How To: Master Your Test

Follow A Legend's Example To Success

bg-_How_To__Master_Your_Test-2.pngDuring the 2016 World Expo, Songahm students, friends and families from around the world witnessed one of the most memorable events in all of ATA history:  the epic 9th Degree Black Belt testing of Chief Master G.K. Lee.  Now he is a Grand Master and ATA is gearing up for a groundbreaking four 9th Degree testing demonstrations at Worlds this summer. 

“I think it’s a testimony to one’s achievements especially when you’re at that level,” said Chief Master Mike Caruso, 8th Degree Black Belt and owner of ATA Black Belt Academy in Murrysville, Penn.  Preparing for his own 9th Degree testing, Caruso has taken notes from Grand Master G.K. Lee.  He said “When you get the opportunity to perform a testing demonstration of your skills, even at that age and at that rank, to me that proves you have an excellent attitude about yourself in the culture of what we do in martial arts. We want to show our students that we still learn from these experiences.”

Typically at a testing there are some traditional aspects such as a form demonstration and board breaks.  But Grand Master G.K.’s was NOT your typical testing.  He literally put on a 45-minute performance that included Korean drummers, physical one step sparring, windstaff jahng bong and knife defense.  It truly was an unforgettable moment and one that Masters and other members of the ATA community were privileged to be a part of.

“First of all, it was a major honor to witness Grand Master G.K. Lee demonstrate his expertise in all areas of martial arts,” said Chief Master Steve Westbrook, an 8th Degree Black Belt and owner of Empower Martial Arts in Wichita, Kansas. “[Grand] Master G.K. Lee has always directed me personally to not worry, and to believe in myself. Our students need us to be strong and vigilant in keeping them on track, just as Grand Master G.K. has done for me over the years.

“He showed us his passion, in which we saw his soul. It was a beautiful thing.” 

Grand Master G.K. Lee reflected on his test and said, “It was a great honor to be the first in our organization to test for 9th Degree Black Belt in front of five ATA Grand Masters,” he said, noting the presence of the late Grand Master Richard Reed, was particularly significant. 

“Looking back, I am humbled to realize I had the opportunity to test in front of Grand Master Richard Reed,” he said. “It’s a reminder to not take anything for granted.”

Watching his test was inspirational for the youngest ATA Tigers to the most mature seniors. Students of all ages and ranks left feeling motivated and wondering if they too could one day test on such a scale or even test with the confidence and grace that Lee did.  The answer:  Yes, they can! 

Even though his testing was of the highest caliber, Grand Master G.K. Lee did many of the same things each of us do to prepare for that next rank advancement.  Practice, positive attitude, and specialized training all help you feel your best and guarantee you feel more confident when you approach the judges. 

Follow these tips and you’ll be even more ready for your big day in the spotlight:


Practice for Perfection

We all know that when it comes to acing a test, nothing is more important than practice.  Attending class regularly and sticking to your schedule will ensure that you are getting in those practice sessions, but it’s more than just going through the moves.  To perfect your technique, you must practice to be perfect!

Some tips you may want to consider when practicing include:

  • Doing your forms in segments- the smaller segments allow you to better memorize and strengthen each move
  • Videotape yourself- sometimes watching yourself helps you pinpoint the areas in which you can improve
  • Use targets- have someone hold targets while you practice your forms because you are able to gain accuracy and better understand application

Even Grand Master G.K. had to practice for this test, for a lot longer than most, and his training in both body and mind most certainly paid off!

“This was something that I have been dedicated to and challenging myself for a half a century,” he said.


Get Psyched

During testings, especially those at higher ranks, mental preparation is just as important as the physical.  There are several “mind over matter” tricks to help get you in the zone and face the pressure head on.

Visualizing going through the motions of your test is a great way to prepare.  Imagine yourself plowing through those board breaks.  See yourself wielding your jahng bong with precision and dominance.  Just take a few seconds to close your eyes and think about getting that new belt tied around your waist.

Be sure to keep a positive attitude.  Now, that doesn’t mean you may not have some nerves.  Grand Master Lee certainly had his. 

“I was very nervous and excited to give my best performance.  Seeing everyone watching during my testing, though, just gave me even more motivation to perform my best,” he explained.  

Whether its meditation or listening to some of your favorite music, find what helps you get in the zone and focus on doing your best.


Ace Your Test!

You’ve spent months or even years preparing for your big day, and now it is here!  You feel great about your form, you’ve worked on those new sparring combinations and you’ve increased your power to nail those board breaks.  You’re ready! 

But prepare for your testing in other ways as well.  Make sure your uniform looks crisp and is freshly pressed.  Carefully check off the items in your sparring bag to make sure all of your gear and training tools are good to go. Also, make sure to eat good, healthy meals that won’t weigh you down, but rather, give you the energy to give a peak performance.  And make sure you get a restful night’s sleep beforehand. 

One of the biggest ways to feel encouraged on your testing day is by surrounding yourself with the support from those who care so much for you.  Grand Master G.K. Lee said that love and respect was a big part of that 9th Degree testing. 

“I felt so much joy knowing that so many ATA students, instructors and Masters were supporting me, as well as the martial arts community around the world,” he said, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to test in front of our organization and remind all students that there is a path to 9th Degree Black Belt.”



Author: Dwain Hebda and Jenny O’Connor | Originally published in Vol. 23 no. 3 of the ATA World Magazine. Updated Jan. 18, 2018

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