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

Yelling for Pressure Testing

When I yell in an angry tone during belt tests, it increases the mental pressure of the experience. It helps test their knowledge of techniques as people are more likely to slip on when under pressure when they don’t know the move as well. It also gives them the opportunity to practice dealing with pressure in a controlled environment.  This is a valuable skill not only in the martial arts, but also in the real world.

Yelling to Increase Focus

Yelling at students in a military style helps increase the seriousness and formality of the testing experience. While my usual classes still have an element of formality, they are fairly laid back in a way that allows students to enjoy the learning process. Because I am responsible for doing the belts tests for my own students I have to use a variety of techniques to differentiate the testing experience from the class experience. When I put on my testing face, I don’t smile (much), use a blunt tone when speaking, and an angry tone when yelling. All these factors, set the tone for the test and help people stay focused during the process.

Yelling to Improve Performance

Some students have analytical minds and tend to think through their techniques as they are doing them. This is okay when you’re learning something new, but as you improve, your conscious mind just gets in the way, slowing you down and causing you to mis-time techniques. Once you become familiar with a technique, you want to stop actively thinking about how to do it and just let it flow, but this can be tough for people with analytical minds. Sometimes yelling has a way of forcing a student to stop thinking and just react. When my student Lee (as seen in the above photo) was prepping for her test, she was stopping and pausing too much to set herself up for throws. But when I yelled at her “Do it! Throw him NOW!” she just slipped into the throw and performed it beautifully. Her body knew how to do it right, she just had to trust it to do the work, and the yelling helped her do so. Yelling like this during tests can really help drive students to achieve their best. Here is a previous blog post about the difference between performing in analytical mode vs. free-flowing mode.

While I often feel a little bad when I yell at students during a belt test, I always remind myself going into a test, “I yell because I love.” Yelling is a great tool when used in the right spirit. I may yell with an angry tone, but I never yell IN anger. The yelling adds to the experience of the belt test, and from what I can tell, it makes students appreciate the experience that much more, especially when they are properly prepared. I may not always feel wonderful when I yell during tests, but it’s worth it for all the smiles that come afterwards. 🙂

How are your belt test run in your martial arts school? Does your instructor yell at you? If so, how do you feel about it. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments (3)

3 thoughts on “Why I Yell at Students During Belt Tests

  1. Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying… When you look closely enough there are actually good maxims in the bible.

    I’d be dissapointed if I didn’t get yelled at from time to time, tough love so to speak. Once he actually threw a kicking shield in my face when my cover dropped: it certainly drove the point across.

      1. It was quite surprising to say the least. Ah well, I’d rather get hit in training than out there and it was more a bruise to my ego than anything else since the rest of the class was watching. Of course I know he wants me to perform well (I’m his senior student after all) so I don’t hold it against him. Hence the quote in my previous post. If you care about someone throw stuff at him, lol.

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