My first Level 3 Krav Maga Class (and the Evils of Imposter Syndrome)

My first level 3 class is like the first day of school: I’m nervous, excited, but also feeling dread.

A few of my higher level friends peer pressured encouraged me to go to the Wednesday level 3 class a mere four days after my level 2 test, so here I am.

When I graduated from level 1 in 2014, I was terrified of the level 2 classes. It took me weeks to get up the courage to go. I gave myself all the best excuses. I was resting after my test, I wasn’t feeling well, I should take a level 1 class to get back in the swing of things…

Have you heard of imposter syndrome? It’s the belief that your successes are unwarranted and you don’t think you belong. It’s the little voice in your head that says you’re not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to be here. You’re a fraud. Somehow, you managed to fake out the people who let you in and any minute they’ll figure it out.

Evil, right?

When I went to my first level 3 class (and my first level 2 class!), I could feel imposter syndrome eating away at my stomach lining.

  • What if I’ve forgotten everything?
  • What if my level 2 skills aren’t good enough to serve me in level 3?
  • What if I hurt my partner?
  • What if my partner thinks I’m shitty at this and is super annoyed they have to partner with a new person?

I hate imposter syndrome.

I walk in just as class starts. Everyone greets me warmly and I immediately feel welcome.

Imposter syndrome does not go away.

I pair up with Jeff, a tall, well-muscled guy with a shaved head. He’s funny, but intimidating. I’ve sparred with him before so he knows me a little and he’s actually one of the people who encouraged me to come to class. I’m scared shitless.

He smiles at me as I put in my mouth guard.

“We’re doing all defenses from level 1 and level 2,” he says. It’s common in higher level classes to do lower level defenses as the warm up.

I nod. Okay, you can do this.

His hands wrap around my throat and I pluck and kick. My combatives feel foreign and sloppy. I’m nervous and it’s affecting my performance. I don’t want to suck at this.

Camille comes into class just as I finish my first defense and she joins our group. I feel immense relief.

We tell Camille what we’re doing, she nods, and I move in to choke her.

Imposter Syndrome is the little voice in your head that says you’re not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to be here. You’re a fraud. Somehow, you managed to fake out the people who let you in and any minute they’ll figure it out.

It’s funny looking back on this class. At the time, I don’t process these feelings—intimidated by Jeff and his proficiency in Krav Maga, imposter syndrome, my nervousness. It’s uncharacteristic of me to back down from a challenge. In fact, I usually relish in working with guys bigger and stronger than me. It’s the best training. I love learning new techniques and this is the one place where I really have no qualms about saying I don’t know something.

Not today. Today, I feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the whole experience.

Francisco, our instructor, leads us through take downs. As the person being taken down, you have to catch yourself with a fall break. I watch Francisco demonstrate the technique feeling nervous about my first real need to effectively use fall breaks. If I do these poorly, the whole experience will suck for me.

Jeff moves into my legs slowly, dumps me gently on the floor, and I catch myself with a fall break.

Nothing bad happens. I do what I’m supposed to do and it’s all okay.

I let out a tiny breath of relief. It’s my turn to face Camille and take her down using the new techniques. I struggle like anyone who’s never done something struggles. We take turns, attacking and falling.

It’s all okay. It feels almost exactly like a level 2 class. No one questions my right to be here. We move on to the next technique.


sprawlI’ve done Krav Maga—cumulatively—for four years and I’ve done a lot of sprawls by myself. As a warm up, a sprawl is a technique where you put your hands on the ground in front of you and push your hips and legs back and down while keeping your face up so you can see your attacker.

This is the first class I learn to sprawl as a defense and it’s exciting to put it to use.

Camille shoots in and tries to wrap her hands around the backs of my knees to take me down to the ground. I throw my hips and feet back into a sprawl and press my hands and torso down into her back. It looks like this Human Weapon episode from The History Channel:

Francisco instructs us to do a series of sprawls, ground work, and take downs that’s hard to explain. It takes me a bit to understand everything he wants us to do and even now I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

Overall the class goes well. I was nervous, but everyone was super nice and told me I did well. And I sort of believe them.

This is something I have to get over.

Krav Maga is a learning experience filled with ambiguous situations and uncomfortable drills, but they make me stronger and smarter.

All these people are my friends. They want to see me learn and excel. I can’t wait to get to another level 3 class!

2 Replies to “My first Level 3 Krav Maga Class (and the Evils of Imposter Syndrome)”

  1. Kaci! I love your writing.

    There is no doubt that your honesty and good spirit will inspire many to follow in your footsteps into a martial arts class. Heck–I’m inspired and I already practice!

    You’re no impostor! Keep kicking! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ando! I sure hope so. Krav Maga has given me so much more than just physical strength and the ability to protect myself. There’s a lot of emotional and mental strengthening too. It’s all hard work, but it makes me feel great! 🙂

      Thank you for reading and sharing!


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