My Krav Maga level 1 test (part two)

This is part two of a two part series. Don’t forget to read part one of my Krav Maga level one test


The Official Test

When our 15-minute rest period is up, we get underway. No dawdling.

Kat leans over me with a kick shield pressed to her chest and I prepare to kick her from my position on the floor. My foot is raised, my hands are positioned protectively near my face, my head is lifted as if I’m in a never-ending crunch. She moves in closer and I arch my hips off the ground and deliver an explosive kick to her solar plexus. The impact launches her a few feet away. I lumber into a standing position by placing my right hand on the ground and swinging my right foot underneath me in an arc. Every time I kick, I can’t imagine getting up off the ground, but I manage to anyway. What if I were to just lie here and nap a little instead? Just don’t quit, they said. That’s the challenge, they said.

Mt walks behind us, clipboard in hand, evaluating my technique. He says nothing, makes a mark on the page, and moves on to the next team. I lie back down and prepare to kick Kat again.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the test. Compared to the review, it goes by in a blink. I imagine this is what it’s like when someone experiences something traumatic. The human brain protects you by making you forget painful situations.

I feel confident in every technique we do. Once we get started, there’s never a moment I consider the possibility of failure. I’ve trained so long that I’m comfortable with all the attacks and defenses. I think that’s the secret: I know everything on this test backwards and forwards. I could do it with my eyes closed. In most cases, I mean that literally.

The Final Drill

“Okay, guys! Last drill and then you’re done,” Mt calls out to us. When he explains our final drill, I laugh involuntarily.

I’m surrounded by five other test takers. Some of them have pads, others don’t. Mt hands me a plastic stick approximately 2.5 feet long and I place one end on the ground. I lean over to place my forehead on the stick and then shuffle around in a circle with my forehead still glued to the stick. Around and around I go. The whole point is to make me dizzy. Mt grabs me and pulls me around faster.

When he finally calls for the defense to start, I stop moving and lift my upper body so that I’m completely vertical, dropping the stick to the ground. The room is spinning and I feel nauseated. The first person steps into my line of vision with a punch shield at her chest. Raising my hands up to protect my face I step forward to meet her. The room lurches to the right. I step involuntarily to the left to compensate and reach my hand out to steady myself on the pad. I can’t believe this is happening. I laugh a nervous, drunk laugh.

I throw my hands out to punch the bag. Everything is spinning and my stomach drops.

Please don’t throw up. I concentrate on breathing.

Someone wraps their hands around my neck from behind me and I reach up and around to break their contact. When I turn towards them to attack, the room lurches again to the right, but I manage to throw a few palm heel strikes. Someone from the side hits me with a kick shield. I turn towards the attack and latch onto a shoulder, driving my knee into the pad once, twice… (oh god, can I go on?) three times. I feel strong hands wrap around my neck on the side and I pluck, simultaneously sending out an open-handed strike to their groin. I turn in to deliver more attacks. Another pad strikes me in the back and I turn to address this new attacker.

This happens over and over again. They can attack with anything they know and I defend. I’m so tired, but the longer this goes on the less dizzy I feel. It’s the one consolation. I don’t think about attacking. I take on each attacker as they present themselves.

Finale

When it’s over and everyone has gone through the drill, I don’t have the energy to be excited. It’s just over.

I head over to my bag, drink some water, and look at Chris. He looks as wiped as I feel.

After a little time, Mt comes back into the training room and announces: “Congratulations! You all passed!” He hands each of us a yellow belt and we gather to take a group photo. This happens in a daze.

Someone brings out a case of Shiner beer. A few trainees grab one and collapse to the ground. I can’t imagine drinking beer right now. I can barely drink water. I keep walking around the room, my mind is still buzzing. If I stop moving, I will never move again.

It occurs to me that maybe I should stretch a little. I listen to a few people chat and laugh and recall the hardest parts of the test. I still can’t believe it’s over. I think I’m in shock. I keep stretching and do a little yoga.

One by one, everyone leaves. Chris and I are are one of the last ones left. I think we’re both too tired to comprehend that we should go home. Or eat a real dinner. Or do anything except stay in this gym that smells like dank sweat.

I’ve passed my level one test. I passed! No one got hurt, I didn’t throw up, and I will likely live to see tomorrow. The whole thing took six hours, by far the shortest Krav Maga test of anyone I’ve spoken to.

