We are told in class often that proper pad holding prevents injury, creates a more realistic target for your partner, and desensitizes the pad holder to blows. I am not going to lecture on proper pad holding. Firstly, I am still quite new to Krav Maga and have no illusions that I am the voice of authority on anything (probably won’t be for another few years). Second, there are other resources you can refer to that have “been there, done that”.
Having been on the receiving end of some poor pad holding I have come close to hyperextending my arm, and more recently, been the victim of The Cheater. We’ve all worked opposite The Cheater. This is someone who tries to cut corners because he feels that what the drill involves isn’t important to everyone’s (or at least his) goals.
In this particular instance we were performing a drill where a pad holder would hold a tombstone and their partner would get them in a clinch and drive them to the other side of the dojo with knees. The pad holder was instructed to resist as much as possible. If they were able to keep their partner from driving them backward — or better yet, could drive the attacker backwards! — they were encouraged to do so. In this case, my partner gave me a wink and said he’d move backwards easily. Too baffled to respond to this idiocy I lined up for the drill and we began. Sure enough, I was practically chasing my pad holding partner across the dojo as he scurried backwards with virtually no resistance.
I was not pleased. I called out repeatedly (but not loudly enough to get the guy in trouble) for more resistance but to no avail. I didn’t show any outward sign of frustration, though in retrospect maybe I should have. As minor as this incident sounds it really had an effect on me and I left class that night feeling cheated. There were a few other shortcuts my partner pulled out during class that I don’t really need to get into but in total I felt like it was almost a wasted training session. I vowed that I would not let that happen again and would also be more diligent about how I held pads and performed in general for my training partner.
We could, by all accounts, end this blog post right now but I have one other related anecdote I want to put out there and it relates to this same drill described above. We had a visiting instructor at our school one day. Big guy. No, HUGE guy. Muscle-bound, hulking frame — you get the idea. Very nice fella, as it turns out, but I wouldn’t want to get on this guy’s bad side. As we were being instructed on the drill I decided as the pad holder that I was going to do my best to not budge. I am a pretty big guy myself — 6′ 4″ and….well, I’m big. As the drill started I dug in. My partner clinched me and began driving the knees. Nothing. I didn’t move an inch. In fact, I began driving him back forcefully as the rest of the class marched their way to the other side of the dojo. Our visiting instructor saw this and came over, saying to my partner, “Alright. Take this guy over here. I got this guy”, jabbing a finger at me.
As I was clinched harder than I knew was possible I was driven to the other side of the dojo by massive sledgehammer blows that had me practically seeing stars. The visiting instructor’s giant forearm was wedged viciously under my jaw and I was alternately slammed by the knees and rammed backwards with his iron arm in my throat. It was epic and I actually did better than I originally feared.
Interestingly, it turns out the guy I was partnered with was holding back, off to the side, quietly simmering since he got called aside. He was probably feeling frustrated and humiliated for getting put on the bench and I could tell in his face that he was determined to do better. As I partnered up with him again he was like a demon possessed and gave a performance that almost rivaled the visiting instructor’s, driving me back — again — with powerful, driving knees and a mad look of determination on his face. Yeah, I was having quite the night.
There are a bunch of lessons I think can be taken from this anecdote and I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. I myself was made aware of how a senior practitioner can belittle someone without even meaning to. I hope to avoid that in the future as I climb the ranks. I also found out that, if I can withstand that punishment from the massively powerful visiting instructor, I can probably handle anyone’s knees in the class as well. Finally, I saw how determination can make all the difference. Comparing my partner’s performance from the first attempt to the second was night and day. When he got his second chance he let go of all inhibitions and gave it his all. I’m here to tell you that it was like a completely different person and I was very impressed by the difference. I always want to train like he did that second go-around and so should you.