Croatia is a gorgeous country, famous mostly for its beautiful Adriatic Sea, heritage, and nature. Croatia is also a country with a long military tradition. We are proud of our ability to defend our land and to build the foundation for a modern and democratic republic.
Croatians are very proud of their army and to become a soldier is a thing you carry with pride, not only for you but also for your family. In our Krav Maga sport center in the city of Split, we train civilians (men, women, and children) and we also train the military, police, and bodyguards. For self-defense and fighting techniques, we use Krav Maga (according to the Krav Maga Global curriculum), and for physical preparation, we follow the StrongFirst methodology.
When one of our members, soldier Vilson Skoko, informed us that the annual competition to determine the best Croatian soldier was approaching and that he signed up, we didn’t hesitate to support him. The only option was for him to achieve first place, and so we began to prepare.
The Croatian Army Training Program
Our training consisted of:
- Mobility, corrective, and movement exercises
- A system of tension
- Lots of loaded carries (farmers walk, get-up, etc.)
- Basic kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight exercises for strength, endurance, and conditioning
- Big rest intervals (five minutes between rounds of strength training and a 1:4-6 work-to-rest ratio for conditioning training)
- Krav Maga fighting drills and techniques
Vilson’s Krav Maga training included:
- Break falls and rolls
- Striking techniques
- Defenses against punches
- Defenses against holds, chokes, and bear hugs
- Defenses against attacks with a stick or baseball bat
- Defenses against attacks with a knife or sharp object
- Defenses against gun threats
- Use of common objects for self-defense
- Multiple attacker fighting drills
- Stress drills
Strength and Conditioning Components
- Breathing exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, learning the model of tension.
- Exercises for mobility, stability and flexibility, corrective exercises.
- Bodyweight exercises for:
- Strength: One arm/one leg pushups, One leg squats (pistol), leg raises, weighted pull-ups. We use the fighter pull-up program. We modified it, from 3,2,1,1,1 to 5,5,5,5,5. We never increased the number of pull ups; instead, we added weight. This program was unbelievable as was shown in results. At first, our trainee could barely do pull-ups with 16kg (3,2,1,1,1), after one month he could easily do them with 24kg (5,5,5,5,5) and his new pull-up max was 40kg.
- Strength endurance and conditioning: metcon where we combined bodyweight exercises with kettlebell, sprints, and long distance running
- Kettlebell exercises for:
- Strength endurance and conditioning where we used only the basic exercises (farmers walk, get-up, swing, clean, press, push press, and squat)
- Barbell exercises for strength training: deadlift, bench press, and squat
- Exercises for explosive reaction and reflexes: sprints, catching targets from different positions, etc.
The Training Program
For two months, Vilson trained three times a week with one additional session of running. If we examined his training in regards to load, it looked like this:
- Monday: Heavy day – 80-90%
- Wednesday: Medium day – 70%
- Friday: Light day – 50%
- Monday: Heavy day – 80-90%
- Wednesday: Light day – 50%
- Friday: Medium day – 70%
Monday is heavy because the body is fresh from the weekend and ready to work on heavy lifts. But things are not always so simple in real life. In our experience, people often feel tired on rainy days with low atmospheric pressure, so we pay attention to those elements and modify our training plans accordingly.
The medium day is a day for strength endurance work. We program double kettlebell swings, cleans, presses, squats, and loaded carries (like the farmers walk or get-up) combined with Krav Maga drills.
Light day is based on a one kettlebell workout combined with bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, sprints, and Krav Maga drills.
The annual competition is held in a “classical” military style. This means events include a rifle, shooting targets, climbing over barriers, passing through tunnels and barbed wire, sprinting while wearing full equipment and a gas mask, and doing calisthenics and stress drills. The winner of the competition is the soldier who can complete it all the fastest.
The results of the competition were best described in the military magazine Croation Soldier:
“Vilson Skoko (21 years old) is the best soldier of a new generation of Croatian army. He earned his title on 13 of April on the military base Gašinica where nine soldiers put their strength to the test, three from each division. Vilson was the best prepared, over a minute faster than the second place finisher, but they all get credit for physical and mental strength because they were the best of 468 soldiers, which is the number of men the Croatian army takes every year.”
Soon after Vilson won first place, a woman from our sports center who followed our program signed up for the military academy and was named the best prepared cadet. She was tested on push-ups, crunches, and running. She was not only better than all the other women, but also better than all the male cadets.
As Krav Maga Global founder Eyal Yanilov said, “Words show your ego. Actions show your spirit.”