Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bullying: An Brief Overview

I started visiting schools and talking to kids about bullying and what to do and how to deal with it. I don't think that there is one person who has lived life without being bullied. Everybody gets bullied - whether it's cyber-bullying or to your face or behind your back.

Bullying is something all of us have experienced to some degree.  I certainly did as a child, and to some extent as an adult, as did my friends family, and acquaintances.

Defining bullying is a challenging endeavour.  Barbara Coloroso's offers a concise definition in her excellent book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander (2006)   Bullying she writes "is a conscious, willful, and deliberate hostile activity intended to harm, induce fear through the threat of further aggression and create terror." Bullies tend to leverage power based on many factors including: size, age, social status, race, gender...   Bullying can also be a group activity.

There are various forms of bullying.  Below I have outlined three broad categories. These do not have to be mutually exclusive and one form can certainly lead to another.

Verbal Bullying: This is the most frequent form of bullying.  I can involve: name calling, insults, malicious rumours, racial slurs...    As Coloroso writes, "Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me, is a lie." Moreover, verbal bullying can sometimes be a first step to physical violence.

Physical Bullying: Shoving, punching, grabbing, pinching, kicking, taking property such as money etc....  This is the most obvious and the easiest to detect.

Relational Bullying:  This involves attacking the bullied person's social relationships and status. This can involves isolating, ignoring, shunning.  It is more insidious than physical bullying and more difficult to detect.

Cyberbullying:  Intimidation, humiliation, reputation tainting - all via email, and various social media sites.  With the proliferation of mobile devices that is becoming a growing problem.

In future blogs, we will address these forms of bullying in greater detail and explore effective ways of dealing with them.

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Brief History of IKMF Toronto

Humble Beginnings in Ottawa
I first experienced Krav Maga in 2004.  Laurent Mougeot, now our Canadian National Director, taught a hybrid class of karate and Krav Maga - more karate than Krav Maga at the time.  Laurent was an excellent teacher who encouraged our passion for self defense.

2004 Karate/Krav Maga class in Ottawa
Leaving an Impression: The IKMF Visits Ottawa
In 2005, a high ranking member of the IKMF at the time, Phillippe Kaddouch, visited Ottawa to offer a workshop.  At the time, I was full time social worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and a part-time PhD student (history) with aspirations of becoming a history professor.  Little did I know that this workshop would change my career path.

March 2005 The IKMF visits Ottawa

The workshop? In short, we were very impressed!  Besides being extremely skilled, his exercises were all based on practical scenarios from knife threats to multiple attackers to defending ourselves from a chair.  That year, one of his senior students, Thierry Cimkauskas, set up a school in Montreal and became IKMF National Director for Canada.  Thierry offered some excellent workshops and as we became more immersed in Krav Maga we considered becoming instructors.

In 2006 and 2007, Laurent Mougeot, Christopher Gagne, and Bella Motzen enrolled in the Civilian Instructor Course (CIC).   It was one of the most challenging - physically and mentally experiences of my life, but also one of the most gratifying and exhilarating. The instructors, Avi Moyal, and Gabi Noah, (both of whom were granted Master's status by their teacher and the founder of Krav Maga Imi Litchenfeld) were excellent.  In August of 2007 we earned our CIC certifications.

2007 CIC Instructors - happily exhausted...

IKMF sets down roots in Toronto
In September 2007, Laurent continued teaching in Ottawa.  Christopher Gagne and Bella Motzen began teaching courses at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (JCC) in Toronto.  In February 2008, Christopher rented space at the Kapissisaan Centre in the Kensington market, beginning with one class Sunday afternoons.

Teaching at Wuxing Martial Arts
In September 2008 Christopher began renting space from Wuxing Martial Arts, then located at 25 St. Nicholas.  Here, students began testing with Thierry. The larger space and floor mats gave us more teaching options.  Students liked that we were 1 block away from the Wellesley subway station.  Our classes grew from 1 to 3 per week.

First IKMF Level Grading in Toronto - 2009
374 Dupont St.
When Wuxing moved to 374  Dupont  in January 2011, we went with them.  Here, our classes grew from 3 to 8/week. With both Wuxing and IKMF Toronto growing we decided to get our own studio.  During this time, Henry Karabela became an instructor and opened a school in Oakville.

Avi Moyal visits Wuxing Martial Arts 

Yonge and Eglinton: 2013
In March of 2013, we moved to 2156 Yonge Street.  The space was smaller but we were able to dictate our schedule, expanding out class offering from 8 to 14 including a kids class, a women's class, and an advanced class.  The first year was a period of adjustment.  Every year since we have worked hard to improve our self defense training and every year we have grown.  More important than numbers are the quality of people who train with us.  Students are polite, welcoming and enjoy themselves. This makes teaching easy!

