In 1980, when I was a private in Boot Camp in the United States Army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina we were the first group of soldiers to fire at the new computerized pop-up targets. These three-dimensional plastic targets placed at various distances were each in the shape of an enemy soldier in an olive drab uniform, painted flesh colored face, holding an AK-47 with a communist red star on the helmet and on the belt buckle. The time was the Cold War, and the enemy was the Soviet Union. Our drill sergeants made it quite clear that the primary enemy was communist Russia along with those held in their talons, the Eastern Bloc nations, which included Czechoslovakia.
Thirty-one years later I find myself behind the old "Iron Curtain" teaching my Reality-Based Personal Protection system in the Czech Republic capital of Prague; my former enemy. Not only was I deep in Eastern Europe, but the training I gave took place at a former communist military base that once was the barracks for anti-aircraft batteries responsible for taking down "enemy" aircraft (our possible aircraft) that threatened Prague; or in the Czech language, "Praha."
Since the fall of communism in 1989 Czechoslovakia peacefully separated into two countries in 1993: the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and the communists’ love for karate and judo had made room for all the martial arts systems, including Reality-Based Personal Protection system.
Through Budo magazine (also known as Kampfkunst in Germany, Cinture Noir in France, Cinturon Negro in Spain, Cinturao Negro in Portuguese, Budo in Italy, Budo International in France, etc.) my Reality-Based concepts and training methods have been in the Czech Republic since 2001. The popular Czech martial arts magazine Fighter’s Magazin has received a steady flow of my articles through the cooperation of Budo International , thanks to publisher Alfredo Tucci, and have been translated into their language. This has brought me a few of the Czech Republic’s top self-defense instructors or the past few years in my Western European seminars. However, like everything in the former East Bloc countries, it has taken a while for a new infrastructure to take hold. Only recently was I contacted by Martin Hradecky of Akademie AGEIS and Martin Mikolasek of RBSD to start teaching courses in Prague.
Through a few emails the two Czech companies asked me if I would teach my unique Reality-Based Personal Protection course titled Family Survival. These two companies wanted to start working with well-to-do families in their country and provide them with the comprehensive packaged that I have designed that can be taught right in the client’s home or workplace. There is currently nothing like this is the Czech Republic, and not much in my country for that matter.
Over the last three years I have worked with prominent families who wanted to know how to be prepared for possible attacks against them, especially if the father is away at work on a business trip: repelling a home invasions, anti-kidnapping methods, firearms training, Terrorism Survival, Crime Survival, and overall situational awareness.
As a reward for all of his hard work during this past year in the Reality-Based system I selected my Director of the Nordic Countries, Peter Falk, to assist me in this one-day seminar and to work on a RBPP video project for YouTube I had in mind. I flew in from Dusseldorf, Germany and Peter came in from Copenhagen, Denmark. We both arrived minutes apart at the Prague International Airport on September 20th. A chauffer, Dennis, was waiting for us in the arrivals terminal. He was sent there to take us to the heart of the city and drop us off at our very posh hotel. As we entered the ancient city in late morning we both knew immediately that we were going to enjoy our stay. The city was visually appealing, and I started to realize why all my friends who had been there before talked so highly of it. Peter and I met one of the owners of the Akademie Ageis company at the hotel, Ales Vondracek, who said, "Go out and enjoy the city today, and we will meet for dinner. Is 7:30 pm good?"
Peter and I dumped our bags and went out immediately to explore the city. Both of us world travelers were taken in by the energy and beauty of the city. Everything was within walking distance, the architecture was stunning, and the people were friendly and courteous. To me the city was like a mix of Paris, Rome, and Helsinki all rolled up in one. There were even hints of the old communist era with blocky street car trains and a few shops selling old Soviet paraphernalia. After a few hours we, both experts in land navigation, felt like we had a good grasp of the "lay of the land."
That night we were treated by our hosts to a traditional Czech dinner at a quaint restaurant. We discussed the schedule for the seminar, just who would be coming, and we talked about what life was like on both sides of the Iron Curtain before the fall of the wall in East Germany that led to the collapse of the Soviet empire. Those around the table had nothing good to say about the old communist system. Those who lived under it said it was "oppressive."
After a wonder buffet style breakfast the following morning, one that any American or Swede would find homey, Ales picked us up at our hotel and drove us just outside of town to an old Cold War era army base that is now a police training facility. In on the training were also police officers because of some carry-over information that I was teaching that would help them; one participant was from the Prague SWAT Team (Zasahova Jednotka) who is a defensive tactics and firearms instructor. As a current military police soldier, and a former SWAT Team member in the United States, I am always thrilled to have cops and soldiers in my courses.
