￼The nature of assessment changes vastly between the various Krav Maga organisations globally. It also varies with each examining instructor. The differences, however, should only be in degree. Whether you grade at Krav Maga Swindon or in Israel, it should be one of the toughest things you’ve ever done. This article is designed to help you prepare effectively for your assessment.
First, if you’ve done some martial arts training and done a few gradings before, you will need to reset your expectations. Many gradings in the martial arts are over in half an hour to an hour and are taken – at least in the early grades – every three months. With us at Krav Maga Swindon, the Practitioner Level 1 grade takes around 5 hours to assess, and the participants will burn through between 1000 and 1300 calories an hour during that time. It is tough, and it’s not for everyone, but if you decide to step up to the challenge, be prepared.
At Krav Maga Swindon we believe that gradings are for you, not for us. Gradings are not obligatory. If you decide you don’t want to take the grades, you don’t have to. Students without grades will be taught all the same things as those with grades. The assessments are there for you, to challenge yourself, to push yourself to a limit, to learn a little about yourself. They’re there to instil in you a sense of confidence that will be with you when you need it most, out in the real world.
￼Reasons to grade at Krav Maga Swindon
We believe that the first enemy is the enemy within. What Sun Tsu called the Inner Opponent. If you’ve never met your inner opponent head on, or are not aware of it, you likely are not mentally prepared for the realities of violence. The Inner Opponent is the voice that stops you before you get stopped. It’s the voice that tells you to stop running when you’re on a run, to eat more food when you’re on a diet, to smoke a cigarette when you’re trying to quit, and to stay on the floor in a fight instead of fighting your way to your feet and doing what is necessary to survive. It’s a fact that most people in violent situations are defeated before the first punch is thrown, by their own adrenal systems, their own doubt and fear, their own failure to act. Our gradings are not just designed to provide an objective test of your ability to perform Krav Maga, they are designed to introduce you to your Inner Opponent and hand you a victory over that opponent, meaning a real desensitisation to the fear associated with violence.
As instructors, we are contacted regularly by old and current students with words of thanks for this technique or that, after they have used Krav Maga in the course of their professional or civilian lives. Gradings put you through something tough so that the next time something tough comes along you will face it with an edge, the knowledge that you have walked into combat before and survived. It is a statistical fact that the biggest predictor in success in violence is previous successful exposure to violence. If you don’t have previous exposure or success defending yourself, you’ll need to get it and gradings are one way of going towards that goal safely, ethically and legally!
You will walk out of a grading sore, worn out, but ten feet tall. Ask anyone who has done one. There’s an almost indescribable sense of accomplishment.
￼Preparation – Exercise
Fighting is profoundly anaerobic. You will need to train your anaerobic metabolism with plenty of high intensity interval training such as hill sprints and Tabata. However, you should not neglect steady state exercise. Studies show that the most rapid road to excellent fitness is to mix steady state with high intensity throughout the week. You might want to adhere to the following:
5 days a week – at least 1 Tabata workout per day. See https://www.kravmagaswindon.co.uk/tabata-protocol.html for more information on Tabata training.3 days a week – one instance of steady state exercise exceeding 45 minutes in duration.
Steady state means any exercise where you push hard but are still able to maintain a steady pace over the duration. To get great benefit, this should be just marginally under what you’re capable of achieving in terms of pace – you should finish exhausted but still able to go another few minutes. High Intensity, on the other hand, should be working way past your capacity to sustain. You should be gasping for breath after a 20 second interval.
Don’t underestimate the physical requirement of gradings at Krav Maga Swindon. But also remember that it isn’t a fitness test, per se. We don’t care how many pushups you can do, or burpees, or squats. We just care that you can push yourself to your limit again and again and still keep moving forwards to engage an enemy. The first hour of our assessments is designed to push any person to a limit, physically and mentally, so that we can impair cognitive function and simulate the effects of adrenal stress on the body and mind. No amount of fitness training will break this process, but if you are fit, you will recover faster from each phase of the assessment, be more alert during it and more resilient against injury. We highly recommend adequate preparation. Individuals who do not train themselves in terms of fitness outside of classes do not tend to do well in Krav Maga gradings.
￼Preparation – Food and Drink
Whatever you do, do not drink any booze for around 5 days before the assessment. It will have an impact on your ability to sustain the level of activity involved in the grading.
For the week before, take on board lots of carbohydrate in the form of white or brown rice, pasta etc.
Hydrate extremely well. Obviously don’t overdo it, but medically, your urine should be clear at all times. Dehydration for the week running up to the assessment can have a marked impact on your performance on the day. It isn’t enough to think about drinking some water an hour before the grading. In fact, this advice applies to everyday life. Most people are chronically dehydrated all of the time.
Eat a good breakfast at least 2 – 3 hours before the scheduled start time. Porridge is awesome.
An old staple at Krav Maga Swindon is the 3 bottle trick. Many people are not able to take on solid food during a grading as it can make you sick. However, you will need to be putting calories and fluids into your body at every opportunity. Hence the 3 bottles:
Water – obviously you should take at least 2 litres of water.
Carbohydrate solution. You can buy Maltodextrin powder. It’s cheap, white and almost tasteless. It’s a carbohydrate that you can dissolve in water. Make a concentrated solution by putting a few inches of the stuff in a bottle and pouring on warm water. Then refrigerate overnight and take to the grading. This stuff is invaluable. Taken regularly it can keep you energised and prevent the faintness and nausea so often associated with high intensity exercise.
Sugar solution. An inch or two of sugar in a two litre bottle of water. This one is for emergencies – for when you feel like you are about to be sick or pass out. Swig from this bottle and you will feel better in minutes!
You must take to the grading a gumshield and boxing gloves. For P3 or higher, you will need shin protection as well. A groin guard is advisable, as are knee pads and forearm protectors. You must also take a towel and at least 3 t-shirts of any description. A change of trousers is also advisable as you will sweat massively and it can be a great restorative to change half way through.
You will be working closely with people. Please use an effective antiperspirant and arrive showered and with clean clothes. However, please remember that strong perfumes, aftershaves or deodorants can be as unpleasant to others as bad personal hygiene. Best to smell of nothing.
There will be people who will be put off by this advice. We can’t help that. It is as it is. It is unapologetically tough because it must be tough. If it was easy, you would get nothing from it. It wouldn’t push you to discover some things about yourself and what you’re capable of.
The best advice we can give you is to go in there as a team with the people you train beside. I have assessed hundreds of people through the P grades at Krav Maga Swindon and North Bristol, and I can tell you that the people who shine are usually the people who stand with their fellow students, rather than alone. Go in there and encourage other people through the tough bits. They’ll encourage you right back when you need it. People who only focus on their own grading and their own success tend to introvert during the tough times. They go inwards and the voices in their head beat them and make them quit. Don’t let that happen to you. A team is far more resilient than an individual.
Also, you are ready. At Krav Maga Swindon our policy is to let you grade only when you we know you are capable of passing the assessment. If your instructor has let you in the room you have a proven ability to the standard by which you will be assessed. You can do it.
And if you don’t, you will have learned something, had a great experience and be more ready to succeed in the future. Remember, with us, retakes are always free. Forever. It only costs effort.
Remember Churchill: “Sometimes it is not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we must do what is necessary.”
Will Bayley – Krav Maga Swindon – Krav Maga North Bristol – Bristol University Krav Maga Society
British Krav Maga