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**Originally published at the student-run website, East Paradise.

When an attacker is on the prowl, a ninja assassin won’t be there to save you. Sometimes your only weapon is your own body and Israelis have transformed the body into a lethal weapon.

Krav Maga, Hebrew for “contact combat,” teaches citizens to defend themselves against real-life assault and rape scenarios. This style of self defense equips the body and mind with tactics that inflict pain upon the attacker and allows the victim to escape with their life. Las Vegans can train at two facilities Monday through Saturday, one located at 7035 W. Sahara Ave. Suite 500 and the other at 9310 S. Eastern Suite 123.

Chief Instructor Donavin Britt has been teaching Krav Maga for over five years, having learned his skills from the Israeli military through his servitude with the U.S. Army’s

Chief Instructor Donavin Britt & Instructor Heather Mongie demonstrate eye-gouging

Psychological Operations team. Britt, along with a team of trainers, teaches students how to use the human body as a defense mechanism against physical attacks.

“At this school, we encourage the student to become proficient with empty-hand, knife, stick, and various guns,” Britt said. “We tailor the system to the student, not the student to the system. That’s a huge factor.”

Anyone of able body can train. Students of every age, shape, and size are taught to use their physical attributes to the best of their ability to fend off a foe. Britt and team utilize tactical advantage by implementing skills into the students that will be retained by muscle memory and introducing teachers who are well-versed in their respective fields.

“We bring in people who are in-country, experienced, who have led teams, who have actually cleared buildings, because the students need to have that level of expertise and be exposed to it,” said Britt.

But with weaponry aside, the school’s most important aspect is its emphasis on realism. Unlike most self-defense organizations, Krav Maga is not a competition based event. There are no belts or prizes to be won. Lessons provide an element of stress not found in traditional self-defense courses which enables the pupil to respond appropriately and efficiently to assault scenarios.

“We’re trying to build their response, not their reaction,” Britt said. “You’re born with the ability to react. You train to respond. The more realistic and the more adverse the training environment is, the easier the student will be able to deal with an attack because they’ve been there before.”

Trainers push students to their breaking points and then push even harder. Though rigorous, the techniques learned are basic in nature, including: biting, kicking, scratching, and an emphasis on the highly effective groin kick.

Students practicing "the Hammer"

Heather Mongie, a pre-school teacher and mother of two, became the first female Krav Maga instructor in Las Vegas about two years ago. She fell in love with the empowering practice and never looked back. Mongie trained directly under the tutelage of Chief Instructor Britt and was eventually asked to become an instructor herself.

“I was a complete fiend for Krav Maga,” Mongie said. “I teach level one and two classes which include punching, fight stances, and basic combos, but we also teach you to be dirty! Boxing ears, gouging eyes, cutting, biting…anything to hurt them.”

But apart from contact combat, Mongie emphasizes awareness and preventative action. She stressed the value of being alert while out and about, removing any preoccupation that might create an environment of victimization, such as headphones.

“The very last thing you want is the ground,” Mongie said. “It’s important to understand range and take preventative measures against victimization.”

Britt and Mongie, both trainers at the Sahara facility, watch timid people grow confidence and self-assurance throughout their training. And in an effort to simulate a real attack/kidnapping, the Krav Maga school is hosting a “Fight for Your Life” program on May 7th. For a fee, those who sign up will be bound, gagged, blind-folded, and driven to an unknown location by the instructors. Their objective is to fight by any means necessary in order to escape the realistic scenario, during which time, the entire struggle will be filmed for later review by the student. These techniques prepare students to deal with the unimaginable.

Outside of training facilities, military veterans retain basic knowledge of these combative techniques. Eden Ben-David, UNLV student and former Israeli Army Commander, spent the first few years of her adulthood learning the ins and outs of Krav Maga.

“Part of my job was to teach soldiers Krav Maga. It was part of training,” Ben-David said. “I went through serious courses before I could teach [others].”

