Some Weeks are Harder Than Others: The Christmas Week Saga

I had a hard week the week of Christmas. It was only three days (four classes total), actually, but it was brutal.

Monday – Ground Fighting

Photo courtesy of Sylvain
Ground Fighting Side Mount. Photo courtesy of Sylvain

I recently started taking Ground Fighting classes at my gym. It’s basically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was feeling good about this class though. I was getting the techniques.

At the end of the class, Travis leaves enough time so we can either continue working on the new concepts or we can spar (“rolling”).

Drew points at me for sparring and we move off to a side of the room to roll (my first time!).

Drew is about my height, but strong, smart, and fast. You might remember my most favorite class of all time was with Drew as my partner. He’s tough and he never, ever goes easy on me. I knew this would be a challenge.

As this is also only my second Ground Fighting class, I don’t feel confident in my skills. If anything, the more ground work I do the more I realize I never, ever want to end up on the ground. It’s exhausting.

We start. It takes Drew approximately six seconds to get me twisted and in a really uncomfortable position. I try to fight back.

“You’re trying too hard,” he says. “Relax until you see an opening.”

He’s right. I’m straining against him at all times. He keeps moving, his motions fluid, but heavy. I’m already exhausted. He keeps pretzeling me. We’re twisting, angling. My hamstrings are stupid tight and he’s able to roll me around in a ball of folded legs. He lands back on top, pushing his weight into my torso.

I push him away using my arm and he captures it.

“Bad idea,” he says holding it firmly. “This is mine now.”

I curse myself. Lesson learned.

I find an opening. His attention is on keeping my arm trapped. I twist, buck, and roll and I’m on top. I rejoice a little in my tiny victory.

“You’re on top, but I still have your arm.”

He’s right. How to get out? I have no idea. Can I use Krav Maga right now? I don’t know the rules. It’s no excuse. I try to find a non-Krav way out.

He slivers and twists and he’s back on top again.

The bell rings.

Two minutes of fighting, but it feels like 30. I’m wiped out, but I’ve learned so much.

Tuesday

The left side of my head feels bruised. Inside my ear feels bruised. My hair feels bruised. I see no signs of actual bruising, but clearly something exciting has happened to my head. Ground fighting is hard.

Wednesday 5pm – Krav Maga Level 1

Wednesdays have become my hard core day. I do three hours of Krav Maga and one hour of yoga.

My first Krav Maga class is at my work. The class is small with just four of us.

I partner with Leslie, a woman with a thin body type similar to my own. We work on front defensive kicks standing and from the ground. I feel confident in my ability to execute these kicks, but I also have Matt’s voice in my head to get my hips off the ground.

Photo Courtesy of Rosey-OR
Front Defensive Kick from the Ground. Photo courtesy of Rosey-OR

At the end of class, Brandon has us switch partners. I’m on the ground looking up at Nate*, a barrel-chested man. He hovers over me with a kick shield pressed against his chest.

I launch my foot up to meet the pad. He doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t move a millimeter.

Okay…

I try again. I kick my foot up and focus on lifting my hips. Nothing. He doesn’t budge.

I grind my teeth into my mouth guard and try to focus. It’s all about timing. I try again. Still nothing.

It’s frustrating. I start to doubt myself and my abilities. Class is over. I smile and accept that it needs work. It’s hard.

6:30pm – Krav Maga Level 3

I drive straight to the gym and make it in time for Mike’s class. Chase and I partner. He’s easily 100 pounds heavier than me in muscle. This will be a hard class.

“Here’s the drill. One of you starts in the full mount. Your job is to stay here,” Mike explains. “For the person mounted, it’s your job to get out of it.” He chuckles to himself with part apology, part amusement, and no regret. “Kaci, I’m sorry.” I highly doubt it.

Photo courtesy of Combat Krav Maga
Full Mount. Photo courtesy of Combat Krav Maga

I lay down. Chase steps over my legs and sits on my stomach.

“Go!” Mike yells.

I buck. Chase barely moves and continues to hit me lightly. I buck again. Nothing.

“Come on, Kaci!” Chase yells at me.

