Annoying Krav Maga Class Thing #1 – An overly long and useless warmup.

Your Krav Maga class warmup sucks. 

As a new instructor, sometimes the warmup is a crutch.  You just passed your instructor training, but don’t REALLY know how to teach yet.  The warmup, since that’s what you’ve been doing as an apprentice instructor, is what you’re good at so it’s time to show off a bit and make sure that everyone is “warm” before you get to the shaky business of teaching actual self defense.

There are a few problems with this:

  1. A lot of the time, the warmup is wasted time (sometimes up to 25 or even 30 minutes!) that could be used to reinforce skills and introduce concepts that will be useful later on in the class.  Arm stops, pummeling, moving to dead sides, basic wrestling, transitions.  Depending on what’s going on in class, getting some basic movements out of the way early on in the class will get people moving the way you’ll want them to move when you introduce more complicated movements later in class.  During my warmups, I’ll have students practice very basic transitions or basic wrestling under no stress, without striking, or having to think about anything else.  Things that are simple, but absolutely critical to managing a threat.
  2. Guys will have students jogging around the room, waving their arms around, sprawling, doing endless pushups, situps, and burpees.  These are lazy, uncreative ways to get people sweaty and tired.  Strictly speaking, the purpose of a warmup is to prepare the class for what’s coming later with the intent of reducing the chance for injury.  Raising body temperature, getting the correct juices squirting, and getting people mentally comfortable for what’s about to happen. Doing your P90X “muscle confusing” warmup accomplishes all of these things, but that’s about it.  You’ll use class time more effectively if you get people doing what they’ll be doing later under stress, early on in the class under no stress.  Let’s say you’re going to work on bearhugs for today’s class.  Your warmup could consist of drilling underhooks and a couple of transitions.  The nice thing is that for beginners, this will be plenty to get them warmed up and even breathing hard.  For the more advance folks in the room, they will naturally up the resistance and get the same effect.  Now people are learning or refining skills rather than doing mindless exercises.  Save the “badass” exercise for your conditioning classes.
  3. By breaking up the class into chunks of time  – Warmup, Strikes, Drills, Self Defense – the instructor never fully develops a cohesive teaching method where, even in the course of a 1 hour class, skills build on each other from simple to complex. We’re all given the formula starting out – pick a technique for the class, figure out which strikes complement that technique and teach those, do a couple of drills.  It works great when you’re developing as an instructor, but understand the limitations of the this teaching formula.  It assumes that your students will be able to connect dots that they may not or never will connect unless you explicitly do it for them.  As you train more and more people, you come to the realization that teaching a strike or a self defense technique “based on natural instinct or reaction” isn’t all that difficult.  What’s difficult and where things will unravel very quickly in real life is during the transitions.  Control of the opponent, proper transitions, and control over variables whether through clinching, grappling, movement or striking is the most important thing you have to be able to teach.  The opportunity to reinforce shouldn’t be passed up.

Doing a super-long, crappy warmup is maybe excusable in the newest of instructors.  If you want to be a better instructor and gain a deeper understanding of how to teach Krav Maga, take the time to evaluate how and why you run your classes the way that you do.  Question everything.