Throughout her military service, Ben-David encountered two types of Krav Maga training, basic and weapon. Weapons training involved the use of an M-16 rifle as both a firearm and blunt weapon. But Krav Maga does little for its students without repetition and practice.

“I haven’t practiced in a few years, so I don’t know if I could remember the moves,” Ben-David said. “I don’t know if it’s enough to take a few courses. You just need to practice.”

Without the appropriate training, the risk for assault and rape is much higher.

“If you take one class with us, you walk out of that room equipped with some very basic skills that can keep you alive. We build a warrior’s mentality,” Britt said. “If you’re not training, you are your attacker’s accomplice.”

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In a world of total fascism, oppression, and depletion of civil rights… are villainous acts justifiable? Does a freedom fighter automatically become a villain if he does wicked deeds for the betterment of society? Can a terrorist also be considered a hero? Or is he simply a villain? We are often exposed to the proverb: “See no evil, hear no evil, & speak no evil,” but where does doing evil come into play? Do no evil? Where was THAT in the hero handbook, huh? These questions haunt the plot of V for Vendetta.

Our main character, known only as V (who is inspired by the acts/attempts of Britain’s infamous Guy Fawkes), takes it upon himself to stir up and even overthrow the fascist English government by blowing up the Houses of Parliament. Though his main goal is a positive effort; to return freedom to his nation’s people, V commits heinous acts along his journey in order to achieve his means and get his message across. The message: This government sucks. Let’s get rid of it. So… is frivolous murder, treasonous planning, and the destruction of official government buildings/symbols grounds for villainy? Absolutely. V is a terrorist. V is seeking revenge for the torture/experimentation that he faced in the past.V wants to carry out Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament. V wants death upon The Chancellor and all of his cronies. But V is not entirely bad. Beneath the grinning mask is the idea that the government should fear its people, not the reverse. Beneath the mask, there is the hope that the English nation can once again listen to music freely, practice or not practice any religion of choice, and stroll the streets without restriction of curfew or “fingermen” brutality. Beneath the mask, V seeks to save society from the clutches of a dictatorship. Beneath the mask, V is just a man that wants freedom, choice, and equality. So, how can a man with such just intentions be considered a terrorist? Well… the aforementioned crimes certainly do not help his case. He is very much a double-edged sword. Either he is a terrorist to the well-being of his nation’s government/figurehead or a freedom fighter representing an oppressed, silenced, and scared nation. Unlike most stories, V’s placement on the hero/villain chart falls somewhere in the middle. He cannot be one without the other. He has motive: revenge (which earns him villain points) and action on behalf of an oppressed people (which earns him hero points.) So what do we do with this?

"Introduce a little anarchy..." -The Joker

This graphic novel character is much like Batman/Bruce Wayne, in this respect. The people love him for getting rid of the bad guy and the cops hate him for making a mess and breaking laws. (Of course, I can’t exactly place these two characters on the same totem because Batman never kills people. It’s kind of his thing…) V takes a slightly different approach to dealing with the big bad. “Who ordered the whoop-ass fajitas?!?” So, what do I call him? A messy hero? A cunning villain? He’s both, really. But then I think… would V really go through with blowing up Parliament if he wasn’t fueled by revenge? But am I allowed to consider, the “what if’s?” Because without the revenge, it is no longer V for Vendetta. It would just be V. Perhaps a lovely movie of a man sitting quietly in his “Shadow Gallery” listening to soft tunes on his jukebox. But where’s the fun in that? Vendetta (n.): “an often prolonged series of retaliatory, vengeful, or hostile acts or exchange of such acts.” His intentions (with regards to society) were noble, but his execution was wicked. However, The Chancellor’s oppression far outweighs V’s villainous acts, in my opinion… so, we’ll go with V’s definition. He’s simply, “a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate.

