One of the instructors has tapped you on the shoulders letting you know that you’re ready to test for the next belt-level. How should you prepare? How does this process work?
People study in many different ways, so consider this a “straw-man” process. This is what works for me (webmaster).
1. Keep a journal
This isn’t a “requirement”, but I’d recommend taking notes. Get a composition book at the nearest drug store to record notes about each class and what you’ve learned. This isn’t Shakespeare, and you won’t be graded on your handwriting either, but even just a few lines per class can help a lot in the review process. Ideally, your journal would start from Day One.
2. Memorize all the categories required for your level.
The hardest step is when testing for yellow-belt (e.g., hand techniques, kicks, throws, bearhugs, etc.) when everything is new.
Checkpoint: be able to recite all the categories without looking at any of your notes, in the order you’d like to be tested on them.
3. Memorize all the techniques required for your level.
Especially when testing for belts above yellow, start writing down all the techniques required by category (i.e., by category and not by belt because the tests are comprehensive). I prefer writing them down over and over again, category by category. Just look at your notes/handouts and copy the techniques.
Then, start with a blank sheet of paper and write down all the techniques you can think of per category. Do this until… a) you can’t stand it any more, or b) you can recite 100% of the techniques for every category without using your notes.
4. Line up an uke
A very important step. And a particularly useful reminder for yellow/green belts when you aren’t sure how the whole “testing” thing works. Make sure you practice with this person at least a few times before the test because you’ll be performing all of your techniques with them. If you have any questions about this, talk to an instructor.
5. Be able to do all the techniques required for your level
For this, I would recommend attending at least one of Diane’s review sessions. For upper belts, you’ll need more than one. She’ll pick apart your techniques, even the ones that you think you’re doing perfectly, and fine-tune them.
At home, pretend you’re taking a test. Mentally pick a category and start doing the techniques (i.e., step right, inside-block, etc.). Don’t half-ass it – actually run them back as if you were taking the test, and run through every category. Do this at least 3 times a week for at least a month before the test.
Given that sparring and grappling are also a test requirement, make sure you hit the bags at least once a week and/or keep working on footwork drills, grappling practice, and general fitness.
When taking the test, remember that instructors frown on teaching techniques during the test – you should already know what to do by test-time (minor adjustments are usually another matter, though.) And if you make a mistake just keep going (e.g., if you botch the intended block/strike, then do something else). If the instructors want to see you re-do a technique they’ll ask. Also, don’t apologize for anything – nobody make mistakes on purpose. Unless you happen to accidentally whack your uke particularly hard when you shouldn’t have. Then you should probably apologize.
Good luck! And be prepared.