How do you improve in Krav Maga? Coach Paul Grey explains how to improve your performance by using the same methods used by professional athletes...
I get a lot of questions about how to improve one aspect or another of krav maga training. As a result I thought I’d post a ‘how to assess your own performance’ article to make this same information more accessible. Accurate assessment of current ability is a key component of any coaching performance programme.
As a Krav Maga Practitioner your starting point for any assessment should always be your own Krav Maga Instructor. They should be able to give you clear indicators as to areas you need to develop, and have a clear idea on your strengths. Listen to what you Instructor has to say, even if you don't agree.
To get the best from their advice do the following.
1. Approach the instructor at the beginning of the lesson and ask them for a critique of your performance over the lesson.
Tell them you want to achieve and ask for any pointers on movement and general technique. Unless the instructor is really busy, they are usually delighted to help and you'll often find they will take an interest in your development as a result of your commitment.
The biggest returns are nearly always to be found in improving your basics. Once thats done address anything else, if you have poor fundamentals the rest is irrelevant anyway.
The big improvements are always found in movement and basics. As a coach, I always assess movement and striking first. The instant the student moves, I usually have all the information I need. If the areas for development are more sophisticated or complex, I often ask the student to cycle through a specific movement several times allowing me to identify the pattern of movement and usually an incorrect sequence of movements.
Often small changes make a dramatic difference to your power, speed or the effectiveness of your technique. As a coach, the real skill and expertise comes in ‘diagnosing’ the cause of the problem and then relaying the information in a way the student is receptive to.
You can ask another student to do this on a phone, or if the class is not to busy, ask your instructor. If they have time, ask them to give you feedback whilst watching the playback. Seeing yourself on a screen is a great way to to learn and to see what you are actually doing. Watching a few minutes video of your own movement can be invaluable. An experienced student can often see their errors and areas that could be improved. A less experienced student will need someone else to point them out.
NOTE: It is quite a skill to watch a video and give useful feedback - less experienced students may struggle without help
3. Realistically appraise what you see Critiquing your own performance is a fundamental part of your growth. It’s unfortunate but natural to focus on what you could do better. The problem with this is that it can have a very negative impact. Perception is everything - if you just see the negative stuff, that's the end of any progress and possibly your training.
Being realistic means looking at the good and the bad and taking a balanced view of your own performance. Being realistic about your performance will help keep your motivation up and maintain your confidence . It also helps you to become more aware of your strengths which is just as important to your training.
You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that identifying what you’re doing well also helps you to progress technically. If a particular skill has started to work well for you then by appraising it you reinforce the need to do it and you’re less likely to just take it for granted or move on too quickly. Even relatively basic visualisation of this kind also encourages the brain to learn the technique quicker.
4. Dont let your ego get in the way of your progress
Importantly, don't let your ego get in the way of progress. Sometimes we come across individuals with an unrealistic perception of their own abilities. Their ego gets in the way of learning and all the student see's is good technique or reasons for a particular flaw. If you cant recognise where you need to improve or what technical improvements are required then the student is stuck where they are. Often these individuals are more prone to wanting to skip grades as they feel they are ready for bigger and better things.
The opposite can also apply. Students percieve their own perfornance negatively, they are only able to see corrections required, faults to be addressed and flaws in performance. This negative self feedback leads to a negative conditioning loop. Students see faults, undrate their own performance leading to a decrease in their confidence and subsequent performance.
The ego can often be problem with established martial artists or Instructors. Again, it gets in the way of learning and begs the question, "why train if you are not here to learn?"
Remember, recognising your own progress can be difficult. Ask your instructor or another experienced Kravist to feedback on what they see. Performance progress is not uniform, understand this. However consistent, focused training with a good instructor will get you there in the end.
This is probably the single biggest argument for gradings.
The process of having a specific skills set to learn, encourages coaching and learning which in turn improves performance. From experience the best Kravists I have taught are always those who put themselves through the process of coaching and assessment of grading.
There is an interesting model of learning by 2 researchers named Fitts & Posner. They break skill acquisition into 3 basic stages. Their model is particularly useful for Martial Artists and Kravists.
These stages are cognitive, Associative and Autonomous stages. We don't need to cover these 3 stages in to much detail, there is an article here. But in simple terms we are trying to progress your skills from the novice or cognitive stage. through the intermediate or Associative stage through to the advanced or autonomic stage. When you see a professional athlete/fighter effortlessly demonstrating a technique they are at the autonomous stage - thats your goal. Realistically, the more techniques you train the less competent you become overall as you have less and less repetition time per technique. Thats why boxers punch and move well - just 6 punches in boxing.
Learning stages in Krav Maga Training
The Cognitive stage
Big inefficient moves - Choppy movements - Inability to recognise errors.
The Associative stage
More consistent movements - increasingly efficient - less errors - less thinking about moves - detects some errors
Consistent technique - few errors - efficient movement - automatically corrects errors
Students will often be at one stage for one technique and another stage for a different technique. If you are highly competent with your powerside back or at the autonomous stage, switch legs and see what happens ? Most students drop down a level of competence on the very same technique.
Now you have a clear scale to rate your training and an understanding of what 'better' looks like. The scale remember is:
If you are a BKMA student you are in luck. The whole curricula was designed to compliment the way we learn so your job will be made more simple. The core curricula has all the most simple and frequently used techniques in it. This means your job is to get all the techniques in the core curricula from stage 1( the cognitive stage), to stage 2 (the associative stage). Because of the way the curricula is designed this is quite achievable. The combination of core curricula and your understanding of your stage of development will help speed your progress.
Applying this to training and grading.
BKMA Instructors apply this same model when they assess students. At a basic level in the core curricula (practitioner 1 - 3), the examiner expects you to be working towards stage 2 in most things. At the intermediate stage of training, (Practitioner 4-6) the examiner expects you to be at stage 2 generally and above in some areas. At the Advanced level (Practitioner 7-9) the examiner expects you to be at stage 3 for most everything with a few stage 2 techniques.
Take Care for Now.
Coach Paul Grey