The anxiety of your first Krav Maga class. The excitement and fear and anticipation. You think there’s no way to get that feeling back after you’ve been to Krav Maga for awhile.
And then you go to your first level 2 Krav Maga class.
Chris and I spend a few weeks between our level 1 test and first level 2 class to rest, get geared up, and mentally prepare.
We pair up for our first class. This is pretty rare, because Chris’s straight punches are harder than I can hold the pad for these days. I’ll do it, but it sucks. He hits hard.
I’m so excited to learn new techniques, but I’m also feeling fear of the unknown. I have no expectations, because higher level classes have always been a mysterious, semi-clandestine event. No one talks about what happens in those classes. You can watch them from the lobby, but I’ve never spent much time watching.
The Warm Up
Matt asks us to pair up and practice the jab, cross, hook, uppercut combination. I put on my new 16 oz boxing gloves and Chris puts on focus mitts.
We circle each other. Chris calls out a number between one and four and I do the corresponding combination.
“Thoo!” Chris calls through his mouth guard.
Jab, cross, hook, uppercut.
We laugh. It’s hard to remember how Chris should hold the focus mitts and we fumble it a bit.
Jab, cross, hook.
This goes on for two minutes or so. I start to limber up.
We switch and I hold the mitts for Chris. It’s so weird. The warm up is like if you were to take a level 1 class, but drop someone into it half way through. This feels like something we would have done after taking it step-by-step. This is a drill. After many exhausting minutes of working through the steps.
I call the numbers out and here my numbers come out as lisps.
Next, Matt instructs us to both put on our gloves. Now we’re going to spar. Spar! Try to actually hit your partner. Don’t try to take their head off. Fast, but light.
I’ve sparred once before. It made me feel clunky, heavy, stupid. Like a big stumbling oaf.
Chris and I start circling each other. My adrenaline is pumping. I throw my hands out to strike. Chris throws his harms up. His concentration is epic. He easily blocks me and counters with a hook. I get my arms up in just enough time to block. We keep circling.
Strike, block. Strike, strike.
The first time I get hit, I feel a wave of conflicting emotions that last approximately half a second: a surge of pride that he’s able to get a good one in. It’s a solid hit, but it doesn’t really hurt. 16 ounce gloves offer lots of cushion-y padding. Simultaneously, I feel mild, benign panic. It’s a weird soft kind of panic. I’m not in any real danger, but I don’t really want to get hit again no matter how fluffy they are.
Matt calls for us to switch partners and I feel this dark dread in my gut. Oh god. I have to spar people I don’t know now?
I’m immediately surprised. The people I’m sparring are kind, tough, forgiving, encouraging. I’m terrible at it, but I’m using my brain in an exceptionally fun way now. There are real, live, smart people on the other side of my strikes. People who don’t want to get hit and who hit back.
As we throw strikes and defenses, I watch the more advanced trainees. Their eyes are unfocused at the center of my body. Their bodies are almost limp. They don’t look engaged. And then they throw the fastest strikes that get me good on the jaw.
I can feel the basics slip and I struggle to keep it together. I’m like a lanky cartoon character imitating a boxer. My arms feel far from my core. I’m stumbling forward and back. Trying to land something, anything. My eyes close against my will at impact. I’m basically pinwheeling. I have so much to learn.
When Matt calls time, I’m on cloud nine. I couldn’t be more happy in this moment. This is fun. And I can do this any ol’ time I want.
The warm up happens in the first 15-20 minutes of class. It sounds light and easy, but I’m exhausted. My face is red. I’m smiling like an idiot.
Matt starts to explain the defense—an inside defense combined with a simultaneous advancing strike.
Everything slows down. Chris and I practice the defenses and strikes while talking through it. It’s technical and complicated and requires synchronous movement. It’s similar to stuff we’ve already done in level 1, but it’s more difficult to do three things at once, plus all the meticulous things you always have to do to protect yourself. Chin down, arms up to protect your face, proper fighting stance.
Let me say just this one thing about learning a slightly more advanced defense. I go from knowing everything being taught, anticipating the strikes, anticipating the drills, moving at speeds that max me out, pushing aggression… to knowing nothing.
What’s the old saying? The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. I’m officially there.
There are times in the defense when I feel unbearably stupid. My body will not cooperate with my brain.
We move slowly, deliberately.
This is just the first class, but the differences are notable.
- There are smart, fast human beings on the other side of your strikes and defenses. You better move.
- It’s significantly more technical. There is time to slow everything down and think through it. Talk through it. Figure it out.
- Communication with your partner is imperative in a way that it wasn’t in level one. In level 1, you’re striking through a pad. There’s a person on the other side of it, but they’re still (usually) stationary or not striking back. In level 2, you’re both striking. You’re both defending. You have to determine the speed, power, and collective competence.
I’m so happy to be in level 2 classes and I cannot wait to go to the next class!