by Bodan Danielle Uchitelle
I used to experience dreadful anxiety before each one of my WMAC belt promotion tests. Would I remember all 15 parts of cross hand technique? Would I get confused between the 6 sections of Han Su? What if Sabumnim asked me to demonstrate a weapons form that I hadn’t yet fully learned? Would my endurance carry me through the entire test, or would I run out of energy and end up too exhausted to continue? My anxiety prevented me from performing as well as I knew I could, much less actually enjoying the test.
I have, however, come up with a strategy that guarantees in advance that each of my promotion tests will be a success, and knowing that I’m certain to succeed allows me to relax more and actually enjoy testing.
What’s my strategy to guaranteed success? I base it on some wise advice shared by Kristin Walsh, 2nd dan Black Belt and yogi, who came to WMAC a few years ago to speak about spiritual approaches to training. In addition to other wisdom, some (much) beyond what I could grasp at that time, Kristin spoke of the importance of approaching all aspects of life with generosity and gratitude. Focusing on actual approaches for incorporating gratitude into our lives, Kristin emphasized the importance of simple acts such as helping those in need and being generous with our time and our money.
While this initially sounded to me like a well-worn platitude about helping others, as I thought about her comments over the following months (OK, I’m a slow thinker!) I became aware of a way I could take two seemingly separate questions - how do I express generosity and gratitude in my life? How can I be less stressed at belt promotion tests? - and combine them into single solution.
Here’s how I do it: a week or so before each belt test, I chose some charity organization to donate money to. It can be anything at all, as long as it feels like a cause that supports my own belief systems. Once I’ve identified the group, I go online and donate. It’s that simple. The amounts I give aren’t huge, because I don’t have that kind of money, but it’s a large enough amount that when I click the “donate now” button, I know I’ve made a committed transfer from my fortunate life into the lives of others who need my help. And all the while, I’m thinking to myself, “this is for next month’s belt test.”
How did this help relieve my test anxiety? Because I know that no matter what happens on the test floor, somebody is going to get some real benefit and have a better life because they needed my help and I helped them. It doesn’t matter whether I can’t remember the difference between knife technique number 26 and number 28. Doesn’t matter if I trip and fall on my face during Han Su. The person I’ve helped isn’t stressing out about whether I’ve misremembered the sequence of a martial arts form, and if they’re not worrying about it, why should I?