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So you’re thinking about grading?

Sarah tells us what to expect at a National Grading.

I thought it might be helpful to have a few pointers on what to expect from grading if you’ve never been before. Linn wrote that you can’t know what it’s like until you go, and that’s certainly true, but I’m happy to share some of my experiences if it helps demystify it a bit.

This is based on my own experience of 4 gradings: three National Gradings and a club one, which was a mock grading for feedback as I had to wait to meet the time bar.

If this is your first grading it can be kind of terrifying—this is normal! I’m not able to tell you how to manage your nerves, I’ve not mastered that bit yet, but I do know everyone gets nervous before a grading.

If this is your first grading at a National Grading it can be a little bit different than a club grading. Just to be clear the standards expected of you are not different, not at all, but the atmosphere can be very different: National Gradings have tons more people and more levels are being tested.

Here’s a few things you can expect, and a few tips.

Lots of hanging around

The higher grades start first and work their way down the syllabus, so P1 starts last. That means a lot of waiting, even if things are running to the timetable. This also means you are seeing the higher levels train—this can be super intimidating—because you look at them and think “but I can’t do all that”. That’s fine, you’re not expected to do what they do! You can learn a lot by watching higher level people training though.

For example, me and the other people grading P1 arrived really early, found seats and watched the G-Levels train. “Look, there’s Linn” (who was testing for her G5) said Patrick as we looked up and saw our instructor take a full power kick to the ribs. gasp (She’s ok, I think. We were somewhat terrified). Expect a bit of a wait at the start.

Food and Drink

Bring at least two bottles of water and something you can eat quickly for energy. Breaks will be far apart and short, if they happen, so make the most of them. Have your water close by and easily accessible, not in the depths of your bag!

Temporary Tattoo

Well not exactly, you get a number written in marker on your arm, or your hand if you wear long sleeves. There’s a lot of people and the examiner doesn’t know you so they have a number next to your name on their checklist. That number takes a few days to wash off!

The examiner will be an instructor from a different club

Whoever they are, the examiner wants you to pass. You just have to show them what they need to pass you.

At National Gradings there will also be member of the Global Instructor team supervising. These are some of the best Krav Maga instructors in the world, if they give you feedback listen to it! But they may not speak to you at all, they are there to ensure the examiners keep to the standards set by KMG.

Once your level is called you warm up as a group, like in class

If you have any injuries or concerns raise them with the instructor now.

Find a grading partner

You can usually pick who you work with, unless there is an odd number then someone will have to work in a group of three. If you know someone from the club, agree to grade together. Don’t panic if you have to grade with someone you don’t know. Apart from grading at the club, I haven’t graded with someone from Rencounter. I had met my P2 partner once at the P1 grading, and I graded again with her and another guy for P3. Despite not training together we worked well together. So if you don’t know your partner don’t let that put you off.

You are told what to do.

The examiner will say what technique s/he wants you to work on, and you do it multiple times. They’ll tell you when to switch. For P1 they may demonstrate what they want to see before they ask you to do it. This will not be something new, it will be stuff from your level syllabus. You know this stuff! Don’t forget to scan! (see my grading cheat sheet)

Grading cheatsheet

The examiner will give the whole group feedback

If there are common mistakes, they will tell the group—like Linn and Rob do in class.Listen and watch what they are looking for.

The examiner will give you personal feedback

If they tell you that what you are doing isn’t quite right or ask you to do something differently, this doesn’t mean you’ve failed. This is a normal part of grading and you are not expected to be perfect. You can make mistakes and still pass: listen to their feedback and act on it.

Pace yourself

A grading is longer than a class, and there are extra bonus burpees. When the examiner is at the other end of the hall, go light, go technical, when they approach (this is one thing you and your partner can look out for each other on) then you go full force and full aggression. Note: this is advice an examiner gave me, it’s not a cheat!

Show controlled aggression

This is part of the technique: make some noise, hit those strike shields hard! Whatever happens, don’t give up! Mistakes don’t mean failure and your body can cope with being tired. Push through, don’t stop and don’t give up—you’ve got this! Try and focus on the task at hand, and not on what’s happened or what’s coming up next.

At the end

You will get group feedback and find out if you’ve passed. Depending on who the examiner is you may get individual feedback on things to work on, or you may need to approach them after the group feedback to get this. The feedback will let you know what you need to work on for the next level grading, so it’s worth getting.

Certificate and photos

As I’ve heard someone say, they have already printed your name on the certificate, you just need to claim it :-P

They call out your name, they shake your hand and you get a shiny certificate and a patch for your trousers. Then in glorious krav tradition, when you are red and very sweaty, you get your picture taken. Altogether, and usually a club picture too. Get someone to take a picture of you with your new certificate, you earned it! Well done you!

One last thing, and it’s a nice thing! It’s a bit of a bonding experience to grade together, and there’s a really nice sense of camaraderie across the levels within the club when you go to gradings. I hope this is true for other clubs too, but it’s definitely true for Rencounter. You grade for yourself, but you are part of Team Rencounter! If you need a lift to the grading someone from the club will sort you out and get you there and back, if you’re nervous people will speak to you. We’re all in this together and it is one of the nicest parts of grading. Someone usually brings sweeties. Bring Haribo.

Team Rencounter aFter the grading

The picture above is from my P1 Grading, Levels represented: P1, P3, P4, G3, G5. When I showed my mum this photo she pointed out how much shorter I was than anyone else. This unfortunately has not changed as I have graded more.

I posted this after my P1, I think it sums it up the experience pretty well:

Thoughts on grading

So Linn and Rob say you’re ready to grade, but you’re not sure? Do it. Smash it. Good luck!


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