Monday September 17, 2012
Real world, street smart self-defence
By N. RAMA LOHAN
LIKE many other things in this country, the bodyguard trade is not spared the “cari makan” (earn a living) scourge. This is where proper education comes in, because in this line of work, people’s lives are at stake. Training is often outsourced, but no facility comes with the credentials of MuayFit, a training centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, which provides for real-world, street-smart self-defence.
Heading the training at this Muay Thai-meets-fitness and self-defence centre is Mike Yap, who graciously shared his knowledge of the trade as well as basic defensive strategies. And they include learning how to scream!
In this industry, big isn’t always better. While it looks impressive, vanity’s desire could be costly. “We’d like to change that impression and make bodyguards more professional. If you’re big, you still need to be competent,” he says. Muayfit provides self-defence training for all manner of attacks, except firearms.
There are no standard requirements for the job of a bodyguard, but fitness is primary. A bodyguard needs to be fit because, as much as the job relies on awareness, it relies heavily on physical ability, too. “We have training to teach people to apply speed, accuracy and be wary of the element of surprise, which is the most important thing because this is all about real-world application,” explains Yap.
The 60-year-old was trained traditionally (albeit, gradually) but acknowledges that in this fast-paced world, people simply do not have the time since everyone needs to chase the dollar. “The programme is short but the bottom line is, you have to keep coming in to practise because this is all about motor skills and muscle memory.”
According to him, the steps are easy to learn and designed to be simple, direct and effective.
“You need to be prepared as early as possible, and that time frame can be so small at times,” Yap reveals before intimating that its training is constantly evolving, what with the constant refinement of threats. Much of the training is designed around response time, making it about reflex, ultimately.
“You’d be surprised how many people can’t actually scream. They can go to karaoke and sing, but can’t scream. That can make the difference between life and death,” chips in Muayfit owner Paul Teo of the graveness of the situation.
Bodyguards are also educated on the laws of the country, the difference between self-defence and assault, particularly. “If you defend yourself with a baton, that’s okay, but if the assailant has seven blows on the head, then any judge will question that,” Yap warns.
The first option in any confrontational situation is to run, but if assaulting the assailant and then running is the required course of action, Yap provides this tip: “Hit something hard with something soft, and hit something soft with something hard” which simply means, for example, punch someone in the stomach, but slap their face.
The standard, one-day, six-hour course begins with the bodyguards doing their warm-up stretches before they are put through a pressure drill, which involves plenty of sprinting.
“Some of our trainees throw up because it is too intense for them. The problem is, people like to compete and often forget about pacing themselves,” says Yap. One of the toughest parts has to be where trainees are taught to run without being able to see.
With assailants constantly refining their trade, people need to be prepared enough to know that a pepper spray will not work on an assailant wearing a full-faced helmet. Likewise, with knife attacks coming in the form of long-blade weapons like the parang (machete) and katana (Samurai sword) these days, trainees are advised to rush into the assailant, minimising the room necessary to wield the weapon.
“It’s all about applying the right psychology and strategy. And, of course, we do scenario exercises, which is the most important in the end,” Yap illustrates.
An awareness of the surroundings is crucial in the programme. The average person can avoid many things. For instance, if a person in a lift makes you feel uncomfortable, do not get in. “Asians are polite, so a girl might not want to offend the person in a lift and walk in even though her instincts tell her not to. And, wham! That’s when it happens,” cautions Yap.
Personal bodyguards in Malaysia are generally categorised under soft and hard bodyguards. Soft bodyguards are perhaps most common – they function as drivers and bodyguards, a financially-friendlier two-in-one-solution for security needs. Hard bodyguards are usually assigned to protect higher threat clients. “Our Boss Protection Programme is designed for those driver-cum-bodyguard situations,” informs Yap.
Modern martial arts is geared more towards sport than self-defence, hence learning karate, taekwondo and the like will not be enough. This is where Yap’s Krav Maga education comes in handy. Krav Maga is a form of self-defence, survival training which originates from the Middle East. MuayFit is the only self-defence training facility which has a Krav Maga-trained trainer.
In describing Yap’s physical build, it would be hard to avoid the adjective wiry. But recently, a gang of five mat rempit was taught to think twice before taking on slightly-built people. As they say, Yap “siap” (took care of) the guys.
He is utterly passionate about the art of self-defence and has set out to share all he has learned. Hopefully, the bodyguards we might some day employ, will come just like him.