Sunday, 03 April 2011

What it feels like to be taken hostage...

Advanced Tactical Training:

Not too long ago I had an interview on one of the most popular and biggest radio stations in South Africa... - 5FM

A day or two after the interview I received an email from the producers telling me that there's a man trying to get hold of me. He said they want to sponsor me some training.
Training? What kind of training?

Well, not too long after I receive a phone call from the man in question.
"We heard your interview on the radio and would like to sponsor you with advanced tactical training" - he says.
"Awesome" - I think to myself. I mean, let's be honest, I will be going though some really hectic areas. And especially now with current affairs as they are, especially in Northern Africa. This is absolutely perfect.

First session, I get picked up and taken to the shooting range where they give their training.
I am being trained in 'Krav Maga'. For those who don't know what it is and would like to know more, you can read up on it HERE.

In short: Krav Maga is a hand-to-hand combat system that was created by one Imi Lichtenfeld. The Israeli military forces get trained in this fighting style. And it's lethal.

So the first day we focus on techniques. Punches, kicks, disarming your assailant etc.
I have to punch, fight, kick, defend and counter attack for my life for 4 hours!!
(Apparently if you can survive for one minute....ONE minute full on can survive) - Just in case you were wondering. ;)

It really is amazing training. And these guys don't take it easy on you either! (Which is use pussy-footing around me and then come a real-life situation and I can't handle it)

Needless to say I could hardly move the next day. It hurt to breathe! (and I'm not over-exaggerating)

But TONIGHT's training is what I really want to share. The experience I had absolutely unbelievably scary, exciting, traumatizing...all at once. (and could save my life)

TONIGHT'S TRAINING (This is what I really want to share)

I had no idea what to expect tonight. I knew we'd be doing 'night training'. But that's it.
So we get to the training site. We wait for the two guys who are supposed to join us. 'They're supposedly running late'.
As it gets dark we leave again to go buy some cool drinks. When we get back on site, it's just about pitch black dark outside. (there are NO lights anywhere)

We stop to wait for the two guys who are joining us.
First thing I notice is (what looks like) a fire cracker being thrown over the wall. (Okay I should maybe just mention that I have had weapons training and some 'scenario training' some years I'm not entirely clueless and I kinda know what to look out for)

I instantly know that this is a 'bomb cracker'. (It's supposed to stun and disorientate me)
So I point it out to the person sitting next to me and cover my ears.
The 'bomb' goes off and I giggle, thinking "HA!!! It's gonna take more than that to scare me". thing I know (and I really did not expect this) I am being RIPPED out of the car. Thrown onto the ground. Hands tied behind my back. (another 'bomb' goes off) Balaclava is pulled over my head. (now I am blind and disorientated)
They're screaming at me from every corner - in Arabic. (I can only see a flashlight through the 'blindfold') I don't scream, cry, talk, try to fight back or anything. I just keep quiet and 'go with the flow'.

I then get frogmarched across a plane of sorts. (I know I must pay attention to anything I can make out about my surroundings - sounds, smells, what I feel under my feet etc) My 'captor' is a heavy breather!
(Although this is only a training exercise, they really make it feel like you are in a real-life-situation!!!)
I am then led down some steps. (I now know that I am being taken underground)
I stumble every now and then. They keep shouting at me in Arabic. Shooting off rounds every now and then.
Eventually (and after what feels like forever) we reach the bottom and they tell me to sit down.

They shout at me some more, asking questions. "Who are you? What's your name? Where are you from? What are you doing here?"
Next thing, they throw a bucket of ice cold water over me. (so now they're 'torturing me')

They then leave me there and tell me that if I try to escape I am dead.
I sit there for a few seconds, dead quiet, trying to figure out whether I really am alone now. (I now realize that I am actually shaking a bit. Yes this is only a training exercise but it's really not that hard to imagine it to be real. Especially with these guys)
Once I'm convinced that there's no one else with me, I free myself from the cable tie they used to bind my hands behind my back with and then pull the blindfold off. (I have also been trained in how to escape these kinds of 'restraints')
(Now had this been a real-life situation, I know I would be dead if they found me untied and my eyes uncovered) So at first I was hesitant to reveal that I had escaped my 'binds'.

The first thing I do is to try and orientate myself. I look and feel around. I try moving around. I can feel tyres (as in rubber vehicle tyres) behind my back and all along the wall. I can hear water trickling outside to my left. (So I know I'm not that far down) At the top of the steps there's also a dim light shining in. So there's an opening there. I can't go that way because I'd be walking right into them. (I am now plotting a potential escape)
I can't see a thing. It's so dark. I can feel tyres all along the ground at my feet. Trying to get out to my left (away from them) isn't an option as I do not know for sure that there is actually a way out in that direction. Even if I did manage to make my way over the 'tyre-obstacle-course' before they got hold of me again. So I wait.

Then they re-appear at the top of the steps and keep a very, very bright torchlight on me.
(This is where I start getting a little nervous. Because I don't know how they will react knowing that I am untied and I can see them)
They keep the light on me for a few minutes, not saying anything. (also meant to intimidate me)

Now they're advancing down the steps. I can't look at them (and wouldn't in any case) because I would get blinded by the light. They start screaming at me again in Arabic. Then asks me a list of questions in English. "What's your name? Where are you from? What are you doing here? Where do you live?". Then a firearm gets cocked. (At this stage I consider answering) But I keep dead quiet with my head down, staring at their feet. They shove me around. Some more screaming. The 'main intimidator' (I have by now figured out who he is, I know him) then tells me that when they return they will ask me one last time. If I do not comply, I am dead.

One of them stay behind... He just stands there. Torch to the floor. I stare at his boots. I'd guess a size 10 shoe. He's wearing 'camouflage' pants. I can kinda judge his size. (would not want to take him on)
He moves closer. Then stands still again for a few seconds. Just staring down at me. (Now I have NO idea what comes next...just trying to brace myself)
He moves closer. Stands staring at me for a few seconds. Now he's right up against me.

He sits down in front of me and says: "Hi Jolandie, my name is *****".
I crack a smile for the first time.

(They all come down and we then discuss what had happened)

I really am extremely grateful for the experience. One can sit and fanticise about how you MIGHT handle such situations. But you never really know how you might react until you are knee-deep in it.

I am happy to report that both my 'captors' and I were very happy with how I handled the situation. Yes, it wasn't FOR REAL. But still. I have never been the kind of person to freak out in a 'tense' situation. And now I just have even more knowledge and know-how to handle potentially life threatening situations in a way that may save my life.

(They told me afterwards that, apparently, at one stage I looked REALLY pissed off and they weren't sure whether I was going to have a go at them) LOL!!!

Well I just wanted to share a little bit of what I am going through before I have even started on this journey of cycling around Africa.
The journey before the journey. :)

The training that followed I'll share another time.

I am extremely grateful that there are so many people out there that believe in me enough, to want to support me in so many ways to ensure my success!

Thank you to every single one of you for all your support.

And tonight, a special thank you to the operators at Tacmo. For giving me this invaluable training! Thank you so so much.

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1 comment:

Telana said...

Wow Jolandie! You are brave, and geez, you sure are going to be prepared for anything! I hope you never have to apply what you have been learning though :)
Tacmo- you guys rock for looking after my friend by giving her these kinds of skills and confidence! Thank you!