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So tie-tie: Recovering from the test

20 Sep

It’s been almost five days since I took (and passed) the yellow belt test, and I’m still blah about working out.

The day after the test, Sunday, I thought I might have a short run and do yoga, but I only did yoga, which was tough but felt good. Monday morning I walked the two miles to the train station (which I usually do) and took the bus home. Tuesday I did 40 minutes on the elliptical, which I found absolutely exhausting. Wednesday the same as Monday, and today I had planned on running at the gym before meeting a friend for lunch, but right now I so don’t want to (though another round of yoga sounds good).

Is this normal? The couple of weeks before the test, I was working out quite a bit: krav maga and KO Bag two or three times during the week; krav maga, KO Bag, and even running on the weekends (well, one weekend). Maybe I just exhausted myself. Maybe it’s partly hormonal.

I do plan on doing my usual krav maga 1 + KO Bag on Saturday and Sunday. I know I should start going to krav maga 2, but a) I don’t have the gear yet, and b) I’m skerred! Hopefully by next week I’ll be brave enough to try it.

I passed the test!

16 Sep

It’s official: I’m a krav maga yellow belt. Yay!

The test was both harder and easier than I expected. Harder because it was so long and tiring, easier because we had a chance to review before the actual test, and could do the moves over and over, improving along the way.

But of course I didn’t know this beforehand so I was very nervous. I imagined getting grilled in front of everyone by some krav maga stranger rather than the friendly instructors I know. I imagined partner-rejection. I imagined having one chance to do choke from the side and completely blanking like I did during a drill one class. I imagined failing. But my worries were unfounded.

First off, I was glad to see the guys running the test were two instructors I knew, and before the test even began, they made sure everyone had partners. Mine was one of just four women in the class, including me, our of 14 test takers, and she was terrific. Tough and helpful with a good sense of humor.

The test was four and a half hours long. We started with an hour of cardio, which I was expecting. However, it went very fast. Running for an hour feels like forever, but doing a whole bunch of different cardio drills for the same amount of time felt like 15 minutes.

The next hour and a half was reviewing everything that we’ve learned. I wasn’t expecting this at all and was very relieved to have a chance to practice and ask questions before the test. My only question was about choke from behind with a push. I wasn’t sure what happened after getting out of the hold, and was reminded that if you’re far enough away, you’re basically set; if you’re still close to your attacker, you launch into combatives.

I’m also glad MB gave me a good practicing technique for all the choke holds. By late last week, I felt confident with my combatives but was worried about remembering some of the choke holds. I was just going to practice them off the top of my head, but MB suggested I make an index card for each hold, writing down, step by step, each move. Then he said I should practice with my eyes closed, say to myself, “Choke from the front,” or whatever, and very slowly but fluidly go through each step, gradually speeding up. Ten times for each choke hold.

I practiced it one night, then had class a couple of days later. We were practicing headlock from the side. The teacher said to start with our eyes closed, then open them as we went through the moves, but I had practiced with eyes closed so many times, I just kept them closed the whole time without even thinking.

Back to the test. After our review, we had a 15 minute break. I went through tons of water over the course of four and a half hours. I thought one 16 ounce bottle would be enough, but I refilled it three times from the water fountain. I thought the guys who had brought in gallon jugs of water were crazy, but they had the right idea.

Finally, the test began.

It was basically like the review, except with no instruction beyond, “Now do straight punches,” and with evaluation. All the groups did the same moves over and over while the instructors walked through evaluating. Then the partners would switch.

The testing part, which took about two hours, felt like an eternity. We were all very tired by then. The kicks and knees were especially exhausting. The instructors reminded us to stay aggressive and do each move like our lives depended on it. (To psyche myself up, I imagined myself as Buffy the vampire slayer, and that my partner was a demon or vampire. There, I said it.) Again I was glad to be able to do stuff again and again, to improve and practice along the way.

My partner was awesome. She bopped me a few times by mistake – once in the ear, once in the jaw, once in the crotch (!) – but those kind of hits only sting for a few seconds. She felt so bad each time, she’d hug me. I elbowed her in the ear once too by mistake.

