Testing for a Belt
Over the past two years, I have read numerous comments, forum posts, emails, and other blogs where people talk about the stress and anxiety of a belt test. Having gone through a few tests of my own in the last decade, I though I would share three thoughts on how to get through a belt test.
If you are feeling worried or nervous, odds are you are concerned that you aren’t ready for your test. How better to prepare for that then by practicing? For my 1st dan test I must have practiced Kusanku Sho 1000 times. I would practice it 5 to 6 times each class and then another 20 or 30 times each week outside of class for a few months leading up to my test. It was the one thing I didn’t feel very comfortable on and I just kept doing it until I knew the pattern and was confident that I could do it during my test.
In my article about drinking tea I talk about breathing routines. One of the routines that I think works very well is to close your eyes and sit either cross legged (“Indian Style”) or in seiza (formal kneeling position). Breath in through your nose for 5-10 seconds. Hold that breath for 5-10 seconds. Finally breath out for 10-20 seconds. Repeat until you have calmed down. Anytime I feel a little overwhelmed, I end up reverting back to this trick and it has always proven to be a great trick when stressed.
Accept You Will Make Mistakes
One fact of tests that almost any black belt will tell you – you are going to make mistakes. The trick to being successful is that you keep going. If you are performing a kata and you make a mistake, keep going and finish strong. The moment you make a mistake, there is nothing you can do to change it – the only thing left to do is to ensure that you don’t make another mistake. Getting upset and reacting to the mistake is a sure way to start making followup mistakes.
I wanted to end this article with a story about a pretty cool guy whose story inspired this article.
For those of you new to the site, back in April and May we were running a contest where we would randomly select one person to win a free copy of Gichin Funakoshi’s Karate-do: My Way of Life (not paid to advertise this – it is just that good of a book that I think everyone should buy a copy).
Terry Soucy of Canada (pictured above on the left) was our lucky winner and you can see him there holding his copy of the book after his Shodan test. He passed and gave me this great email about the night of his test:
Shortly before we were called in for our grading, I took a few minutes from my warm-up to read the last 10 or so pages in the book as you suggested. I’m wondering if that helped calm me down because at no time did I feel nervous like I did through my pre-grading sesions.
Karate-do is a life-long journey to better yourself, and this grading is just the beginning of it. I know that. I’ve always known that, but I think Funikoshi Sensei’s words really helped to drive that whole concept home. The book could not have come at a better time for me.
What got you through your last test?