In this article we explore the topic of preparing for your Krav Maga Black Belt with Eitan Krav Maga.
A Belt Exam Like No Other
Preparing for your Krav Maga Black Belt is different to any other FEKM belt grading that you may have experienced.
The only way I can describe it is that it’s like going back to the beginning of your Krav Maga training and revising everything you have ever learnt; with one big overriding caveat – everything must be executed at full fighting speed and delivered with absolute accuracy, perfect range, full body weight and rotation.
Essentially, you must revise the entire FEKM syllabus across all belts and be able to execute everything you have ever learnt, without thinking, at full fighting speed.
This is the core of preparing for your Krav Maga Black Belt. Every defence, every counterattack, every kick, every takedown, every strike, every disarm must be executed with perfection and precision.
Some exam attacks are known in advance. For other sequences the attacks are completely unknown and random. One key element of preparing for your Krav Maga Black Belt exam is that you can never go backwards. Regardless of what’s happening, you either stand your ground or preferably, “attack the attacker” driving forward.
The Shadow Fighting Element
Interestingly, the most frequently failed element of the blackbelt curriculum is the Shadow Fighting. Something we do practically in every class for years becomes the bête noire of all aspiring black belt Kravists!
In this single black belt element you must demonstrate absolutely everything you know at speed, showing a wide variety of kicks, punches and strikes. There is a mandated set of 14 combat techniques that must be executed in a specific order, however after that, it is free form. You must show good movement and, what’s most challenging, you must demonstrate “fight intelligence”.
Demonstrating Fight Intelligence
What does this mean? Well, if I’ve just kicked my imaginary opponent with a spinning side kick, I can’t then throw a short hook or uppercut. In reality, they would have either moved away to avoid my kick or they would have been struck and been moved backwards by the sheer momentum of the blow.
Equally, if I’m throwing short hooks and uppercuts then I can’t throw a tornado kick. My attacker would be simply too close to allow me to execute the turns.
The examiners are looking at this type of intelligence as you execute the prescribed and the free-style elements of the Shadow Fighting exam segment. It is nerve wracking and it should be easy but it’s deceptively difficult and physically and mentally exhausting.
Demonstrating Range and Rotation
Another element to consider when preparing for your Krav Maga Black Belt exam is range and rotation. The range element is related to the fight intelligence we discussed earlier.
Rotation demonstrates that we are applying body weight as a weapon with every single strike. With rotation, power comes all the way from your feet pushing up from the ground. Then through your thighs, hips, core, back and finally as an energy release through your strike. You make contact at full fighting speed, with an imaginary invisible shadow opponent.
You will likely be battling nerves at the time as you are judged by a panel of the highest ranking and most respected Krav Maga students and teachers in the global FEKM federation! Nerve wracking to say the least.
The importance of Solo Training When Preparing for Your Krav Maga Black Belt Exam
There are a number of elements that you can practice on your own when preparing for your Krav Maga Black Belt exam. Practice does indeed make perfect. Ironically, the best way to train is to do everything slowly.
Focus on the smallest movement. Which hand moves first? Am I rotating fully? Are my hands in guard position while I’m striking?
A piece of great advice I was once given, has stuck in my head. It sounds like a cheesy line from a 70’s martial arts movie… “To learn fast, train slow!” Never is this more true than preparing for your FEKM black belt grading.
It is the meticulous attention to detail that will get you through successfully. You must master becoming your own observer. You must watch your every single move to ensure that it is not only perfect but also has built-in “fight intelligence”. You know that’s exactly what your panel of examiners will be doing!
Speed of movement will come on the day, through repetition and the added adrenalin of the exam or, indeed, in a real self defence situation. Which of-course is the singular reason we all train in Krav Maga – real life self-defence. When you have trained and trained and trained each technique, your body will take care of the rest.
At the senior grades (blue, brown and black belts) we call this the “frustration of Krav Maga”; going through the endless repetition of techniques, again and again but still not getting that one thing right. For example, I regularly forget to drive my hip into the strike when delivering a sliding kick.
What it Means to Me Personally to be Preparing for My Krav Maga Black Belt
For me it’s always been a personal objective to achieve a black belt in two different fighting arts. I’m already a second dan Black Belt in Aikido. Surprisingly, this provided a strong basis for practicing Krav Maga. Let’s explore that in a separate blog!
I am also very goal orientated, so I find it very motivating to have the Black Belt objective in the back of my mind. It’s clear and focussed and helps drive me on, especially when it’s painful, or some things don’t seem to make sense. For example, when you fail a grading and need to find a way to pick yourself up and start again.
In many ways, achieving the Brown Belt was technically more demanding. Jumping and spinning kicks for example, will take some time to master unless you have prior experience. Way past the belt itself. However, you gain confidence at each grading and you gain knowledge. I certainly started to see clearly how elements of Krav Maga ‘fit together’.
Things now make perfect sense in a way that they didn’t when I was simply learning a new technique. It’s as though you can fully appreciate the whole rather than just the individual parts.
Black Belt Signals a New Start in Your Krav Journey
In many ways becoming a Black Belt is a new start to my Krav Maga journey. What do I mean by that? You are finally awarded your Black Belt and then you start your Krav Maga journey again! But this time, with a wealth of knowledge and experience behind you and the ability to use that expertise to help you get an even deeper appreciation of the art. Initially you may have wanted the confidence of knowing that you can defend yourself and others in almost any threatening situation. But now also aiming for a new standard of excellence and ultimately mastery.
As with any martial art or fighting system, achieving a Black Belt means you have reached a degree of competence. You have mastered the basics, if you will. But there is always something more to learn. What that means to me is that I now have a solid foundation on which to build, to develop and grow.
What I Feel I Will Have Achieved
Clearly, achieving your Black Belt in any fighting system is a massive endorsement of your hard work, dedication, focus and progression. Someone once told me that in all martial arts and fighting systems only a tiny fraction – far less than 1% – of students who begin ever progress to Black Belt.
So achieving that level of competence shows a huge level of commitment, never mind the skill and the inevitable bumps and bruises which are all part of growing up though your chosen martial art.
Your global federation, your peers and your students, all know the level of commitment required so receiving that acknowledgement at the grading and putting on the Black Belt for the first time embodies all of that in one single life moment!
What it Will Mean for My Club and My Students
As an FEKM Black Belt I will become the official Technical Director of my own club and others in my own right. Our federation, the FEKM, quite rightly expects every club across the world to have a Technical Director who is a Black Belt. This ensures that FEKM standards are high and consistent across our 20,000+ student members around the world.
Even though I achieved the FEKM instructor certificate some time ago and have been teaching students regularly for some years, once I succeed and pass the Black Belt exam I will be at the mentoring Technical Director level.
Helping our students develop and grow is a strong ethos in our FEKM federation as it is for me as an individual instructor. Teaching students and seeing them develop alongside my own journey is personally very rewarding. You also learn so much from teaching your students as you do from discussing techniques with your peer instructor group. How they get a particular technique to work effectively may be subtly different to what works for you. Exploring and understanding these nuances helps you develop both as a practitioner and as an instructor.
But ultimately, I think it is very important to simply enjoy the journey. Not just achieving your ultimate goal of becoming a Krav Maga Black Belt, but every step, every struggle, every setback and every success along the way. Enjoy the journey, see yourself develop and grow and the consolidation of knowledge and skill will simply follow.
EITAN Krav Maga