 

This is my second viewing/reading of Shakespeare’s Othello in the past five years, and the majority of my opinions on the characters have not changed. In my view, there are two villains at play here. That’s right, I said villain NOT hero. Othello is the tragic villain and Iago is strictly a villain. Now what differentiates a villain from a hero? We’ve established that a hero is someone who possesses bravery, selflessness, devotion, passion and cunning. This person will stop at nothing to take action for the greater good of mankind and is admired for his/her noble qualities. Contrariwise, a villain works to undo all that is good in their world in an effort to achieve their selfish means and corrupt their environment with evil doings.

In simpler terms… villain (n). a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel. (Dictionary.com)

So if we take it a step further, what’s the difference between a tragic hero and a tragic villain? I’m glad you asked. A tragic hero sets out to live the best possible life he/she can with no intentions to corrupt the world, but encounters insurmountable obstacles along the way that eventually lead to their demise and mental instability. A tragic villain is someone who did not initially intend to be villainous, but circumstances inevitably lead them to evil misdoings.

First, there is the Moor. Othello begins as a completely pure and innocent character who is desperately in love with his wife Desdemona. Though most of the Venetians secretly disapprove of the ebony and ivory union of the Moor and Desdemona, they do little to impede upon the happiness of the newly weds. However, a figure in the shadows (someone very close to Othello, in fact) wants nothing more than to wreak havoc upon the man he loathes so much. (The man who bestowed noble rank upon a fellow officer, Cassio, instead of himself.) Most townsfolk would view Iago as a good and loyal person, on the surface. However, beneath his charming smile and quick-witted snares, Iago is nothing but a menace. He is jealous that Cassio was promoted over him by Othello. [And here we’re thinking… “Get over it, dude!” But Iago takes it to a whole new level.] For revenge, Iago enlists the help of a few characters, including: Emilia (his wife), Roderigo (Desdemona’s biggest fanboy), and many random passersby. [None of Iago’s recruits knew he was playing devil’s advocate until it was too late. What a pity…] Iago pits many characters against one another in order to reap the benefits of the turmoil. These evil actions make Iago a villain. His jealousy, devious behavior, and lies lead to nothing but tragedy… but no one knows Iago is to blame for their misfortune until the very end of the play.

Othello is slowly poisoned by the treacherous whisperings of the cunning Iago. It’s hard to say whether Iago is simply an extremely intelligent man, or a very lucky one. Or both? He always seems to smooth talk his way out of any scenario. Iago’s convincing act possesses Othello’s mind, causing the Moor to being villainous deeds. Because Iago poisoned him with the idea that his wife, Desdemona, was unfaithful to him with one of his best mates, Othello went insane. So insane with rage and jealousy that he went through fits of apparent epilepsy. But because Othello did not set out to be wicked at the start, he is a tragic villain and not just a villain. The jealous Iago wanted revenge and Othello was merely a victim in the man’s evil plight. Tragic…

November the 5th

(Because it had to be done…)

Remember, remember the 5th of November… the gunpowder, treason, and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be FORGOT.

The Infamous Guy Fawkes (click for the story)

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim & villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified & has vowed to vanquish these venal & virulent vermin van-guarding vice & vouchsafing the violently vicious & voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value & veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant & the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you & you may call me V.

[Yes, yes… it’s a bit early in our class schedule to be talking about V and Guy Fawkes, but my friends and I always celebrate Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Day by watching V for Vendetta and quoting the movie like crazy, cause we’re nerds like that. But this story really does make you wonder how different the world would be if Guy Fawkes and his team had succeeded in blowing up the Houses of Parliament. ??]

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, all!

The Tragic Hero

The tragic hero is a lot like Mrs. White from the movie Clue… “looking pale and tragic.” Just kidding, guys…

When I asked my teenage sister what a tragic hero was, here was her response: “Well we’ve got a hero and they do something heroish….erm, heroic. He feels guilty. Then he dies. TRAGIC HERO!” Erm… nice try, sister. But here’s my take on the subject.

