How To Set Up A Krav Maga Rotating Curriculum

By Joel Williams | Krav Maga

Jun 22

We’ve all heard this story …

” He was a weak, sickly child but through his training in martial arts he became one of the most admired martial arts masters. ”

I am sure this [common] story was true for some and an embellishment for others. Regardless, what we can learn from such stories is an important lesson: work hard, persevere, and do your best; sooner or later you WILL get better at anything you undertake.

I have personally accumulated over a decade of martial arts training. I know for sure that I am far better at martial arts than I was when I first started. Having studied several different systems, I can also say with certainty that there was a clear, temporal increase in my ability, in each system I studied, as time passed.

Just this year I began teaching regularly and I see many similarities in my knowledge and skill development curves for leading classes. In this blog, I will share some ideas about curriculum planning and execution from my experience teaching Krav Maga after completing the Instructor Certification with Global Martial Arts University. And yes, there was indeed a learning curve and trial and error involved!

Mr. Trent Praytor, Owner and Head Coach at Carolina Combatives & Fitness (my “home” gym in Anderson, SC), and I after a hard workout. #OSS

The Rotating Syllabus

Although many schools use a linear, belt-based curriculum organization and delivery approach, we use a rotating syllabus. Now, obviously there are specific KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities) our system requires for each belt level … but we don’t limit our class scheduling to a linear curriculum teaching pedagogy. But that was not always the case! When Coach Trent and I first started teaching Krav Maga at our school, most of our students had little to no martial arts background. With that in mind, it made sense to simply teach through the curriculum technique list by belt level to our cohort of students. However, in short order, we realized that this was not a sustainable approach.

Why, you ask? The answer is simple. We had new students joining our classes over time. This meant that although our general student population was new to martial arts, the ones who began with us early on were already building their technique toolbox. Now we had students at different knowledge levels in the same class.

With only two Krav Maga instructors, who could not always be in class at the same time, Coach Trent and I did not have the depth of staff to break our classes into smaller groups during each session. This is when we decided to use a rotating curriculum.

” It made sense to simply teach through the curriculum technique list by belt level to our cohort of students …
[however] we realized that this was not a sustainable approach. “


Syllabus Overview

Below you will find a list of Krav Maga techniques, listed by belt level, as taught at our school. You can access a copy of the Excel file seen below, here. Not only are the techniques listed by belt level, they are also labeled as combatives, self-defense techniques, punches & fighting, ground defenses, and weapon/gun/knife defenses per the Krav Maga syllabus that you can download from GMAU if you are a student or instructor.

Rotation Example #1

In the rotation below you will see the same syllabus, with some extra columns of information. Specifically you will notice Week, Class, and Class Topics columns. We teach Krav Maga two nights each week: Monday and Wednesday. The rotation below uses a simple combining formula in Excel to automatically extract and combine techniques for us. You can access a copy of the Excel file here or a PDF version here. Several conditions have to be met to produce what you see in the Class Topics column of this Example 1 spreadsheet:

  1. Only two techniques per class.NOTE: We initially tried to teach three techniques per class but found that to be too much for one hour classes.
  2. Incorporate one “fundamental/basic” skill with one “advanced/specific skill” each class.
  3. The rotation would focus on the same technique set for only one class at a time (i.e., the technique set changes each class).

This is a very dynamic curriculum with constant change. If a student is absent for a single class, s/he will miss instruction and practice for two specific techniques until the next time those techniques rotate through the schedule.

This rotation presented here for Example 1, based on two classes per week with two distinct technique “sets” per week, allows the entire curriculum (white to black belt) to be taught in 30 weeks. The rotation always includes one fundamental combative technique plus one self-defense or weapons defense technique.

Rotation Example #2

In the rotation below you will again notice the Week, Class, and Class Topics columns. The rotation below uses the simple combining formula in Excel to automatically extract and combine techniques for us. You can access a copy of the Excel file here or a PDF version here. Several conditions have to be met to produce what you see in the Class Topics column of this Example 2 spreadsheet:

  1. Only two techniques per class. [same as above]
  2. Incorporate one “fundamental/basic” skill with one “advanced/specific skill” each class. [same as above]
  3. The rotation would focus on the same technique set for one week at a time (i.e., the same techniques are taught and practiced on Monday and Wednesday in the same week).
As in Example 1, the rotation presented here in Example 2 always includes one fundamental combative technique plus one self-defense or weapons defense technique. This rotation, based on two classes per week with one technique “set” practiced for two classes in a row (or stated differently: one technique set per week), will span 54 weeks of instruction.

Final Thoughts

I truly hope these examples will give you some ideas about how to implement the Krav Maga curriculum at your school. Having said that, there are several things I’d like to point out to you:

The examples listed above are based on our school, which teaches Krav Maga two nights per week for 60 minute classes. If you teach more classes per week OR if you teach longer class sessions, you could cover more material per week or per class.

Our conditions for the mix of techniques is modeled after the way GMAU Lead Krav Maga Instructor, Mr. Dustin Koppel, organizes his classes in Oak Ridge, TN. The rationale for his approach is that fundamental technique types (e.g., combatives, punching & fighting) should be emphasized and practiced along with specialized technique types (e.g., self-defense techniques, weapons defenses).

