Level testing is an important part of the tradition of practicing martial arts and is a very significant tool for the learning process of each student. These tests offer a fantastic opportunity for students to assess their strengths under pressure and identify weaknesses that may not always be apparent to them or which they may not readily admit to.

Every few months, I send invitations to those whom I believe have demonstrated the capability and readiness to advance to the next stage in their training. Last week, I sent out level test invitations to several dozen students, sparking a number of intriguing conversations from which I believe the entire Krav community can learn.

The first conversation was somewhat of a “complaint” from a student who felt he deserved to be tested for the next level this month, though, in my opinion, he was not yet ready. His primary argument was, “I’ve trained the required number of hours.”

While it’s true that he met the training hour requirement, mere hours are not a measure of success. Rather, the accumulated knowledge and skill from training is what matters. Many students will overestimate their abilities, believing they are more capable than they truly are. This is precisely why we conduct level testing—it serves as a reality-check, and tests the ability to cope with pressure and endurance without a coach there to remind them of the techniques.

As an instructor, my role is to guide and help students grow and develop proper self-defense skills according to their capabilities and needs. I do not want to send someone to a test just to satisfy their desire to participate, only to see them fail because they did not display sufficient ability during their level test.

The student’s second argument was, “Others who trained less than me are being tested.” This is also a valid point but fails to consider individual ability, instead comparing a quantitative measure based on the average time it usually takes a student to progress from one level to another. Some students progress much faster than others because of their discipline and other qualities that serve their learning process.

This is not to say that some are “better” than others as humans! There are different types of intelligence (you can search for “Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences”), and while some people may have types of high intellectual capabilities, their physical abilities might not be as strong. One intellectual capability does not necessarily reflect the other.

Another student expressed a desire to be tested for a higher level than the one he was scheduled for, arguing that other students at a higher level were not as competent as him across various metrics. He was correct in his assessment, but he did not consider the other student’s starting point. His starting point was much higher than that of the student he compared himself to. While his athletic ability is indeed superior, his level of perseverance is lower and not worthy of recognition or reward, unlike the less capable student who demonstrated significant endurance and improvement from his weaker starting points.

This conversation raises an interesting philosophical point—should students be judged solely on their abilities or also on their progress? This is a topic I often explore and discuss with colleagues. The truth is, there is no single answer. I believe people should be recognized for both effort and progress, even if they do not possess high abilities. The goal is to motivate them to aspire higher over time, and possibly not just to meet their limits but to create new ones that they were previously unaware of.

Another student approached me saying she did not feel ready to test, although professionally, I thought she was more than prepared; she was simply afraid to try. This is not a rational fear, as technically, she is skilled and ready. She holds a belief that she must be perfect before she can be tested. Practically, this is an unachievable goal.

While the world has changed a lot in the past few years, and almost everything is designed to provide instant gratification, how we learn hasn’t changed. We have to learn, practice, repeat, add pressure, repeat again, add more pressure, and repeat all over again.

We must not compare ourselves to others in a practice that is based on self-progression. While many of the metrics we have in mind are quantifiable, not all of them in fact are measurable.

We must adjust our expectations to reality and not confuse our desires with our actual skill levels. If we approach our learning with humility, the results won’t be too late to come. It just won’t happen on the desired schedule.

The best record to beat is yourself. Be better than you were yesterday, and you are ahead.

1 comment

  1. I can definitely relate to those who fear testing. I’m like the kitten who looks in the mirror and sees a lion. And then I am put under pressure and get a rude awakening that nope….I’m still just a kitten. Thanks though for the constant reminder of why it is important to test. The first sentence really resonates. It is an important part of the tradition that I should embrace and stop avoiding.

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