Test Training: Blending old experience and relying on new wisdom (More musings from a humble old Yellow belt) written by Ted Emes; Audio by Jonathan Fader

UTKM Testing.

It’s a right of passage that pushes you even when you are well prepared for it.  For me, testing is an example of the experiential divide between the possession of information and the possession of wisdom.  Both sides of the divide have details of the experience but only one side has the visceral feeling of getting through it.  Last December I was notified that it was time for my Orange Belt test assessment and to develop a path forward for the actual test.  I do recall the mention of a possible assessment while we were wrapping up a class, subsequently followed by some hushed laughter and a pat on the back which was more empathetic than congratulatory.  The idea of testing is exciting but it is also a little unnerving and looking back on my training over the past year, I certainly had ample time to dive into the Yellow Belt material.

Remember how they say “don’t respond to emails after consuming three holiday beers into the evening?” It’s a thing (really) and so in late December, I agreed to an assessment in early January, survived it and booked my Orange Belt test for this upcoming March 20th.  In terms of standing preparations, I have information on the test outline, I’ve witnessed the test a few times, and I have the experiential taste of what’s needed to succeed.  Not bad, but I also remember that fellow Kravist Wei (Orange Belt) is super quick with a knife… like crazy fast… and also that I’m doing this test on my own.  Basically, there is a lot of material to prepare and despite having 8 weeks of prep time ahead of the test, there is a sense of urgency to move quickly. 

The preparation for my Yellow Belt lined up with a large swath of training time, as the first round of Covid-19 shut downs had limited my work time, so I essentially filled it with additional training, strong management of sleep, nutrition, and plenty of review.  I possess quite a bit of training experience from being competitive in several different sports and I tend to plan my training like planning a siege. Unfortunately, low and behold, life and work just yanked the majority of my free time away, so I’m forced to draw on new levels of experience to make it work. Quite frankly, I’m a little petrified or Petra-Terrified, as our ranking Blue Belt instructor got me in a guillotine recently, and did not go easy… uuggghh… she’s really good. You see, I’m neck deep at work right now and I’m averaging about 4 hours of sleep 5-6 days per week, so training is severely limited, as work consumes 15-17 hours of my time each day. I have no choice in the matter, so I’ll have to shed all previous notions of training structure and re-think how I’m going to set myself up for the test.

Over the past three years that I have been training at UTKM we have an ethos to not let the need for details interfere or obstruct our objectives, often summarized by the rallying cry of “do something!”  There is an importance here: On a relative scale, my current training program will, out of necessity, have to be very DIY, rather than the siege planning I put in place for my Yellow Belt.  To face this new reality, I have revisited our key principles, specifically the assumption that our techniques may fail. With that assumption in mind, I have turned my regular training techniques upside down:

  1. I need a dedicated “training session” to train – No! I can steal 10 min windows during quiet periods at work to complete a HIIT workout.
  • I need the “proper attire” to train – No! I had to laugh a little at this notion because in class I’m wearing an athletic set up but a real life an attack will most likely come when I’m wearing street clothing.
  • I need to be rested to train – No! (with a caveat)  It depends on what you are trying to achieve by including fatigue in your training regimen.  I can’t simply do repeats of the exact drill while calm, as my first experience of the “circle of friends” (a.k.a. Circle of DEATH) highlighted that there is a heavy element of pushing through fatigue.  So if my mind and body are fatigued at work, I can use that to help prep for the test; enduring a quick 10min opportunity to train or to visualize responses to an attack while already naturally under duress or exhaustion.

So with deconstructing my notions of what is required for training, I re-imagined my training plan to attack my Orange Belt test.

  1. Theory – There is a written portion to the test. Normally, I sit down and review everything over several hours with breaks, à la university exam prep style.  Now, I take my two Krav workbooks to a job site and before I fall into a Netflix hole or my radio calls for me to work, I’m reading a concept or watching a 5min UTKMU video.
  • Skill Demonstration – Orient myself to all the blocks in both the White Belt and Yellow Belt curriculums.  Can I re-call what each the block entails and mentally run through the maneuvers? Critical thinking is still part of executing our skill regardless of fatigue levels.
  • 10min Circle of Friends – Every other day: One 10min suicide drill in full work gear or run to a centre-line, do three proper burpees (sprawl, push up to tuck jump) and back to the edge again.  It’s a much slower paced, as steel-toed boots are not good footwear, but the heartrate does increase.
  • 5 Rounds of Sparring – I try either two minutes of jump rope or two minutes of shadow boxing.

The concept here is to try and focus my minimal time to prepare for the test, or at least part of the test, every day while I’m at work.  I know that the Circle of Friends will push my limits so the real prep is to work on my ability to keep enduring until the clock pulls me back into reality, vs. managing my aerobic capacity over 10 minutes. Furthermore, I have to do this outside and people will watch as it’s a little weird, but I might as well get used to people starring at me.

Will this work? No idea. But at least I’m doing something about it and one thing that will pay dividends is that I committed to regular training prior to life/work shift.  I can make this new plan work because the majority of the training work has already been completed.  Now I just have to keep up the commitment, grind out the waiting clock and then, come March 20th, simply let the training takeover. Come on down to watch, experience tells me that success is possible but wisdom has me thinking this will be like watching a T-Rex trying to master a skateboard; possible but not yet proven.

Onward and Upward.


Written by: Ted E. – UTKM Yellow Belt

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