Editors Note: Karis is the first female and at 18 (The minimum age for a UTKM adult green belt) the youngest person to achieve green belt at UTKM. This is her account of her test. The mind of a teenager is always quite entertaining. Lead instructor Jon will be writing a follow-up post from the instructors perspective next week.
I recently took the UTKM green belt test. I figured since Jon (UTKM Lead Instructor) is always bothering the instructors and me (even though I’m not an instructor yet) to write blog posts, I should probably write something about how terrible it was. Well, I guess it was also rewarding, but the test was very painful and I never want to do anything like that again. Ever. So excited to see what is planned for the blue belt test. But hey, that’s probably at least four more years away. For me at least. I would actually be excited for someone else to get a blue belt. As long as I’m not suffering, it’s fine.
If you are new to the school or Krav Maga, don’t freak out and worry that classes are really hard and all the tests are super challenging. The tests ARE hard, but they start out easier and get harder as you move up the ranks. The instructors also make sure you are prepared and know the techniques before allowing to test. More on that later. Also, did I mention classes are actually really fun?
Now, I was originally planned to take my test sometime in December. That time, I was actually preparing. I was going to ALLLLL the classes, doing push-ups at home, and I actually ran a few times. But with less than a week to go I sprained my ankle and the test had to be pushed back. The second time around and I was an idiot who barely prepared. The Richmond gym had closed so I was attending fewer classes. I was busy with school and work, transiting everywhere and getting home late and exhausted. If you are a student at a university, do not sign up for any classes before ten am. They are hell, and you will hate yourself. I also really hate running. I could have made time to prepare, but I didn’t and of course, I wound up regretting it.
BAR OR: So you start off with push ups, sit ups, and then you get to run for two kms. How exciting. I honestly thought I would fail the push-ups, but I got to 40 which was further then I had dared hope for. The situps were more tiring then I expect, but come on, anyone can do sit-ups, so that part went fine. The fun part came when I stood up and my arms and legs were tired, and I had to run. I’ve mentioned my hatred of running. Well, it went terribly. I may have puked (I did). I felt really dizzy at one point near the end. I was walking for at least the last fourth of the test. To me, that was proof that I wasn’t actually ready and I shouldn’t be doing the test. If I couldn’t even do the “easy” part, how was I going to survive everything else? Throughout the entire test, that was when I was mentally at my lowest point. I wanted to quit, and I told Jon I shouldn’t be doing this. His response was to yell (Editors note: it was more aggressive motivation) at me, which did work, so thanks. I think what he said was something like it’s all in my head, don’t overthink it, and probably something about my confidence. I don’t know. It was a long test.
WRITTEN EXAM: So after that mess was the written test. The questions themselves were easy, but I took too long on the multiple choice/true or false questioning and barely finished on time. I should have been faster, but I was rereading some of them and not as focused as I could have been. So for the written questions, I was rushing to complete all of them and definitely lost points that I could have had if I had more time. My writing was also a mess, literally. I AM SO SORRY INSTRUCTORS WHO HAD TO TRY TO READ AND GRADE MY TEST, I THOUGHT JON WOULD BE GRADING IT. The written test was probably the easiest part. If you’ve been to a ton of classes and heard Jon’s lectures, you’ll know the stuff. Just make sure you move quickly. Twenty minutes sounds longer then it is.
REVIEW: So off to review everything I’ve learned. I’m pretty sure the white belt stuff was fine. As a colour belt, it would probably be a problem if I didn’t know any of those techniques. I don’t remember how the yellow belt techniques went, but I definitely remember the orange. Who can forget being squished multiple times (cough cough QUINN). We avoid the ground for a reason. I would get my arms stuck under someone, and then try to free them so I could actually do something. Unfortunately, to others it would appear like I’m not doing anything and I’d get yelled at to keep fighting. IT’S HARD TO FIGHT WHEN YOU CAN’T MOVE. Also aggression. One of my biggest problems. I just don’t like hurting people. I actually had to repeat a lot of the techniques because I wasn’t being aggressive enough. I also had to stop and think about what to do with certain attacks. We practice the yellow belt stuff more than the orange, and I was unsure on some of it.
The judo throws had worried me, but I did manage to do them correctly (at least by Krav standards). I’m sure practitioners of Judo would be able to spot errors in my form. It also really helps that I got to throw Petra, who knows how to be thrown and how to break fall. Speaking of, Petra I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to throw you so hard. I don’t care if we aren’t supposed to say sorry in Krav, I can and will apologize for things. Fight me (please don’t, I have too many bruises). One thing I knew I wasn’t going to succeed at doing was using oblique kicks to block kicks. I don’t like doing this. I find it awkward and difficult to time correctly. It’s not something I would ever attempt in a real fight. I was okay with failing to properly demonstrate it as I knew I could do most of the other stuff.
