Monday, 23 March 2015

Practitioner 2 to 5 Gradings, March 2015

Hengrove Park Leisure Centre, BristolUK
21st March 2015

By Lance Manley- P4

Gearing up for a Practitioner level exam is always both fun and a bit stressful. At Krav Maga Midlands we spent the last 4 weeks getting ready with entire lessons focussing on grading revision.

With the Practitioner 1 exams now being held in-house, there were less people making the trip to Bristol (21st) or London (22nd) this time. We had four for each for P2, P3, and P4 with myself and a lad named Mike striving for P5.

I had arranged to share a ride down with Viesturs, a colleague from KMM who was taking his P4 exam. Viesturs's day job is a Christian priest and at the age of 57 he is an inspiration to me and many others in the club. Always positive and smiling he gives everything 100%.

As we weren't on the mats until 2pm we had arranged to set off at 10.30am. However at about 9 o'clock I checked Facebook to see messages from the P2 and P3 guys warning that there had been a bad accident on the M5 motorway closing off several junctions.

Oh dear!

I pushed down my nervousness by doing some last minute prep on my equipment bag. In addition to the requisite gear needed for a grading such as groin guard, gum shield and shin pads I'd also invested in a big packet of flapjacks, painkillers, 3 litres of water and some freeze spray. I have an existing left knee injury (ACLs are fragile beasts) so to be on the super safe side had 3 elasticated knee supports in the bag as well.

When Viesturs turned up we tried a separate route via the M40 only to find that the junction we needed was also closed.


Then we hit upon the bright idea of taking the A429 all the way down to Bristol which proved great until we again hit congestion. Only the fact that I was in the presence of a holy man dissuaded me from swearing loud enough to shatter the windscreen.

With 15 minutes to spare we got to Harlow Leisurezone to see the P2s and P3s gulping down some water and chatting, red faced, to our instructors Al, Bartosz and Russell, while they waited to be called for their results. Goz Gozwellings from the Solihull and Kings Heath branches of KMM was waiting along with her friend and grading partner Ewa. Both said it had gone well and were now just hoping for a good result.

As the 2s and 3s then moved into huddles on the floor to receive their feedback and scores, me and the other 4s and 5s began to get kitted up. A short while later our club members came back, all holding certificates and patches and smiling. 

It was reassuring to see that all our mates had got through. Goz particularly was super happy, as was her instructor Al Natrins. As they made their way out we began to move into the vacant space to get ready. Alan Dennis took us for a quick warm up where he would intermittently shout "You ready?" to which we had to shout back "ALWAYS!!!" After cooking up a good sweat we then moved into positions for the actual grading.

There were 10 of us for P5. Me and Mike from KMM had agreed to pair with people we didn't know rather than each other, to keep us sharp and focussed. I got to partner a lad named Raddy from Nick Maison's Total Krav Maga. We began to go through the moves with Nadav Shoshan from the KMG HQ team in Israel as our examiner.

Me and Raddy were last in the line up so we noticed pretty quickly that people further up the queue were being handed sticks and knives. This was P4 revision that they had put amongst the P5 curriculum. We moved through hair grabs and bear hugs before then doing stick defences and stabbing attacks. I hadn't revised the P4 material and was worried that this would let me down. Once we'd worked through ground releases Nadav then told us to get our 16oz gloves on for the sparring.

My P4 test had sparring that was gruelling to say the least. As we got into a huddle to hear our instructions, Nadav said that we would fight 7 rounds of 2 minutes each, changing partners each time. He added that we were to go as hard as our partners "allowed us to" but not any harder. Message being: It's a fight but don't try to kill each other.

The first round was designated as two for two, meaning a jab + a cross from one before the opponent could respond in kind. This round wasn't too bad but then we moved to harder rounds such as up close and personal (grappling range) and then the expected "free for alls."

The exhaustion factor of this type of fighting cannot be easily portrayed in words. I had been hitting the gym for some serious cardio workouts the last 4 or 5 weeks and even then my energy levels just about coped. Unlike in movies, when you fight constantly for 2 minute rounds with only a 30 second break, your vigour quickly dissipates and only willpower can keep you upright and striking. Nadav made it quite clear that this was a test of resilience and time to "suck it up and carry on." I had to spit out my gum shield on two occasions as I couldn't breathe properly and the order to "try and take your partner to the floor" invariably led to a lot of grunting and struggling as exhausted fighters tried to heave each other over and down.

Once that was finally out the way we moved to 4 against 1. This worked out nicely as there was 10 of us, in two groups. One guy was in the middle with someone holding a knife, another a stick, a third a strike shield and the final guy trying to strangle. Mike was up first and put up a good fight. This lasted 75 seconds with no break before number 2 was in place, which was me. I had imagined this wouldn't be quite so bad as the previous fighting but coupled with how tired we already were the whole thing was knackering. We had to go twice in the middle, as well as being an attacker on the other rounds. Finally the whole thing was over and we dragged ourselves upstairs to get our results and swap our sodden T-shirt for fresh ones.

As we sat on the floor and the sweat dried, Nadav demonstrated general areas where people had made mistakes such as bridging during ground releases and then moved to the scores. The first few people passed and you could see the relief on their faces as we gave them a round of applause. About 3 guys got the "conditional pass" meaning their own instructors would hold onto their certificates and patches until they had performed one thing again to get the whole grade. I was last up and Nadav said "You need to retest everything. The spirit is there, the heart is there but not the technique."

I had mentally prepared for failure as much as for success in the run up to the grading and had promised myself that I would take either result with dignity and a positive mindset. Nadav added that my weapons and self defence work needed improvement. As the only P5 candidate to have not passed I was determined to remain cheerful and jokingly asked "Do I want to know my score?"

He replied "You got 66%".

As the pass mark is 70% I was still reassured that I had missed by only a small margin.

We then lined up for the awarding of the certificates and some photos. I approached Nadav afterwards to see what I'd failed on. He said "I don't consider this a fail" and pointed out that my P5 stuff was OK but the P4 stuff was lacking and at this level I can't have bad techniques in my repertoire. My ground work had been fine and the biggest boost was finding that he'd given me 8 out of 10 for my fighting, despite telling me that I had my hands down too much, a problem that had cost me a piece of a tooth at the P4 grading in 2014. As sparring is something I consider myself weak on it was greatly reassuring to find out I'd got such a high score in it. I shook his hand and said I'd see him in October for the retest.

The first time I've failed a grading but the learning experience was invaluable and to have received such constructive criticism meant a great deal to me. Time to hit the floor in preparation for the October resit.

Bring it on.