In 1992, while training in Cape Town, South Africa, I was introduced to a man that worked for the military in Moscow. Through a translator he asked if I would be interested coming to teach in Russia. His name was Alexander Filimonov, he said he was impressed with my teaching, and they needed new blood to teach their Forces, so I agreed. I said for a joke, because I like fishing, wherever I teach must be near a lake, he said ”No problem” so the date was fixed.
I arrived in Sheremetyevo airport as I the aircraft doors opened, there he was waiting with two security men. I was quickly rushed to the front of the customs and immigrations queue. There must have been 300 people waiting, it took me about 3 minutes and there I was in a car on my way to Moscowich. After an hour we turned down a small track and drove about 10 minutes on a very bumpy road, finally arriving at a big gate that was manned by a guard. After a couple of minutes, we were allowed to enter; it was a former K.G.B rest home. It was dark so I could not see much but in the morning, all would reveal. Actually, it was not that bad because I stayed in the Officers quarters, I had a swimming pool, a sauna, and my own private dinning room. All the doors were padded so you could shout as loud as you wanted and no one would hear you. In addition, to my delight my own waitress, I never ate so much food in all my life.
The next morning I woke to the sound of silence, I looked out of the window and some people were on their morning run. I took a deep breath and on exhalation you could see my breath in the air, and low and behold, right in front of me was a big lake. I could not believe my eyes, it was as still as a millpond, as I looked across the lake there were fish rising as if to say “come on then“ I was so excited. Just then there was a bang on the door it was Alexander, “good morning Sensei, breakfast” after a sort walk we reached the dining room. People were sitting having their breakfast, I walked in and then someone said "no sensei, this way please", and I was led into my private dining room. Then it was time for training, as I entered the Dojo people were all lined up ready, not a smile could be seen. There were some very hard looking men, and some very pretty looking ladies. I was introduced by the interpreter as the “Chef“ Instructor of England and away we went. Everything had to be translated so I had to choose my words carefully.
There were different people from the interior that Alexander had trained before Perestroika, some of them were professionals which included, Anti terrorist group, Demolition group, Alpha, M.V.D, F.S.S, The training continued for 3 hours physical, and 5 hours on the firing range and this was every day especially for those that work with diplomats, and the President. In the evening, there was a BBQ the sponsors would talk to you about how the training was, and how Britain and business was going. I thought to myself no good asking me, unless you want to know about fishing. However, I made out as if I was Richard Branson, if they were impressed or not I do not know.
The next morning walking to breakfast, I notice three or four mature women selling some products. There were small amounts of fresh vegetables, natural honey, I could see there were still see bee larvae inside, now you cannot get fresher than that, in addition natural yogurt, and herbs. I looked at the women that were selling their bits, and thought there is not much that life can teach you about values. I wish I could look into there minds, I am sure I could have learnt a lot, Anyway I said I want some of these, some of those, and some of that, just to give her some business. I held out a $100 bill, she looked at me as if I was mad, and then it dawned on me that she had never seen a $100 bill before, my hosts were laughing at me I felt such a P*** I insulted this woman but did not mean to, so every day when they were there I bought something from her.
On our way to training we passed a man that had a bag of fish. I turned to the interpreter and asked where he caught them, he said in the lake, I asked what bait did he use, to which the reply was… a net! Trying to be too professional that's why I didn't catch any big fish only tiddlers.
The next morning was 7am private training for Alexander, after an hour or so of Kata, because it was such a lovely morning it was suggested that we would go for a swim, The last one in and all that, some chance I was the first in. When I hit the water I now know how it must feel to have the skin torn from my body, as I surfaced I tried to talk but couldn't get my breath. They must have been thinking what a stupid idiot, or he is very strong. I hope it was the latter, I got out of the water as fast as I could, and I was a whitish purple colour and my teeth were doing about 900 mph.
After I put on some warm clothing I was introduced to a charming woman, she was a domestic helper on site. Alexander said that she would take me and pick some mushrooms from the forest, what came to my mind was, what if she picks the wrong ones. So off we went to the forest, after walking for a while she said have you seen any, I told her no, she said you've past about 20 so far. I said how do you know where they are, she told me that her grandmother taught her when she was a little girl. I asked how did you learn between the difference between the edible and inedible, she said by sight and taste, she said don't you try it or you will die. In my bucket, I counted about four mushrooms, her bucket was overflowing. We returned to the camp and she cooked all the mushrooms, later that evening I could not bear to look at another mushroom.
Since I was a child I always liked the countryside, I suppose having been brought up in City of London all my life, As a child coming from a poor family, we could not afford to go on holiday instead, we went hop picking in Kent. It was owned by the brewery this was the best holiday as a child. We would sleep in the sheds that were full of straw and lived in the hop huts. We would wash in the river but not too often, in the evening a fire was lit and we all sat round cooking potatoes.
Getting back to Moscowich, that evening we sat in the club room and Alexander asked if I would to play billiards. Not even Snooker Champion Steve Davis could have pocketed these balls, they were nearly as big as Ostrich eggs and the pockets were tighter then a ducks a*se, to get one down I had to do it with my hand.
It was strange to look around and think that the Communist Regime lived here at one time, but now long gone.
One of Alexander's friend's was a pianist, she had played the piano since she was 6 years old. I requested her to play, she played Beethoven's Fur Elise, and more, it was such an experience, almost spiritual.
Before you knew, it was time to leave and head for the airport, as I left this establishment, I looked back and thought of how many stories that place would have to tell. There's more to tell I will keep you posted as I look back on a wonderful experience.