stressed about your taekwondo belt test?...
here's help to get you through
Firstly. What is a taekwondo belt test?
A belt test or taekwondo grading is an exam. An exam to see whether you are good enough to move up to the next taekwondo belt.
It's a test of your taekwondo skills. And your mental toughness.
The test is set for your level. And your instructor only expects you to be at that level.
So you are not expected to perform like a red belt at a yellow-stripe grading!
who will test you?
Your instructor will probably sit at the front of the dojang behind a table.
Often your school will invite a taekwondo instructor from another club to assist with the grading. Usually this person is a taekwondo Master. That's a 4th Dan black belt or higher. So it's important to show them a lot of respect.
External examiners are important for making sure that standards are high across all taekwondo schools.
And just so you know what to expect.
The general atmosphere is much more formal than in a normal training session. And your instructor won't smile at you. Or encourage you as he or she might normally.
If that worries you maybe try to remember this.
Your instructor will be willing you on inside the whole time. Hoping so much that you show off your best taekwondo. But because it's an exam. He or she just can't show it. That's all.
here's how to calm your nerves
There's usually quite a lot of hanging around at the beginning of a taekwondo belt test. Waiting for the taekwondo grading panel to get ready.
It's at this time the nerves can really start to mount.
Deb remembers one grading where she got talking to another student. And they went over a taekwondo pattern. And the other student told Deb she was making mistakes.
And this knocked Deb's confidence so much. That by the time the grading started she was in a complete panic. And really struggled to focus.
Deb has learned from that lesson. And now she says 'Hi' to everyone. But then just stretches in a quiet corner. And tries to clear her mind of negative thoughts. And relax.
She always thinks to herself. 'If I don't know it now it's too late to worry about it!'
first is the warm up
Once you finally line up. The first stage of the taekwondo belt test is usually introductions. And the visiting taekwondo Master may say a few words.
And then there's generally a group warm-up. Often one of your club black belts will take the warm-up.
This warm-up is a good chance to let out a bit of nervous tension. We suggest you try to keep relaxed. Keep your shoulders as loose as you can.
And pace yourself.
It's only a warm up.
There's lots to come!
Then you'll often be asked to sit down at the side of the taekwondo dojang for a minute or two.
As we said earlier. There's usually a lot of hanging around at taekwondo gradings. Sitting at the side. Waiting for your turn.
We think it's important to sit quietly. Watch what's going on. And try keep your thoughts positive about what you can do. And not to think about what you can't do.
the belt test really begins
Then all of a sudden your name will be called. This is it. Your moment to shine. To show what you can do.
At this point in our taekwondo belt test we always feel a huge rush of nerves. We can feel our hearts pounding up into our necks.
Our palms are clammy. And our legs feel weak. We feel like they'll hardly hold us up.
Let alone kick!
We bow and line up.
It's all part of the test.
And finally we can start.
Usually a black belt will demonstrate first. So we are clear on what to do.
We find that it's great just to get on with our taekwondo belt test. To get those first few moves out of the way.
We also find that we are much more physically tired than we would normally be. So even after just doing a few simple blocks. We feel out of breath.
One simple word. Adrenaline.
When we are put in a fearful situation. Our bodies naturally get ready to run away. Or fight.
Our hearts pump really fast and hard. And pump blood to our muscles. And we tend to tense everything up.
And all this activity burns energy. Really quickly. Like running a car at high revs uses lots of fuel.
So we feel tired during our taekwondo belt test. Even after a small amount of exertion.
A bit of adrenaline is fine. Because it fires us up.
Too much just burns us out.
....Is relaxation. Trying to stay calm. Trying to keep your muscles relaxed. And your nerves under control.
Easier said than done.
But worth trying to think about when you can.
how to perform well in poomse
Back to the taekwondo belt test.
Once the basic taekwondo techniques are done.
The next test is often taekwondo patterns or poomse.
Sometimes you'll be asked to do your patterns in a group. Other times you'll have to do them alone.
But since you know your patterns. You'll be fine. Right?
If you are asked to do your taekwondo poomse with other students. Our advice is not to copy them. We think you should do your own pattern.
If you are constantly glancing at your friends. The panel will notice.
And if your friends go wrong. Then you'll go wrong.
This happened to Neil once in a grading. He was nervous. And followed the student to his left. And that student went wrong.
They both ended up freezing. And had to re-start.
Neil still passed. But it was stress that he didn't need to go through. Because he knew his pattern all along! Inside out. He just doubted himself.
advice on sparring and self defense
OK. Moving on.
