One of my favorite things is Belt Rank Testing and Promotion Night at our Karate for Kids school. It’s awesome seeing the kids (and adults) demonstrate and perform their material, and receive their new colored belts.
Occasionally, one or two will accomplish the long standing goal of achieving their Black Belt. That’s really cool, because it represents years of dedication and effort. All that hard work will last a lifetime, along with all the lessons learned on the way.
No one’s ever perfect on testing night. There’s too diverse a range of material. Some do better at forms, which are like a memorized fighting dance. Others are better when sparring and reacting with their kicks and strikes. Still others are best on the ground, using their grappling to get out of a tight spot.
Once in awhile, there will be someone who’s just a natural. They’re gifted with an above average mind-body connection. They just make everything look good. But that’s pretty rare, and we don’t see it very often. I sure wasn’t that way.
It took years for me to learn how to be graceful, have quick reactions and look like I really knew what I was doing. The process worked, because I gave it enough time. The thing to realize is that we’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for improvement.
If the students have applied themselves, we’ll see it when they demonstrate their techniques. There will be improvement from the last time a couple months ago. Blocks and strikes will be crisper and more powerful. Kicks will be higher and stances will be lower.
We’ll see improvement in their confidence too. Students that start out tentative and apprehensive, learn to stay calm and focus on the task at hand. It’s awesome to see that person who once shy, is now standing tall, and not yielding under pressure.
That’s the other purpose of testing and promotion night, to put a little pressure on. Sure, we want them to have a time of celebration (after we put them through the ringer). But they’ve got to perform first.
Knowing people are watching almost always makes it harder. Seeing the parents with their phones out ready to record brings it home to them. Doing their material in front of their instructors, and in a more formal setting, adds pressure too.
When you know you’ve been tested and not been found lacking, it’s quite a feeling. Knowing you’ve measured up and met the challenge can set you up for many other important moments in your life.
Finally, there’s learning how to let some things go. A slip in balance, or bobbled move, just has to be shaken off. You can’t hold on to it, or it will affect the rest of your performance. We all make mistakes. The trick is adjusting quickly, and moving on.
All of these lessons work together to develop character in our kids, as well as our adult students. They apply to me too. I can’t grow by simply sitting around watching our students test. I’ve got to get out there myself.
So I’m currently training and preparing for my own midterm testing and review down in Little Rock next month. It will be my 2nd of 4 required reviews, before the actual testing for 7th Degree in another year or two. Wish me luck!