I try to knee him in the small of the back and buck at the same time. He rocks forward, but I’m slow in rolling him over and I have to start over. It’s exhausting. Eventually, I roll him over and land on top, but I think he gives it to me out of pity.

When it’s my turn to be on top, he rolls me over easily.

We’re on to kicks. I struggle and know I need practice. We work on a few variations of spinning side and back kicks.

Chase holds the pad for me. I’m graceless. I can feel how ridiculous my body looks: a newborn deer walking for the first time. Chase laughs at me. He’s not being mean, necessarily, but it still bruises my ego. He offers advice and I try again. Each time we learn a new kick, he laughs. I feel ridiculous. It wears on me to not get the technique immediately.

7:30pm – Krav Maga Level 2

Rachel is teaching. So far, it’s just me.

“I don’t mind a private class with you,” I tell her.

“Yeah! What do you want to work on?”

“Well, I suck at kicks,” I say, thinking about my abysmal show in the last class. “It’d be good to work on those some more.”

She nods, but corrects me. “You don’t suck. You’re working on it.” Ever the instructor to keep me from talking down to myself.

“Right. It’s a challenge I’m working through,” I repeat. She nods approvingly.

Chase pokes his head into the room. “Is it just you, Kaci?”

“Yep!”

“Well, then I’ll stay.”

Cool. Another class with Chase. With kicks. I smile and take a breath. This will be okay.

We put on our shin guards and spar with kicks only. Defending is difficult. Half the time I block incorrectly, but I keep at it. I watch Chase’s body looking for the signs on which kick he’s throwing.

Rachel instructs us to add ungloved upper body strikes. We’re throwing open, relaxed hands careful not to poke out each other’s eyes. I get excited and ramp up the intensity. I never do this on purpose and Chase calls me out. I slow it down and try to focus on the technique.

“Good!” Rachel yells.

Chase lands some good strikes and I get discouraged. My brain is foggy and unfocused. I’m trying to keep my shit together.

Rachel corrects my form and I go back to it.

“Good! Better!”

We move on to static kicks, no sparring. Rachel directs us to do a few advancing kicks on each other and I can’t seem to get it. My brain has shut down. We work on throwing kicks and follow up with additional strikes.

Chase throws a kick, a hand strike combination, and then head butts the pad at my chest. My center of gravity is off from bracing for the other strikes and I go reeling. My feet shuffle backwards across the mat. I’m still on my feet, but I’m quickly losing to gravity.

Fall break! Fall break! Fall break! I scream silently.

And then I land flat on my butt.

I laugh. I’m embarrassed. I didn’t die or get injured, but I also didn’t fall break. I’m mentally and emotionally tired. It’s affecting everything.

Photo courtesy of Paul Brocklehurst
Side Kick. Photo courtesy of Paul Brocklehurst

We do back kicks, advancing back kicks, side kicks, and advancing side kicks.

Rachel corrects my form and I throw a kick.

“Good!”

I kick.

“Good!”

I try to relax and kick, but I’m dispirited and feeling hopeless.

“Good!”

Kick.

“Good!”

It starts to feel insincere. I know logically Rachel is being sincere. I know I’m not likely doing as poorly as I feel on the inside, but the positive words of encouragement wash over my unyielding haze.

She’s being kind. These kicks suck.

“Good!” I grind my teeth.

“Good!” I feel like crying.

“Good!” I keep going.

Class is over and I’m thankful for it. I just want to stretch in peace and go home.

8:30pm – Stretching. (No yoga today.)

Chase stays and talks to me about stretching. I start to stretch like I normally do and he offers advice. After the classes I’ve had I feel sensitive and bruised. His advice comes from a good place and I try to be gracious in asking questions and hearing him out.

9pm

I’m tired and emotional.

As I drive home, I think about my week in the gym.

Drew pretzeling me up like I was moldable clay.

Nate not flinching at my defensive front kicks.

Mike chuckling at the injustice of me fighting Chase from the ground.

Chase laughing at my undeveloped kicks.

Rachel’s kind—but misplaced—words of encouragement.

