Krav Maga Testing: What it is NOT

By: Jeff Mount

Hey all, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to effectively prepare for a test lately. Whether it’s a Level 1 student test or Day 7 of a Phase training, Krav Maga Worldwide routinely encourages its practitioners on all levels to go through the testing process. This is the first article in a series of articles designed to get the right mindset, prepare for, and be as successful as possible while testing.

Krav Maga Testing: What it’s not

Almost all martial arts have some sort of ranking system, and thus have some sort of testing procedure. Martial arts in America have been rightly criticized for altering many traditional ranking systems into a money-making endeavor. So while monthly tuition at your local dojo may be very low, participants are constantly paying high testing fees and purchasing required equipment. It follows, then, that the more frequently a student tests, and the more tests there are available, the more potential for revenue. Critics identify this testing methodology as running counter to creating solid, confident, and knowledgeable students regardless of the tradition, style, or age of the participants.
Many systems also encourage frequent testing because they claim it boosts the self-esteem and confidence of the student through constant, tangible success. But success at what? How much pride do you derive from a task or accomplishment that you couldn’t have possibly failed at? Settled confidence increases when the risk of failure is real, so the fact of success is correspondingly real.

Krav Maga is at its heart a military combatives system. It was borne out of life-or-death circumstances. Rank means nothing if under those circumstances if the practitioner doesn’t survive the encounter. So here’s what Krav Maga testing is NOT:

  • It is not an empty accomplishment or foregone conclusion. You can (and sometimes should) fail a Krav Maga exam

  • It is not a money-making endeavor with high registration costs and frequent pressure to test

  • It is not an opportunity for hazing, punishment, or verbal abuse

  • It is not something to be pursued before you are ready

At Krav Maga Maryland, we often have students upset that they are unable to test. But which is more discouraging – being told by an instructor that you aren’t prepared to test, or being failed after undergoing the test because you weren’t prepared and no one told you? We charge only the cost necessary to cover the time of the examining instructor, so no one can accuse us of pushing our students to test in order to generate revenue. And while we push our students, we do our best to make it an experience that, while extremely difficult, gives the feeling of having climbed a mountain rather than having dragged oneself out of a pit. And yes, we do fail people. If in my heart I don’t believe an individual is effectively equipped with the mindset, skill, and stamina to utilize a set of techniques in a real life confrontation, I will not pass that person. It is the responsibility of the instructor to give accurate and life-saving feedback, even if that feedback is a non-passing score. I refuse to position myself to give my student a false sense of security by passing them when my expertise tells me that they would not successfully defend themselves under real-life circumstances. So, we fail people as an exercise in integrity, and as a teaching tool to ultimately give them the best instruction we can to make them as safe as possible.

In the next post, I will be talking about what the true purpose of a test is, and how we try to set our students up for real, attainable, tangible success based upon actual accomplishment. Stay tuned!

Rachel Parker