When taking a Grading Examination, whether it is for your Yellow Belt, Red Belt or 4th Black Belt, it is very important to be fully prepared. Below you will find a brief checklist that will help you to determine whether or not you are ready to take your next exam.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I know my newest pattern?
This is a very important element of every exam. We learn new patterns for each of our exams and showing that we know our grading pattern thoroughly demonstrates to the examiner that we have studied and worked hard on what our instructor has shown us.
Do I know my previous patterns?
As well as our newest pattern, we will also be asked to perform a number of previously-learnt patterns. This shows the examiner that we continue to practice our art as a whole and that we have not gotten lazy since our last exam.
Do I know the names of all of the movements in my patterns and do I know what they are used for?
It is very important that students understand what movements they are doing and why they do them, otherwise you are merely performing a dance, not a martial art. It is for this reason that your examiner could, and often will, ask you to describe or demonstrate the application of a particular movement.
Can I perform all of my patterns and techniques with power and focus?
If a student punches, for example, without putting power and effort into the strike, then that strike is ineffective and, therefore, pointless. Likewise, if a student is not looking at where they are striking or blocking, then their technique will serve no purpose.
Do I know the name, meaning and number of movements of my pattern?
These questions are asked in exams to test the student’s ability to study, their ability speak confidently under pressure and their appreciation and understanding of Tae Kwon Do as an art and not just a physical sport. Just like the Oath and Tenets that are recited during each class, these theory elements of your exam are designed to encourage your growth as a complete person, not just as a fighter.
Do I know all of the self defence and sparring techniques required for my grade?
These elements of Tae Kwon Do cover the opposite end of the syllabus to those mentioned in point 5. These are the physical, practical elements of Tae Kwon Do and, as such, they must be performed with a high degree of realism, especially for advanced students.
Do I have all of the equipment that is required for my exam?
Depending on your grade, certain items of equipment may be compulsory for your exam. Items such as uniforms and sparring safety equipment are required at certain grades and a student may not be tested without this equipment. To find out what equipment you might need, speak to your instructor.
Am I fit enough for this exam?
Your ability to progress in Tae Kwon Do will depend, to some extent, on your level of physical fitness. While it would be unfair to expect an adult in their 60s to have the same level of flexibility as a 12 year old with experience in gymnastics, or for a young child to have the strength and power of a fully grown adult, all students must show that they are willing to push themselves to the upper limits of their abilities. Your stamina, flexibility, strength, etc. will be assessed on terms relative to your own ability but you must put in a genuine effort, not only in your exam but in your classes too, as the results of your efforts will show on the day of your exam.
While these are only some of the elements that a student must consider before taking a grading examination, a quick run through these questions can often highlight an area where a student may be lacking the required level of ability. Coming back to these questions on a regular basis can be a great way to motivate oneself to work on any weaknesses you may have.
You should only consider applying for an exam when you can honestly and confidently answer “Yes” to each of these questions.