The choke hold section took the longest while the ground work section was the shortest. We didn’t even use kick shields for ground work. We just shadow boxed movement and kicks, and did getting up once. What they did was go down the list and randomly call out our names, at which point we’d have to get up. I was toward the end, and was trying to hold my fight position the whole time. Well, I couldn’t. I’d rest my head as they called someone else’s name. Today, my lower back is pretty sore, but otherwise I feel okay.

They said we’d have three chances to get up, so I was surprised that once everyone had gotten up once, they said, “That’s it! You all passed.”

It was and is such a happy feeling. Everyone was elated. I know it’s only level 2 (and Googling “yellow belt martial arts” gives me lots of images of tiny kids getting their yellow belts), but it was my very first martial arts test, and I never thought I’d be the kind of person who’d do this kind of thing.

Now whether or not I’ll be testing for level three anytime soon is another story.

On the yellow belt road: Ground Positions/Movements/Kicks

12 Sep

This is the last batch of requirements I need to know for my yellow belt test in three days(!).

Ground Positions (back and side)

We’ve only really practiced the back ground position. The goal is to have as little body surface area on the ground as possible so that moving is faster and easier. Your shoulders are off the ground, your arms are up in a fighting stance, your grounded foot is as close to your butt as possible, and your other leg is bent with your knee as close to your chest as possible. This is the leg that’s ready for kicking.

As for ground position on the side, you’re, well, on your side, propped up on one elbow with your bottom leg bent. The top leg is primed for kicking.

Ground Movement (back and side)

I’ve only done this from the back. Hopefully they won’t really test from the side.

Front and Side Kicks

We’ve practiced this front kick a lot. This is the kick that knocked my training partner on her butt that time. It’s interesting that in the above video, the pad holder doesn’t hold the pad right against his body. But I think he’s able to time the impact so that the kicker doesn’t hyperextend his knee.

I’ve practiced the side kick once in class and once at home. As with the front kick, you have to lift your hips in order to get real power.

Scissor Kick

We learned this once in class, and unfortunately I can’t find a video showing it. Best of luck to me!

Getting up with distance

This video does a good job showing ground position and movement, in addition to getting up with distance, which is in the last half. I love practicing this although I’m only good on my right side.

That’s it! Hopefully I know everything well enough to pass the test on Saturday.

On the yellow belt road: Choke and Headlock Defenses

6 Sep

Nine more days untilĀ  my test!

The thing with choke and headlock defenses is the same with any other moves: practice practice practice. I go through the moves at home over and over until they are automatic.

Choke from the Front

There are two ways to get out of this:

  1. 2 hand pluck with kick/knee to groin
  2. 1 hand pluck with heel strike to chin/throat

I like the second option better. With the first, I feel awkward plucking with two hands and kicking at the same time. With the second, you have both feet on the ground.

Choke from the Side

I think I’ve only practiced this once. Maybe I’ll request it in an upcoming class, as well as practice at home.

Choke from Behind

I haven’t practiced this one too much either.

Choke from the Front with a Push

I’ve practiced this a lot, or maybe it just feels that way because it was on Tuesday night. The trick is that you have to get your arm very close to your ear and to turn very “violently,” as they say. If you have a partner who’s holding you lightly, getting out is no problem. But if you have someone who’s holding on tight (without cutting off your airway) and you don’t do it right, you won’t be able to get out of it.

I had one classmate who was a monster about this, which was good because when I couldn’t get out of her death grip, I knew I was doing it wrong.

Choke from Behind with a Push

I have practiced this before, but it’s been a while. It’s a similar idea to Choke from the Front with a Push, except that when you turn, you turn all the way around.

Headlock from the Side

I know the movements for this pretty well, but my problem is getting my finger under the person’s nose at the right angle. If you just push up or back, it’s uncomfortable for the attacker, but it doesn’t hurt. If you get that 45 degree angle, it really fucking hurts. From the video it doesn’t look like it, but I can attest that it does. I’m not saying it stings, I’m saying it’s unbearably painful and all you want to do is get away.