“Imagine doing this for another four hours,” I say to Chris. He closes his eyes, shakes his head, and grimaces. That’s exactly how I feel. I can’t imagine doing this for another hour. I’m not even sure I would have lasted another 30 minutes.

What I can say is that taking a single, one hour class will feel like nothing now. A walk in the park. If I can do this, I can do just about anything.


If you missed it, don’t forget to read part one of my Krav Maga level one test.

My Krav Maga level 1 test (part one)

The day of the Krav Maga level 1 test, I wake up feeling excited and nervous. The test doesn’t start until 1pm, so I have time to eat a solid breakfast of rolled oats soaked overnight, topped with mango and toasted walnuts. I also make a high protein smoothie with almond butter, berries, almond milk, flax seeds, and chia seeds. It’s hard to eat, because I’m so nervous. I’m going to be glad I had these calories later.

Chris and I take turns anxiously checking (and then re-checking) the gear in our bag—an extra shirt, water (4 bottles!), mouth guard, hand towels. I put on my favorite work out clothes: a black skull t-shirt and my grey stretchy work out shorts.

We arrive at the gym 25 minutes early so we don’t have to rush. I lay out all our gear and drink a little more water. I clip my finger nails. I pace nervously in the room, the butterflies in my stomach driving me to keep moving.

What am I afraid of?

By this point in my Krav Maga experience, I’ve spoken with other level one graduates. Testing times range wildly. Some report 12-hour level one tests. Others describe eight or ten hour tests. There’s just no way to know.

I hear the same advice emphatically repeated: Whatever you do, don’t give up.

It’s practically half the test. Just keep going.

My biggest fears are what you might expect. What if I don’t or can’t finish?

What if I hurt someone else? After the painful experience of knocking out Chris’s tooth in a private lesson, I’m nervous I’ll get caught up in the moment and hurt someone. I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

What if I get tired and sloppy and my hands become mangled meat half way through the first hour? I’d be so screwed.

What if I lose steam half way through the day because I haven’t eaten? What if I eat and my stomach becomes upset? I’m especially cranky and lethargic when I don’t eat. Eating before a single Krav Maga class is difficult for me. It never occurred to me before this week to practice eating food before and during a regular class to become accustomed. I’m regretting this oversight. It’s an unknown, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Here’s what I do know: the test will take a long time. It will be painful. I will be tired, but I will not give up. I will not injure my partner and I will not be injured. I will pass this test.

I set these intentions for the day and I silently repeat them like a mantra as I pace.

Finding my training partner

Most of the class arrives at the gym 15 minutes before the start time. I don’t have a partner lined up and I’m feeling anxious about it. Chris has planned to test with a friend. I recognize some of the folks in the room, but I’m surprised by how many people I don’t know. I ask a group of three ladies (two I recognize) if they have partners and the one I don’t recognize says she’ll be my partner. I have a testing partner!

Kat is in her mid-to-late 30s. She’s easily 4 inches shorter than me and a little heavier, but she seems feisty. We talk for a few minutes to get to know each other. She’s been training for about a year. We have exact opposite training schedules, which explains why I’ve never seen her before. We’re both ready to kick some butt.

The warm up and review

Mt, my favorite instructor, leads the review and grades our test. We’ll spend the first part of the day reviewing the techniques from level one. The time this takes depends on us and our proficiency. This will take the most time, because there’s a lot to cover. The review is the time to ask questions or get clarity. Once the test starts, we can’t ask for help. We’re on our own. The test itself will take approximately two hours, he tells us.

We start by jogging around the room, playing the shoulder tap game, and shadow boxing to warm up. Mt leads us through a thorough stretch. As soon as we start moving, I feel calm.

Then, it’s like any normal class. Any normal class that just. won’t. end. Mt explains each technique and then we practice it with our partners. We do everything. Straight punches, palm heel strikes, hammer fists, knees, front groin kicks, roundhouse kicks, chokes from the front, side, back, chokes with a push… the list goes on.

Since everyone is already experienced in most of these techniques, Mt is able to put combinations together to move the review along. We practice an advancing strike, a set of punch combinations, and a receding strike all in one drill.

I move my feet in quickly as I strike the pad, deliver a fast jab-cross and turn the third jab into a receding strike. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

After the first hour or so, I force myself to eat a bite of a granola bar and drink a slug of coconut water. Every half hour or so, I eat a bite of something from my bag. It doesn’t even matter what it is, but I only have time to eat a bite before it’s time to get back to work.

