Practitioner Level 2

Photos by IKMF Philippines

Last November, I passed my Practitioner Level 1 exam in krav maga. It was tiring and amazing and terrible. I swore I’d never do it again.

Six months later, I was standing in the same room, about to take the Practitioner Level 2 exam.

Going from P1 to P2 is a cumulative test — not only do you need to know all the new level 2 techniques, but you’d be tested on P1 techniques as well. The good thing about your second exam is you’re not going in blind. You know what the exam format will be like, and can expect a few surprises (even if you don’t know what they are). You know how to manage your energy so you can last several hours without water or breaks. Chances are, you’re stronger, fitter, and faster than you were last time. Easy-peasy, right?

Not at all!

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You play like you practice (or, you fight like you train)

There is a wonderful post on Signal vs. Noise by Jason Fried about playing like you practice. It talks about taking practice and training seriously, because what you do in practice will be what you do in real life. Here’s a snippet from the article about a self-defense class Fried went to, where they were practicing gun techniques:

The instructor repeatedly said, “When your turn is over, do not hand the gun to your partner. Instead, they’ll turn their back, and you’ll just drop it on the ground so they can pick it up and start the exercise over.”

That sounded weird. You’re right next to the person, why would you drop the gun so they had to pick it up?

Without having to ask why, the instructor explained himself: “If you practice handing the gun over to your partner now, you might end up handing the gun over to an actual assailant later. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen.”

This reminds me of a similar story our instructor had about a man he met in Cebu. The man was attacked by a mugger at knifepoint; because of his martial arts background, he was able to successfully bring down the mugger and armbar him. But there was a problem — the mugger (no doubt a UFC fan) was a quick thinker, and tapped out. Out of instinct from all his training, the man actually released him! For his mistake, he ended up getting stabbed; thankfully, he was lucky enough to survive and tell the tale.

It sounds funny, but who’s to say we wouldn’t do the same? No matter how much we’ve trained in the gym, in a stressful situation, our mind goes blank. All we can rely on is our muscle memory. If the muscle memory is wrong, then we’re screwed.

Photo c/o IKMF Philippines

Photo c/o IKMF Philippines

I’ve been training krav maga for 10 months now, and I still have a lot of bad habits that I haven’t gotten rid of. The biggest bad habit (don’t laugh) is that I don’t actually kick my partner’s groin. Even if I do the proper kicking form, my foot ends up stopping an inch shy of the target. It is a bad habit my partner and I both share (it’s probably more awkward for him, considering I’ve got lady parts!). The only time we’ve been able to consistently kick the habit (pun intended) is during our Practitioner Level 1 exam last November. The high level of stress and adrenalin we went through actually enabled us to kick each other full contact, with 100% rate of success 😛

The longer you train in krav maga, the more habits you get. And not all of them are bad. You can see the difference in people who’ve trained for a long time — they’re always guarding their chin, scanning the room after a technique, and punching and kicking in good form. They don’t even think about it anymore; that’s just what their bodies do. In a stressful situation, I can probably still fight. But of all the bad habits to acquire, missing the groin is the worst one — if I’m faced with a real attacker, now’s not the time to be shy!

Fried’s article has reminded me to get my shit together and get rid of the bad habits NOW. Our Practitioner Level 2 exam is coming up in less than a month, and I need to really train correctly and give it my all. It’s not just for the exam, too; if for any reason I need to defend myself, I will fight how I train. So starting tonight, I will kick groins for real. Hey, partner, bring your groin guard, okay? 😀

2012 recap (aka a list for the end of the world)

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

The world is supposedly ending in half an hour, so I might as well write my annual recap blog post early! Like every end-of-year post, I’m limiting my list to 20 bullets. Here, in a mad dash to midnight, was my 2012:

2012 was an awesome year, but I still have a lot of things left on my bucket list. Here’s hoping the Mayans were wrong!

My list for 2011 is here.

Getting to Practictioner Level 1

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

(I should stop leaving blog posts on my iPad to die. This post has been around for a while.)

