Tournament and Test Anxiety

If you’ve ever participated in a competition or have taken a test, you know that nerves can sometimes get the better of you. Even if you know the subject well, test anxiety can paralyze your performance and skew your scores. According to the ADAA, 1/8 children suffers from some kind of anxiety disorder, as well as millions of adults.

test anxiety
Do tests make you feel like this?

Martial arts is great for learning to overcome test anxiety. The system is set up for each student to learn progressively, in steps, at their own pace.


Success through Visualization

With the upcoming tournament, many of my posts this month will be focused on preparing for competitions. Today we’ll take a look at one of the key ingredients of success: mental practice and visualization.

Visualization, or image training, is something many athletes (and other successful people) use to help them hone their mental focus, boost their confidence, and add to their performance. Image training aids your ability to believe in yourself and makes you more likely to perform for success.

Additionally, practicing for a competition  in your head may also help with performance/test/competition anxiety.


Monday Musing: The Martial Artist Outside the Dojo

What does a martial artist look like outside the dojo?

This is my question for my youth students this week.

It may seem like it has an obvious answer, but it can sometimes be a challenge to get youth to translate from dojo to home. They know that focus and respect and trying your best is important while they’re in class, but what do those things mean when they argue with their siblings at home or are given a challenging assignment at school?

A true martial artist should look the same inside and outside the dojo.

Outside the dojo, the situations are different. You don’t have to bow to your mom or your boss, or perform forms in order to get an A in math class, but the attitude you should take towards those activities is the same.


Monday Musing: Learning Plateaus

You’ve probably hit a plateau before. You learn learn learn, get kind of good at what you know, then your progress evens out instead of continuing to climb. You don’t feel like you’re improving, and you may even feel bored.

This is a perfectly natural part of learning anything, and it’s a tricky stage to get through. Martial arts aren’t easy, and when students feel they aren’t improving as quickly, they often quit instead of sticking with it.

Of course, I’d advise anyone who hits a plateau to keep going. There is value in continuing to do the same old blocks, kicks, and strikes. Meaningful repetition, particularly in combat arts, builds habits and eventually instincts. This takes a long time, and most of us aren’t perfect. As Sensei often says, “Practice makes permanent; only perfect practice makes perfect.”

My second piece of advice for getting out of a plateau:


Tuesday Thought: Translating Goals into Action

New Year’s is coming, and so are the resolutions. We at NWSMA prefer to use “goals” instead of the word “resolutions,” because we believe that “resolutions” are easily broken the first time your priorities change.

We like the idea that goals are things to be achieved and worked towards. I’d like to invite all our students to start thinking about their 2013 goals.

But just setting a goal isn’t always good enough.

You have to know how to get there.

In martial arts, this is pretty easy. Your goal is to make it to black belt. First you test for yellow belt, then orange or green, and so on until black. (Well, maybe not easy, but you have the steps laid out for you).

For other goals, such as “getting in shape” or “saving money,” you might need to make a more concrete plan.

As you set your goals,


Musing: Comfort Zones

A couple days ago, I went to another nearby dojo. The owner knows my instructor and is gracious enough to allow me drop in and train occasionally. I believe, as a black belt especially, it’s important for me to step out of my comfort zone, broaden my knowledge with other perspectives, and train with a wide variety of people (sizes and skills).

This time around he offered to let me teach. Having never taught outside my own school before, and since the class was 50% adult, accepting his offer was definitely going beyond my comfort zone.

I’m always struck by how much learning takes place when we move ourselves beyond what is comfortable and usual. Needless to say, I learned a lot about myself and my teaching habits and strengths/weaknesses, and I appreciate being able to see myself through a whole new lens. For his students too, I was a new experience, and I can only hope that the class was as valuable to them as it was to me.

Next time an opportunity arises for you to step outside of your comfort zone, embrace it.


Tuesday Thought: The Big “T” Word

We have a lot of students who will be testing soon, so today I’d like to offer some insight into how NWSMA handles rank testing/grading. I’m going to talk generally about the subject and at the end, I’ll offer some thoughts about what every martial arts student can do to make the most of their training.

How students advance through the ranks can be quite different from school to school and style to style. NWSMA instructors aim to tailor our approach to each individual student’s particular capabilities and situation.

At NWSMA, as a student satisfactorily learns the requirements listed on their sheet, we give them colored tape stripes (blue for kicks, yellow for hand techniques, etc). This allows any instructor to see what areas a student needs to work on, and it gives the kids a tangible mark of achievement.

When it comes to actual testing, though, the #1 school rule is that


Monday Musing: The Importance of Form

Forms. Patterns. Hyung, kata, poomsae, teul. Whatever you call it, you’ve probably learned a few. And you’ve probably also learned that nothing frosts your instructor’s cupcakes like when students forget their forms.

Today I’d like to talk about the importance of form.

What I don’t want to do is get into that pesky form vs. sparring discussion, which is a huge and controversy-inducing topic in the martial arts world. Both are valuable in their own right.

A martial art without forms is like


Beyond Black Belt

What happens after you earn a black belt?

Some students can’t see beyond black belt. This type of student often quits after getting their black belt.

What is the meaning of the belt if it just sits on your shelf?

I have two thoughts to share with new (and maybe not-so-new) black belts. 


Tuesday Thought: The Art of Self-Critique

Making it to black belt involves a unique mixture of the strength and perseverance to overcome your own mistakes and the ability to self-critique and self-correct.