On the yellow belt road: Punch Defenses

28 Aug

Holy shit, I just realized my yellow belt test is only two and a half weeks away!

I was very nervous about it when I first started thinking about taking it. Then an assistant instructor assured me I’d be fine and I wasn’t nervous. But now I’m nervous again. Anyway, today I’ll be talking about the Punch Defenses I’ll need to know.

360 Defense

360 Defense means defending yourself from outside punches in a circle (hence 360 degrees). There are seven positions, which took me a little while to memorize but after practicing them over and over at home in front of the mirror, I think I’ve got them.

Rather than describe each of them, I’ll let this video explain.

Four things to remember:

  1. Wrist to wrist
  2. Blade of your arm
  3. Bend in your elbow
  4. Attack the attack

I’m just okay at these. I suspect I don’t “attack the attack” enough.

Insides Defense against Straight Punches

While 360 defense protects against haymaker punches and strikes coming from the inside, Inside Defense protects against strikes coming straight at you, ie, your face.

I remember one of my teachers saying that the main obstacle with Inside Defense is getting over the fear that a punch is coming straight at you. My initial reaction is wanting to curl up in a ball and cower. I also have the problem of wanting to chop at the arms coming at me instead of angling the punch away.

MB practices this with me a lot. Out of nowhere he’ll come after me with straight punches (the most I get is a tap against the chest), much faster than we ever practice in class. He always corrects my movement, and he hasn’t in a while so maybe I’m getting better.

Insides Defense against Low Straight Punches

These defend against straight punches coming low, ie, at your stomach or even your groin.

I feel like I really suck at these. I do the chopping thing a lot. But the video’s explanation is actually good: lead a lot with the elbow, a little with the body, and “blade” the arm a little, which means aiming your forearm bone, not the meaty part, at whatever’s coming.

Inside and 360 Defense Combo

We don’t practice this too much in class, but MB certainly practices it with me at home! I try not to worry about how “perfect” my form is and just try to do something to ward off the attacks.

Next: Choke and Headlock Defenses.

On the yellow belt road: Kicks

6 Aug

In an earlier post, I wrote about how I’ll (probably) test for my yellow belt in September. As I mentioned, there are five sections for testing: 1) Fighting Stance and Punches; 2) Kicks; 3) Punch Defenses; 4) Choke and Headlock Defenses; and 5) Ground Positions/Movements/Kicks. Under each of those sections, there are four to seven things I need to know. I’ve already talked about Fighting Stance and Punches. Today is my favorites: Kicks.

Like punches, kicks have hip action, though a different kind. While with punches you swivel your hips, with kicks your hips move back and forth as though on a hinge. I find it helpful to warm up by moving my hips first, without kicking or punching, to get used to the movement and make sure I’m doing it right.

  • Groin Kick

This may be my favorite kick. Whacking one’s shin with a resounding smack against the kick shield is so satisfying. What beginners have trouble with is remembering to keep their arms up in defensive mode, and also the recoil, ie, landing your foot back into fighting stance.

While I have no trouble bringing my foot back to fighting stance, I tend to bring my foot back too far. This would slow me down if I want to do multiple kicks. So I need to practice a faster recoil.

I also need to remember to bring my eyes back up to my opponent’s chest (which is basically where your eyes always should be so that with your peripheral vision, you can see strikes coming from any direction) as I’m kicking. This results in a stronger kick. And also apparently I crunch forward too much before kicking. I just need to be faster and let loose with a kick right away.

  • Ball of the Foot Kick

This is also known as the bladder kick because you are, guess what, kicking your opponent in the bladder.

I’m pretty good at this. The trick is you’re not kicking up but forward and with (guess what again) the ball of your foot.

  • Round Kick

I’m worst at these, or rather, these are newest to me. Because classes are often crowded, we don’t get to practice round kicks that much, which take up more space than groin, ball of the foot, or knees.

But I’m improving. KO Bag class helps because we do round kicks over and over with both the rear and front legs. The problem I have with the rear leg is remembering to pivot my front foot enough.

