the adrenalin wears off. You know that’s going to hurt in the morning. It’s all over. But there’s a real sense of pride and achievement that stays with you long afterwards.

I would thoroughly recommend it.

Nicholas Kitson
Eitan Krav Maga, London