Monday, 12 December 2016

Practitioner 1 to 5 Grading. SGS Krav Maga.

Nomadic Kravver

Practitioner Level Gradings
SGS Krav Maga, Sydney, Australia
Sunday 11th December 2016

The Number of the Beast

After some pretty intense pre-test revision on Wednesay 7th, on the morning of the grading I got to the venue at about 8.40am.

Steven Kratsas, the chief instructor, had warned us that we needed to be there by 9 o’clock as he intended to kick off at nine twenty AND that we were to be responsible for doing our own warm ups.

Couple of laps around the courtyard then some stretching and at about 9.15 we made our way down into the “basement”.

Now…when told we’d be grading in a basement (or what crafty British estate agents call the “lower ground floor”) I had imagined a big storage area.

Turns out it was an underground car park with mats jigsawed together between the bays, some of which had cars parked in them.


Steven explained that part of the reason was due to the reduced light because most real life attacks won’t take place in a brightly lit dojo. As I’d been a fan of the Mortal Kombat game series back in the day, it was fairly surreal yet unique to be grading in what looked like a meeting point for the Gulf Cartel in Breaking Bad or where Sonya Blade might go in for a Fatality move on Sub-Zero.

Unlike the UK where only P1 is graded ‘in house’, in Australia the Practitioner levels are all tested at the students’ clubs. There were about 20 of us with the majority being P1s and the candidates for each grade thinning until we got to me at the far end, the only P5 student.

Steven split us up into pairs with me and two guys, Andy & David in a group of three as there was an odd number. Andy was going for P3 and David for P4. After the initial Kida, we went over the P1 curriculum, from straight punches to knee defences and then moved up to P2 and onwards. We handled nearly everything from levels 1 to 2 together and then the P1s went off with the instructor Yanni while Steven and Jerome took the rest of us. We began the more technical stuff such as ground releases, choke holds and wrist locks. Andy was a big bloke, while me and David were roughly the same weight and height. This meant when it came to shifting Andy off, I had to get the technique absolutely right as there was no way I could move him with just brute force.

Jerome then lined us all up and said he wanted to see a roll combination. Initially it was “forward roll with another movement of your choice”. I opted for following with a break fall but we had been warned that everyone’s favourite, the backwards roll, would have to be demonstrated. At P5 you need to know all the required tumbles and on my second go I did a forward> backward combo, which is very fiddly to get right, especially as you can’t stand up between them, it’s all about shifting your feet and twisting to accommodate the movement. 

After this we had break falls. I’m happy as a pig in clover with the normal or ‘soft’ forward break fall but we covered all of them including ‘hard’ front and then sideways and backwards. Satisfied with what we’d done, Jerome then moved us on to grade-specific criteria. Me, David and Andy moved into the various knife attacks, choke holds and bear hugs for P3 to 5.
The P1s finished their grading earlier than us and after their closing Kida, most made their way home. The extra space on the mats meant that we could spread out and we moved into some higher P level attacks and defences. When I left the UK to go backpacking last August I brought only my mouth guard. Last week I invested in a groin guard and it was $25 very well spent.
After about 3 hours we then moved into the final phase of the grading.

Now…I’ve done pressure drills, and stuff deliberately designed to invoke exhaustion in Krav Maga. Gradings particularly, the examiners will push you to your physical limits. On this day however, I was about to face a new level of exhaustion from the depths of my adrenal reserves.

On my P4 exam in 2014 Nadav Shoshan was invigilating and got us to do 50 burpees, 50 sit ups and 50 push ups AFTER the grading itself plus thirty minutes of full on sparring. I had been wrecked after this and my T-shirt resembled a used dish cloth.

This time we did multiple attackers. For the P3 to P5 guys this meant one person hitting a strike shield while three others came at him with a gun, knife or long stick. Basic point of the exercise is that you won’t win but you HAVE to keep going while trying to utilize the techniques of disarming that you have hopefully tattooed into your muscle memory. I went first and the whole thing was knackering. I could hear Jerome occasionally yelling “Lance there’s a gun, deal with the gun!” and trying to keep my distance plus avoid getting caught in the middle of the group.

We then moved through everyone else’s go before being told to get shin guards, mouth guards and gloves on for the sparring.

Steven gave us 30 seconds to get ready and said that only the kit we had on at the end of that time would we be allowed to wear on the mat. I managed to get all my gear on but one guy only had a solitary glove while David hadn’t managed to tighten up the Velcro on his shin guards and Jerome forbade him to do so during the fighting. We then got into it and initially it wasn’t too bad but after a couple of rounds I could feel the fatigue creeping back. On round 3, Steven split me and the other higher levels up and got us to fight a couple of the women from the P2 test. I got partnered with a ferocious Asian lady who had a mean round house kick. Then I got David again for the final round who is very agile and we ended up tussling on the floor.

I thought that was the end of it but then we had the final joy of a standing drill. Two lines were formed with the first person turning to face the second. Steven and Jerome announced that this was 15 seconds of continuous body punching, no strikes to the head and no footwork. You had to stand still and just punch. I opened up some remaining adrenaline that I didn’t know I had, (stored on a shelf at the back of the summer house and long covered in dust), and we moved forward one at a time to take our turn. The drill was hard and as I was the last in line I was also going to be the last person to face everyone else. There was one fighter who had a mean right hook and he caught me a right beaut’ in the guts. The pain was intense and I dropped my left arm to cover it but Steven shouted “Lance, you’ve got two arms. Hit with both”.

By this time I was completely beyond any former perception of being exhausted. My hair had come out of its pony tail and wearing 16oz gloves meant I couldn’t stop to put it back. What with the reduced visibility in the car park anyway, plus 7 inches of hair dangling across my face and my clothes sopping in sweat I felt like a scuba diver who’d just kicked up too much silt from the ocean bed and was waiting for his vision to clear.

When it got to my go as the defender, the main thing that kept me upright was knowing this was the final, final thing. Jerome was shouting encouragement and I managed to last the whole course. Then, it was over and Steven advised us to get as much water as we could inside us and then come back for a quick debrief and the final Kida.

Me and two other guys made our way upstairs to the outside tap and the sunlight that hit us was like something from a Dracula movie. 4 hours of training in a subterranean parking lot can do funny things to your eyes. I was wilting under the glare of what can only be described as God’s Flashlight as I stuck my head under the faucet and then glugged down about a litre of water before limping back downstairs.

We lined up and Steven said the instructors would compare notes and then get back to us in the following week to let us know our result. We then gave the final bow and made our way out.

This was the hardest grading I’ve ever attended with the exhaustion levels pushed WAY beyond what I am used to or expected. I spoke to Steven afterwards and when I said “That was really horrible!” he replied that the intention is to deliberately leave us that tired, so we are used to performing under stress and fatigue.

Later on a few of us went for a celebratory meal at Burger Co in the mall across town. My body’s desire for protein and carbs was about the norm for this type of thing and I don’t think the food touched the sides on the way down.

A great experience in a unique setting, in another country and it was a privilege to grade with SGS Krav Maga.

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