  • Knees

There are two kinds of knees, connected and disconnected. With the connected knee, you grab hold the person with both hands as you whale them with your knee. Disconnected knee is the same except you don’t grab onto the person.

I’m pretty good at knees, though my connected knees could use more power. I also don’t land in the right spot. It should be the front of my knee that’s hitting my target, but I end hitting further back first, then sliding down, so that I end up with friction burns on my knees.

Next is something I really suck at: Punch Defenses.

Krav maga check-in

19 Jul

It’s been almost six months since I started krav maga, and I think I’m ready to test for my yellow belt. Emphasis on think.

In case you didn’t know, krav maga was first developed in the 1930s by martial artist “Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler, as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislavain.” After he immigrated to Israel in the late-1940s, “he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the [Israeli Defense Forces, or the Israeli army], who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga.”

I keep hearing that you have to go at least twice a week to get anything out of it, and that three times a week is ideal. When I started back in February, I went twice a week almost every week. I didn’t go at all in March (vacation and laziness), went only once a week in April, and only started going twice a week again in May, which became a habit in June. I went three times in one week once last month, and once this month.

What’s tough about going three times a week is that the class times aren’t ideal for me. I prefer to work out in the late morning or noontime. The weekend times, 11 AM, are excellent, but during the week is tougher. I usually work from home Tuesdays and Thursdays, and krav maga isn’t till later in the afternoon, which means sitting around unshowered for most of the day.

But now I really need to suck it up and go three times a week because like I said, I think I’d like to test for my yellow belt in September. I’m much better than I was in the beginning, but I still suck at a lot of things. Luckily they’re very transparent about what I’ll need to know for the yellow belt.

There are five sections for testing: 1) Fighting Stance and Punches; 2) Kicks; 3) Punch Defenses; 4) Choke and Headlock Defenses; and 5) Ground Positions/Movements/Kicks. Under each of those sections, there are four to seven things I need to know. Today let’s look at my Fighting Stance and Punches.

Fighting Stance and Punches

  • Fighting Stance and Movement

I’m pretty good at this. At first I had no idea how to move in fighting stance. I kept stepping out with my front foot when it’s really pushing off with the rear and closing the distance.

You should avoid doing things that would make it easy for your opponent to knock you off balance, such as crossing your feet (a big no-no) and lifting your foot too high. At the same time you don’t want to drag your foot on the ground because that will slow you down.

  • Straight Knuckle Punches

I’m erratic at these, sometimes good, sometimes terrible. I have the tendency to strike with my lower two knuckles on my left hand. You’re supposed to strike with the upper two as there’s less chance of injury that way. I also sometimes forget to lead with my lower half. In other words, the power starts in the sole of your foot, you turn your foot (a little or lot, depending on which foot), and pop your hip forward, following through with your arm and fist.

I also forget to follow all the way through with my right, which is my cross. The jab, your left hand, is supposed to be fast and just to stun your opponent; with the right you imagine punching a hole through the person. It’s the knockout punch.

  • Palm Heel Strikes

I’m pretty good at these. It’s the same body mechanics as the straight knuckle punch. You just hit with the heel of your hand. That way you don’t have to worry about hurting your knuckles (which I have done, at least with the skin).

  • Hammer Fists (Front-Side-Back)

I’m also pretty good at these. With the side and back, you have to remember to first look at your target before striking. It could be your friend or some innocent bystander. Newbies, I notice, have a tendency to just strike without looking.

  • Advance and Retreat Punch Combos

I felt like a clumsy idiot when I first started learning this. It’s like when do I step forward? when do I punch? I’m better now but I think I still have a tendency to step first, then punch, instead of at the same time.

  • Elbows

There are seven elbows. I’ve learned one, two, three, and six (which I think my instructors call seven, but whatevs). One is to the front, two to the side, three to the back, and six, straight down (as though your opponent is bent over and you’re aiming for their back). Four and five are backward so I guess we don’t learn that till level 2, and the last one is like an uppercut with your elbow.

Next time, my favorite: Kicks.