I’ve been training in Krav Maga for a bit more than a year now and on Saturday, November 15th, I went through the grading to go from Level 3 to Level 4 as a Krav Maga practitioner at the San Francisco Krav Maga Gym. Simply put, it was the most grueling, physically-intensive thing I’ve ever done. I decided to post some details about it here for my own records more than anything else, but you might find it interesting if you’re into martial arts/MMA or that type of thing. For the record, I passed 🙂
My training partner (David) and I started specifically preparing for this grading approximately 3 months before it was scheduled (not counting our normal attendance at training). At the time, we were of the understanding that it would be a 2-day test. Saturday would be an approximately 5 hour “workshop”, where we went over all material from Levels 1 – 3, then Sunday would be the actual test. We were each doing between 7 and 9 hours of training per week in the lead up to the grading, because we obviously wanted to hone our skills, but also to build up endurance since we knew from experience that part of the challenge of the grading was just how long they take.
As it got closer to the date, things changed slightly, and it turned out that we were actually going to compress the entire grading into one day. It’s possible that this was David’s fault :-P. Anyway – knowing that, we really needed to be ready, so we kept working hard, including doing double and triple classes (2 and 3 hours) on Mondays/Wednesdays. I know I personally was trying to eat extra protein as we got closer, based on the suggested nutrition programs that marathon runners follow.
On the Wednesday before the big day, we finished with a double class, and then took the rest of the week off. I came home feeling pretty good and started switching my diet to be heavier on carbohydrates (again, based on marathon nutrition). I ate up big over the next few days and made sure to take a multivitamin as well, just to ensure that my body was getting absolutely everything it needed. I drank Gatorade on and off with water during the days to hydrate myself as much as possible. I also made sure to try and get up at 7:30 each day that week, which was the time I wanted to get up on the actual day. That turned out to be a little hard because I had tickets to see Ben Folds play on Thursday night (awesome) and Quantum of Solace on Friday (not bad, not as good as Casino Royale) but I stuck to it.
Saturday rolled around eventually, and I was up at 7:30, even though I’d been awake, laying anxious in bed for about an hour already. I took a quick shower, then went to get coffee to get me moving. When I got home, I tried to have some breakfast but only ended up eating 3 quarters of my food. I had muffins with banana and honey on them. I gathered my things together and headed off for the gym by around 9:20.
My plan was to have a 6 inch Subway sandwich ready for lunch, so I had called Subway and asked what time they opened on Saturday morning. They told me 8am. No problem. When I got there at 9:30 am however, I was greeted with a sign that said they opened at 10am every day of the week. Thanks. Back at the gym I got my things sorted out, put some stuff in the fridge then started stretching out a little and loosening up. My list of things that I took includes:
- 2 litres of Lemon-Lime Gatorade
- Some “Sharkies“
- 2 x Snickers Marathon Bars
- 3 cut up oranges
- 5 bananas
- Athletic tape and bandaids
- Ankle brace
- Box/cup (groin protection)
- Boxing gloves
We got started at 10am, filling out some paperwork etc, then straight into the tough drills that Christian (our instructor) is famous for. We did a bunch of them, but 2 that stuck in my memory were the “paraplegic drag” and the “log roll”. I’ll leave the details to your imagination. Once we were warmed up (already tired!) we got right into the material. A Level 4 grading requires going through all material for Levels 1, 2 and 3, so we had a lot to cover.
It was going to be a long, hot (it was about 77 degrees outside) day, so Christian was good about giving us frequent hydration breaks, which we needed. The first half of the day was the “workshop” portion of the testing process, where we review all the material and refine our technique. This also serves to tire you out, which means the actual grading process is really testing your muscle memory, rather than your ability to think something through. 5.5 hours after starting, we broke for “lunch” for half an hour and tried to re-hydrate as much as we could, get some food into us, and get ready for the long-haul test that was coming up.
The grading went relatively smoothly, all things considered. We were all tired, and I think everyone there started getting cramps in some part of their body at some point in the day. Mine were in my right calf muscle, which seems to be where I always get them. By the end of the actual technique testing, we were all actually happy to start sparring (also part of the process). I think we did around 10 rounds of fighting, rotating through the entire room of people (there were 8 of us testing). We did about 6 rounds of stand-up sparring and 3 or so rounds of “ground fighting”, where you weren’t allowed higher than your knees (so it might be hands-only, on your knees, or it might be more traditional ground-style fighting).
At the end of that, I was completely exhausted. 11.5 hours after starting, we had finally finished, having effectively covered all material from Levels 1 – 3, twice (once in the workshop, once in the test). I had taken 3 Ibuprofen throughout the day to combat my neck which was giving me a hard time and they started making me feel sick. After we left the gym I was actually sick, which got it out of my system and actually made me feel a lot better 😕 A bunch of us headed around the corner to get a celebratory drink (or 3) and then I went home and curled up to die.
Visible or specific injuries for the day:
- My neck was totally out of alignment and was causing me trouble for most of the day
- I rolled my ankle lightly doing one of the drills, so I put on my brace to keep it stable
- Lots of small cuts and scrapes were just part of the deal (scraped the skin off a knuckle doing chokes against the wall)
- Got punched (hard) in the stomach as I advanced into it during technique testing
- Right eye scraped/bruised from someone’s glove in sparring
- Took an elbow right above the temple in ground fighting (we start back-to-back, and I turned the same direction as David’s elbow turned!)
- Lots of bruises all over the place from various hits and collisions
As I said – this was by far (actually by about 3 hours, which is how much longer it was than my previous grading!) the most grueling and intense physical thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m also proud to have completed it. I feel like I worked really hard to accomplish it, and it’s good to know that in the end it was worth it (I think), because I passed. It was quite an experience, and I was glad to share it with the people I did. I’ve got to thank everyone who was there (it was all a team effort), and in particular Christian (our instructor) and David (my training partner) – definitely couldn’t have done it without them.
Now back to resting for the rest of the week before I’m back at it, and into Level 4 classes!