Reflections on Belt Testing for Children, Parents and Adult Students

First off, I want to congratulate all of the recent belt recipients in the Pee Wee and Junior Martial Arts Programs at the Dragon Gym.   As always, the level of technical quality continues to improve and this was another fine display.

In addition to the children’s hard work, a couple of things help to really make this happen.  One: the parents’ continuous support and investment in their children’s martial arts education.   Without you, they would not be here to learn, practice, and get better.  Two: the immeasurable dedication and teaching ability of Masters Lonnie and Chris.   It is one thing to be a great martial arts practitioner; however, to have the patience and skill to effectively communicate the necessities and intricacies of martial arts to the youthful student is a higher level entirely.

TEST PREPARATION

The simplest, and best, advice for test preparation is to know and be clear on what the expectations of testing and belt promotion are.   If you are unclear, make sure to ask either your instructor or one of the advanced students.  Even if you know the requirements, it doesn’t hurt to confirm them either.     Belt testing is not an all encompassing review of everything that you have been taught, rather it is an evaluation of a sampling of techniques to ensure that you have developed the requisite proficiency for your current rank and level of experience.   From quarter to quarter we may be focusing on different aspects of martial arts training and you need to find out what that is.   Although, the focus may vary, we will always be looking at the following elements: Forms, hand and foot techniques, partner techniques, and board breaking.   For higher level students, we also will need the sparring requirements to be fulfilled.

Beyond that, regularly attending class and practicing will ensure the success of the students in our children’s martial arts programs.   Remember, the martial arts system is based upon a hierarchy of goal setting.  Our long term goal for every student is to reach the Black Belt (and beyond), but that is broken down into smaller, short term goals.     By achieving these goals, our students will feel successful and develop confidence.

For our adult students, the goal is the same: Black Belt, and the same idea of goal hierarchy still applies.  In addition, the aspect of time-sensitivity becomes increasingly important.    Without a concrete time frame, a goal can quickly become meaningless.    A common example is weight loss.  “I want to lose 10 lbs”.   Without a set target date, this goal is nearly impossible.  Lose 10 in one month? 6 months? A Year?   Only with a set target date, can we formulate a concrete plan that will ensure our success.

Adult martial arts students can have their requirements broken down into four categories: Russian Kettlebells, Forms, Sparring, and Breaking.  For every level, confirm with your instructors what the specific requirements are, and follow a plan to fulfill those requirements in the next three months.

 

Remember, your goals should be SMART

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Realistic

T – Timely

WHAT IF THINGS DON’T GO WELL AT TESTING

Belt Testing and Promotion can put a lot of pressure on adult and children students alike (as well as their parents).   Sometimes external stress is a good thing, and this is one of those times.  We know, through research and experience, that stressful situations reinforce information in the brain and improve recall.  Stressful situations, like testing and competition can allow this reinforcement to happen in a positive way.

Sometimes students don’t perform at their best during the test.  This may be due to anxiety or some other outside factors.  Although, we want all students to pass, this is not always possible.

AND THAT IS OK…

I don’t know of an instructor at the Dragon Gym that has a 100% pass rate.   Every test is a learning opportunity regardless of the result.   When you do well, and pass, is a great time for introspection and self-evaluation.  What are the things you did well?  What enabled you to do so?  What are things that you need to do better?  How will you motivate yourself to do so?

Similar reflection is also appropriate when you do not pass a test; however, now you also have some external feedback on the things you need to work on.

How do you move on?

Recognize that not passing a test is not the end of the road, merely a bump in the road.   It is not different from losing a match at a tournament (or any other game for that matter).   Sure, it is upsetting, but it gives us a chance to improve.  When a bone is broken, it heals stronger.

As parents, we need you to encourage your children to keep training and persevere through the short lived adversity.  We need you to support our decision and let them know that they can, and should, seek out our help in order to be successful in the future.   Leverage testing to teach your children about hard work, diligence, and commitment. The first time a student doesn’t pass a test, or loses a match, is always the most devastating.  But, now that the FEAR has been realized it can be overcome.    Anxiety will be much less of a factor in the future, but only with your positive support.   You need to help your child understand that learning the martial arts is not easy, it’s not supposed to be.

As adult students, the aforementioned points still apply.  You must just apply them to yourself, which can often be more difficult.    A key for testing, success, and progress is trust.  You must trust our instruction and our decisions but also trust in your own abilities.

Take the time to re-evaluate your training approach.  Did you follow and fulfill the program we laid out for you?  If not, what will it take for you to better adhere to that plan?  If you did, what were your obstacles?  Not everyone has the same physical and mental attributes, you need to seek us out, so that we can optimize your training regimen.   Working harder is only part of the equation; you need to work better and smarter; this is an opportunity to do so.

Remember, martial arts testing is not only a means of demonstrating and evaluating ability.  They are a tool for the student to develop the patience and will to reach a goal.

The only way you can possibly FAIL in your training is to simply give up.

“A Black Belt is Just a White Belt That Never Quit”

Sincerely,

Somnath Sikdar

Master Instructor

Dragon Gym

Somnath Sikdar
Connect with me
Master, 6th Dan Black Belt
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