Usually the next stage of the taekwondo belt test is taekwondo sparring and self-defense.
This may be in the form of one-step and/or three-step sparring. And maybe free sparring. And taekwondo self defense.
We think of three-step and one step taekwondo sparring as a chance to show off the things we do well.
It's a good idea to practice at home. To think up a few ways that you can shine. And polish these techniques before the grading.
As for taekwondo sparring. Deb in particular has found this to be a very tough test.
It takes guts to get into a ring. With someone who is trying to kick you.
And to stand up and defend yourself. And fight.
And that's the point. The taekwondo belt test is designed to test you. So there will be a part of it that you are not good at. That you find daunting. That you find difficult.
That may not be the same part that other people find hard.
The challenge is yours.
So that you find the spirit
And the courage.
To come through the test.
breaking....test your determination
And the next part of your taekwondo belt test. Is taekwondo breaking.
Taekwondo breaking is all about focus. And technique.
If you have good technique you don't need great strength to break the wood. Just a positive attitude.
That determination to see the board in pieces on the dojang floor.
It helps if you can visualize your foot or hand going right through the wood.
And when you do strike.
We suggest you try to aim to finish your taekwondo technique at least a foot behind the board.
If you are new to taekwondo. You should get some help from your taekwondo instructor with lining up your board. And standing in the right place.
The worst thing you can do? Is hesitate.
If you pull your foot or hand back as you hit the board.
It won't break.
And you'll get shock waves up your arm or leg. Ouch!
So go for it 100%! You'll be amazed how good it will feel when the board breaks!
what else do they assess you on?
Is anything else being assessed at a taewkondo belt test?
Firstly your etiquette. Everything you do on or off the mats is being watched.
So our advice?
Remember your courtesy at all times. We suggest that you.
Bow when you enter the dojang. Bow and shake hands with your taekwondo instructor and the visiting taekwondo Master. And we suggest that you keep quiet and still when you are waiting.
And the other thing being assessed during your taekwondo belt test. Is your spirit.
How you cope with the pressure.
How you cope with physical exhaustion.
And how you cope with being asked to do something you've never done before.
Do you crumble? And give up.
Or do you stay strong? And keep fighting!
No-one can give you spirit. It develops in you over time.
But we think that it's important to show every ounce of your spirit in your taewkondo belt test. Otherwise the grading panel don't know it's there.
It's important to kiyup loudly.
To put everything you've got into your techniques.
And to never give up.
However tough it gets.
and if you mess up?
And what do you do if you mess up in your taekwondo belt test?
Pretend it never happened.
It's already in the past.
What matters is what's happening right now.
Not what happened a few minutes ago.
If you dwell on what just happened.
Then you'll probably mess up again!
preparing for your tkd belt test- positive thinking!
And how can you prepare for your taekwondo belt test?
Here's what we do.
Over the weeks coming up to the grading we practice.
We practice our taekwondo patterns. Our taekwondo basics. And our one-step and self-defense.
And we find that we are less nervous if we've put in the time. And worked on these things. And are confident that we know them.
The night before our taekwondo belt test. We make sure our most comfortable taekwondo doboks are perfectly clean. And perfectly ironed.
We check that our nails are clean and short. We leave jewelery at home.
And on the day.
We eat something high in energy an hour or two before. Deb and Leah often have a bowl of porridge.
We try if at all possible to get a good night's sleep before our taekwondo belt test. Often we go for a walk before bed so we're physically relaxed.
If we really can't sleep through nerves. We try doing some positive thinking.
This is Deb's method....
....'I visualize myself doing taekwondo really well. Starting with the basics.
I imagine myself strong. Standing in a strong riding stance. And then doing lovely high quality low blocks, middle blocks, high blocks. Exactly as they should be.
And then I work through all the stances. And then the poomses. Again. I imagine I am doing them really well.
I concentrate on every move. Every little detail. I think about the turns. My feet. The position of my fist on my belt.
And then I think about the taekwondo breaking. I imagine how my front kick is going to power through the board. Smash it into little pieces. And I see the pieces of wood lying on the dojang floor....
We also find this kind of positive thinking and visualization useful when the nerves get over-powering in a grading.
We find the worst time is when we are sitting on the side during the taekwondo belt test. Sitting watching other students.
Waiting for our turn.
Doubts try to creep into our minds.
Thoughts that we'll never be able to do it.
We think that it's important to push these thoughts out.
We find that just closing our eyes for a few seconds during our taekwondo belt test.
And imagining that perfect board break.
Or that brilliant pattern.
Helps to keep the negative thoughts out of our brains.
And keep our spirit strong!