Black Belt Test Thoughts

Over the past couple months, there's been some talk about a certain test.

A very big test. . .

My black belt test. 

. . . .

That's scary.

Mr. G asked me not too long ago when I thought they could pencil in my black belt test. I froze on the spot, still as a statue, and I'm sure that had my jaw not been stuck firmly in a closed position from pure surprise, I would have gaped at Mr. G as I stared at him. I'm not in any hurry to test. I want to consolidate my knowledge and ability further before even thinking about testing.

He went on to say that I do well with having a goal and setting a tentative test date to work toward is something I need to be thinking about. I agreed, and then he asked me how six months sounded. While the thought of testing has been in the back of my head ever since my red belt test, I have had it set as a future goal, probably happening in around a year. I've said "about a year" in my head since my test, but that time line has not changed since March. Hearing "six months" as a possibility changed my thinking from happening in the future to happening soon.

I mention this now, because he brought it up again last week, except this time he was wanting to hear an answer. I considered it and what I have to do to be ready for that test. The major issue that came to my mind was not technique. It's conditioning.

Conditioning is the big one. I need to get in serious shape and drastically improve my stamina. I have good flexibility, but my endurance needs work. I've been to two black belt tests, so I have a good idea of what they're like. First of all, they are intimidating! Not only in the time involved - a minimum 3 hours long. Yes. I said THREE HOURS LONG. That is a seriously long time since I'll be the only one testing and the 9+ black belts who will test me will be staring at every single move I make. The test is just as big of a mental test (if not moreso) as it is a physical one. There are also at least. . . five spars plus a 2 on 1 spar. . . back to back. And I thought my red belt test was long (just over 2 hours). Ha! Endurance is KEY! Not only is endurance part of the conditioning, but I need to be better conditioned to take a punch or kick. I have been told that being able to deal with a good, solid punch or kick is part of the test.

Of course the second issue that came up is my technique. I am a perfectionist, so there are so many things that I want and need to improve on before that test. I know all my forms, one steps, kicks, etc. but it's a matter of getting them really, really good and up to black belt level.

My sparring is also an issue. I'm still too defensive when I spar. I need to adapt and not use the same sparring style against everyone, because this will get me beat. Going in straight on an opponent who has greater reach is not the smartest idea. I need to stop thinking so much about what's going on, what the opponent is doing, and just react. Sparring needs to become more second nature than it is currently.

The final area I thought about is my confidence. I am very comfortable when I'm put out there teaching the kids class. I know what I want to teach, how to get it across to my students, and I know what to look for. I'm confident there. I'm not so confident as a student. I second guess myself too often and I need to fix that.

With all these things in mind, I came up with a tentative date. Mr. G approved it and told me that I need to work toward that goal.

My goal for testing for black belt is March 31st, 2012.

That's just under six month, which will put me at a little over a year since my red belt test. I think this is a do-able goal. It gives me something to shoot for, and if it takes me longer, then so be it. But with having a set date, this makes the test real and not "Oh, well, it's sometime in the future." I have a goal and I'm going to work hard on the things I mentioned so I can meet that goal.


Felicia said...

Congrats on having a date, Ariel. I've been where you are and I can definitely relate to the jaw-dropping WOW! feeling even hearing your name and "black belt test" mentiolned in the same sentence induces.

About bettering your endurance - I sugguest you start NOW. Add a little running, biking or swimming into your routine. Perhaps start with two days a week of 15 minutes at a pop then moving up from there. Incorporating it into your regular routine instead of making a special day/time for it might make it a little less intimidating. For example, I make my run or time on the bike my warm-up on my non-dojo days. I still don't look forward to it, but it helps me get 'er done, y'know?

You've heard this before, but you know you'll be fine, right? Your instructors would not have you preparing to test/setting a date if they were not confident in your abilities to successfully complete it. You're ready - or the conversation about setting a date would never have happened.

Remember, the martial path is one that is filled with gaining knowledge. There will be things you will want to better - like your sparring and specific techniques. If you weren't looking to make things better, you'd be a martial artist in name only, I think - like the folks who only put on a dobak or gi when a promotion or seminar comes up. Training to improve makes you a martial artist, not having perfected it all yet.

Wishing you the best! You'll be great :-)

Marie said...

Congratulations on the date. I could well have posted a lot of the stuff you mentioned here. Being confident when in front of the kids but not so much as a student (yup, that's me), not adapting sparring to suit your opponent (me again), a big list of things you want to improve on ( once again me too).

I’ve also had the scary “black belt talk” banded about too. It’s always been a bit of an ethereal thing though until today when my Shihan sneakily slipped in November 2012 as a suggestion (his words…”A carrot to encourage me with” LOL). I have to say it did make my heart do a bit of a jig at the very thought of it!

Like yours our gradings are quite stamina intense. For my 2nd Kyu grading I had 15 minutes of continuous sparring (one on one all the up Kyu ranks then culminating in a 2 on 1 against two 4th Kyu then 1 on 1 against a 1st Kyu). Shihan kindly followed that with all of my required forms and grade kata (on my own!). It was a tough session but a little peek into what to expect for Shodan grading. Heaven help me!

If the run up to yours goes as quickly as the countdown to SueCs did then it will be here before you know it! I wish you the very best of luck with your preparations. Are we crazy, do you think? I do ponder sometimes if I should just stick to something less strenuous like crochet? ;)


Ariel said...

Felicia - You're exactly right. Hearing my name and black belt test together is unreal.

Yes, I need to get my butt in gear with the running! I...dislike it to say the least, but the black belt test and "comfort" aren't synonymous, so I need to get out of my comfort zone quick! My instructors mentioned sprints, so that is probably what I'll start off with.

Thank you for the words of encouragement. Having this test day set has really put me on a roller coaster mentally. So much to do, so little time. I love what you said here though - "Training to improve makes you a martial artist, not having perfected it all yet."

Marie - It's so frustrating being so calm and confident in front of the kids, but freezing up or not feeling as comfortable as a student.

Nice on the hints of a test! I had a few of those in the months before this happened. I probably looked like a deer caught in the headlights when he first mentioned it!

No, no! Don't mention "it'll be here before you know it!" La, la, la, can't hear you! :) Are we crazy? Most definitely. If we did something less strenuous it would be...safer and less stressful probably. But where else do you get to hit people for fun and because you're told to? LOL.

Earning my black belt will be one of the top achievements in my life. If it was any easier, it wouldn't be worth it. I wouldn't have it any other way. :D