In regular classes, I usually go all in, but today I try to pace myself. My arms become heavy. My breathing is labored. But there are no breaks. When Mt calls time, Kat passes the pad over and I hold it tight to my chest as she throws her attacks. In the beginning, the pad is a friend protecting me from pain. Within a few hours it’s a heavy boulder to be dropped to the floor at the end of each round, quickly discarded as I race for my water bottle.

While Mt explains the next phase of our review, I let my arms dangle at my sides. I’m willing them to become lighter and to gain more energy.

Kat and I focus on our technique and not on producing the most reps. When Mt moves in our direction to evaluate our aptitude, we add power and speed, but try our hardest to conserve our energy otherwise. It feels a little like cheating, but in the end it doesn’t matter. I’m wrung out, exhausted, and sore.

The review goes on forever and after the first hour I stop looking at the clock. It doesn’t even matter. Time is no longer important, because there’s no expected end time. The only thing that matters is getting through the current drill or combination.

A moment of exhausted zen

At some point, my active, think-y brain powers down. I’m aware of my movement. I can tell I’m doing the techniques correctly, but my active brain has nothing to do with that. There is no internal dialogue. I’m just moving, striking, blocking, attacking. I’m moving from muscle memory. I’ve reached my moment of exhausted zen.

Time goes by and we come to the end of the review.

Mt gives us our first and only 15-minute break. We eat, drink water, change our sweat soaked shirts. I’m afraid to sit down; I might never get back up. The room is humming with excitement and final preparation. If everything goes well, we only have 2 hours left of this madness.

I take another swig of water as I consider this and I feel a small burst of energy.

Read Part 2 of My Krav Maga Level One Test

Our level one test is Saturday!

I wanted to give everyone a quick update. Our level one test is on Saturday!

Chris is getting a permanent crown on Thursday, so he’ll be able to test in comfort. Perfect timing! The dentist says his crown is made of some fancy material and he’ll “likely be buried with it.” Comforting.

Chris continues to be generous in his forgiveness.

We’re looking forward to finally taking the test… We’ve been preparing ourselves by being diligent in hydrating and resting up. I’m nervous just thinking about our test this weekend, but excited too. Stay tuned!

Our Awesome Private Krav Maga Session (Part 2) – The Terrible

This is second part of my post on our private Krav Maga training session with F. If you haven’t already, read the great parts of the private lesson too.

As we neared the end of our private session, F asked us to do one final drill. As the attacker, I could attack Chris with anything from level one. He would stand with his eyes closed and I would attack with a choke or a head lock. Whatever I wanted. He had to defend it.

Just as in a regular class, F turns off most of the gym lights for extra effect and turns up the music.

Chris defends well. The first time I attack, he pauses and laughs nervously and then continues the defense. After that, he’s a machine and can take anything I throw his way. Stationary chokes. Headlocks. Chokes with a push. He’s got it all down.

Then it’s my turn. I’m pretty nervous. I’ve never been challenged like this. I’ve never had to defend any attack that might come my way. I’m excited and curious about how I’ll do.

I close my eyes and try to relax. His hands wrap around my throat with an attack from the side. I pluck, strike, and turn my body towards him to go on the offensive. It’s a relief. Great! That wasn’t so bad. I can do this. My adrenaline is still surging. I’m pumped.

I close my eyes again and start thinking about what these attacks mean. Under what circumstances would someone want to harm me like this?

Chris attacks me with a choke from the front. I pluck both his hands off my neck and drive my right elbow out as I normally would. Unfortunately, the abnormal thing about this offense is that my elbow collides with his mouth. A tiny, white tooth goes flying through the air and Chris reaches his hands out to stop my continued assault. There’s no reason to try to stop me. As soon as my elbow makes contact, I’m retreating back to make sure he’s okay.

My right elbow is bleeding from a neat puncture wound the size of a single front tooth. Drops of blood hit the grey floor as I reach down and pick up his half broken incisor.

F jogs over and see if Chris is okay. Chris says he’s fine and it doesn’t hurt. I don’t believe him. I feel awful. I can’t believe this is happening. I never wanted to hurt Chris. I never wanted this to happen to him.

