It’s 4:57 a.m. I wake up three minutes before my alarm. I’m groggy but excited. My roommate Drew Goodwin is up as well. Alarm starts to go off, Toes by Zac Brown. I turn off my alarm and roll back over. We both attempt to get resettled and relax before we are supposed to be up. No luck. Drew decides to get up and go for a walk. No running today. Niether of us know what the test will be like. I lounge for another moment or two, grab a Frog Fuel, then start getting my bags and gear together. Everyone has to be checked out of the rooms prior to testing unless they are staying longer. Music starts playing in my head. A driving percussion and bass line that slowly gets louder. I pick up my phone, scroll through my playlist, put my head phones in my ears, and let the song play on repeat. I was introduced to this particular song years ago as a student by my friend and firefighter Jeremy Bishop. I initially didn’t like it, but one day years later I heard it again and it resonated with me.
Warriors Call by Volbeat.
I feel my heart rate begin to rise along with my body temperature. A twinge of electricity starts to wash over my skin. With my bags and gear together, I sit on my rack. Breakfast opens soon and I need to feed my beast. The upcoming six hour test may be brutal, but I’m ready.
At breakfast I find out that that I was not alone in my wake up time. Three quarters of the group woke up wide eyed at 5 a.m. Everyone is excited. Handshakes, hugs, and pats on shoulders/backs are pervasive. The camaraderie and brotherhood is what this family is about. Everyone wants everyone to succeed. Smiles abound. I don’t think I saw a single nervous face. Everyone is in the zone.
After breakfast Expert Camp participants make their way over to the training hall. I don’t know if this location built the training hall specifically for us but it is awesome. Leaps and bounds better than the first camp in 2011. Everyone has their new style testing shirt on. At the Expert level, the testers are evaluated by two members of G.I.T. Why? The IKMF is being thorough and fair. This also sharpens the skill set of the G.I.T. in my opinion. If one tester passes you on a technique but the other says you make a mistake then they will debate whether or not it still passes. Did you save your own life?
We line up after we get our numbers, kida in, separate into our levels, then get to work. From Expert 2 down is a massive amount of information. Chains, axe/hatchet, and vehicle work are the meat and potatoes of this section. The special kick, a.k.a. The Flying Dutchman, is icing on the cake.
Everyone is pouring sweat and even a little blood has been spilt (sorry Paula), then we make our way outside to the vehicle work. We use Avi’s personal vehicle for this next part. A Chevy Traverse I believe. As the pairs cycle in and out of the vehicle, Israel Cohen is evaluating from the side while Avi is sitting cross legged on his hood. Under a microscope is an understatement. My testing partner Paula and I are calm and watchful. We don’t want any mistakes in this section. Avi repositions himself on the hood and I crack up laughing. The group starts to chuckle as well. Imagine this, you’re dealing with either a knife threat, knife attack, gun threat, or someone putting a rope around your neck attempting to strangle you and Avi is sprawled across the hood of his car “model style” watching your every move. I couldn’t help but laugh. Andreas Burkert from Defend Yourself KM in Germany speaks with his accent, “I’m so fancy”. I almost passed out from laughing.
We take a quick water break, I grab some more Frog Fuel, then we dive into the families section. This is the daunting part. Everything from Expert 1 and back in their respective groups. It is a massive amount of information and Avi and the Israels (Cohen and Tamir) can call out any specific technique within the families. Proficiency and clean technique are key, followed by aggression. I slip up on one technique. It was all aggression and crap technique. As much as I thought it wasn’t caught, it was. Not kicking myself yet because I’m having waaaay too much fun. I love test day. We move on to decision making eyes open and I’m surprised that I’m the only one that used the 4th prevention type. I’m surrounded by 15 other people and before Avi can say begin, I use elbow strike against group. For everyone at SCARS a few weeks back you know what I’m talking about. After that it’s attacks from distances and angles. Surrounded by people from one foot to ten feet away. Everyone goes through the drill with little to no problems.
