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  • Grading Stress, am I just weak?

    Hi all,

    first post here, but I need to know if I am alone in this.

    Been doing kendo for many years now, but due to taking a long break I only just took my Sandan grading this Saturday.

    I passed (Yay for me) but the whole process has been extremely stressful and now, on the Monday after, I am having to take a day off work because I feel totally drained.

    Is this just me? In the last two weeks before the grading I went through such an emotional roller coaster ride of doubt, fear, insecurity, completely hating my level of kendo competence etc...

    On the day of the grading, I had to really motivate myself to go. It was only when I started the journey to Watford that I suddenly twigged that even if I failed the grading I would not have 'lost' anything. I would still be a nidan, but a nidan who has experienced a sandan grading and hopefully learnt something.

    When I arrived I met a lot of people who had failed different level gradings many times, and so as this was my first attempt this also gave me a kick up the arse to not be so stressed. Anyway, as I already said, I did pass.

    However today I feel completely wiped out. So much so that I have taken the day off work. I simply can't face it and need a day of rest.

    Do other people get this emotionally involved in their grading, or am I just being a bit pathetic? Have any people got any good advice for dealing with the stress of a grading?

    Thanks for any thoughts and feelings that people can share on this.

  • #2
    I think that the way we handle stress is completely subjective to the individual. Some people thrive under pressure, some people crack. I think the fact that you were so stressed about it really just shows how much you care about your training and I would bet anything that that care reflected in your performance during your grading. I'm stressed as hell about my next grading (Nidan) and I just remind myself that my stress is just proof of how much this matters, and if it matters I'll always do my best. I don't think there's any weakness in that whatsoever.

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    • #3
      So stressed that you had to take a day off work? That's way too much. You need to learn to manage your stress better. If you were stressed because of your layoff from kendo, then the answer is train more so that you can say you trained as well as you could. That gets rid of one source of anxiety. If you have generalized test anxiety or stage fright then learn calming techniques like breathing and visualization techniques, etc. Figure out the cause of your stress, and and then deal with that. Congrats on passing.

      Comment


      • #4
        That does sound like way more stress than usual. How frequent are shinsa in your area? Perhaps that has something do with it. In our federation we have shinsa twice a year, so failing one doesn't really matter that much because one gets to try again within 6 months.

        Things that you could consider trying for your next shinsa (seemed to work for me).

        1) Go for a jog in the morning of the shinsa. Keeps your body limber which is useful because one spends so much time sitting in a line waiting for your turn at the shinsa.
        2) Really loud kiai. Has the added benefit of getting the panel interested in you.

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        • #5
          Hi Verissimus,

          I think part of the issue is that, no matter how often shinsa are held, it had to be at least two years since Nidan pass before I could try this one. Now that I have passed sandan I have a gap that is at least three years before my next one (thats as long as since I passed first dan). This means that they are incredibly infrequent and so it is hard to get used to them.

          For some reason this one was far worse than the others, and I hope I can learn from that.

          BTW 2) Really loud Kiai - yep a definite must for waking up the Judges and getting their attention. Couldn't agree more.

          John, you're right, I care very deeply about this.

          Thanks

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Piercer,

            I totally understand where you are coming from on this, and I have had really nerve-wracking experience with grading too - I remember years ago, literally being unable to sleep the night before my Ikkyu exam!

            The best way to combat this is (as others have rightly said), simply through Keiko. Do as much practice as you possibly can over the next 3 years. Try not to get hung up too much on separating Kendo into different 'styles' - in other words 'Shiai' Kendo, 'Dojo' Kendo or 'Grading' Kendo. I personally prefer to think of it as doing the SAME Kendo in all situations, just changing the tactics - as oppose to the Kendo itself (which is impossible) - for the specific situation.

            If you are able to do this, then over the next 3 years you should grow more and more confident with your own Kendo - baby steps are the key though, and it takes time - you aren't going to become the Usain Bolt of Kendo after a couple of good practices. Anyway, as you build more belief in your Kendo, it will get easier. Again, if you remember that all you need to change on the day is your tactics, and not your entire Kendo, then that should help to settle your nerves too, as the 'change' will feel much smaller (as it actually IS smaller).

            Lastly, go to as many events/tournaments as you can - these events are great for putting you under pressure, and making you nervous. This will help you get used to this kind of atmosphere. In addition, visit other clubs, as this make us feel nervous too. Better still, both of these things will help you meet more Kendo people, and the more Kendo friends you have, the more likely it is that they will be with you - probably in the same boat - come grading day. It will be much easier to deal with the stress, when you are sharing it with your friends

            Anyway, that's my tuppence worth for now! All the best with it, good luck working towards your 4th dan!

