Climbing the KMG Ladder Like an Expert
A guest blog by Sim Radulescu-Van Daele
It’s been 8 years since I started Krav Maga. And so, with my recent level up to Expert, I’d like to write a little about my experiences, appreciation and acknowledgments.
Now, that everything had some time to sink, it was easier to put everything into words. I have a tendency to write books, so this is an attempt to keep it short.
I can only tell you what personal outlook was it for me on getting to Expert level. It hadn’t really been the goal back when I started, but surely, I wanted to get to a higher rank.
When you’re P1, it’s not even a realistic thought. I quite honestly just rolled into Krav Maga because a friend wanted to try it out and asked me to join him, never did I actually think I was gonna do this for as long as it came out to be, and decidedly forever more. I just felt at home in the atmosphere, with the instructors and system, I was sold after the first class. I am very grateful they took me in the way they did!
You might actually never need Krav Maga to save your life, but it will change your life, it surely has for me to degrees starting off I never thought possible. It gave me something, it gave me the responsibility for my own progress and development, something to take seriously, to focus on and sink my teeth in.
Back then my main directive was to play video games through the night and I couldn’t care less about my health or about what I ate in general. Then came a point when I told my parents I’d go three times a week, and I stuck to that religiously.
If there were more days I could train I would take the opportunity to do so, practicing at home seemed only natural. Moreover, I even shifted my priorities and views – when I stopped going out on Saturday evenings so I could be fresh for the Sunday morning practice, and if I did go out? I would still make it out of bed so I could yet attend.
I started being a little more cautious about my diet so my performance during training wouldn’t suffer. I was committed to the cause without knowing what it was, it just felt right. I was steamrolling through my grading until I received my P3 , where’s shortly after that I tore my ACL.
A year without Krav Maga! It was almost unthinkable, so I did the only thing that seemed logical to me: as soon as my knee was good enough to cycle back again, I would attend every class and just watched. It was in those moments a very faint flicker of a flame to teach was born. I just sat there wishing I could help.
That opportunity came a year later, when I asked to join the instructors course. My knee wasn’t exactly a 100% but It would be fine enough, it’s been a challenge in every grading up ’til my E1. If there’s one thing that I actually took from krav, is that it’s about overcoming limitations. Which Eyal has always demonstrated to an awe-filling capacity. It inspired me to do the same, to rise above my limitations, there were plenty to work with. We had plenty of training sessions where we had to overcome an obstacle, breaking through kicking shield walls, sparring with higher levels and other determination drills. There’s honestly no way to explain the profound effect those determination drills have had on me personally. They offered something I’d never seen in any other combat sport (not that I was highly educated on the subject). I had never stuck to anything, and usually it took very little resistance for me to just give up and throw my hands in the air with a resounding: screw this. It has planted seeds for a mental fortitude I’ve never experienced before and has nourished the seeds ever since.
Doing the combat mindset course was like pouring gasoline on what was by that time already quite the raging fire.
“It was in those moments a very faint flicker of a flame to teach was born”
Another extremely important aspect was that it gave me people to model myself after. In my experience youths & teens were quite mentor-less, It was hard to come by good role models, especially if you only hang out with people your own age.
Initially it was by the example set out by the instructors I started with, Raphael and Johnny. Eyal’s And Ole Boe’s composure is something I highly aspire towards to these days. As social media got more popular I got more influenced by people like Tommy Blom, who’s posts introduced me to Intermittent fasting, Primal move (a good foundation to improve movement) and strength training. Peter Lakatos is where I picked up Keto from and an untold number of performance improvement gold nuggets. Ilya’s physical capacities and surgical eye for corrections. I remember being awe struck after seeing him back for a while and he had packed on quite the amount of muscle. Jovan’s fighting insights, improving my striking greatly, but still as he explained: Sim is here (gestures hand around hip) Sim could be here (gestures hand around forehead). Trust me when I say that’s exactly what I’m working towards. Rune’s ability to push mental limitations and easy going attitude.
