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Overcome the Fear of Rank Testing!

Rank testing is an extremely important part of the martial arts experience. Unfortunately rank testing can be a major pain point for many students and some may even find themselves feeling overwhelmed with testing anxiety. Unfortunately, this anxiety often leads to discouragement, which can cause many promising students to give up on martial arts entirely.

First of all, let's identify test anxiety for what it is. It is a form of fear born out of a lack of self-confidence and fear of failure. The interesting part of this paradigm is that the cure for a lack of self-confidence lies in achieving what it is you are not confident about. This often becomes a cycle of self-sabotaging behavior that keeps us from achieving what we want in life. It is the job of the martial arts instructor to help students break out of this self-defeating cycle and gain a new confidence in themselves.

Principle #1: Start small, achieve big!

Small victories add up to big achievements over time. Your martial arts instructor should help you manage your martial arts goals. Talk to them about your goals and what your concerns are. They are there to help you set achievable goals and even give you a plan to get there. No one ever became a black belt overnight. It takes years of training, hard work, and overcoming self-doubt to become a black belt. Black belts tend to achieve many successes in life. This doesn't necessarily happen just because successful people tend to earn black belts. People that learn the secrets to success within themselves on their path toward black belt tend to be successful in life. Even if you can't to a particular move, or it seems impossible to you, break the process down with your instructor to its basic parts and work on the parts you can do. As it gets easier you will begin to develop more confidence you your abilities and that is when you will begin to learn and do things you never thought possible!

Principle #2: Don't be afraid to ask for help.

This is a big one. Your instructor is there to help make things easier for you, not harder. If you find yourself struggling with techniques or ideas, chances are one of your instructors has had the same or a similar struggle. Let them tell you about their experiences and how they overcome the challenges you are now facing. A good instructor will help you find answers to your challenges and even encourage you along the way.

Principle #3: It is okay to feel the way you feel.

It is perfectly normal to feel anxiety or to feel nervous before a big challenge. The truth is, you may never entirely be free of it. However, your ability to manage and keep it from holding you back will improve greatly over time. Courage is a major cornerstone to martial arts training. Don't forget that courage is not a lack of fear, but rather the overcoming of it. That means we do what we need/want to do despite how we may feel. Most fighters/athletes feel fear/anxiety before a big fight or sporting event. It is normal and can even help us perform at our best as long we do not allow it to stop us.

Principle #4: Prepare, review, get feedback from instructors, and then prepare again!

Testing should be the easiest part of the process. Your test should be the victory lap so-to-speak. Practice testing over and over again. Have instructors watch you perform your test over and over again. Welcome feedback from instructors, make corrections, and then practice the test again. Do this over and over until you can do the entire practice test easily and without difficulty. Seek out feedback from instructors. When they are happy with your practice and performing it is easy, then you are ready for testing. Getting feedback from instructors is essential for success here. The positive feedback from your instructors at the final stages of preparation will boost your self-confidence.

Principle #5: How you think is how you perform!

Once you have completed the first four principles listed, you should take some time to practice some positive affirmations to yourself. An affirmation is a statement of belief that you tell yourself. You should tell yourself things like, "Yes I am ready!" or "I've got this!". Remember victory is often awarded to those that prepare properly. Success is earned way before the trial begins. You have done the work. The instructors have confirmed your readiness. Now is the time to for your victory lap!

Rank testing is extremely important to the martial arts journey. Test anxiety is a form of fear due to a lack of self-confidence and fear of failure. The steps outlined can be used to combat both issues with self-confidence and take away the fear of failure. Don't get in your own way and stumble before the finish line. The level of self-confidence people achieve after finishing a hard challenge such as a rank test can be truly life-changing. Don't sell yourself short. You are the master of who you become and what you achieve. When it comes down to it, the only one that can fully defeat you in life is yourself. You get to decide success or failure. Get out of your own way and live your life to the fullest!

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