The Testing Process

Following up on Rayna’s post from last week, and since I’ve just finished up testing for my second degree black belt, I’m in the mood to describe the process.

Four months of intense preparation and physical conditioning.  There are numerous pre-testing classes during which candidates are assessed and judged to be ready for the actual test.  Then the grand finale, six hours of balls-to-the-wall curriculum under a microscope of scrutiny of a dozen 3rd to 10th degree black belts.  These sensei seem to thrive on finding every flub—and they take notes.  There’s also a sparring test.

Picture this:  40 sweating adults lined up in rows in a studio designed for 30.  Everyone is dressed exactly the same, plain black gi with white Kenpo patch sewn over the left breast.  Zero air circulation.  The most senior sensei sit at a long table at the front of the room, jotting down notes on candidates’ score sheets. Other instructors walk between rows, stopping to pelt candidates with questions on techniques, movements, Kenpo theory and history.

My favorite question is “are you sure about that answer?”

To this I always answer with an emphatic “Yes, sensei!”  After all, screwing up is one thing, but who wants to look like a weenie?  Every candidate on that mat will make mistakes.  The key is not to get flustered over them.   So your kata was a train wreck?  Move on.  Let it go.  Get over it.

See, that’s part of the test.

The instructors know the candidates are ready.  No sensei will recommend an unprepared student test for black belt testing.  The point of the whole exercise is to force every candidate not to his breaking point, but over it.

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