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Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have?
Mr Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?
The Karate Kid
before the test
Prepare seriously. Make sure you know the curriculum. Practise often. Especially for your first test try to remember the names of the techniques.
the day of the test
Try to stay as calm and quiet as your life lets you. If you can, leave a clear buffer of time before the test. Go for a walk or sit down and have a hot drink. Try to avoid distractions.
Go to the dojo as early as you can. If you clean the mats before training in your dojo try to get there in time to do that - if you get there very early do it on your own.
Change into your gi slowly and deliberately. Many professional sports players have rituals they try not to vary. It's like preparing for battle.
When you enter the dojo bow slowly and formally with a feeling of gratitude. Look at the dojo. This place is where you are going to do a great test. This is your space.
Warm up thoroughly. Do some ukemi. Get your blood flowing and get rid of any stiffness or lethargy. Now you're ready to do a great test.
If you have to wait while other people are testing occasionally move your legs and ankles and feet and toes. It's not cool to fall over when you stand up.
Use the adrenalin as a help to peak at the right moment.
Be sharp. Now is not the time to be slow and thoughtful.
Finish all your techniques clearly and decisively with zanshin - re
I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.
Last week I was asked about promotion tests. If your teacher asks you to test do you have to test?
Not to test
I think once you have shodan and a black belt it's OK not to test if you are really not interested in grades. But if you have trained for a long time and you still have a white belt there is maybe a danger of becoming a Q-car. A Q-car (in the US a sleeper car) is a modest-looking car with a hidden powerful engine. Like a VW Beetle with a Porsche engine. Hello. Surprise! The name came from the Q-ships. They were originally warships disguised as innocent merchant ships to invite attacks from submarines. When the submarines surfaced to attack the Q-ship revealed its guns. It sounds like advice from The Art of War by Sun Tzu ("all warfare is based on deception") or The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. Or Captain Morgan the pirate.
I knew one man with a white belt who had a solid background in several martial arts and quite a few years of aikido training who surprised a few shihan with his powerful grip and attacks. So if you have a white belt and your teacher asks you to take a test it's probably a good idea to do it.
If a test is too expensive to fit in your financial priorities of course just decide not to test. But talk it over with your teacher.
In Japan the traditional way is very easy. You don't have