I start to doubt everything. Maybe Krav Maga wouldn’t work for me. Maybe I’m kidding myself. Maybe I can never be good at this. I’m too small. Too weak. Maybe…

Some weeks are hard. Some days are hard. Hell, some minutes are hard. There are lots of people in the world telling me—in their own way—that I’m not good enough. They don’t even mean to, but I internalize it. In some ways, I look for those comments that confirm what I secretly believe: that I’m not good enough, strong enough, or smart enough for any of this.

Confirmation bias meet imposter syndrome.

It’s easy to get discouraged and want to quit. But I can guarantee you one thing: there’s only one way to get better and that’s to keep practicing.

And so I will. I’ll dig deep on the hard days. I’ll find lessons in the misguided comments and how I take them in or keep them out. I’ll rejoice on the days everything seems to click together.

Tomorrow is another day to learn something new.

*Some names have been changed in this post, because it does no one any good to name names.*

Lessons I Didn’t Expect to Learn in my Level 2 Krav Maga Test

I gained more in my level 2 Krav Maga test beyond a feeling of accomplishment and graduating to the next level. Here are three more things I learned on October 17, 2015:

1. Focus on making your partner better and you’ll be better.

Before we started the test, my partner Jolyn said she wanted to set an intention for the day. I nodded to her. It’s something I’ve done in the past and I feel good about.

I immediately starting setting intentions like “excel through the whole day” or “don’t get any injuries”.

Jolyn surprised me though.

“My purpose for the day is to make you look your best. When I focus on the other person—in acting, improv, in life—everyone seems to benefit more than if I were to focus on myself.”

It completely threw me off and it resonated with me.

I took a silent moment to set the intention that I’d make Jolyn look the best she could and I think it helped. Throughout the day, I gave her encouragement or reminded her how she could make a technique cleaner. It gave me energy. She would adjust, something would click, and I’d feel a tiny spark of motivation. We were a team. I was her coach and she was mine.

I’ve had the supreme honor of working with a few people brand new to Krav Maga since my level 2 test and I think it’s made their first experience even better too.

Focus on the success of your partner and you’ll both benefit.

2. Flexibility Does Matter (Sometimes)

kacis-poor-hip-flexibilityIt’s funny to learn something technical in your test, but I did. In reviewing the video, I can see where Matt would yell at me to “shoot [my] hips higher.” I would push my hips as high as possible, but as I watch the footage it’s clear I have hip mobility issues.

They need to go higher than they currently do in order to be successful against a bigger, stronger assailant. It’s something I’ll focus on in the coming weeks.

Flexibility matters, especially in ground fighting.

3. The Way You Think Matters.

In the three weeks since my test, I’ve found myself taking three classes in a row without getting tired. My friends who are new to Krav Maga look at me like I’m crazy.

“You’re going to another class?”

Why yes. Yes, I am.

But when you do something for nearly eight hours, doing it for three or four feels like nothing. During my test, I could keep going at the six hour mark because I had to. So, why should it matter if I’m taking regular classes or testing?

Because it’s all in my head.

It’s made me realize that I have more power, more energy, and more strength than I think I do.

This is one of those life lesson moments. It goes beyond Krav Maga or martial arts.

We artificially limit ourselves, because we don’t think we can keep going or we’re not good enough, but we can and we are.

There’s almost always a little more energy, a little more strength you can ring out of a moment.

Think bigger and stronger and you’ll capable of more.

What’s a level 2 Krav Maga belt test like? My story.

Krav Maga Level 2 Test - BeforeThe level 2 Krav Maga test starts at 8am on October 17, 2015. It’s a bright Saturday morning.

As I drive to the gym, I feel calm. It’s almost eery. No butterflies. Just resolve. I know I can do this, because I’ve done it before during my level 1 test.

I pull into the gym parking lot at 7:40am and walk my five bags of food, water, and equipment into our training room. The night before I cut two cucumbers, half a pound of strawberries, half a bell pepper, two apples, three mandarin oranges, five pieces of ham… I looked at it all and fearing it isn’t enough and cut two more cucumbers.