When I saw the dozen tough mean looking men that I was about to teach in my improvised classroom in the morning I joked with Peter privately before we got started, "These guys look more like they’ve come for a course in Black Operations, and not a Family Survival course." Although looks were not deceiving in this case, the group genuinely wanted my knowledge of teaching families the cutting edge system in self-defense, and for eight straight hours they intently listened to my lectures and put 100% into the hands-on part of the training. They were like any other group I have taught eager to learn how to covert what they already know into a Reality-Based format.
During the breaks every few hours I would walk the deserted halls of the barracks and imagine the soldiers that once worked and lived there. Their base was no different than some of the American bases I have served in. In fact, the base reminded me of the military base I serve in today as an MP. Seeing, smelling, and touching the actual structure there in the Czech Republic brought to life just how real the "enemy" once was. To me it was no longer an abstract "them." Seeing the same walls that they once saw, and the floors they also once walked, I also could imagine how on their end they once looked at the United States and Western Europe as their enemy, and they were just doing their service to protect their own country.
One of the scenarios I ran my students through during seminar was dealing with a home intruder. When it comes to firearms the Czech Republic is one of the most liberal European Union countries when it comes to ownership of weapons; more liberal than Switzerland, so they tell me. Since a lot of citizens have guns I was able to teach them how to do building searches. I taught individual movement, and how a husband and wife could work as a team (it could just as easily be mother and daughter, two sisters, etc.).
At the end of the training Peter and I worked on a Reality-Based video that I will soon place on my YouTube site; I’m getting a lot of demand for putting up more. The topic is all about the front thrust kick. Since I was able to actually kick a door open in this facility, I use this illustration to tie in the same principles when it comes to kicking an attacker.
After the thank yous and appreciative handshakes after the group photo we all took together Peter and I were once again treated to a great dinner. Only this time it was not traditional Czech cuisine, but good ol' Italian pizza. At the table the two owners of AGEIS, along with Filip Marek (who took my Knife Camp last year in Solingen, Germany) and the sold-on-Reality-Based SWAT instructor, had a nice leisurely meal and talked about future courses for 2012. They told me that everyone who attended my course were quite happy, and they knew that all following courses would be just as successful.
The next day Peter and I both had evening flights back to our respective airports abroad, which left us with most of the day to do what we wanted to do. After our favorite buffet breakfast, and a good conversation over a hot cup of coffee each, Peter and I worked on a second video project right in the middle of Prague. I’ll save the subject matter of this next video as a surprise, for it is being edited now and will soon be posted on YouTube.
In the afternoon Mario Tacheci of AGEIS brought Peter and I each a Subway sandwich and a cold Coca Cola, and became our personal "tour guide" for a few hours. He wanted to show us some sights that a typical tourist might not see, and especially those sites that are related to conflict.
Our first stop was the enormous statue of Czech legendary warrior hero Jan Zizka (1360-1424). This statue sits upon the largest hill in Prague, Vitkov Hill, standing vigilantly over the city. Zizka is famous for outfitting cannons and firearms on armor plated wagons and winning the battle. This was the first concept of a “battle tank” first deployed in warfare. In a mausoleum behind the statue of the one eye warrior is a unique display. It is a transparent cylinder that extends from the floor to the ceiling and are samples of soil taken from everywhere where Czech Soldiers have fought. The most recent sample comes from Afghanistan since Czech troops have served their along with the American military and other coalition forces… an impossible thought before the fall of communism.
Next was the Military History Institute, and that was fantastic. It was one of the best war museums I had ever been in. All of the displays were professionally arranged and each of them drew in the visitor. I could have spent a few days in there just reading all of the descriptions, but time was no longer on our side. We had to cut the visit short and get ready for our trip back to the airport. We had once last cup of coffee with Mario in a "very hip" artsy coffee shop Dennis our chauffer came there to pick us up 20 minutes later. Traffic out of the city was horrible, but we got to the airport just in time. Peter only had minutes to spare, and I had an extra half hour to kill before boarding and heading to Dusseldorf.
Not only was the Family Survival seminar a success, but it opened the door to the Czech Republic for the Reality-Based Personal Protection system.In 2005 when I took a one-day excursion into the Czech Republic from the German Border I told myself that I wanted to teach there, and six years later it became a reality. I am now writing about it in the pass tense. God is good. Everything has a right time and a purpose, and with a little patience, the training of some Czech instructors over the years in Germany, and a growing market for Reality-Based Personal Protection worldwide, it all came together. I look forward to my next trip there, and to see my new friends once again.
Copyright Jim Wagner 2003 - 2021 All rights reserved.