This Bank Holiday weekend I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Krav Island. Setting off at 6am I arrived at my campsite 5 miles north of Balmaha, Loch Lomond at around 11.30am and was greeted by a beautiful view across the Loch, yes this was a room with a view for sure. After several hours of chilling out and attempted sleep the drizzle replaced the midges as my main torment in this paradise and I set of to locate the Krav Maga contingent, as usual I was on the look-out for shaven headed guys dressed in black and after about twenty minutes wandering around the hamlet of Balmaha I spotted one helpfully wearing a Krav t shirt. Fear not about my stereotyping, I too had a shaven head and was wearing black; it seems to be de rigour for many martial arts seminars and proved to be the dominant colour this weekend too.

Once I got to the registration I was impressed as there were over 100 people and a great atmosphere developing straight away. After some logistics and a briefing from chief instructor John Miller, a long snake of people made their way down to the Loch side and training began in the drizzle led by Alan Clark. The instruction was of the highest order and Alan soon had everybody involved and going for it, apart from brief respites to take on water this session lasted for three hours, that is three hours of gruelling training that was superb to watch, I already felt very privileged to be there taking lots of pictures and filming with the camcorder. Take a look at a couple of minutes of that first session.

Further clips will be posted on YouTube soon on my channel academyofselfdefence soon. This was not training for softies; this was making it happen outside of anyone’s comfort zone. As soon as people appeared to be settling into the training Alan and his fellow instructors ramped things up, right through the afternoon of drizzle and midges everybody without exception put in a shift, it was why they were there after all. There was mud, blood but no tears, there was plenty of sweat and small and large, men and women, beginner and expert trained together with great respect and enthusiasm. This was taking it to the great outdoors writ large. There was the relief of completing the hard work at the end, a welcome break and a great meal in a marquee at the village pub then we waited for dark.

At 9pm we assembled in the main car park and I went to the instructors briefing to learn what the evening had in store. I was not disappointed. The briefing for all participants was delivered clearly, covering all necessary information and health and safety issues. Then the warm up began followed by over 100 participants going through a series of drills in the increasingly dark night.  Then it was time for the gauntlet, the group was split into two and equipment handed out and half marched off along a footpath through the pitch black dark woods. They were the gauntlet to be stationed in groups along the way each with an instructor to supervise, some would attack, others just ask for a cigarette, each group of two, three or more was briefed accordingly, then the remaining fifty or so were fed up the path two at a time and just for fun the instructors and me with my makeshift torch camcorder combination would let them have the light in their eyes to take away any night vision they were developing, fantastic. Take a look, it was hard to film but this gives you an idea of what it was like.

My amateur efforts at filming do not do it justice, it was a superb drill, incredibly controlled and random at the same time, everybody enjoyed it, I was attacked once despite my fluorescent jacket and one of the women attackers disappeared of the path into the woods as her victim retaliated with enthusiasm. We shined my torch on the water filled hole her backside had landed in, nice. The exercise ended at 11.30 and some had up to 12 miles to get to their accommodation for much needed showers and sleep, I returned to my tent on a now sponge like campsite at Sallochy and after a couple of glasses of wine slept like a baby and I had only been observing.


Day two took us to the Island complete with its own burial ground; a walk over the hill from the ferry dock led us to the beach and some fairly rough ground were the mornings gruelling training would take place. No quarter was given and none asked for, this was one tough and very challenging day. After a hard mornings training and then a break for lunch it was time to test peoples endurance, they were going into the Loch. I am reliably informed that Loch Lomond is the coldest in Scotland being the deepest too, it looked it and there was a great deal of trepidation but few refused at this point and only injury or medical reasons kept a few out. I reflected on my experience of the ice cold top lake at Interlaken a few years back and this was not much warmer. I lasted about two minutes max in that ice bucket in summer on a warm day and I have swum in the North Sea on a blustery winters day. Taking the students out o their comfort \zones and putting them in alien worlds is one thing, making them function is another. John Miler summed it up for me when he said that faced with a committed assailant he wanted one of two things, to render him unwilling or unable to continue the attack by becoming the aggressor.

Unwilling, having realised the proposed victim is not an hard target, may do the trick, its unable fall of the time, you get a seasoned fighter who is on your ccase then you gotta render him unable. Until you meet the Black Night that is.

So in order to prepare and to harden the body and mind to fight on all terrain in all light conditions, to forget the safety of the nice indoor training arena its back outdoors for more mayhem the next day.

So Krav Island I think you will agree takes you as far out of your comfort zone as you can reasonably get without seriously endangering people, it pushes people close, very close to their limits, many were very quiet on the walk over the hill back to the ferry dock. Spirits were high though despite the exhaustion and some of the feedback I received highlighted the many benefits they felt for doing these mad exercises. John Miller and his instructors are a model to follow, they must have worked incredibly hard to fashion this exercise, this third Krav Island. It started with just 18, grew to 36 last year and over a hundred this year. This will become bigger yet I believe once the word is out, there will be at least one mad Sheffielder there next year for sure, Of course I am a convert already so this kind of training calls to the inner madman in me, it begs me to get down in the mud, the  car park, the sand and the water and to practice my fighting skills, for me the dojo is where I hone my martial arts skills, their application if necessary, will be in street, the alley or the park, so train there, get down get dirty and get ready, create your own Krav Island or go to the experts the Institute of Krav Maga Scotland, and no I am not on a cut, I just recognise excellence when I see it.

Thank you ALL for your hospitality and friendship all I have to do now is write the book.

Krav Island, get some.