This all by no means that I never had drops in motivation, for a while I was actually quite lackluster and it was sheer discipline that drove the car. My life in Belgium had little purpose and direction. I didn’t quite know where to take it and the vague outline of where I wanted to go seemed impossible. It wasn’t really one thing but an accumulation of them that made me unmotivated in my own life and my Krav Maga practice. Even though I always upheld my responsibility of being an instructor and trying to improve as one. Such as skipping out of work early so I would be on time to teach. Which as you might imagine provoked the ire of my department manager. When I eventually found myself unemployed (not related to sneaking out 10 min early) I was adamant that when I’d find a new job it wouldn’t be in the way of my teaching and practice. I found a new light and drive when I moved to Oslo where I got submerged in the environment of my liking and it has brought me all the way to where I wanted to get!
Anders introduced me to submission wrestling improving my ground game, Eirik brought boxing skills to the table I hadn’t experienced previously, Børge’s masterful eye and pragmatic tips, Natasha’s kindred spirit, Laila’s can do attitude and eagle eye for details. Mariiusz’s brotherly vibe. I could not possibly put my appreciation into words about how much they have helped me form as an instructor and practitioner. It just bolstered and nourished my wants, needs and desires to a whole new level. My motivation has never been as high as having the chance to train with all of them here. Testing here have been without a doubt the hardest tests I’ve ever had to perform. Rune has an uncanny skill to find someone’s limit and make them push far behind.
I never had to dig as deep in my life as I did for my G5, which basically made me useless for 4 straight days.
As I wrote before I had taken my responsibility to practice quite serious, from G3 on it became a mission. A mission I was willing to sacrifice for. Many events and invitations that I’ve turned down in order to stay sharp on what I wanted to accomplish. Basically working 2 jobs, doing my strength training, Krav Maga training on top of that, getting up early, getting to bed early, cutting out alcohol. Everyone’s road to Expert is different, and what it takes for someone to get there will differ.
For me it encompassed the highest levels of discipline to make sure my knee was in fighting shape, that my hip wasn’t too messed up (compensation from the knee surgery, still after 6 years) which needs constant tending. Then plenty of injuries in between makes that road rocky. And I had to dig a little deeper to stay disciplined every single time something went haywire in my body. Knee ligaments forced, glute overload, forearm overloads, trap overload, wrist ligaments strained, Neck overload injury, broken thumb, partial shoulder dislocation and downright sleepless nights of stress. There were plenty of periods where I was insecure about my capacity in practice and teaching, many doubts about my commitment to my mission and cause.
I’m just trying to paint the picture of my challenges, it hasn’t at all been easy cruising.
At the E camp in Israel I had a really bad cold, blocked sinuses, my shoulder was only going at 60% at best, After practice I spent an hour in the hotel gym doing rehab exercises, my hips were screwed from the plane rides, I got food poisoning or some sort of stomach virus which made it unable to eat and sleep properly. I did my test in what I consider basically running on bare-bones. The reality of things is that you’ll have to perform even when you’re not at 100%, and then you just have to give a 100% of whatever percentage you are running on. And I can honestly say to have that capacity has been a life saver and a tool which is beyond valuable.
This level means a few things to me:
That I had the discipline and fortitude to stick to something. Which my generation has been accused of being incapable of. I wanted to set an example for people in my environment, mainly people my age, that we can actually do it.
A lesson in humility, teaching me to stay humble and always keeps throwing out reminders.
Maybe most important of all: that I am all of my instructors, I try to absorb and encompass the qualities I admire about them the most.
For that I appreciate every single one of them, getting to Expert has been a team effort spread across many countries, countless hours of effort you have all poured into me makes me humble to the core of my being. Your support, pick me ups, words of wisdom, guidance, feedback and loyalty are all gifts that have made me a rich man in soul and spirit. A high standard of principles and values I wish to impart when it is my time, so I can pass the gifts you all have given me.
All my training partners that have helped made me better, I have deep gratitude for each and every one of you!
And of course my parents, sister and my amazing girlfriend who had given me unconditional support on this journey!
I am forever grateful.