F turns down the music so he can talk to us. He quietly reminds us (me) on the importance of practicing safely, holding ourselves back a little, and not making full contact with our partners unless we’re moving slowly or there’s a pad to strike. And also, we should get mouth guards.

The monster in my gut continues to chew on my stomach lining.

I still feel awful.

Chris seems fine. He’s not mad. He still wants to keep training. He’s mostly just worried about getting a new tooth in time for the test in two weeks. Again, I’ve added another thing for him to worry about with this test.

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It’s given me a lot to think about and here’s what I’ve been considering for the past week.

I’m learning something that works.

I’m fully aware this is precisely what I’m training to do and I may seem unbelievably naive to some.

  • Of course, this is what your body is capable of.
  • What did you expect to happen?
  • What are you doing in Krav Maga if you don’t realize the power you’re gaining?

It was still a shock to see the damage my little arm can do without my intention of causing harm. This shit works. I can’t deny I feel a little pride in doing the technique correctly. I’m capable of great things no matter how terrible they can be.

This knowledge comes with great responsibility.

In my mind, I’ve always been training in these techniques to use against “bad guys”. That doesn’t mean I can’t accidentally cause damage to the people I care about too. It also makes me think hard about when this kind of force should be used. I doubt I would hesitate to use these skills if I felt I was being threatened in a life/death situation, but there are lots of grey scenarios in the world. It has given me pause.

Training safely is more important than ever.

I know aggression is not my problem. I plan to take extra care with my partners going forward and focus on technique, speed, and power. It’s a delicate balance to maintain.

This includes training with the right protective gear. I’m officially a proponent of the mouth guard. I’ve been telling every partner since this incident to get a mouth guard. I haven’t started opening up yet about why I think it’s so important or what I did specifically. I’m embarrassed and I don’t want to gain the reputation as the girl who injures people. I’ll get over it eventually and open up more about this experience.

It was a dumb mistake that should never have happened, but I’ve learned a lot. I don’t want to scare off other potential trainees. This is not how it should be, but it’s a great lesson in being a mindful partner. There’s another human being on the other side of your fist (or elbow).

Now you can see why I broke these two experiences in two parts. They were both awesome—one exceptionally great and one exceptionally terrible. I can’t tell you how much I learned in our one short hour. You’ve just read my single most productive lesson in Krav Maga to date.

Be delicate, dear Internet friends. No one can possibly make me feel worse than I already do.

Practice safely. Practice with care.

Our Awesome Private Krav Maga Session (Part 1) – The Great

We’re preparing for our first level one test in two short weeks! Chris and I decided we should take a private lesson with one of the instructors. I could use a little more practice on roundhouse kicks. I’ve never worked out how to do these effectively. Chris really wants to work on knees. We’ve both had partners knock the wind out of us and he wants to refine to get the same effect.

We set up a private lesson on Sunday with F. We’ve had him as an instructor before and we’ve heard he’s really great at making improvements in one-on-one sessions.

Chris and I had some serious highs and lows in this one hour though. I’m breaking this out into two separate posts to give emphasis to each experience individually.


It was awesome! Like many things in life, we went in with an agenda, but F was able to see other, more basic skills we should improve to help us long term. We did a little sparring to warm up and then he had us take turns striking the pad with combinations. We both have issues with our straight punches and still occasionally get badges on our hands. F saw this immediately and was able to help us fine-tune this basic skill.

He showed us how to take the time to line up our straight punches and make sure our knuckles, wrist, forearm, and shoulder are always in alignment. We worked slowly and diligently on punching straight out and retreating our arm straight back.

He was able to identify I rotate my wrist slightly just before impact. It gets everything out of alignment and causes me to swipe across the pad a tiny amount. Sometimes my wrist even collapses and all the power of the punch is lost. This one little thing has been causing my knuckles to get torn up.

We spent a fair bit of time on straight punches. He would watch as we threw a few punches and then stop us to refine a little more.

Sometimes in a session, something will occur to me that seems so obvious once I know it. F taught me I don’t have to go fast when I’m training. I can slow everything down to work on technique and alignment. Seems so obvious, right?

This private lesson was packed with information difficult to get in a classroom with 20 other students. We tweaked other skills too, but refining my straight punch is, by far, one of the biggest ah ha! moments I’ve had.

I’ll post the rest of the experience in a few days after I’ve had a little more time to think about how to describe the rest of the session.


