Paul Cale is known, for good reason, as Australia's toughest man.
He was a sergeant and special forces commando in the Australian Army. His time with the esteemed 2nd Commando Regiment included five deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He also has eight black belts in martial arts.
Paul, 48, will be in Cardiff on Saturday to conduct a kudo seminar, which Newcastle Karate is hosting. Kudo is a combination of karate and judo.
The seminar will discuss combat fighting – one of Paul’s specialties. Paul has first-hand experience of hand-to-hand combat. He strangled a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan.
“I was involved in a fight against a Taliban,” he said.
A fellow soldier named Cameron Baird came under attack one night.
“The Taliban jumped him when he crawled into a very small opening. He was unable to use his weapon. I went to shoot the guy who attacked him, but I couldn’t do it because they were wrestling with each other,” Paul said.
“I couldn’t guarantee not shooting Cameron. So I jumped in and grabbed the Taliban’s arm and tried to pull it off his weapon. I ended up busting his arm and grabbed his neck and strangled him. He survived and recovered. We took him prisoner and were able to gain information from him.”
Corporal Baird was killed in action in Afghanistan during a battle with insurgents in the Khod Valley in 2013. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
“Previously I haven’t mentioned his name because he was still an active member of the unit,” Paul said.
Paul joined the army in 1987, “during the long peace we had between Vietnam and East Timor, which was 20 years”.
“The Cold War was still going when I joined the army,” he said.
In his early days in the army, he wondered whether he would fight in a war.
“Whatever endeavour you have in life, you want to be tested by it,” he said.
He turned to martial arts to challenge himself. Then the world changed.
“With the fall of the Soviet Union, the world became a little bit unstable,” he said.
After 9-11, he was ready to face the biggest test of his life. Paul’s regiment saw a lot of action in the war on terror. Fellow soldiers were killed and wounded.
“I don’t regret going to war, but there is such an emotional dynamic to it,” he said.
“It’s almost like the best time of your life, mixed with the worst time of your life.
“There are such catastrophic consequences if you fail. You know you’ll never perform at such a high level again. On the other hand, you’ll be exposed to some of the most disturbing things and you’ll see humanity at its worst.”
Asked how he deals with the psychological after-effects of war, he said: “I’ve got a lot of issues and problems, but I keep them contained”.
“I disengage from stuff that makes me angry, which is a lot of things,” he said.
He keeps away from “people being fools, rude and carrying on” in ordinary society.
“I don’t go out at night.”
Striving for Excellence
Paul immerses himself in “anything that has a sense of excellence and humans doing the best they can”.
He keeps himself busy and doesn’t believe in work-life balance.
“Instead of striving for utopia, I try to understand what it is I want for myself and then what’s best for people around me. I try and follow that and not get too wound up about everything else.”
His experience in the military and martial arts led to new opportunities.
His company, Kinetic Fighting, offers self-defence and skills programs for military, law enforcement and civilians. He created new close-combat fighting courses for the Australian Army and shared these techniques with US special forces, including the Green Berets and Navy SEALs.
He’s worked as a consultant to the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] Combat Centre in Canberra, helping athletes in judo, taekwondo, boxing and wrestling. He’s also worked with AIS athletes in cycling, swimming and basketball.
“I engage as much as I can with people doing amazing things.”