In January of 2017, I was asked by the Commanding Officer of The 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles and the British Forces Brunei to travel to Brunei and introduce Krav Maga to the Battalion personnel. Lt Col Charlie Crowe had trained with Krav Maga Swindon for 18 months while posted to Shrivenham, and is a keen and skilled Kravist. When the time came for him to change station to Brunei, he wanted to take Krav Maga with him and introduce it to the soldiers and officers of the Gurkha Rifles.
The brief was simple: come to Brunei and spend a couple of weeks teaching Krav Maga. Obviously, in the time we had, it was not going to be possible to create experts, but the intention was to introduce it as widely as possible both to ingrain some good basic skills and also to begin the Krav Maga journey for as many people as possible, complementing their skillset with proven hand to hand capabilities.
The Royal Gurkha Rifles are a legendary Regiment, with a long-standing reputation for being fierce and indomitable warriors. All soldiers in the Regiment have experience in the more traditional martial arts, with Tae Kwon Do being taught to them during basic training at ITC Catterick. However, very few had previously trained in Krav Maga, which is something that the Colonel wanted to change. Doing so meant blazing a trail as one of the first Regiments of the British Army to take up the practice of Krav Maga.
After some planning, we decided that the best way to achieve a good exposure throughout the Battalion was to run a five day, twenty-hour series of sessions with the Physical Training Instructors of the Battalion. The idea was to drill them thoroughly in four or five basic Krav Maga fundamentals, so that they could effectively and safely begin to involve basic combative drills in their daily physical training sessions with the three companies of the Battalion. That way, the whole of the Battalion would be able to have sustained and regular exposure to the basics of Krav, preparing them well for further training with us when they return to the UK. Long term, it is our hope that several members of the Battalion will take the British Krav Maga instructor course, enabling them to provide continued, in-house training, furthering the skills of the personnel.
The PTIs took to the training with incredible focus and skill. It was immediately clear that not only were they incredibly physically fit, but also skilled and competent fighters with a good deal of martial arts experience between them. Their ability to take on new skills and patterns of movement was remarkable, their learning curve almost vertical. We were able to skill them in good basics easily within the 20 hours available.
At the end of the 20 hours, we worked with the PTIs to deliver Krav Maga focused physical training sessions to the companies. These sessions were a marriage of basic Krav Maga drills and murderously tough PT. The men flew into them with total focus, made even more impressive when considering the intense heat and humidity present in Brunei. Of course, it wasn’t possible to ingrain any advanced skill in that one hour, but we did manage to introduce them to Krav Maga and create in them a desire to train further. And of course the PTIs will be able to satisfy that desire with a new routine of daily Krav focused Physical training sessions.
Ultimately a deeply satisfying trip, accomplishing what we set out to do, and a real honour to work with such dedicated and incredible warriors. I look forward to working with them again when they return to station in the UK.
A Commander’s View
We asked Lt Col Charlie Crowe to discuss his reasons for introducing Krav Maga to the Battalion, his views on Krav Maga as a tool for the armed forces, and his experience working with British Krav Maga’s Will Bayley…
Why did you want to bring Krav Maga to the Battalion?
Training in Krav Maga in Swindon over the past year I learned that it is an excellent tool for the intelligent and judicious application of effective violence; this is core business for fighting units like 1 RGR. The training also develops high levels of anaerobic fitness, determination and resilience. These are all qualities required of soldiers in 1 RGR.
What was your opinion of the training outcome?
I am delighted with the outcome of the training. I now have PT instructors who are able to deliver Krav-based physical training to the Battalion on an enduring basis. We are very aware that we do not possess the experience or qualifications to deliver wholesale high intensity Krav Maga training, but we do now have the means to develop basic drills and test them under stress in a safe environment.
Do you see Krav Maga as a useful skill for today’s soldier?
The operating environment we can expect to deploy into requires all ranks to be highly disciplined in how and when to apply violence. But when the time comes for aggressive action it must be decisive, and our own recent operational experience is full of examples of lethal threats at close quarters. Krav Maga is an excellent tool for developing the right responses to this and is, in my view, highly relevant to modern soldiering.
Do you see Krav Maga as being a continued future part of training with the Regiment?
It is my firm intention to pursue Krav Maga as a basic skill set and training discipline across the Battalion.
How was your experience working with Will Bayley?
Will Bayley has a thorough knowledge of the psychology and physiology that underpins close quarter fighting. This gave real depth to the practical training he delivered, which he had painstakingly tailored to the particular requirements of this unique unit. His instruction was excellent throughout and he very quickly gained the respect of my experienced PTIs. A highly impressive professional.