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Your Krav Maga Journey Through The Four Stages Of Incompetence

So you've finally decided to try this thing called Krav Maga. Eager and excited, you walk into your first class with a mind full of expectations, which promptly gets doused by a full blast of reality. Don’t lose heart.


Much like mastering any skill, your Krav Maga journey will meander through a series of distinct phases, each marking a significant evolution in your progression and understanding of the system. Scientifically, it's called the Competency Model. I playfully call it the 4 Stages of Incompetence.


This post will serve as your guide through the competence, or incompetence model, which every Krav Maga practitioner traverses as they progress from being "incompetently incompetent" to the ultimate realm of being "competently competent." This journey is not merely about acquiring skills; it's a metamorphosis that shapes your mind, body and soul as you take more and more responsibility for your own safety and that of those around you.


Stage 1: Incompetently Incompetent


As you begin any new endeavour, your enthusiasm is high, but your practical knowledge is extremely limited. Krav Maga is no different. The techniques and principles may seem like speaking a foreign language as your legs wobble through your stances, your strikes are all over the place, and your defensive moves are clumsy at best as you find yourself tripping over yourself.


While you might have heard about Krav Maga from friends or seen it in action on YouTube, applying it in real life feels like uncharted territory. It's a bit like the first time you sat behind the wheel of a car or tried playing the guitar – awkward, uncoordinated and seemingly lacking progress.


Scientifically, this is known as the “Unconscious Incompetence” stage. I lovingly call it the Incompetently Incompetent phase of Krav Maga training and this is where we all started.


Yes, even your instructors started here!


Embrace your ignorance at this stage, as it's the crucial first step toward growth and mastery. Accept that you don't even know what you don’t know, but also acknowledge that you have taken the most difficult and important step: you showed up.


“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

- Epictetus


Stage 2: Competently Incompetent


As you continue with your training, it is inevitable to see improvement in your fundamental proficiency as you start executing your basic elements more fluidly, with speed, control and determination. Here, your overall conditioning levels are also much better than when you started - your endurance is up, along with strength and power as you drive through the drills. This is also where you begin to understand that Krav Maga works under a set of principles - of movement, of attack and of defense.


Many of you will find encouragement in the progress you have made so far, prompting you to train more frequently and regularly. This, coincidentally, accelerates your continued progression through the system. You then recognize the direct correlation between proficiency and frequency in training.


It's important to note, however, that this progress, however significant, does not equate to mastery. You're getting it, but you're still a long way from becoming a Krav Maga expert. At this stage, you gain a heightened awareness of the vast knowledge and skills that lie ahead. You recognize that the journey is both exciting and challenging, with a deep respect for the system and a clear understanding of the commitment required to reach true competence.


This awareness is a pivotal moment in your Krav Maga journey. It signals the realization that there's much more to explore in this self defense system. As you confront your limitations and appreciate the intricacies of Krav Maga, your enthusiasm is combined with a newfound respect and a sense of responsibility for your own progress.


To be able to navigate this stage successfully, maintain your dedication, embrace your awareness of your shortcomings, and use it as a driving force to continuously refine your skills and expand your knowledge. You are in the Consciously Incompetent stage, and it's all part of the journey toward becoming a genuinely competent Krav Maga practitioner.


“The greatest part of progress is the desire to progress.”

- Seneca The Younger


Stage 3: Incompetently Competent


In this phase of your training, you have become more proficient in self-defense, with cleaner techniques, swifter movements, and a deeper understanding of Krav Maga principles. Your movement matrix is quite natural and you have gained the confidence in handling various self-defense scenarios. More importantly, your fundamental skills easily transition into tactical, real-world applications.


This new level of confidence is a cause for pause and celebration, marking significant progress from the earlier stages of your journey. However, this stage comes with a potential challenge: overconfidence. It's essential to guard against complacency and underestimating the complexities of real-life self-defense situations. Despite your significant improvement, there's always room for growth and refinement.


To navigate this phase successfully, maintain humility and a hunger for continuous learning. While embracing your ‘Conscious Competence,” never lose sight of the fact that there's more to discover and learn. Challenge yourself, identify your weaknesses, and seek feedback from instructors and training partners. Acknowledging that you're still on a journey of improvement will help you avoid overconfidence and complacency.


This stage is a crucial step toward your mastery of Krav Maga. It's a phase where your skills are evident, but wisdom and humility are equally essential. Keep pushing yourself, refine your techniques, and remain dedicated to the journey. The path to true competence is ongoing, and the lessons from this stage will prepare you for the pinnacle of your Krav Maga evolution.


“It is futile to merely know what to do; what counts is the ability to translate that knowledge into action without having to stop and think about it first.”

- Eric “Bill” Sykes


Stage 4: Competently Competent


Through dedicated practice and unwavering commitment, you reach the apex of your Krav Maga journey, known scientifically as the "Unconscious Competence" stage. In this stage, your mastery shines through every aspect of your practice. Your techniques have evolved into precise and powerful movements, a testament to your commitment and perseverance. Strikes, kicks, and defensive maneuvers flow seamlessly, happen effortlessly, reflecting a deep understanding of the system.


What sets you apart in this stage is your ability to automatically adapt to various self-defense scenarios. Your instincts and reflexes are finely tuned, enabling split-second decisions that can be life-saving. However, this stage isn't just about physical prowess; it also signifies profound mental and emotional maturity. The more proficient you become, the more you understand the significance of humility and continuous learning, recognizing that there is always room for growth.


As a role model for other Krav Maga students, you inspire them with your skills and dedication. You go beyond being a practitioner to become a steward of the discipline, upholding its principles and values. The "Competently Competent" stage represents the ultimate destination in the Krav Maga journey, showcasing your transformation from ignorance and incompetence to the pinnacle of mastery. While you've achieved a level of competence that few attain, you remain open to ongoing learning, emphasizing that true competence is about promoting peace through the profound ability to protect oneself and others.


“To know ten thousand things, know one well.”

- Miyamoto Musashi


Which stage do you think you are at?


Progression in your Krav Maga journey is a test of patience, perseverance, and self-awareness. It's essential to acknowledge where you are in this journey and embrace the learning process. Whether you're incompetently incompetent or competently competent, Krav Maga is a lifelong journey of self-improvement and self-defense mastery.


Keep pushing yourself, stay humble, and remember that competence in Krav Maga is not just about physical prowess but also about the mental strength to adapt and make the right decisions in challenging situations. Your journey is an ongoing one, and the reward is not just in the destination but in the lessons learned along the way.


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