Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On January - 29 - 2014

ikdrankMartial artist strive to achieve new ranks in their respective styles. They work for months and years to prepare for their rank test but are they truly ready for the test?

Over the time period between rank testing students and instructors work on the skills needed. An instructor’s job is to make sure you are physically ready for your test. This covers basics, sparring, kata and in some styles self defense and bunkai. The instructors drill the students constantly and as long as the student takes advice, applies the corrections and performs to the best of their ability they should be able to achieve their next goal.

But an instructors can not help you prepare for everything. There are mental aspects that you need to overcome yourself. First and foremost you need to learn to control your emotions. Everyone gets nervous. Some professional fighters vomit before fights. They are so nervous that they cannot contain themselves. Some fighters say if they are not nervous they will lose the fight. Every person will have a different level of nervous reaction. You have to learn to deal with this on your own. It could be by focusing on something else or embracing the nervous feeling and making that emotional energy work for you. Then there is anger. What if your opponent for the sparring portion of the rank exam thinks that the match is like a tournament and doesn’t treat the situation like a grading? This could make you very angry at that person. You need to be able to get passed it and remember that you are being tested on you ability to adapt. The biggest hurdle sometimes is ego. Your constant training and years of hard work may make you think that you are better than you actually are. This can even lead to you not wanting to listen to advice from instructors and senior ranks. In your mind, you are doing it right and no one can tell you otherwise. To overcome emotional hurdles, you have to empty your mind and absorb knowledge from all sides. You need to push your emotions down deep inside of yourself and focus more on the bigger pictures. Emotions will be the hardest part of your grading test to surpass.

4056189c721482501As instructors, we can not teach you maturity. That is a big part of your rank tests as you advance especially as you are testing for Shodan and higher. You maturity level needs to show that you can act the way that a black belt should act. Yes, there are expectations for how a black belt should behave and if a student can not demonstrate these traits their instructor should not allow them to test. What are the expectations? I will let you all find them on your own, not because I do not want to spell them out for you but because it is part of the test. I can point you in the right direction. First you need to learn the Dojo Kun and Niju Kun. What are they? Some styles have adopted a variation of Gichin Funikoshi’s precepts but the the most part they are all the same. The Dojo Kun are the rules of the dojo and are sometime referred to as the Dojo oath. They are spoken aloud by all students at the end of each class. They are a promise to be a better person and to work hard to achieve a higher state of being. The Niju Kun literally translates to 20 Rules or 20 Precepts. The Niju Kun are guiding principles. They are there to help you on your journey and realize that your training is not something that is separate from your everyday life. Those that think that you are training to become a better fighter or to defend yourself in a dangerous situation are not going to live up to their full potential. Training is to create balance in your entire life not just in your martial art of choice.

Dedication is a huge factor when it comes to testing. You may have the skills down to test but what is your dedication to your training? In North American, we do not put the dedication into training that we see in the Orient. In Japan, for example, karate ka train everyday for hours. They harden their mind and body to the point where they are like a machine. Here we focus more on other activities. We are always on the go and can never dedicate ourselves 100% to one thing. This is where a big problem lies in karate training. Students look at their skills and believe they are ready to test but when you look at the time that they have put forth in their training, they are lacking. This is why many organizations put minimum training requirements in place for each test. In the International Karate Daigaku, there are minimum training requirements that can range from 3 months to 10 years depending on the rank that you are testing for. Some students think that their last test was 3 months ago so they can test again. They, however, only attended a single class a week or less. They believe that this is enough. You are only hurting yourself in the long run by not dedicating 100% to your own betterment.

Being prepared for a rank test has a lot to do with mental preparation as well as physical preparation. We as martial artists constantly focus on the physical aspect. Do we have the basics down? Is our kata correct? Who will I spar against? Will I be able to keep up with my opponent and demonstrate my skills? What we forget to ask ourselves is; Am I mentally and emotionally ready? And have I dedicated myself to my goal? Take a look at yourself from the inside out as you prepare for your rank test and you should be able to reach your full potential.


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