Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 166 March 2024 | Page 54

Big smiles after a life-changing board-breaking


If you were ever in a dangerous , lifethreatening situation while you were out running or cycling – or anywhere else , for that matter – would you know what to do , in that split second , to possibly save your life ? Or what not to do ? Do you know there are only three things you can do ? To find out more , we spoke to Mark Grobbelaar , runner and founder of INpowered , a revolutionary approach to personal protection .

South Africans live in one of the most violent societies on the planet , and thus self-defence is often spoken about , but when you ask Mark about self-defence , he quickly tells you that most of the stuff out there is a waste of time . He calls it the “ when they do this , you do that ,” approach , or “ wotdidydo ’ t .” He believes most of it won ’ t work unless you practise every day , and anything that you do that does not switch off or incapacitate an attacker will more likely infuriate that person and just make matters worse . And that you definitely don ’ t want !

He believes you can ’ t teach personal protection like a martial art , which is a life-long journey that requires complex motor skills and combination moves , as well
Mark Grobbelaar , the man behind Inpowered
as cooperative role players for training , but it should rather be taught as a first aid course , where you could learn a life-saving skill . “ Will a first aid course make you a doctor ? No , of course not , but neither will a “ wotdidydo ’ t ” course make you a self-defence expert . In fact , what it will do is increase your risk profile , as you may think you can do something that you can ’ t ! Remember , unless you are prepared to train every day , it ’ s likely not going to help you at all ,” says Mark .
“ By its very nature , self-defence is reactive , with multiple possible scenarios , moves , positions and targets – all difficult , complex stuff – but what if I could show you one thing that you didn ’ t need to practice , that didn ’ t require strength , that you would never forget , and that could immobilise anyone … would you want to know what that was ?” asks Mark . It goes without saying that few people in South Africa would answer no to that .
Mark is an avid runner and cyclist , but his background is in martial arts , which he began doing when he was nine years old – now almost 50 years ago – and he says he can still recall how it all began . “ My wall was full of Bruce Lee posters and I wanted to know how to fight , so I had been begging my dad for ages , and then one afternoon in 1975 , he parked in the driveway and said , ‘ Get in , we ’ re going to do karate .’ By chance , he had seen a nearby dojo on his way home from work . Little did I know that from that moment on , the way I looked at the world would never ever be the same . So , my journey started in a dusty hall in Seaview , Durban , where I spent many tough hours training under my sensei , The Man , who along with my father , did not allow me to give up , and set the foundations and beliefs for what has made me who I am today ,” says Mark .
However , the singular event that ultimately came to form the basis for his life ’ s work , would only happen some three years later – and again , he remembers it as if it was yesterday . “ I had recently received my junior black belt and was doing well on the tournament circuit . I was one of the few juniors handpicked to train at the main dojo with the seniors , and had been asked to join the ‘ demonstration team .’ It was a huge honour ,” he recounts .
One Saturday morning , Mark says he was part of a demonstration at the entrance of the Pick n Pay Hyper , just south of Durban . “ I had finished my part in front of a big crowd and was sitting watching the board-breaking , a segment of the programme usually done only by the seniors . The next minute , I heard my sensei call my name . At first I thought I was hearing things , and stayed seated , until he shouted again , ‘ Mark !’ My heart nearly fell through my feet . I can ’ t do this , I thought , I ’ ve never done this before . I did not believe I could punch through a wooden board , but my sensei knew I could . He knew because he had done it before , and he knew what was needed . Right
54 ISSUE 166 | www . modernathlete . co . za
Mark in his younger days , competing in karate