We are coming to the end of the six hour test. And what is left is the games, fighting, and fitness. Zombie game, five on one. It was half way between Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, perfect for our level. Guns, knives, sticks, punches, kicks, pads, and one “civilian” walking through the middle of it all. What wonderful chaos.
Following the games it was the fighting portion and I’ll be completely honest that after six hours I got my butt whooped. I had the pleasure of having Andreas Burkert, Mikal Otipka (director of Czech Republic), Tomas (Mikal’s testing/training partner for the last three years), Laurent Mougeot (Director of Canada), Rick Lablans (smiliest Dutchman I’ve ever met), and Sebastian (E1 testing partner from France) as my partners for this part. And most of them kicked my ass. I’ve told yall before that you have to believe in the techniques and not muscle through them because eventually you will meet someone bigger, stronger, faster, and MEANER than you. This group was all this and more. You had to fight each of us consecutively for twenty seconds, then it was someone else’s turn and you had to do it again. It was a round robbin of ass whoopery. The number one piece of knowledge I took away from this section is that I need to establish some boxing skills. I was told this during my Expert 1 test but it is difficult to find a reputable safe gym. Looks like I’ll be looking around a bit more thoroughly.
Timer starts and you have five minutes to complete…..
Expert instructor team member Martijn Bos is in charge of the fitness portion. Although the fitness test by itself seems easy, it’s not normally done after six hours of testing and everyone is a little banged up. 40 squats, (butt to bag/ass to grass or it doesn’t count), 30 push-ups (chest to partners fist or it doesn’t count), 20 leg lifts (90 degrees to the floor or it doesn’t count), and 10 partner pull up (all the way up and down or it doesn’t count). As read above only five minutes to complete. Paula and I bust through it. No problem. We then do what KMTX started years ago within the IKMF, we cheered everyone else on. It was a quick little beat down after a long beat down, and my partner and I were satisfied with our performance.
When the test results were tallied 7 out of 15 participants passed for Expert 2. This is the standard maintained by the IKMF. The level of proficiency required is exceptionally high. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Regardless of the injuries I had prior to testing I expect zero leeway at this level. I don’t want it. I smile knowing I did my absolute best.
After we bow out the group starts cleaning up, bandaging up, and making their way to the cabana for post test beers. There is much congratulating and quiet contentment washing over the group. I make my way through the groups forming, beers in hands, offering cheers in native tongues. I then sit and enjoy the last hour on the beautiful Mediterranean beach with my brothers and sisters in arms. Drinking and chatting away. Jason Carrio suggests we tag along with Tim Alexander and Derek Poon for the taxi to the airport. It was a wise suggestion. We gather our bags and make our way out to the taxi. Sad to leave but ready to get on the road.
The trip to the airport is a fast-ish one. Only a little traffic about 20 minutes from the airport was a hold up. During the drive we talked about the state of Austrailia, Hong Kong, and the U.S. All of us ready to get home, how we enjoyed the training, and how we couldn’t wait to spear new knowledge back to our schools. At the airport the intent was to have one last beer together, but Jason and I couldn’t get to the other side of security because it was too early for check in. We said our good byes to Tim and Derek and Jason and I had few well deserved beers while we waited for our trip home.
Overall this has been the best training event I’ve attended (so far). I normally have a complaint/solution or two but I couldn’t find one. It was as perfect as it could be. The Crash Camp for the 20th anniversary of the IKMF was an incredible experience. More knowledge passed on to the forefront of IKMF instructors to be spread throughout the world. I hope everyone has the opportunity to experience it as well. A huge thanks to my ever supporting BEAutiful wife Crystal for putting me on this path. To Bart Brooks, my first instructor. To my teammates Miki, Marcus (second instructor), and JT. To Avi, all the G.I.T., and everyone else I’ve met/trained with during my Krav Maga journey. This is a life well spent.