Around the time that I started getting serious about krav maga, the instructor asked me if I wanted to take the Practitioner Level 1 qualifying exam in November. Unlike traditional martial arts where everyone is expected to go up in belts (and your learning is limited otherwise), the krav maga exam was entirely optional. Since we covered a whole range of techniques in class, I could train for years without ever having to take it.

My reaction to the exam went something like this:

August: “Me? Take the exam?” *incredulous laughter*
September: “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try. I don’t care if I pass or fail.”
October: “Oh my God, I don’t know half of the techniques on the syllabus! I’m going to fail!”
November: “We’ve worked so hard; please don’t let any of us fail, please, please…”

The Makati batch of P1 students

We were the first batch from the Makati gym to take an exam (inadvertently making me the first girl to do it). Starting October, my fellow examinees and I started studying after class three times a week, even once on a weekend. The higher-level students stayed with us to correct our techniques and give us tips on how to pass (“Don’t talk! Don’t laugh! Don’t touch the pad! Exaggerate your movements!”). The best tip I got was to choose a partner for the exam and train with him or her exclusively. You need to know how your partner moves, and what his best attacking or defending side is. It was almost like a performance, and your success depended on how good your partner was.

Taken by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

A week before the exam, all examinees from both Makati and Ortigas gyms went out of town for the P Camp. Our instructor spent two days going through the syllabus with us and correcting our techniques. Even movements we’d done hundreds of times before (such as a straight punch) needed to be corrected! The exam was a purely technical one; no matter how strong you hit or how fast you moved, if you got even one detail of the technique wrong, you failed the technique.

In the camp, there was one technique I just COULDN’T get right. No matter how many times I repeated it or who tried to teach me, my body just wouldn’t cooperate. With just one week left until the exam, I decided to practice it every day without forgetting to practice the rest of the techniques on the syllabus. We were allowed a small number of mistakes, so even if I failed that one, I could still pass the exam.

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

November 10: Exam day rolled around. The atmosphere was thick with tension. Everyone in the room had been working so hard for this, and no one was smiling anymore. I won’t go into details of the exam, if only because there are a few surprises that are part of it. But I’m so glad the instructor and the higher-level students prepared us for that day. At that point, all we had to do was trust our bodies and focus our minds.

Two grueling hours later, we were done. We had no idea if we passed or failed. Then the instructor called us one by one to announce the results. Ladies first.

“No mistakes,” he said to me. “You passed.”

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

My wish came true — not only did I pass, but we ALL passed! We were now Practitioner Level 1 students, and would be receiving certificates and IKMF passports from Israel. Taking the P1 exam was the most exhausting, most rewarding thing I’d ever done, and I’m so glad I rose up to the challenge. Congratulations to all my fellow examinees! Great job, everyone!

(Someone asked me if I would be taking the Practitioner Level 2 exam next year. My response? Incredulous laughter.)

UPDATE 12/20: I got my certificate, passport, and patch! 🙂


Krav maga

Krav maga makes me happy!

Next week marks the start of my fourth month taking krav maga. It’s an Israeli self-defense system meant to be extremely practical and easy to learn. When attacked, your goal is to defend yourself and destroy your opponent as fast as possible. Dirty groin kicks included!

I remember my first day of krav — I was so nervous walking to the gym that I wanted to back out. As luck would have it, I ran into my college buddy Jay, who’d also been taking krav for a few weeks. I felt much better seeing a friendly face.

It only took one class to get me hooked. Krav was fun, not just in the physical techniques but the logic behind them. Defense involves your body’s natural reactions, the psychology of an attacker, and sometimes outright common sense. Every technique is well-explained and practiced over and over, culminating in a final drill where you’re attacked in full speed and full force.

My first month was the most difficult. All my insecurities and fears came out! Years ago, I was told by doctors to stop taking any contact sports (because of two car accidents that injured my neck, and a few other reasons) — it’s why I moved from boxing and body combat to yoga. For years, I’d been very careful not to put my body in harm’s way. But I’d always been curious about krav, and I missed martial arts. During my first weeks of krav, I was so afraid of getting hurt. I didn’t want to hit hard. Every bruise I sustained was a big deal. It got to a point that the instructor came over and told me: “Your form is good. Now you need to work on your strength.”

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