Tag Archive | Black Belt Test

Test Anxiety

I have test anxiety. I never had test anxiety in school, and never when we had a small karate club and tested within that group. But now I have major test anxiety when it comes to black belt tests. Ugh.

The biggest contributors to my test anxiety are not wanting to embarrass my instructor and not wanting to look like an idiot. If I’m uncomfortable with my knowledge or my fitness, I am really hesitant to test.

I never want anyone to look at me and wonder how on earth someone thought I was ready to test. I feel a responsibility to represent my Sensei with a good showing. I want to show that I’ve earned my rank.

I know perfection isn’t expected at a test. It’d be nice, of course, but in reality we all have bad days. In fact, last year I forgot a few moves in my kata during my test, yet I still passed…with laughs. I was one of the last black belts in the room to know I missed something! Probably a good thing I didn’t know or I would have been flustered, right?

I know if I’m injured or have “dings” that keep me from doing my best, but the watchers don’t know it. As students we know perfection is not required, but the non karateka attending the test may not. I hate the thought of looking bad or feeling stupid in front of a bunch of people I don’t know. Looking dumb in front of people who know me well? Not a problem!  🙂

The bottom line is that it’s on me to be at my best when test time rolls around. To train hard, pay attention in class, work on my fitness, and study, study, study for that test!

Even though I wouldn’t test for 3rd degree for a minimum of 2 years, I need to work hard now. Not 4 months before the test, not after I receive a test notice, and not 3 weeks from today, but now, starting with today’s workout and tomorrow’s classes. I’ve “rested” for the last year, but rest period is over.

So here I go!

Better fitness? I’m trying to workout every day and I’m really enjoying it!

Smart eating? Working on it but always a struggle for a sugar freak.

Getting to class consistently? Tough due to my work schedule, but I’ll make a renewed effort at it.

Working on my material at home in between classes? I started today!

It’s my job to learn my material. Repetition, repetition, repetition will be my friend. “Again” will become my favorite word. Excuses are just a waste of time and not to be tolerated.

Two years and counting to my next test. It’s time to get to work!

Pick, Pick, Pick

My knee is nudged forward into a better stance.

The Shodan candidate does her self-defense move again after being reminded she forgot the chop to the neck.

Kicks are tweaked to be stronger, faster, higher. 

Arms are moved ever-so-slightly into the correct position.

‘Tis the season for nit-picking! With the next black belt test just a few weeks away, we know our material. We’ve done it enough times that we can do things without stopping to think about what comes next.

Now it’s a matter of working on the nuances, those things that make our performance even better. They’re teensy little things, maybe even trivial to some, but it’s the tiny little things that show the difference in ranks. This is where the true understanding of what we’re doing shows. This is what makes the difference between dance moves and a good understanding of our art.

Now, instead of Kyoshi teaching us new material or walking us through moves, he is fine-tuning us. Reminding us of those little things, making corrections when he sees errors, and running us through things we’re not sure of.

Sometimes it feels like we’re being corrected on the most minuscule things. And sometimes it feels like we’re just beginners and starting over. But this is all part of the learning process, and just the fact that we’re at the stage of being nit-picked is a good thing! After all, it means we have achieved a certain level of knowledge and are on our way to more. 

For now it’s pick, pick, pick. All to make us better, and all done with love, of course!  😉

What does Nidan look like?

Defense Sets at Black Belt Test

Sets with Sensei Dave, my fantastic uke for my black belt test.

One year ago I tested for my Shodan rank. If all goes well, I will test for Nidan in another year.

Through kyu ranks to Shodan, there is a lot of material to learn and memorize: basics, drills, self-defense sets and kata. With so much to learn in four short years, I couldn’t say I was a master of any of it. I was just putting the building blocks in place. With my Shodan rank earned, I am still not a master of anything – except putting my gi on correctly, and there are days I’m not so sure I’ve mastered that!

The path from Shodan to Nidan is different from the path to Shodan.

The requirements to Shodan are laid out very clearly. The path to Nidan? Not so much, as far as I was concerned. I wasn’t really sure what Nidan looked like, and that made me a bit uncomfortable. When I’m uncomfortable, frustration isn’t too far behind – and that’s never pretty. I can’t hit a target I can’t see, and can’t chase a goal when I don’t know what it is.

I spent my first four years learning 10+ kata and eight sets, one after another. To advance to Nidan, I have to demonstrate two additional kata and one more self-defense set. That’s not a lot of material to learn in two years, so obviously memorizing kata and adding to my repertoire is not the point. So what is it?

It took me a while (longer than it should have, I’m sure!) but I’ve come to realize the time between Shodan and Nidan requires a shift in thinking.  My path is no longer about memorizing material. It’s about what I can do with the material I’ve already learned.

With relatively little new material to pick-up, I have time to really focus on my basics. To make them crisper, faster, and smoother. To work towards mastering them.

I can explore what I’ve learned so far, looking at things with a more experienced eye.

I’m learning what my go-to moves are and what works – or doesn’t work – for me.

I’m learning what I would really do at the end of a self-defense move, as opposed to what has been scripted for me.

So what does Nidan look like? It looks like a better Shodan.

How different will I look as a Nidan? I really don’t know. I’m sure I will not have mastered all my material. That’s a longer journey than this short two years. But I will be on my way, now that I have a better understanding of my goal and what to focus on to get there.