BODY SHOT ONLY SPARRING: What even is pain? THIS. Ohhhh this part was horrible. I was tired, but I had to go five minutes with people hitting me. Sure, technically I could hit back but I was trying to avoid getting hit and just survive it. This hurt. So much. Remember that while I’m tired and can’t hit very hard, everyone else still had lots of energy. This is probably where most of the bruises came from. Karch was definitely the worst one to face. I was terrified of fighting Jon because he’s scary and very good. Also, Quinn because like I’ve mentioned he’s bigger and stronger than me, as well as being good. Hahaha nope. Karch just kept hitting very fast and very hard. He actually demonstrated retzev really well. Having to keep standing and taking hits was exhausting. Oof. I don’t know if I can articulate how painful that was. When it was over I sat down and tears started pouring down my face. I think I cried after the circle of death and takedown sparring too. I’m not sure why, if it was a delayed reaction to the pain or I was feeling overwhelmed. Maybe the test did break me. Petra and Devon, another assistant instructor and fellow student, would come to encourage me whenever I had the chance to rest, which I’m really grateful for.
CIRCLE OF POWER: The circle of power or as we call it the circle of death is named so for a reason. For anyone lucky enough to not know what it is, you stand in the middle of a circle of attackers. They attack you in different ways, you defend, and on the green belt have to take them down. It goes for ten minutes. This at first seemed to go so slowly. I looked at the clock two minutes in and didn’t know if I would be able to finish. I know I was lethally stabbed a few times (Editors note: Not really, they were just flesh wounds).
My takedowns got really bad as I was just grabbing people and trying to spin/slam them down (tip: this doesn’t work very well). And then bear hugs. In case you were wondering, it is terrifying to be suddenly lifted into the air several feet (if not more) of the ground. This is why I tried to avoid any of the bigger guys to not come to my test (They ignored it my request.) If only that worked. Again, the ground sucks. But it’s not as bad when they don’t know what they are doing. The requirement for a blue belt in BJJ or grappling equivalent to obtaining your black belt in (UTKM) Krav is, in my opinion, a valid and important requirement. Also, when I kick you in the groin, please react, or I will keep kicking harder. Learn the first time!
SPARRING WITH TAKEDOWNS: My test evaluation grading book thing says I got one, but I got two. That’s all I have to say. Joking. I did get two, but oh well. This section was like normal sparring, but I had to try and take the person to the ground and hold them there for three seconds in a controlled fashion. Originally my goal was just stay standing, so I think two takedowns was pretty good. I wasn’t going to be able to take down anyone much bigger than me. I didn’t have the energy for the aggression I needed. Also, small teen vs guys bigger and stronger than her. You should know if you’ve been around for a while that physics does matter. Near the end, I was just trying to keep moving and avoid being hit as much as possible.
Conclusion & Advice
So some blood, puke, tears, and sweat later, here we are. The test was very challenging and painful, but when is life not? I did get my green belt, thankfully. I now have permission to laugh in the face of any newbie who tries to correct me (mansplaining, google it). By permission I mean that no one has told me that I CAN’T do that. (Editors note: She can’t. She will, of course, be helpful and polite as is seen with her many apologies) It will happen. Honestly, if you aren’t a colour belt I’m probably going to ignore your opinion (Editors note: what she means to say is, listen carefully and try to learn something new from every encounter.) I didn’t attend all those classes and suffer through all the tests to be told I’m doing something wrong. Trust me, if I was doing a technique incorrectly, it would have been caught a few belts ago. Leave me alone. (Editors note: She says this but will gladly kick you in the groin when the time is right)
To anyone who is going to take one of the belt tests, here’s my advice. Firstly, work on your cardio, aka the thing I never do and then always regret not doing. None of the tests are easy. They will challenge you. You will be helping yourself by preparing. Speaking of, make sure you know everything that you are being tested on. Not only do you need to be able to demonstrate the techniques properly, but you also need to be able to answer questions about when you might use them, etc. Lucky you, there are things to help with this now. The student workbooks, and the pre-tests. The workbooks have everything that will be on the test, so make sure you mark off when you learn something. And if you don’t know something or aren’t comfortable with it, you can practice it at the pre-test. The pre-test is just there to show you where you are at and show you what you need to work on.
Those are the physical and technical aspects, but there’s also the mental part (shin gi tai! Hey look I remembered something). The tests probably seem really daunting by now. They should be taken seriously, but remember that you will not be allowed to test unless an instructor thinks you are ready. The pre-tests will really help with this, as they give the instructors a better idea of how ready you are. So if you are taking a test, instructors who have experience with this (way more than you) believe you can pass. Don’t quote me on this, but the main ways you will fail a test are if you quit (or are injured to a point where you can’t continue), or you are fatally stabbed too many times.
Reading this may not convince you, I know hearing similar things didn’t help me, but try to believe it. The instructors want you to do your best on the tests and that may involve being held back for the next one or being pushed out of your comfort zone. It may be unpleasant, but hey, just don’t die. I managed it, so you can.
To everyone who came out to cheer me on, thank you. I appreciate the time you gave up to be there. All the horrible people who came to beat me up, I have nothing to say to you. Just know that I highly dislike you and will be there at your next test 🙂 Finally, please never say stuff like “I want to fight everyone who thought I should be an instructor on my green belt”. Especially to Jon. He will remember and you will fight them and it will suck. You will be too tired for rage and end up fighting more colour belts then you needed to.