If you so chose, you could organize your schedule in a different way. Perhaps you would like to group techniques into sets by type (or theme), e.g., a ground technique series, followed by a combatives series.

Having said that, you should easily see that there are many iterations and variations on the rotating curriculum theme… Example #1 above could be broken up into smaller segments, e.g., three 10 week mini rotation, two 15 week mini rotations. The same is true for Example #2 which could be broken up into quarterly mini rotations.

There is also a “mix and match” option… Perhaps you want to run a mini rotation using a combination of fundamental + specialized techniques then your next mini rotation could be themed. The possibilities (although not mathematically endless) are only limited by your imagination!

Lastly, you must decide what is best for you and your students to figure out the right approach for your school. I sincerely hope you find the information presented here – contextualized in a real life example – helpful and I wish you all the best in running your classes.

Martial arts training is not just about learning to defend yourself or to improve your fitness – more importantly, it is about connecting with others and building relationships.

About the Author

Husband. Father. University Professor. GMAU Certified Krav Maga Instructor.

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(15) comments

JD Ross June 23, 2019

Joel, this is fantastic!! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together and share the information. JD

Reply
    Joel Williams June 23, 2019

    I appreciate the positive feedback, JD. I hope the article will prompt your own unique thoughts on this topic. If so, please share!

    Reply
    Joel Williams July 30, 2019

    JD – I appreciate your kind remarks. I hope there is something here useful for you!

    Reply
Christopher June 23, 2019

Wow, I love this article! I’ve been teaching for only a short time, but found myself leaning towards rotating curriculum rather then what is done in typical martial arts. I’m very glad to see that the system really works, and very much appreciate the info and course outline for me to follow. Thank you so much!

Reply
    Joel Williams June 23, 2019

    Thank you for the comment, Christopher. This is a “real time” issue for us. We are just now organizing our approach. Our plan is to take this structure and add break points for review, testing, etc. Simultaneously, we are putting together a plan for when and how to test our students, with guidance from Mr. Koppel and Sensei Hodge. It has been a fun part of the journey to focus on these logistics. In the end its all about what works for your students and your school. When and how to deliver the material will vary from one school to another but we all have to teach the same material. Best wishes to you, sir!

    Reply
SEBASTIEN GIRARD June 23, 2019

Very nice article and usufull Very cool structure and easy to setup! Seb from quebec! thanks

Reply
    Joel Williams June 23, 2019

    Thanks for your thoughts, Sebastian. It is nice to have a platform like this to share thoughts and connect with others like yourself. Kind Regards to you, sir.

    Reply
scott June 24, 2019

Very nice article and very needed. More importantly, thank you for taking the risk and sharing! Good luck with your school and hope to be there someday soon too!

Scott

Reply
    scott June 24, 2019

    I meant to add, what has the feedback from our students been? Have you been able to gauge 1. what they seem to enjoy more? 2. what seems to be more effective learning tool?

    They may not be the same unfortunately. Be interested to hear your reflections. Thanks again!

    Reply
      Joel Williams June 24, 2019

      Scott,

      Regarding the number of techniques, as instructors, we felt that 3 techniques per class was too much. That was confirmed by the students. Covering only 2 per class seems to work better for everyone. Coach Trent’s class is 45 minutes and my class is 60 minutes. So, again, if another school has longer classes they could feasibly squeeze in 3 techniques per class.

      Regarding teaching methods and class structure – we always start out with a warm up (and try to make it specific to what we are doing that night), then we introduce and drill techniques for that class. We also try to have at least 5 minutes of higher intensity stations, drilling, etc. to not only work techniques under pressure but to get a good sweat going. I like to end my classes by leading students through a simple yoga-based cool down (about 5 minutes).

      I hope this answered your questions,
      Joel

      Reply
    Joel Williams June 24, 2019

    Thank you for the positive note, Scott.

    Reply
chris December 3, 2019

Hi I see you still have the techniques broken by Beginner, intermediate and advanced. Does that mean you still are splitting the class or is everyone simply learning the same thing that week regardless. So if a beginner starts on a week marked as ‘advanced’ they will learn the ‘advanced’technique listed?

Reply
    Joel Williams December 5, 2019

    Chris – Thank you for the question. Yes, you are correct. Even new student are exposed to advanced techniques. The rationale is that by showing them those techs early they will be better prepared to work those techs when that is part of the belt requirements down the road. Also, doing it this way provides an opportunity for more advanced students to “step up” and help these students out in a given class. One important point: even though they are being exposed to some advanced techs the newer students know exactly what they should be spending more time on for advancement given their current belt level.

    I cross-train in BJJ and I see advanced techs all the time as they rotate through the “techniques of the night”. I have found that although I may not be use those techs just yet (or may never use them because they don’t fit my personal game) I am at least becoming aware of them and can better see them coming, and thus have a better chance of defending against them, in live rolls. This personal experience has been very confirming to me that what we are doing works well – especially given the nature of how other arts are taught at my school. In other words, the approach fits nicely within our broader school instructional culture.

    Reply
Gil Katz December 13, 2019

Very good and essential article for everyone.

Reply
    Joel Williams December 23, 2019

    Thank you for the feedback, Gil. Have a great New Year, sir!

    Reply
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