An Israeli helps put Beijing on guard

By Wendy Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-09 10:25
Large Medium Small

An Israeli helps put Beijing on guard
Alfa Angel teaches a form of hand-to-hand combat used by the Israeli
 police and military.

An Israeli helps put Beijing on guard
Adi Talmor (left) shows a student a quick move with her knee.

A former army commando has started a counter-terrorism school in the Chinese capital, teaching people how to get out of tight spots. Wendy Qian has the story.

He is a former Israeli paratrooper with a penchant for Asian culture, so it seems quite natural that Adi Talmor should merge his skill-sets and passion to start a self-defense training school in Beijing.

His organization trains all who are interested in knowing how to crisis manage in a terrorist attack and those who need to go to high-risk areas.

Talmor, 38, first got interested in Asia after watching Sean Connery in the film Rising Sun, in which the actor played an agent who solved the case through his expert knowledge of the language and culture of Japan.

To prepare for his calling, Talmor went back to school and decided to major in East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University. Soon, his interest switched from Japan to China.

"People in Israel were not very familiar with China at the time, though they knew many things about Japan, such as karate and the samurai. Also, Japanese culture originated from the Chinese and China has more space for development," he says rationalizing his move.

To this day, he has yet to set foot in Japan but has already been in China for close to a decade.

His anti-terrorism experience started with service in the Israeli army special unit and after he was discharged, Talmor worked in a civilian organization's fast response unit which specialized in the security of airports and embassies.

He believes safety concepts are important and although he has never personally shot any one as yet, Talmor has experienced some close calls which he says taught him: "Judgement is very important at critical moments."

Talmor decided to start his safety defense company because he reckoned that with terrorist attacks happening frequently in hotspots such as Afghanistan and Iraq, people need the knowledge.

Although China has been relatively unaffected for the moment, it does not mean terrorist attacks will not happen here. It is always best, he says, to adopt the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

He also believes that, to an extent, over-rapid economic development has also threatened personal urban safety and individuals are now more in danger, compared with in the past.

His company, Alfa Angel, has been operating for the last three years and its clients include large state corporations that send their workers to the Middle East.

Talmor also decided to provide courses designed for individuals recently. His approach towards both private and corporate clients is to tailor courses to their specific needs and preach pragmatic safety concepts.

"Our courses are not cheap," he says, but stresses the value of safety defense management.

His crash courses are for people with no former experience in self-defense.

"We're aiming to teach you the simplest, fastest ways to escape dangerous situations and use the most pragmatic knowledge in the most effective manner," he says.

"Unlike many local free combat courses that teach self-defense skills that need to be practiced every day, people can use what they learn from us immediately."

He compares his courses to installing "software" in the students' heads so they can react to the situation automatically.

"We don't want you to become a superman pulling off stunts at any given moment," says Talmor. "People usually don't get the chance to physically confront their attacker, that's why we teach them how to interrupt the attacking process.

"A woman can never 'beat' a determined male who is assaulting her, so we don't teach her how to 'fight back' but rather, how to escape."

One of Alfa Angel's trainers is an expert in a type of Israeli hand-to-hand combat known as Krav Maga, used to train the police and military in Isarel. It appears aggressive but in reality, has a relatively low rate of hurting or killing an opponent accidentally.

Talmor believes specific directions in dangerous situations are important.

"My experience in the special unit only provided me the ideal physical conditions and a strong will, but it has little to do with my expertise in managing safety defense, which I acquired outside the special unit," he says.

Alfa-Angel has eight Israeli trainers, some Chinese staff and an African-Muslim culture counselor. That is because Talmor believes a lot of conflict originates from lack of understanding and it is not only important to understand self-defense techniques but also know more about culture alien to ours.

"(Knowledge of Muslim culture) is not only useful for workers in Muslim countries, but also for students studying in cities in Germany and Britain, which have a large Muslim population," says Talmor.