Let’s analyze the topic bit by bit. First, what is a hero? By my working definition, a hero is someone possessing a unique past or birth, who grows and learns from extreme trials and tribulations throughout their lives (be they incredible physical feats or a superb mental breakthrough) and the lessons they learn are applied along their journey. These lessons include: acceptance of fate, mind over matter, selflessness, and overall strength. The hero rescues the damsels, slays the beasts, and often puts asides his/her own feelings in order to do what is right for the whole of society.

Next, what is a tragedy? Here’s the technical definition: tragedy (n.) a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction. (Dictionary.com)

In simpler terms, a tragedy deals with a character who is destined for despair based on poor actions or mistakes in life, inevitably leading to feelings of deep-rooted guilt and sorrow. With this being said, the question is… what is a Tragic Hero? This recipe is simple. Just stir the ingredients together, and voila! Tragic hero!

Tragic heroes are basically your run-of-the-mill heroes (unique & powerful of brawn or brain), but their stories are much more poetic and they arouse senses of empathy and fear in audiences. Tragic heroes must discover their fatal flaw/mistake throughout their journey and eventually develop a guilty-conscience for what they have done or become.

Oedipus is a fine example of the tragic hero. From birth, his parents were told a prophecy that the child would wed his mother and kill his father. In an effort to prevent this tragic passing, the royal family has the child’s feet nailed together and he left to die atop a mountain. However, the child is later saved, adopted, and given a whole new life. Despite this change in parents, Oedipus still, though unknowingly, marries/sleeps with his mother (Jocasta) and kills his father (Laius) at a crossroads. After discovering the truth about Oedipus’ life, Jocasta takes her own life and Oedipus gouges out his eyes. Tragic, indeed. Oedipus’ life turned upside town as soon as the prophecy was spoken. Even after his parents went to extreme measures to avoid the cursed future (though cruel as it may have been), the misfortune still found Oedipus and his family. The once newborn son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta was transformed into a murdering king with an oedipal complex (which is where the condition derives from, obviously.) The now blind king asks to be banished because he cannot bear to remain in a place of such great misfortune and woe. This guilt stays with Oedipus eternally, as guilt tends to do in the tragic hero.

Oedipus the King

Normal Heroic Qualities + Tragic Fortune/Mistake + Eternal Guilt/Suffering = The Tragic Hero

Medea

[Disclaimer: I had never heard of poisoned garments/clothes before reading Medea and watching Prince of Persia. I wonder if that’s where the PoP writers got the idea?]

Welcome to The Tragics. I read Oedipus four years ago, but as interesting and twisted as that tale was… I’d rather focus on the story of Medea; new material for me. And boy, is this tale TRAGIC!!

The tale of Medea is filled with betrayal, false trust, and murder most foul. Jason, the power-hungry husband of Medea, bails on Medea and kin in order to advance his social status or “station” in society by marrying King Creon’s beautiful daughter. Such betrayal stirs deep emotion in Medea, causing her to fly off the handle and go mad with rage. Jason’s wicked deed led Medea to do very wicked things. First, she lured Jason into a false sense of security and as soon as he was comfortable, she would pull the wool over his eyes.  In an effort to hurt Jason as much as he had hurt Medea, she determined to extinguish the lives of their two children. She felt that the joy of punishing Jason would outweigh the guilt and sorrow she felt for murdering her beloved two children. But before committing this hanous act… Medea’s first target is the new young wife of her ex-husband. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” could not ring more true than in this story. Medea proceeds to poison a dress and coronet and presents them to the young princess of King Creon aka Jason’s new wife. Upon seeing his daughter’s life slip away from poison, he tightly embraces her lifeless/poisoned body in an attempt to join her in the afterlife. [That’s a pretty intense reaction to divorce, eh?] Because of Jason’s wicked deeds, he can be considered our villain. Sure, he wasn’t the one doing all the elaborate murder planning and whatnot like Medea, but it was his selfishness and need for power that got him into this mess in the first place. He lost his new wife, father-in-law, and two beautiful children in a short period of time because he acted selfishly. This is not a trait of a hero.