20151017kravazon-overprepared-food

We line all our stuff up along one wall and laugh at how much we’ve brought. It’s so much for a single day. Part of the test is the ambiguity of how long it will take. It could take six hours. It could take 12. There’s just no way to know until you’re there and you’re at the end.

20151017-kravazon-allourequipment

There are six of us. We walk around the gym talking and laughing. I bounce on my feet.

Matt asks us to line up in front of the room just like any other class. He asks us to bow to our partners. I turn to Jolyn and we smile at each other.

“No matter what happens, we’ll still be friends.” We laugh.

We bow to our instructors. I take in big breaths. I’ll need all the oxygen I can get.

And then it begins.

At my gym, our Krav Maga tests are broken into two sections.

  • Review
  • (Short break)
  • Test

The review is the time to ask questions, perfect technique, and get worn out. We go through everything that will be on the test. It’s exhausting and that’s kind of the point. They want to test us when we’re wiped out.

We’ll take a short break—usually 5-15 minutes—and then the actual test begins. We’ll execute each technique until the lead instructor has a chance to see everyone perform the attack or defense. Then we’ll move on. No breaks. No rest periods. Operate at 100%, 100% of the time.

The Review


We start with a standard warm up. Jogging around the room, lunges, squats, and sit ups. We move into striking combinations with our partners. I hold focus mitts for Jolyn. I call out a number and she strikes with the corresponding combination.

“Four!”

Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut.

“Two!”

Jab. Cross.

“One!”

Jab.

I’m focused. Alive. I love this.

20151017-kravazon-gearing-upThen it’s the dreaded fall breaks. I’ve had anxiety about back fall breaks and I’ve spent a lot of time practicing them after class. When Matt yells “fall breaks!” I take a breath. This is it. All my hard work comes to this moment. There’s no time to think about it. “Go!” he yells and I fling myself back and catch execute a fall break. I can do these. I’m determined to do these.

We do six or so back fall breaks and then another six or seven side fall breaks. I don’t think about it too much. My hard work has paid off. I feel good.

We put on our shin pads and work on side and back kicks. I take these slowly. These are strikes I’ve struggled with in the past and I want to make sure I do them correctly. Then we’re off to kick defenses. Jolyn kicks her foot up the center of my body and I deflect with my shin or hand or arm.

We work on 360 and inside defenses. All with full counters—meaning we complete each defense as if to finish the fight. There are no instances where we do just the defense. It’s defend and immediately counter.

20151017-kravazon-360-defenses

There are no clocks in the room and our only sense of time is the activity outside as other trainees go to classes on the hour.

Chris, my awesome, amazing, wonderful husband brings everyone smoothies. By this point, we’ve started losing steam. It’s difficult to get food in between each set and we need the protein to focus. I try really hard to sip water before we start each round, but food is tougher.

We move on to bear hugs. Arms caught with lots of warning. Arms caught with no warning. Arms free.

Choke from the front with a push. Against a wall. Choke from behind with a pull.

Then we do ground work. We’ve been working near-nonstop for four hours and I’m tired. If you’ve ever done ground work, you know how exhausting it is. It sucks to be tired and know you’re about to do something that’s even more exhausting.

There’s also more to ground work than just the physical demand. It’s personal and up close. It’s scary to defend from the ground. It means something has gone terribly wrong and your assailant wants to end this in a way that’s exceptionally bad. It’s not just about taking your wallet. They want to take a part of you. Rape. Your life. For me, ground work is real and laced with emotion.

We roll around on the floor for almost an hour before the review part of the test is over.

The Rest

Matt gives us 10 minutes to rest before the test begins.

I eat a handful of almonds, some apple and cucumber slices, and suck down some coconut water with chia seeds.

I stretch a little and put my legs up on the wall to give my feet a break.

When Matt calls us back in, I’m tired. In some ways the break itself is the hardest part. If we keep moving, the momentum gives me energy. With the rest, my body starts to shut down. I’d really like a nap.

The Test

We do jumping jacks and squats to warm back up. Everything feels more difficult. Like running through mud.

Matt calls out a series of combinations and I hold focus mitts for Jolyn as she works through them. It’s almost exactly like the review.