Ready for part two? Read Our Awesome Private Krav Maga Session (Part 2) – The Terrible

Back to Krav Maga

Word to the wise: Don’t go a full week between Krav Maga classes. The first class back after a hiatus is always harder than you expect, even if it’s only a weeklong absence. It doesn’t matter. I felt weak, out of shape, and discombobulated. My head wasn’t really in it.

How do I know?

I accidentally kneed Chris in the groin. Yeah…

When you spend 20 bucks on a protective cup, you should wear it.

I say that like it’s his fault, but really it was my own. I should have been more focused. He was able to recover quickly, but it just reminded me how important it is to concentrate on what’s going on. That’s how people get seriously hurt.

In other news, I did miss the Level 1 test on Saturday. I was pretty disappointed, but it was completely worth seeing my cousin achieve a dream of hers. I don’t mind putting my own aspirations on hold to see her accomplish hers.

Our Krav Maga instructors are freakin’ awesome

I partnered up with another guy tonight. He didn’t have much of a choice. I nod over to him “You got a partner.” “No.” Wanna partner up?” For a split second, he had a look of “ugh… a girl.” And I’ll have to admit, I don’t blame him. I’m sure I don’t look like I’d do a whole lot…

About halfway through class, he says to me “How long have you been coming to Krav?” “Since July,” I tell him. “I can tell you aren’t new, because of your open hand strikes.”

I’ll have to admit, I beamed a little with pride.

We practiced front chokes with a pluck/openhand strike combination again. As we were practicing the front choke defenses, my partner would throw knees to my face by pulling my neck down, gaining absolute control. I was instantly interested in what we were doing differently. When he would follow up a defense with an attack, he’d wrap his hand around my neck after he got me doubled over, simultaneously driving his knee up and pushing his hand (and my neck) down. As soon as I tried it, I could feel the difference. It was glorious.

After class, Chris and I were standing around talking about what we’d just learned when we noticed the instructors teaching another student how to get out of a head lock. We wandered over and watched as Mt got out of a headlock from M, a guy who’s taller, bigger, and stronger than pretty much anyone I know.

From my understanding, when someone comes in to choke you, you drop your chin into their side (biting if necessary) and simultaneously step around in front of them creating a solid, wide base. This also keeps your attacker from beating the crap out of your face. Their weak knuckles against your hard head equals a headache for you and broken fingers for them. As you step, you simultaneously slap their groin with your front hand, bringing your back hand up to grab their face. Snap your elbow into their spine and drop your elbow down to your waist. There’s nothing they can do, except go straight down.

Again, I can’t stress how important it is to have really great teachers. Mt and M are awesome for staying those extra few minutes to show us these techniques.

Have I mentioned how much I hate squats?

Classes designed for both level 1 and level 2 students are harder than classes designed for just level 1 students. At least, that’s what it felt like.

I don’t usually go to the Thursday 1/2 level classes, but since I’ve missed several classes the last two weeks, I thought I’d go in for some make-up time. I was also curious to see if it would be harder than what I’m used to.

I won’t say it was harder, but it was definitely a little more intense. D had us really work.

It was a roller coaster ride of kicks. Straight kicks, GO! Roundhouse kicks, GO! Knees! Advancing straight kicks! Squatting straight kicks! Yes, you heard that correctly. You squat down low and when you come up, you throw a straight kick. Ugh. My favorite. Squats.

Right kick. Squat.
Left kick. Squat.
Right kick. Squat.
Left kick. Squat.

I got rocked.

At the end of class, D presented us with the idea of advantage. When you’re fighting someone and trying to get them off you, it’s a good idea to put yourself in the best advantage possible. Which sounds like a no-brainer, but I think this is especially important for women, because we’re (generally) up against bigger and stronger opponents. If you can do anything to make the fight swing your way, do it. So when he started talking about the importance of building up advantage, I immediately perked up.

When you’re standing face-to-face with someone, you each have the same number of operating weapons (arms, legs, head, etc). When you stand facing their side (perpendicular to their body), they have only half their weapons (the side of their body facing you), while you still have all your own. When you stand behind them, you have all your weapons and your opponent has much less, including the ability of sight.

Now when I’m defending, I’ll be trying to maneuver myself into a position where I have the upper hand. I think it’s something they stress in higher level classes when you start sparring. And if they don’t, they should.