Medea, however, is our protagonist. She has been scorned in the worst possible way (in her mind) through the betrayal of her husband. But was murdering people worth it in the end? Was infanticide the only way to punish her ex-husband, Jason? Of course not… but she had to punish Jason in the worst possible way as to match the humiliation of their separation. What better way to destroy a man’s pride than to kill the fruit of his loins?

Medea, though spiteful and vindictive towards her ex-husband, is a hero in many respects. She fights for what she believes in (which, in our case, would be fidelity and loyalty to family.) Medea also sacrifices a major part of herself (her children) in order to prove her point. [Note: I’m not condoning Medea’s actions because infanticide is not heroic, but the reasons behind her actions proved to be mostly sound.] Medea wanted a happy, healthy, and loyal family… but she was stuck with a power-hungry husband who traded her/her kids in for a royal beauty. These actions would piss any sane person right off. Another heroic quality of Medea’s is dedication. She stuck to her words 100%, which makes her more honorable, in my view. Following through with one’s plans isn’t always easy… but it can receive heroic merit. All in all, Medea got what she desired by eliminating what Jason cared for most, as he destroyed the beating of her loving heart.

So far throughout our journey into the hero world, we have discovered two distinct types of heroes: The Fighter and The Thinker. The former faces trials and tribulations in the physical realm, whereas the latter focuses his energy on overcoming mental turmoil. Is one brand of hero more effective than another? And by “brand” of hero I am not referring to the epic rivalry between Marvel and DC comics. (Though that is a fun and potentially heated debate one can spark, but I digress… because I love Ironman AND Batman.) By brand, I am referring to how a hero deals with his/her atmosphere and situation. According to Newton’s Law, “for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” Though we’re not strictly speaking of scientific studies and laws of motions, Newton was definitely right about one thing: actions inspire reactions.

It is through the reaction of a character that we begin to learn more about them and ultimately determine their role in a hero quest. Thus far, I have assembled two generalized types of reactions to a chaotic environment. The first deals with brawn and physicality. All of The Fighters would fit nicely into this category. In our readings and class activities, we’ve come across several fighters, including: Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Beowulf, Buliwyf, Herger the Joyous, and Rama. Though the men dealt with unique circumstances in their respective stories, each had to demonstrate their physical worth in some way or another, whether it be at the lethal jaws of a dragon, the sexual advances of a goddess, or the rath of a beauty-loving kidnapper.

Conceptualizing and understanding the methods of The Thinkers is a little more tricky because their decisions are nearly always internalized and reflected upon. Before diving into this sect of heroes, the class examined the principles of Taoism and the importance of achieving enlightenment or finding “The Way” during the course of the human condition. Despite the hippy-esque style of peace, love, and serenity… when it comes down to it, it really is difficult to overcome one’s own mental anguish and turmoil. The thinkers included: Giō, Sharahazad, Kumagae, and Neo. Each character had to overcome mental strain in extreme situations, which nearly drove them to the brink of insanity. However, these heroes stuck it out til the end in their respective stories. Overcoming fears, doubts, curiosity, and hate are difficult tasks for any human being. Because of this, many believe that mental battles are far more complex and heroic than physical ones. Which brings me to the question… does a hero HAVE to be one or the other, or can it the term hero refer to a few “brands” of heroes? What does it mean to be a hero? Do they wield a sword and slay beasts? Do they aspire to achieve enlightenment by following The Way? Do they overcome their fears in order to get the job done and save the day? Does the demi-god have more power than the reserved monk? In my research, both brands of heroes are equally important in the quest for heroism. I believe that a demi-god and monk can BOTH be heroes, but in their own ways. Perspective often comes into play when dealing with the hero who saves the day.