20151017-kravazon-frontkick“Jab, cross, hook, elbow!” he calls. Jolyn strikes the focus mitts until he calls out the next combination.

“Jab, elbow!” She transitions.

“Breathe,” I tell her. “Keep your hands up.” She nods, but says nothing. She’s focused.

When we switch, I can feel myself breaking down. I’m trying to stay focused and calm and execute the combination in front of me. I hear Matt’s voice in my head reminding me to keep my hands at my chin between strikes. The 16-oz boxing gloves are literal weights. My arms feel heavy. A cloud settles over me.

“I can see you’re getting tired, but you’ve got to dig deeper!” Matt calls out to us. “Get it together!”

Breathe. Strike. Breathe. Hands to chin.

Jolyn offers me quiet encouragement.

“Gloves and mitts off!” Matt says from the front. “Fall breaks!”

Fall breaks. I can do these. I’m confident now that I’ve done them in the review ,but I’m tired. They’re sloppy. I focus on trying to execute the technique, but I flounder.

YOU CAN DO THIS. Don’t eff it up now.

I fling myself back and do a fall break. They aren’t as clean as they were before. Side fall breaks have always been fine for me, but I struggle with these too. We do six or seven of back and then six or seven side fall breaks. I breathe. That could have been better.

We put on our shin pads. I want to wear my sneakers so I can protect my feet, but the pads don’t fit well around my shoes. I try to make it work, but my thinking brain isn’t operating well. I look up and realize everyone is waiting on me. I feel flustered. I put them on the way I usually do when I wear shoes, knowing they’ll shift around.

I’m thankful Jolyn goes first with the kicks and kick defenses. It gives me a second to transition after feeling flustered about my shin pads.

Level 2 kicks have been a struggle for me in the past. We don’t do them often in class and I’ve had to work on them outside of class. Before each kick, I take a breath. I don’t have to do a million of these. I just have to convince Matt my technique is there.

Bring your knee up higher, I hear him in my head.

Breathe, I tell myself.

I bring my knee up and strike the pad in Jolyn’s holds. Then with an advance. I take a step and shoot my leg out. They’re fine too. I’ve been working on these. It’s paid off.

Back kicks are hard. I have to remember to keep my knee down otherwise it turns into a weird backward roundhouse kick with zero power. Then we do it with an advance.

I’m okay. I’m going to be okay.

Matt throws us a curve ball.

“Advancing side kick followed by an advancing back kick!” I’ve never combined two advancing kicks together. I stare at him trying to make the kicks work in my head. He repeats it. “Advancing side kick followed by an advancing back kick! Go!”

Breathe. You can do this. Take it slow the first time.

I feel like a newborn fawn. Awkward. I stumble a little. It takes a few tries, but I finally get it. I look up and Matt is watching the group across the room. I worry he hasn’t seen I can do it. I don’t want to fail. I’m so tired. We move on.

20151017-kravazon-standing-smilingI take a drink of water and prepare for chokes. Jolyn chokes me with a push against the wall. I catch myself on my forearms and circle around to throw strikes. We’ve practiced these chokes a lot in class and I feel confident. We’ve done them against brick walls and chainlink fences. The confidence gives me a little energy, but we don’t stay here long.

Matt gets excited. “It’s just ground work and then the final drill, guys!”

Ground work is exhausting. I’m not feeling super energetic about it, but I dig deeper.

We get to it. I lay down on the ground and Jolyn bares down on me with a front choke. I pluck her hands away and buck out of it. I’ve worked with some big guys on ground work and they’ve forced me to work hard. I feel confident in my ground work skills, as long as I can get my hips up when I buck. With these chokes and head locks, the defense is almost the same. Once you’ve got one of them, you’ve basically got them all.

This part of the test is a blur. I don’t remember most of it. What I do remember is trying to defend Jolyn mounted on my back. I lay with my forehead pressed to the mat. I have to pluck Jolyn’s hands away from my neck while simultaneously pulling my legs up underneath my body throwing her over my shoulder. It’s impossible. I just can’t get my hips under my body. I know I’ve failed the technique.

