Federation Black Belt testing is around the corner. The usual testing schedule for black belt candidates is summer and winter. The summer testing occurs at the yearly training camp sponsored by the Federation. It is an intense three day camp with guest instructors. It includes formal testing and a banquet. Testing requirements may vary within dojo or styles. In our dojo , there is a comprehensive in-house test before candidates are presented to the Federation. At the Federation level, the testing candidate demonstrates their material in front of the Federation President and a board of licensed instructors ( Renshi -Kai).
How do you prepare for black belt testing? It depends on the individual and the criteria. When I tested for Shodan , my training partner and I practiced combinations, bunkai and take downs two hours a week for six months. This was in addition to attending class three days during the week and group workout on the weekend. I was at the dojo all the time. I must mention that I am married to a black belt and our daughter was not yet born. Our life was work and karate. It was during this time that my husband opened up his own dojo . He would teach at his new dojo and I would go to the Honbu to train.
When students ask me what to expect at Federation Black Belt testing, I tell them to be prepared for everything ... open hand kata , weapons, basics and bunkai . Federation testing is pass or fail. I tell the students that if they do not have good basics such as stances and proper weapon handling ... they will fail. Testing is at least three hours long. Two hours into testing, it is sweaty and humid and your arms feel like they are going to fall off. That is just about the time that the board asks to see the nunchakukata .
I let the students know that they will make mistakes during testing. The test is how the student handles the mistake. A student should correct the mistake and keep going. I have seen students fall apart after they made a mistake. Being a bit of a perfectionist, when I make mistakes, I am harder on myself than anyone else could be. During one in-house testing, a student that made a mistake walked off the floor, put on their shoes and left. Shocking! As students progress through kyu ranks, they need to constantly be reviewing the earlier material and bring it up to their current level. I have seen students leave behind material once they learned and passed their test. With each subsequent promotion, all the material up to their current rank is tested.
My last test was in 2006. Five weeks before the annual training camp, I was notified by my instructor (head of the Federation) that I was testing. The first thing that came to mind was "I am not ready". Five weeks!!! It was a different training experience for me. I was used to at least six months preparation. A year would even have been better. Five weeks!!! After the shock wore off, I just decided to do my best. I figured that I am "testing" each time I walk in the dojo . I will not be eligible to test again until sometime in the next decade. Thank goodness.
How have you or will you prepare for black belt testing? How much notice are you given? Are there fitness requirements? Sparring? Self-defense?