Tests & Preparation

The Benefits of Being an Uke for Belt Tests

On the surface, being an uke or “beat-up dummy” for a belt test can seem like tough gig. The role of uke (Japanese for one who receives) involves holding pads for strikes and attacking the student testing so they can demonstrate their knowledge and abilities. But if you look past the surface, there are a number of benefits the uke receives while being hit, thrown and submitted.


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Shifting Perspectives: In & Out of the Dojo – Nidan Essay by Chris Olson

Chris Olson Promoted to NidanOn Sun. Jan. 6, I tested for 2nd Degree black belt in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu. I am happy to report that it went well and I passed. As part of my Nidan requirements, I was required to submit an essay, explaining one or more ways teaching Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu has changed my perspective. Below is my submission.

Shifting Perspectives: In and Out of the Dojo

by Chris Olson (more…)

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The Purpose of Essay Writing for Black Belt Exams

When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-jitsu Strategies & Tactics for Self-DefenseIn many martial arts styles, essays are part of the requirements for Dan (black belt level) examinations. At my dojo, I require Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) candidates to write a 500-word or more essay answering the question “What’s the most valuable thing you’ve gained from training in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu?”. For Nidan, they must write an essay of 1000 words or more, explaining one or more ways teaching Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu has changed their perspective. At the higher levels, these essays become more like a thesis on a topic that is specifically assigned to the candidate. (more…)

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Scheduled Group vs Individual Testing in the Martial Arts

When it comes to belt testing, there’s a couple of schools of thought from instructors. In some schools, it’s a special event, where you’re evaluated on your performance on the day and you earn your level based on how you do. In other schools the belt test is more of a formality. It’s a review session, and the instructor has been evaluating you every class, decided you’re ready to advance in the belt system. You then demonstrate the techniques with a more compliant partner, rather than performing them against resistant “attackers.”

In schools where tests are more formal, there’s generally two methods of arranging tests: a scheduled testing system that sets group test dates far in advance, and scheduling testing as needed.

In a semestered system, belt tests are administered in a group with a scheduled date. For example, test dates may be set every quarter of the year, and students then train towards those days.

Testing by need leads to instructors keeping an eye on students in class, and when a student looks to be ready (or has attended a certain number of classes), a test date is scheduled.

I’ve trained & taught extensively in both types of testing environments, and both present benefits and challenges for instructors to work with.


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Reflections to the 5th Degree: On My Promotion to Godan

Last week, on Thurs. Sept. 6, I was promoted to 5th Degree Black Belt. A lot of people asked me how  I feel about it. I thought it best to summarize my reflections on this milestone here. As I think back over the past 20 years of martial arts training, teaching and all the life experiences associated with it, what stands out most are all the relationships that have developed over the years. (more…)

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Why I Yell at Students During Belt Tests

Yesterday, I ran a green belt test for 4 students. During the test I yelled… a lot. I yelled when students weren’t lining up for a breakfall quickly enough. I yelled when people were stalled on techniques. I yelled when people weren’t doing kiai enough. I yelled when doing counts for striking drills.

Not only do I yell, when I do it during tests, I do it with an angry tone. This is one of the hardest things for me to do, because in reality, I really like my students and just want to help them do their best. But the yelling is one tool  that helps me do that. This is a concept in the martial arts that I think deserves elaboration.

Why I Yell at Students During Martial Art Belt Tests (more…)

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How to Train the Use Adrenaline for Martial Arts & Self-Defense

Sparring as a form of adrenaline use training in the martial artsProduced by the adrenal glands in our body, adrenaline is released when the body experiences high-stress mental or physical situations. It stimulates a variety of bodily functions, including increased heart rate, increased blood to muscles and increased oxygen flow to the lungs, etc. It can be used to  increase your performance in sport or self-defense, making you faster, stronger and less affected by pain. It can also enable you to process information while taking actions at a rapid rate, making you more responsive to threats. These reactions, however, are not a given. Everyone has different reactions to adrenaline and the stressful situations that causes its flow. This article explores these reactions and how to train yourself to have more useful reactions for martial arts and self-defense. (more…)

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How to Keep Adrenaline Under Control for Martial Arts (Or Anything!)

Adrenaline can be a great tool for self-defense or martial arts sports. It can give you an extra rush of energy when it really counts. It can help you cope with taking hard hits. It can make you more aggressive when aggression may be needed to give you the edge. But it also has its downsides for self-defense, sport or even when you’re just training. It can narrow your field of vision, make it difficult to hear (whether it’s your attacker’s buddy coming in to help or instructions from your coach while in the ring). It can even cause you to use more force than necessary to quell an attacker. (more…)

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The Benefits of an Accountability Buddy

I’ve always found that having a friend or colleague who is working toward similar goals is helpful when it comes to achieving your own goals. Often referred to as an “accountability buddy” in success circles, they can have a specifically defined relationship with you, or they could just be along for the ride providing general support. However the relationship is defined (or not defined), the idea is that your accountability buddy helps you stay motivated in your training. Each relationship is specific to the people involved in the partnership, but the benefits, for the most part are the same. Here are 4 that I have found in my experience: (more…)

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Celebrating Martial Arts Milestones

It’s important to live your life on purpose. Not to go through life letting everything happen without taking an active interest, but to have intentions for yourself so you keep developing as a person. When you achieve goals, it’s important to pay homage to them and celebrate the sense of accomplishment it brings.

I am celebrating a big milestone this week myself. I finished all the content for my book/DVD for Tuttle publishing and sent it off earlier this week. I officially started working on this book contract in February this year, developing a few chapters each month, doing hours of writing, photo shoots, etc. Then this past month most of my daytime hours were spent shooting video for the DVD then working with my editor to put it altogether coherently (HUGE thanks to Chris Olson for all his hard work too!). It was very satisfying to put it in the mail and complete the first stage of this massive project.
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