At the end of the ground work, Matt gives us a minute to grab a drink of water while he explains the final drill.

It’s a doozy.

The Finale

I listen to him describe the plan in detail. He’s so excited.

“This is your favorite part, isn’t it?,” I ask. He smiles like a kid on Christmas.

I blink and take another swig of water. I take a deep breath. This is it.

We go outside and I mount the kick shield. The sun is so bright. I try to take in another breath.

“Ready?! Go! Go! Go!”

I strike the pad on the ground (“ground and pound”) for at least a minute.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

I throw elbows, hammer fists, palm heel strikes, and slam the edge of the bag down on the cement simulating slamming an assailant’s head on the ground.

“Up! Run, run, run!”

I lumber to my feet and start running across the parking lot.

“Hips forward, relax your hands! Keep going! You’re running to help your family. Your friends. You have to get there fast!” Matt chants at us. “Faster! Faster!”

I keep breathing.

We get to the end of the parking lot, turn around, and run back. I’m so tired.

Keep breathing.

I mount the kick shield and go back to striking. Strike, strike, strike, breathing the whole time.

“Up, up, up! Go!” Matt yells.

I get back to my feet and start running. Matt is running behind us, yelling, overcoming us. I turn around at the edge of the parking lot and run back. I try to find extra energy. There’s nothing. I can’t go faster.

“Your choice. Piggy back, fireman’s carry…Choose however you want to carry your partner and go!”

I jump on Jolyn’s back and she trots across the parking lot.

“You’ve got this. You can do it!” I say into her ear.

When we get to the edge of the parking lot, I dismount off her back and turn around so she can jump on my back.

“Ready?” she asks.

I nod and she jumps on my back. I shuffle as quickly as I can without falling. I’d like this part to be over.

“Good job, Kaci!” Jolyn says over my shoulder. “Keep going!”

We near the doors and Jolyn jumps off my back. I jog to my kick shield and feel grateful to carry my weight only.

We run back inside to the gym room. Sabrina draws the first name and Nick (the lucky first victim) heads back out to run the length of the parking lot. Matt runs behind him. I take big breaths and grab a drink of water. I pace impatiently.

“Here they come!”

Sabrina turns off the lights. Nick runs into the room taking deep breaths and we’re on him. We can attack him with any defense from level 1 or 2. We circle him, hands reaching out to choke, bearhug, or bar arm. Whatever we can do to make it difficult for him for the next few minutes.

Suddenly the lights come on. We do this for each person until it’s my turn.

When they call my name, I dash out of the room. I hear Sabrina call to me “Go, go, go! Matt will catch up.” I believe her. He’s behind me in a hot second.

My feet pound across the pavement. “Faster!” He says. “Hips forward, hands relaxed. Go! Go! Go!” He swats at my back the whole way across the lot and all the way back. “Faster, Kaci! Faster!”

I open the door to the gym and run back into our room. It’s dark and suddenly there are people circling me. They’re everywhere. Their hands reach out for me. Hands wrap around the front of my neck while arms bear hug from behind. It’s mayhem.

I pluck at the hands around my throat throwing a simultaneous kick. I rotate my elbows around my back to disengage the person latched on my back. They loosen and I dash out of the circle and stack my opponents. It’s impossible. There are too many. I defend one at a time.

It feels like a train barrels into me as arms wrap around my torso. Matt is overwhelming.

I rotate and strike out. I dig even deeper and defend against him. He loosens.

Hands keep reaching towards my throat or around my body and I keep defending. I try to get into the best position possible, but otherwise I stop thinking. I’m reacting. There is nothing else.

The lights come on, another name is called out, and the people are gone. The hands don’t reach for me. It’s just me and my breathing. For me, it’s over. Emotions bubble up. I pace around the room. The lights turn off and Millicent runs back into the room. There’s no time for emotions.

She dodges us. I reach for her and wrap my hands around her throat. It’s not about what I can defend now. It’s only about how I can make this experience challenging for everyone else.