Expert 2 Marcus Torgerson visits IKMF Toronto

Looking Ahead: Expanding Through the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
As of 2015, we continue to grow and strive to improve our classes.  Now we work as part of IKMF Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with training also offered in Oakville and Scarborough.  From 16 students in 2007, we are approaching 200 active students in the GTA.  We are excited about how far we have come and are even more excited about where we are going.

Watch for an upcoming blog on the short history of IKMF Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Self Defense Workshop: Introduction to Edged Weapon Assaults (August 29th, 4-6pm)

Edged weapon assaults are among the most common weapon assaults as such objects are readily available,  Some examples:
  • knives
  • broken bottles
  • carpet cutters
  • screw drivers

This workshop will focus on some of the more common attacks and how to survive them.  Topics include:
  • how to defend against medium and short range attacks
  • defending from different directions
  • escape tactics

The focus of this workshop will be on escaping rather than disarming.

Workshop is open to all levels.  Beginners welcome!

For an overview of surviving knife assaults visit:

International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), Toronto
2156 Yonge St.
Saturday August 29th, 416pm

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, August 10, 2015

Women's Self Defense: What Do You Learn?

People often ask about the difference between what we teach during our adult classes (mixed gender) and our women-only class.  Essentially, the classes offer the same techniques, sometimes with minor variations.  The difference lies in emphasis.   Assaults against women are often committed by men who have a size or strength advantage.  Accordingly, they try to overpower through grabs, holds, and strikes.

Accordingly, women's classes spend a greater proportion of time learning to prevent and escape such grabs and holds.

Here is an overview of what you learn:

Awareness:  This involves developing a better understanding of the physical environment.  Where are the exits/escape routes?  Are there objects you can use to protect yourself?  Who is the area?

Behavioral Awareness:  How do assailants behave?  What is their body language telling you?  For more information about assailant tactics visit:

Using your Body as a Weapon to Defend Yourself.  You will have to strike to effectively defend against a determined attacker.  During training you learn what tools are most effective according to direction, distance, and situation.  For more on striking visit:

Attacking Weak Muscle Groupings With Strong Ones:  Unfortunately, an assailant usually has a size and strength advantage.  When releasing from holds, for example, you will have to attack weak point with your strong muscle groupings.  With wrist releases, for instance, you attack their thumb, the weakest point in their grip.

Escape Tactics: When you identify an escape you have to figure out how to get there.  This can be especially difficult against an assailant blocking your way or in small spaces.  You learn various tactics and techniques to get away safe.

Defending on the Ground:  Many assaults end up on the ground.  It is an extremely vulnerable place to be. We teach you how to fall, get up, and to get an attacker off of you.  

Using Common Objects. Coin, water bottles, umbrellas, chairs......   There are objects in our everyday environments we can use to protect ourselves.

All classes are interactive as it is important to be able to ask question and offer suggestions.  It makes for a much better learning environment.

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kids Self Defense: What Do We Teach?

Our focus, as it is with adults, is to help kids develop the awareness and the skills to get home safe.  Due to their smaller size and younger age, children are more vulnerable to adults and sometimes to other kids or youth.

Children tend to need to be active so we play many games aimed at building their strength, developing their awareness, and establishing a fun learning environment.  More so than adults, the program requires structure to facilitate a setting where learning is possible.

Here are some of the things children learn.

Awareness:  Children are often engrossed "in the moment" - whatever activity or game they are engaged in.  This is fantastic and endearing but can also hinder awareness.  Through various games and exercises we develop awareness of their surroundings.  Where are the exits?  How many people are in the room?  Point to three rectangular shapes, red objects, etc.....    Through these games kids learn to observe and assess their surroundings - vital aspects of self defense.

Avoidance and Escaping:  Active kids can be very evasive, agile, and quick.  These are important qualities as being smaller than adults or youth they have a distinct size and strength disadvantage.

Anti-bullying:  Bullying comes in various forms and can be very unsettling or traumatic for kids.  We teach kids how to use their voice, how to disengage from grabs, and explore who to talk with - parents, teachers etc.. to stop the problem.

Using Verbal and Body Language:  Body language can say a lot.  Putting your hand up, palms facing the aggressor says stay away and also shows witnesses that you want distance.  Statements like "stay away" or in more dangerous situations "help!" are taught as useful tools.

Self Confidence:  In many ways this is less tangible. When students learn techniques, and their improvement is highlighted it contributes to their self confidence.  We see this as week, months and years pass.  It is very inspiring.

Fitness: Kids need to express their physical energy and we do our best to tire them out - temporarily.  They recover so fast don't they?

This offers an overview of what we teach.  In upcoming blog we will explore bullying and the techniques and exercises of our our curriculum's first level.

Stay safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto