View Full Version : Testing and Pressure

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04-16-2004, 10:23 AM
I train at a relatively large Dojo, in fact it's probably the largest Aikido dojo in the UK. And I'm writing about the philosophy of test here.

Essentially it comes down to one sentence, performing excellently under pressure. For myself I believe this must be an essential part of aikido development, becasue after all if you can't perform your techniques under pressure, you can't use them in reality to protect yourself.

However at the last grading I noticed a new addition, there was some background music played very softly in the background. Not the nice calming sort, rather the sort of dramatic music that is played at the cinema to put you on edge. I think that's a really cool way to ensure people are edgy and nervous and put under pressure. I also think the great thing about testing is that there is something at stake.

My question is though for those who do not do grading tests, how do you take students out of their comfort zones and see how they perform under pressure.

I'd be interested in your replies.

Nick Simpson
04-16-2004, 11:07 AM
Attack them in the changing rooms?

John Boswell
04-16-2004, 11:55 AM
Attack them in the changing rooms?
That was you?!?:grr:

evileyes :mad: :confused: :freaky:

04-16-2004, 12:55 PM
I think that's a really cool way to ensure people are edgy and nervous and put under pressure.

i wish it was the opposite, i dont know alot of ppl who actually *want* to be edgy and nervous during a test, in fact it should be the opposite, you want to be as relaxed as possible so you have a clear mind to concentrate on the techs, not your nerves.

On that note, i'll ask you guys whats the worst screw up you've had on a test and how did it pan out? for those intructors out there how do u view screw ups during tests knowing the stress that comes along with it?

Ron Tisdale
04-16-2004, 03:07 PM
how do you take students out of their comfort zones and see how they perform under pressure.
Well, a not exactly as requested but somewhat related answer:

One instructor I trained under didn't think that tests really showed where you are. His idea was that your performance and comportment at each practice session showed more about where you were. The kind of tests you spend three weeks or three months preparing for only showed what you were capable of cramming for. I don't completely agree with his assesment, but it does seem to have some merit, as I would often see people decline somewhat in performance after a rigorous test.
whats the worst screw up you've had on a test and how did it pan out?
Well, I'm not really qualified to say what the worst screw up was...the last one I remember;

The instructor called for a certain suwari waza technique, and of course I was expected to do it the same way on both sides. I was kind of in a zone, I guess...when uke attacked on the right, it just kind of came out a completely different technique. Then I did the correct technique on the left. So I'm standing there afterward wondering if he'd noticed, and the instructor asks "which side was correct"? When I told him, he says, ok, do it again. Not so bad, as screw ups go...


04-17-2004, 12:00 AM
my last test i was going for something rediculously simple: shomenuchi ikkajo ni (the tenkan version) even after doing the tech a million times in practice as soon as he called my name to test i got really nervous all of a sudden. So all of a sudden i completely forget that the "ni" techs are gaku hamni, left to right basic, and so im sitting there going "oh crap, wtf am i supposed to do". So i go for the tech and then my uke gets freaked and goes to do the irimi version then relaizes i had corrected myself and then had to jump around me while im doing the 180 pivot, we both looked at eachother after that and were like "WTF IS HAPPPENING TO US??!!". No idea if sensei had seen us or not but it all worked out in the end. Im still kicking myself for scrweing up something so simple.

Lessons learned from that: no matter how much u practice, on a test its a whole new ball game hehe

04-17-2004, 10:26 AM
how do you take students out of their comfort zones and see how they perform under pressure.
Since you perform how you train, the idea would be to do more pressure training. All skills are very context specific.

In gym sports, they often play loud music or even crowd sounds to get the players to overcome distraction. In reality martial arts, we often "woof" or fight while people are yelling at you as if you are in a bar fight.

In Aikido, I often ask my training partners to pick up the pace and intent. If I don't move, they will hit me. If I don't take their balance, they won't fall down.

Mentally, its about overcoming the internal negative fantasies one has that keeps them in their comfort zone. The comfort zone means you probably already know it. Outside of the zone is where you learn something new. Turn the fear of the pressure into the excitement of the moment.

04-18-2004, 06:01 AM
I must thank everybody for their replies. All very interesting. My own personal responses to the points raised are as follows.

To Andrew - I don't LIKE the pressure of gradings in fact I am always a nervous wreck for gradings, which I'm not for normal training. However I accept that they are a necessary part of Aikido development.

To Ron - I would say this, that I don't doubt that there may be a decline in

someone's 'comfort zone' Aikido after a grading, but the purpose of a grading is to see how you can perform under pressure. How you carry on after a screw-up. On the basis that in reality things don't always go as you expect and the screw-up you make under grading pressure - if you can deal with them and keep going. We are taught that even if you realise you are doing the wrong technique you should finish the technique, then bow to Sensei to acknowledge you have made a mistake and do it correctly.

To Lynn - Again an excellent point - you must train with real focus and attacks must have real intent. However I would still say that the pressure of being up there and knowing that your technique is being scrutinised, not just by Sensei but all the other grades junior and senior to you and the real possibility of failure would place you in a more pressurised situation that normal training - even with committed attacks.

Again I would like to stress these are just my own personnal opinions and that, as always, you are free to accept, disagree, revere or dismiss as aburd as you all see fit.

George S. Ledyard
04-18-2004, 06:25 AM
I don't completely agree with his assesment, but it does seem to have some merit, as I would often see people decline somewhat in performance after a rigorous test.
Hi Ron,

I think what you see when you see performance "decline" after a test is due to the fact that some people are pressure performers. It takes something extraordinary like a test situation to bring out what they are capable of. I have seen this in a number of my own students.

Then of course some folks are the opposite... you know damned well they are performing at a certain level because you see them every day but in a test situation they don't ever seem to perform at the best.

In my experience, there are more of the former than the latter. The pressure and the adrenaline etc that goes with a test will usually enhance people's performance. In some cases they seem to stay at that level even after the test; perhaps due to a new confidence gained from their experience.

04-18-2004, 10:26 AM
One way my teachers seem to push people a bit out of their comfort zone in the absence of testing (our tests are few and far betweeen) is to unexpectedly ask them to teach or demonstrate. Even a fifth kyu like me is at risk of suddenly finding herself leading the Rhythm Taiso or the warmup hitori waza. This gets the adrenaline going and tends to rapidly tell you what you really know and what you only know via watching the other students out of the corners of your eyes.

A higher-ranked student might actually find himself teaching the first fifteen minutes of a class, or modelling a complicated taigi while the rest of us watch. Practically a mini-test. It not only gets that student's heart pumping, it keeps the rest of us thinking "Yikes, that could be me next time!" and I think this is a good thing.

Mary Kaye

04-19-2004, 09:38 AM
I guess I've always felt that testing was just like class, but with more people watching.
Then again, I've always been the pretty relaxed type; I once fell asleep on the side of a mat at a championship wrestling tourney and almost missed my match!

Attack them in the changing rooms?
Somehow that reminds me of Inspector Cleaseau instructing Cato to attack him at every available opportunity so that he will always be ready. I bet that would liven up our household with the wife and me jumping on each other every time we enter a room (not that we don't like to do that anyway ;) ).

05-04-2004, 02:34 PM
I still feel that it's not a pressured event, and my test on Sunday felt nice and relaxed.
As a matter of fact, everyone said it looked really good. Oh, up until my foot rolled a little, and I tore a ligament in my ankle! :grr:
We'll be, ahh.. finishing that test in few weeks when I can reasonably walk again!

Ron Tisdale
05-04-2004, 04:10 PM
Musta been the music!

Just kidding...hope that ankle heals quickly! :)

Lyle Laizure
05-17-2004, 05:34 PM
I find a kiss on the cheek does wonders.