I have a student who is testing for his purple belt test today. He has a tendency to get very nervous about belt tests, even though he is well-prepared (I wouldn’t let him or anyone test for a belt if they weren’t.) Here are my suggestions to students of what to do in the last 48 hours before a belt test.
1. Hydrate. Sometimes when people are nervous they forget to do some of the basic things they need for their body to be ready for the rigors of a belt test. Students should ensure they properly hydrate in the days leading up to a test. Here is a blog post I wrote about hydration for more info. This is especially important if it’s a senior belt test, which can last 2+ hours. Also, avoid overindulging in caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, which dehydrate the body.
2. Fuel your body. Eat healthily to give your body the fuel it needs to last you through your test. The night before, have a meal that’s high in carbohydrates, like pasta. The morning of your test (but not closer than 1.5 hours before your test), have a solid breakfast. If it’s a longer test, you may be testing right through your lunch, so you want to make it will last. That being said, don’t stuff yourself either as you don’t want to be bloated during your test.
3. Get a good night sleep. If you’re especially nervous, you might have a hard time with this one, but do your best to get a good 8-hour rest the night before a test.
4. Visualize. The day before a test, some people want get in some extra training. What I suggest, however, is to avoid training the day before or the day of a belt test. If you’re especially nervous, your focus will likely be off and you may find yourself forgetting things, even things you know well. This will have the opposite affect on your confidence and make you feel like you’re not ready even when you are. If you don’t know your stuff by the day before your test, you’re not going to make it right with cram training. If you’re going to do any training at all, do visualization training. Go through each technique and simply imagine yourself doing it. If you can visualize yourself doing something, you can usually do it in reality.
5. Distract your mind. If you’re nervous the day before a test, treat yourself to a distraction that you enjoy to take your mind of it. Read a good book. Watch your favourite martial arts movies. Cook yourself a nice meal. Whatever you enjoy most. It’s hard to stay nervous when you’re having a good time.
6. Warm up properly. Sometimes people get so nervous they forget to warm up well for their test. Show up to your test at least 30 minutes before your start time and warm up. I like skipping best for solo warm-ups. Once you’re warm, take your joints through their range of motions to lubricate them and do some dynamic stretching for the muscles you’ll be using throughout your test. It would really suck if you got an injury during a test simply because you didn’t warm up properly and had to postpone it to a later date.
The moment your test begins, keep breathing and try to stay relaxed. You know your stuff (if you have a good instructor, you wouldn’t have been asked to test otherwise) just let it pour out of you.