I sat on the floor of a Holiday Inn Express in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, forking cold, well-seasoned steak into my sleepy mouth. Our lead instructor, Ivo, had explicitly told us to eat some protein in the middle of the night before our first physical test.
Everything was in that delicious ‘just before’ moment you get, that bubble of ‘what could happen?’ We’d spent the day before knocking 4 states off my bucket list (New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) as we drove from LaGuardia to our destination an hour south of Boston.
Let me briefly tell you about the women in this photo. The two in the backseat are Nicole and Michelle, both Doctors and the chillest marrieds ever. The woman on the far left is my training partner, Ashleyann, and I wouldn’t have wanted to test with anyone else, y’all. I love us and am so proud of our group.
Friday morning came and Ash braided my hair and we all tried to eat something as our butts were puckered in fear for the first day. Impressions mean a lot and we’d flown halfway across the country to do this instructor certification and represent our gym.
We lined up with 18 other strangers, feeling the year and a half of instructor trainings and injuries and frustrations about to release in 3 days of mental and physical endurance.
What followed isn’t some secret society ritual, but I don’t know how to tell you how hard it was. It was exactly what I expected but also mentally harder and physically arduous. We all joked about how our other instructors told us they ‘just don’t remember’ their testing. Like when moms say ‘I forgot about the pain when they laid the baby on my chest.’ How do you not remember?!
I remember the testing. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. To the makers of Nuun tablets and Gu, well, goo, thank you. I would recommend you as official sponsors of Krav Maga Alliance instructor testing, if it was up to me (it’s not). Y’alls products truly saved me. 3 8-hour days of on/off/on/on/on/off/on/IT’S ON ON ON/off really gets to a body. If Ash wanted to troll me she’d have Tony’s voice wake me up as an alarm shouting “B’s! B IS ATTACKING GO GO GO” and it would have me fully dressed and on the Brown Line in 46 seconds flat.
You know your girl was in there taking mad Hermione notes too, going through pens and pencils like it was my J-O-B (it kind of is). When I look at my notes I remember the lecture where I discovered that I had blisters under my calluses. Isn’t the point of calluses to avoid blisters? I see the blurred ink on a page about ‘safety in warm ups’ and remember running TWENTY TWO separate 10 minute warm ups and flinch. On one of the pages it looks like a person with hand shakes wrote it BECAUSE I HAD HAND SHAKES from all the focus mitt rounds.
It was 3 days of sweat. Of grunts. Of looking Ashleyann in the eyes and us knowing we were gonna drag each other through it by the scruff of our necks if needed. Of some of the most disgusting laundry you’ve ever smelled. More sweat. Paging through the KMA manual after I accidentally taught a Level 2 technique on my first day. Eating anything at all because MY BODY WANTED IT (and frankly, had earned it). You want steak, body? I will put steak in there. You want a burger, body? Let’s put an egg on it, we fancy.
I wish I knew another way to tell you: it was tough. And we did it.
We made 18 new friends (20 if we’re counting Tony and Vinny). Look at our beautiful faces after Tony said Day 3 was complete.
There were 2 other guys from a different Chicago KMA gym, one of which Ashleyann had gone to high school with! SMALL WORLD Y’ALL; Joe & Nick, masters of their domains and I know in my cynical little improvisor’s heart that Joe must do stand up somewhere in this city and I.Will.Find.It. #artofmonkeypaws
We met Maddie from Krav Maga Detroit, who is welcome to have some adjunct training/traveling badass professorship at our gym all day any day.
And so many other people–the whole ABD family from multiple locations, you are wonderful, strong gargoyles and I’m proud to have sweat all over you and also to have bought one of your t shirts, even though I can’t teach in it.
My Oscar list of thanks is gonna get long, so pop in “Lose Yourself” because you know that was the song of the week and settle in.
Thank you to America’s Best Defense in North Attleboro for hosting us. You have an awesome facility and I’m 96% sure it’s weathered for the upcoming zombie apocalypse in that little woods nook; your people however, shine in that place and I’m so happy we got to meet and train with them.
To Soke Tony Morrison, who ran our test, thank you for pushing me/us. Thank you for letting me run Sunday warmups after my Saturday ones weren’t up to my standards. That was immensely needed and I appreciate it. We were warned that certifying instructors could be intense and sometimes difficult to testers; I’ve never been so happy to have received bad information. At all times we felt like you liked us, you wanted to see us succeed and gave us relevant, helpful feedback on our work. Thank you.
To our fellow testers: y’all fierce as HELL. There was no weak link. Everyone went hard and everyone is someone I would let sleep on my extremely comfortable couch. Thank you for the encouragement, the feedback, the laughs and the Boston food/drink recommendations we did not take because we discovered our hot tub had a jacuzzi and that was the end of ‘let’s go to downtown Boston.’ I would listen to your accents all day, every day.
Titan Gym: thank you for believing that I was a badass even when I didn’t. I’m still surprised you saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. I’m grateful for the sweat I have left and learned on your floors, the Romanian moonshine consumed in the wee hours and the students I am privileged to make run around, listen to Pitbull and grow in their skills. I promise to keep bringing you terrible puns and hearty grunts.
To Michelle and Nicole: Thank you for being badass lady doctors and my friends. Seriously, y’all are great. We teach at weird, different hours and don’t see each other a lot but this weekend I felt like we all 4 became a unit; we loved and supported even though I was scared out of my support leggings. I’m so happy to have been a part of your journey and to have seen that moment when Nicole’s eyes turned shark black and I almost lost a tooth. I couldn’t have asked for better people to have gone with Ashleyann and I and believe me when I say I would rub a lacrosse ball across your shoulders any day.
Ash: we did it. We damn well did it. There is no one in that gym that knows me better. That has seen me cry as much, sweat as much, nervously fart as much. We’ve spent hours talking and training and cleaning and I’m so happy that we went on this ride together. I’m a firm believer in arranged marriages after this year and a half. I love you and I love that you wouldn’t let me quit or run during this long season. You truly take joy in teaching and loving your students and Diamond and you inspire me to re-invest my heart in it too. I 100% love you and I am a better woman having done this with you.
This is Ash pulling apart her Gatorade plastic rings “for the turtles.” She’s the best.
My name is Alyssa Bailey and I’m now a Krav Maga Alliance certified Instructor of Krav Maga Level 1. I teach at 8am on Saturdays and 9am on Sundays at Titan Gym near Belmont & Western in Chicago, IL and dance terribly to ‘encourage’ my students during those times.
I have survived the most difficult testing of my life and the next person who asks ‘how was your vacation in Massachusetts?’ Better hope they know a 360 defense for a backhand slap. 💪🏻👯♀️👯♀️💕