When Millicent’s time is over, it’s Ryan’s turn. Ryan is easily 6’2″ and 200+lbs. He’s a beast. When he enters the room, he barrels past everyone. I want to stop him. I want him to be challenged. I want him to be forced to use Krav Maga. Someone grabs him from the front and I work my way behind. I bury my head in the middle of his back and wrap my hands around his front in a firm bear hug. He whips me to the left, but I don’t give up. He whips me the other way and I cling to him. Six seconds, eight seconds, 10 seconds. He can’t get me off his back and he strikes at my hands to get me to release.

There are no rules in Krav Maga. The point is to get away safely.

It’s not an official technique, but it works. My hands release and he rushes away.

After we’ve each taken a turn, Matt asks us to line up so we can bow out.

Sweat pours off us. Our faces are red. We breathe heavily. 7.5 hours. I’d like to cry.

“You did great. You got tired, but you pushed through. I know you each trained outside of regular class for today. It was a fast test, because you each prepared. Congratulations! You all passed.”

Emotions well up.

“Turn to your partner and bow,” Matt instructs. I turn to Jolyn and bow.

“Thank you,” I say with deep sincerity. She smiles widely at me.

We turn back to Matt. He bows to the other instructors and then to us. “Class, kidah!”

I bow. “Kidah.”

Welcome to level 3.

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Two weeks away from my level 2 test!

The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind.

My foot healed (thank goodness) and I haven’t had any issues with it for a few weeks now.

I’ve increased my training time significantly. I still have a fair bit of kick defenses I need to learn before the test, but I’m not so worried.

The next two weeks are going to be spent almost entirely in the gym. I’m excited. I love going to Krav Maga so much and I feel really happy when I’m in the gym regularly. I’ve built a whole family here. And it’s just plain fun doing Krav Maga.

AND! I’ve finally got fall breaks down (videos to come!). It was brutal, but after practicing them every time I came into the gym, I finally got ’em and I’m feeling confident about it.

More soon!

The Psychology of Krav Maga Fall Breaks

learning fall breaks

Last week, we spent a whole hour on fall breaks. Here’s Matt, my instructor, demonstrating fall breaks on concrete. Like a crazy person.

Posted by Krav Maga Instructor Matt on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Today, I went to a Krav Maga bag class for some cardio. Afterwards, I spent a few minutes working on fall breaks (just like I said I would).

Matt gave me some great advice before I started: Fall breaks become easy once you commit to the fall and you get out of your own head. The mechanics are simple. You have to trust you can do the technique.

Right.

I pulled the thicker pads to the center of the room to practice on. With his words still ringing in my brain, I threw myself backwards and… successfully completed a fall break. Rock! I did it again. No problem. Fall breaks! Take that!

That’s on the nice thick pad though. I stepped off the pad and looked down at the floor. It’s cushioned, but it’s not a five inch cushion like the thick pad.

I looked down at my feet. I looked up at myself in the mirror. I looked down at my feet. I crossed my arms across my chest. I looked up at myself in the mirror.

You get the picture, right? I got in my own head. I was doing it in the moment and I was aware I was doing it.

I sighed and threw myself back. My legs collapsed underneath me. I had no real fall to break.

What was that?

I stood back up, crossed my arms, and tried again. I couldn’t get myself to fall backwards. I crouched down so I was closer to the floor. This is how I was first taught fall breaks. Maybe I just needed to start from here and work my way up to standing. I practically rolly-polly’d across the floor.

I stood up frustrated with myself, marched over to the thick pad, threw myself back, and completed a fall break.

I got up, marched over to the non-pad side, threw myself back, and my legs just collapsed beneath me.

I couldn’t do a fall break on a non-padded surface. Not because I can’t do the technique, but because I don’t trust myself to break the fall.

Why is this so hard? To fall backwards and trust you’ll catch yourself?

I threw myself back on the thick cushion once again completing a successful fall break and then decided to give it a rest for the day.

Sometimes Krav Maga is a lot less about learning physical techniques and more about trusting yourself. I’m not giving up. I will learn this.

Do you have tips for learning psychological issues of fall breaks? I’m all ears!

Level 2 Belt Test… Here I Come!

It’s that time again. On October 17th, I’ll take the level 2 belt test and try to move up to level 3.

