Krav Maga gradings vary greatly from association to association and from instructor to instructor. But the variance is only in degree. All Krav Maga gradings are tough. If you’ve done a little martial arts and tried some gradings before, you need to adjust your expectations. Many martial arts gradings, especially at the earlier levels, are awards essentially for time served. You take one every 3 months. They last maybe 25 minutes, an hour tops. A little practice, a few foreign words and patterns. The P1 grading, the first level in the British Krav Maga Association syllabus, can take up to 4.5 hours to assess. For many people, certainly most who have never been in the forces, it is the hardest physical thing they will ever have done. I don’t say that lightly. And you shouldn’t take it as rhetoric. It’s a tough old process. It’s not for everyone – gradings are strictly optional – but if you do decide it’s for you, read on and be prepared.
Why do it?
Like I said, it’s optional. If you don’t grade, we teach you the same things. So why do it? The grading process is designed to push you to a limit. It’s designed to break you down and take you so far past your comfort zones that you come up against what Sun Tzu called The Inner Opponent. What is the Inner Opponent? It’s the voice in your head that tells you to quit. It’s the voice that speaks for your fear, for your weakness. It’s the voice that can beat you in a fight, before your real life opponent even gets a shot.
Picture this. You are involved in a traffic accident. You stop to assess the damage. Suddenly you are aware of being on the floor and blind. There’s pain, and there’s something wrong. An untrained person folds into a ball. Covers up. Protects. You’re a Kravist. You’ve drilled this. You stand. Your vision returns. A hammer swings at your head. You 360 it. It breaks your arm. Your Inner Opponent yells for you to quit. To roll up. To give in to the pain and the nausea. You attack. You overwhelm the opponent and drop him. The next attacker comes. You carry on. You run. You get clear. You arm yourself. You call the police and ambulance. This is a real situation. It happened to a BKMA Kravist. This is why we train hard enough to meet the Inner Opponent. So that, in extremis, you will do what is necessary to come home.
“Train Hard, fight easy.” – British Army.
Gradings are about being pushed to the limit. They’re about doing battle with the Inner Opponent. They’re about pushing the body so hard the cognitive processes begin to shut down, simulating adrenal stress, and then performing your Krav Maga under pressure. Bottom line: if you can do it here, you’ll do it in real life.
Take if from someone who knows: You come out of a grading 10 feet tall. You’re ready. You have an absolute surety inside you that if something happens, you will be ready. You will fight. You can’t ever know that you’ll win, but you can know that you’ll fight. And so often, if you know this, your opponent knows this and you won’t have to fight. And if you do fight, you’ll do it without hesitation. Without doubt. And in spite of fear.
Grading Preparation – Exercise
The perfect preparation will include steady state endurance aspects and high intensity interval training. Steady state means running, cycling, swimming for extended periods of at least 45 minutes, working in a sustainable fashion (aerobically.) HIIT means training for short durations around 20 seconds as fast and as hard as you can. This means sprints, preferably uphill, rapid burpees or other callisthenic exercises, or combative exercises such as pad or bag work or Retzev. Steady state should be around twice to three times a week. Interval training should occur twice daily, using something like the Tabatta Protocol, which is a 4 minute workout (15 minutes with a warmup.)
You should work steadily and cease all training a week before the grading. This week is your relaxation week. You should stretch daily, keep mobile but stay off hard exercise. Let you body prepare for what it must do.
Grading Preparation – Nutrition
You should not drink alcohol for the week running up to the grading. Take it seriously. It’s up there with running a marathon or triathlon. It may well be the hardest physical thing you’ve ever done. And if you’ve been in the forces, just think combat phys. It’s a beasting!
For the week before, eat well, hydrate well. Carb load with lots of rice and pasta.
The morning of the grading, get up early. Eat a good breakfast 2 hours before the start time. If you’re like me, you can’t hold solid food during the grading process, so you need this lead time to get energy into your body. Eat well and hydrate well. Lots of water.
For the grading, it’s up to you. Some people use bananas and nuts and raisins. Me, I get sick if I eat solids so I go for a liquid diet! I use the following. Adapt as you see fit, but do not come unprepared. You will burn well over 4000 calories during your grading, around 3 times the amount of energy you would normally burn in a 24 hour period. If you come without calories and proper hydration, you will suffer and even risk failure. Do it how you will, but do it.
Carbohydrate solution (Maltodextrin powder mixed with water). You may wish to add hydration tablets too (isotonic salts.)
You drink the water all the time, the carbs when things are tough and the sugar when you feel weak, faint or sick.
You’ll need boxing gloves and a gumshield. You should also have forearm protectors and a groin guard, but these are not essential. If you’re taking a P3 or higher, you’ll need shin guards too as you’ll be fighting with kicks as well as punches. You should take a towel and several changes of shirts and a change of trousers. You will sweat constantly, so a change can be refreshing. Also use an effective antiperspirant, but be aware that strong perfume or antiperspirant smells are as discourteous to your training partners as body odour.
Good luck out there. Best advice – train hard. Know your syllabus. And go in there as a team. if you go in as a lone individual, only concerned with your own result, you’ll close in as things get tough. You’ll introvert. You’ll focus in and all you’ll have is the Inner Opponent trying to kick your ass. Focus out. Give encouragement to your team mates. Take encouragement from them. We see it over and over – it’s the ones who work as a team who get through the tough spots. Finally, have faith in your training, in your instructor and in yourself. You’re worth the grade, or your instructor wouldn’t have let you in the room. You can do it. Go out there and get the job done!