As a martial artist you are aware that belt testing comes with the program. There are certain requirements for each belt and it takes time, dedication, discipline, patience, and hard work to earn each belt – at least it should (and it does at my school). You are required to learn more material (basics, forms, sets, self-defense techniques), improve on the material you already know, and have more responsibility with each belt you earn. Each belt requires more focus, more self-discipline, and, yes, more practice.
It’s your responsibility as the student to make sure you are fully prepared for each test. It’s vital that you practice more than you normally do to prepare for an upcoming test. One of the best things you can do to ensure you will be fully ready and will have the confidence to do well is get a private lesson with your instructor. The best time to get this private lesson is 3-5 days before your test. The lesson will allow your instructor to go through the material with you to make sure you have everything down, and will allow him/her to give you some pointers to help you do well on the test. The instructor can encourage you and can answer any questions you may have.
When my students get private lessons to prepare for their tests, I use those privates as pre-tests. I have the students go through the material like they are actually testing. Anything they screw up, or forget, I go over with them for the remainder of the private. This allows them to become aware of what material they need to focus a little more attention to before the test. Only around 20 percent of my students get private lessons before a test, and they are always the students who do extremely well on the tests. The students who struggle on the tests and sometimes fail the tests are those who weren’t prepared – those who never get private lessons and rarely practice at home.
Martial arts training is something you should never take lightly. You should never coast along giving only a portion of effort. If you are at a good school, your instructor will not promote you if you are not giving your best effort, improving physically and mentally, and focusing on becoming the best you are capable of. I have found that many students think that just because they are showing up and giving me a pay check that they are obligated to receive belts. That isn’t how it works. Don’t mistake activity for achievement. Just going through the motions isn’t going to cut it. If you go to college, which costs much more than karate lessons, do you deserve that diploma just because you are showing up to class and paying? Absolutely not! You have to study, do the work, and get good grades for 4 years (Bachelor’s).
In college, you can’t work hard for one year and then stop studying and doing homework, because you won’t make it; same with martial arts. To get a black belt you have to constantly improve by working hard for at least 4 years. My personal opinion is that it should take at least 6 years to get a black belt, however. You can’t work hard for two years and then drop the ball, because you will never become a black belt. I can’t tell you how many times I had adult students train hard for several years, make it to brown belt, and then drop the ball and never become black belts. If you make it to brown belt in my school you better make it to black. There is no excuse – unless you moved away.
As a martial arts student, don’t you want to be the best you can be? Work hard and never give up. This is a life changing experience that produces more benefits than anything else on earth. Enjoy the journey, because it’s the transformation of a lifetime. I can’t tell you how many times my training has saved me in self-defense situations, has gotten me jobs, has allowed me to be a great role model in my community, and has allowed me to meet some of the best people I have ever known. The good news is, although I’ve been in the arts for over 20 years, my journey is just beginning.
I challenge you to challenge yourself. Make sure you are always giving your best effort and not making excuses. Although this article is about what to do before a belt test, focus your energy on knowledge and skill – not belts. The belts come with the territory. Belt chasers never make it very far. It’s like a dog trying to catch his tail – he just keeps running in circles and never catches it. The belt won’t save you in combat – your mind and physical skill will. Focus on gaining as much knowledge and skill as you can, always work hard, never give up, and you will be a great black belt some day. Private lessons will help you with that process, especially before a test.
About the Author:
Michael Miller is an international martial arts instructor and self-defense, personal protection, and bully expert who holds a 5th degree black belt in American Kenpo – a modern reality based street system of combat. He is the co-founder of the “Stomp the Bullying” program, where he takes an active approach to teaching children and parents all about bullying, how not to be a bully, how not to become a target, how to handle bullying situations, and more. The program is becoming world recognized with celebrity endorsements from actors Martin Kove (Sensei John Kreese in the Karate Kid Series) and Sean Kanan (Karate’s bad boy Mike Barnes in the Karate Kid III), as well as receiving a letter from the House of Representatives of the United States commending him for his program and for providing children with martial arts lessons. Miller runs a full-time martial arts school in Bradford, Pa (Miller’s Kenpo Karate Dojo) and teaches American Kenpo (his primary system), boxing, kickboxing, Joe Lewis Fighting Systems, Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu, and Modern Arnis. He is also a writer who has been featured in Inside Kung-fu and Black Belt magazines several times as an authority in his field and is the author of the Legends of Kenpo biography series. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh in writing with a minor in sociology. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 814-368-3725.