I’m excited, but nervous. I still have two months to prepare and I’ve been signed off on nearly all the techniques we’ll be tested on. I always have doubts.

Last night, for example, we spent the entire hour working on fall breaks. Side fall breaks are okay, but I’m having a hard time with back fall breaks. I can’t get my hips high enough. I’ve already accepted I’ll need to practice these in every single class if I want to feel confident.

Matt assures us they’ll become second nature if we practice enough. You’ll always remember them, he says.

I trust him.

I’m sure he’s right.

I’m not looking forward to doing what I need to do to make it second nature.

I’ve already got my test partner lined up and we’ve scheduled a bunch of classes together for the next month. She’s awesome and we’re already pushing each other to do more classes. She’s also the kind of partner who doesn’t mind slowing down in class to understand and perfect the technique. It’s perfect for understanding these (sometimes subtle) skills.

Anyway, I have just over two months to prepare. Wish me luck!

Take downs, fall breaks, squats, and push ups… It was a hard Thursday

Last week, I was at the gym for two hours. The first hour was a typical Krav Maga level 2 class. I learned double leg take downs for the first time. It was brutal, but mostly because I need to spend a little more time opening up my hips and warming up my knees before doing take downs over and over again.

It was also a great opportunity to practice my fall breaks. A few months ago, I took a lesson with four other ladies to focus on fall breaks. It was a great hour, but I don’t use fall breaks enough regularly for it to be committed to muscle memory yet. Every time I attempt one I feel like I’m starting over. Luckily, it’s one of those things that I can work into nearly every practice. I just have to get over the fear of throwing myself backwards.

After the level 2 class, I went right into a Krav Fit class, a Krav Maga and Crossfit hybrid. We did two circuits. The second circuit lasted 20 minutes and consisted of five pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats.

Over the course of the hour, I probably did 150-200 squats and 100-150 push ups. It’s been awhile since I’ve had to push myself to keep going like that.

I’ve been reading Ronda Rousey’s book My Fight / Your Fight (official review coming soon) and I found myself thinking about her as I ran out of steam doing push ups. They were the hardest. I had to dig deep to keep going.

Down, up, pause. What would Ronda do? She’d do another push up! Do it!

Down, up, pause. Oh god. Ronda wouldn’t give up. Another!

Down, up, pause.

Near the end of the hour, I lost ability to think coherent thoughts. It was just a steady stream of “Okay, one more squat. Good. Okay, one more squat…”

That was three days ago. My quads still hurt today. It’s one of those pains that let me know I did good work. I’m building muscle. I’m getting stronger.

Your Straight Punches Suck

I’ve started getting into the habit of asking my training partners for feedback at the end of class. I want to be the best partner possible and I want to know if I’m doing something really annoying. I also want to improve my strikes and defenses and I can’t watch myself throughout class, but my partner can. I’ve asked the last three or four people if they have any feedback and it’s like a broken record…

“You crowd your straight punches.”

This means my arms have more range than I realize. Because I’m standing so close to my partner when I throw my punch, I can’t extend my arm fully. I pull back on my punch early and lose precious power.

Hearing about this problem from multiple partners makes it easy to find my point of focus each class.

If we’re working on combinations and there’s a straight punch as part of the mix, I play with my range and feel the difference in power.

Practicing this over and over again has been a huge eye opener for me.

I have long arms and I didn’t fully understand the advantage that gives me until this past week.

In sparring two partners in classes, I’ve noticed I can throw punches and make contact without moving my feet quite so close. I wonder if every person who spars comes to such a clear moment of recognizing an advantage. This is a powerful moment for me. It’s the first time I’ve discovered I might have an edge.

As I reflect on the reasons I train so hard, so passionately, and so aggressively, I’m excited by this new body awareness. It could change the outcome of an attack on the street. It’s one more thing I know about me that an attacker doesn’t know: I’m strong, I’m vicious, I have some training in self defense, and my straight punch range is something to be feared. Or it will be once it’s part of my muscle memory.

Have you discovered an advantage you have in martial arts or sparring? How did you come to the realization and how did it change how you fight?