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by Mckenna Castro
(Las Vegas, Nevada)
To all future black belts,
Everyone gets nervous before a test. It's only natural. It doesn't have to be only a test for your next belt; it could be any test, like one for school. Sometimes it's good to be nervous. The feeling drives you to work harder for whatever your test may be. In fact, if you aren't nervous then you are not ready for your test. Especially not the black belt test.
Before you even take the test there are preparations you must make. You have to show up to all the classes, and make sure you have all of your teaching days in. This shows that you are responsible, and committed to becoming a black belt.
However, you have to do more than just show up to class. You have to work. You have to give each and every practice your all. If you are not sweating by the time class is over, than you didn't work hard enough.
You have to act like each practice is the black belt test, and you have to mean it. However you practice in class will be exactly how you perform on the test day.
Another thing that is key to do is to be respectful to all black belts and instructors. Always greet and bow to them when entering the dojo, and say goodbye when leaving. Always pay attention to what they are saying and never question them disrespectfully. Also, don't be afraid to ask them questions. Asking questions actually shows that you are serious about karate and want to learn.
What hurts people the most on the black belt test by far, is weapons. Do not wait to practice or go over them with an instructor. A private a week before the test will not help. Practice them every day and get two or three privates before the test. The requirement to pass is to correctly complete four weapons, but there is an option to do a fifth weapon in case of mistake on a previous one. I strongly recommend that you go into the test with five weapons. You could easily drop your weapon, and fail the kata. This way you have a chance to redeem yourself with a different weapon.
The second thing that hurts people on their test is sparring. By the time they get to sparring you would have already been testing for hours. People get so tired and drained of energy that they can't take anyone down. This is why you have to go hard in every practice, and especially sparing. If you can be exhausted but still take someone down in practice, then you can on the test.
One more thing that I recommend is exercising at home. Running is a really great way to learn to control and gain more endurance. That will be very useful for sparing.
The judges on the board will try to throw you off guard. They will try to make you nervous to see how you will react. This shows them how you will react if someone attacks you on the street. They might ask you questions. Or have you do your kata backwards. They might even have you do the order of one steps backwards.
If they something that makes you nervous, you can't show them that you are. You just have to do what they ask, and try your best. If you don't know the answer to something never say, "I don't know" You just have to think and if you absolutely don't know the answer then guess. I recommend making flashcards of the one steps in order or of how many moves each kata has.
The night before the test I recommend you to not even think about karate and just relax. Don't eat too much and go to bed early. In the morning have only a bit of fruit for breakfast. Be sure to stretch a lot and try to stay energized.
The number one advice I could give you is to not give up on your test. You just have to push and push and keep pushing and you will eventually come out of that dojo with what you have been working for, for years. A black belt.
And even if you fail the first time around, try again. If you have been working that hard, for that long, it would be a shame to just quit. So just remember, Never ever give up, and never quit on the black belt test and karate. It could save your life one day.
Yours Truly, Mckenna Castro
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