Why did I spend 7 years learning Krav Maga?
This is something I’ve been asked about a lot lately and yet there’s no simple answer. I had taken Tae Kwon Do in my teens, experimented with Karate, Judo and Kung Fu but couldn’t bring myself to stay with them. Some teachers were kind, some were stern yet understanding, and others were… just not for me. As a beginner I was judged as not being able to keep up with the pace of intermediate or advanced students. One man complained that I wasn’t trying hard enough to do full sit ups and said Judo would be no good to me anyways. Ah me. Can’t please everyone. The arrogance got worse when it came time to consider tournaments and other competitions which I had no interest in. I wanted a martial art that would teach self-defense like how to get away from gun attacks, knife attacks, chokes, rape prevention and more. But these other styles only cared for technique used in forms. So I finally gave up searching for a new studio. After years of traveling, soul searching, and praying for guidance I decided to try dancing. It did not last. You might say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back because I found my feet moving into a fighter’s stance instead of a dance routine.
On a drive one day I happened to pass a studio that had just opened its doors. Curiosity brought me into the parking lot. But while sitting in my car I thought no one was there. Nonetheless, I got out, approached the doors and saw a man behind a counter enthusiastically inviting me in. Of course the first thing I asked was, “What is Krav Maga”, to which the man explained it to me in great detail. It would be intense, the warm-ups alone would be rigorous. But it made sense to me, his attitude was very positive and encouraging without being salesy. I took a free lesson, learning about arm grabs and how to best get out of them. That sold me in a heartbeat. No other school wanted to teach me self-defense in a first lesson. Back then it was all about how to stand in a horse stance or where to position your arm with precision above your head with your fist tight before taking a step during form 1.
So for a few weeks I was the only student taking Krav Maga at this new location. I liked the individual attention. Then little by little others started to join in. Months later I took more till those months became years and the school expanded not once but twice. My teacher used to teach on his own, now he had 7 or 8 teachers to help with kids, teens, adult beginners, intermediate and advanced.
Before I knew it, 7 years had passed and I was told that it was time for my black belt test. Nobody gets their black belt in just 3-4 years in Krav Maga. You’re confronted physically, mentally, emotionally and beyond. I’ve seen lips busted, noses broken, feet broken, teeth knocked out, shoulders dislocated, and bodies slammed to the floor (including my own). With every new belt I tested for came new challenges such as trial by fire (put in a circle with your eyes closed and having someone attack you with a technique that you must get out of in less than 8 seconds) or a rattlesnake drill (multiple people attack you one after the other).
As I progressed to higher belt ranks the intensity skyrocketed. My strength didn’t feel adequate against men a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than me. So I was encouraged to consider cheats if I was attacked in the real world such as scratching, biting, grabbing back fat, eye gouging and ripping the groin. That upped my confidence a tiny bit. Later more women joined the class. I felt even better to be working with them instead of men who could throw me across the room. By the time I got to my red belt 3 which was the last step to reaching black belt, I had learned multiple techniques to work with but also had the freedom to be inventive with them.
My teacher stayed patient with me even when under lots of stress. He knows I’m someone who will question anything and everything since something that works for him may not work the same for me. Then last month, the date of my test was announced. All I could think of was how I wanted to get it over with quickly. The first hour alone had me out of breath. That was just the start of the warm up. From there you had to ignore the clock as much as possible and move from one demonstration to the next. After lunch I felt ready to give it all the last 4 hours until we had to spar which I detest immensely. I did what I could then cried my eyes out thinking I was too much a disgrace to go forward. Yet again, my teacher encouraged me not to give up. Even my opponents urged me to keep going. So with tear streaked cheeks, puffy eyes, swollen ankles, sore arms, an achy back and shaky legs I forced myself to endure more trial by fires till I heard what I’d be waiting to hear for 8.5 hours “Awesome work! That’s it!”
Then we all got emotional. And I wondered if I truly deserved getting a black belt. Some areas I excelled at and others not so much. But I lasted through the entire day. My teacher said that was a big part of the test.
Now to answer the question at the top: Why did I spend 7 years learning Krav Maga?
I did it to prove I was just as worthy as anyone else of getting as far as I did with dedication.
I didn’t quit or walk away, I remained where I was, gave it my all and now I can look at my list of accomplishments and add achieving a black belt in a martial art. Best of all, the learning will never stop. A black belt doesn’t mean you’ve learned everything, it really means you’re ready to go beyond learning itself to become stronger, competent and understanding of who you are. Not what other people think of you.
All those years ago I remember being nervous just trying something new. I had been somewhat agoraphobic, and very shy. Now, in 2016 my awareness has increased dramatically. I’m more open-minded in conversations or topics under discussion. I feel less intimidated by others unless they just have really bad attitudes. I also found myself exploring new interests such as teaching yoga which I encourage classmates to take in order to improve their balance and flexibility when training in Krav Maga. This is where I am. Where do you want to be?