            Comment


            • #7
              I find gradings stressful as well. Andy had good advice for you. I've always had to fly for my gradings, and found it useful to try to get to a practice the night before. Shake out the nerves, have a keiko with some fresh faces. The day of, if the venue allows it, I like to get a really good warm up. If I have a good sweat on heading into the grading, I am much more loose, relaxed and ready to move.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hey, congratulations on passing. That's a great thing.

                I too, was very stressed out on the day of my San-dan test. However, did you notice any change in your "stress level" at any point of the test?

                Once I put on the Men, I found that everything just melted away. That was a frickin' relief for sure.

                Also, where did you test? Remember, set and setting play a big role in your testing experience.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Being nervous prior to an exam is something that's nerve wracking to just about anyone, especially if they live in a location or are a high enough rank where testing opportunities aren't all that plentiful, or expensive. It really comes down to how one deals with that stress. I have been stressed before my exams, but never to the point where I'm so emotionally drained where I have to take a personal day off from work.

                  When I was taking my shodan exam for the first two times, I was a nervous wreck. Unfortunately, it ultimately negatively affected how I was performing, which caused me to fail them. During my successful attempt, I was suddenly not all that nervous. I did my sparring sessions and I felt confident that I showed them what I was able to do and what I wanted to show them in that moment. Luckily, I passed that. One thing that seems to help me out is that, while I'm training for promotion exams (well, really just training in general since I'm always training for that next rank), I internalize all of the advice that is given to me. That way, when I have to do my test, I have a good idea on what's expected of me and I'm able to formulate a "plan" on what I want to do. It's kinda weird to explain because I'm not telling myself that I will perform X, Y and Z and do A, B, C techniques, per-say. I just take the generalized advice that's given to me and do my best to show those concepts to them when I'm in front of the testing board.

                  This thread is especially relevant for me because I'm eligible to test for 4th Dan late next year, so I really need to hop to it with internalizing advice and working on stuffs.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm testing for yondan in a few weeks (2nd attempt) and I think the stress before a tournament is quite normal. I've only been stressed after an exam once, and that was my previous yondan attempt. I wasn't stressed because I failed the exam, but I was angry with myself for not giving what I thought was my best. While I am reasonably sure that I still would have failed, it would have stung less to know that I hadn't failed myself in that way. Of course, this is all hindsight.
                    Just food for thought, I'm also a high school teacher and I've watched kids get more and more stressed about simple state examinations over the last few years. The tests haven't gotten harder but the pressure has. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the schools are becoming more pressurized in regards to this and students internalize this. The pressure is largely from within. We all just need ways of analyzing our own actions; usually the stress is connected to something specific in your experience that is being projected onto the test. (Issues with external validation, pride, etc.)

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                    • #11
                      Good thread. I get really nervous before exams and tournaments to the point I can't eat much and am not good for much else the rest of the day, but actually during the actual event it's not so bad. I think everyone deals with this stuff differently.

                      One of my sensei said an interesting thing to me the other day. He said you should aim to have kendo one level higher than the grade you're seeking because invariably you will be unable to perform your very best Kendo at the exam. So it's not just that you're training as a sandan to improve enough to approximate yondan on the day of the exam. You should have the mindset that you are trying to show yondan kendo and are training to take a godan exam. I'm still processing this and my next exam is years away, but I like the idea that you should be so comfortable in the skin of the new grade that taking the exam is more of a procedural hurdle than an aspirational goal for better performance.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jjcruiser View Post
                        but I like the idea that you should be so comfortable in the skin of the new grade that taking the exam is more of a procedural hurdle than an aspirational goal for better performance.
                        Nice one. I'm gonna hold onto this thought next year in November when I take my Yondan exam.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Obviously some stress is healthy, and there are techniques for combatting it. If you're too focused on the results of your shinsa you'll be more nervous than usual. Focus on the process of your shinsa instead. Of course it helps to train often enough so as to free up your conscious thought processes somewhat, and as long as you train in a manner than balances what you need to be aware of at any given moment of and what you know instinctively (read, train often and purposefully), your confidence will grow proportionately and you'll be able to mitigate stress better.

                          What I said basically summarizes this book, which helped me pass my godan iaido shinsa after two failed attempts. Buy it and read it.
                          With Winning in Mind 3rd. Ed. [Lanny Bassham] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Be wary of the people no one wants on their team, the ones who are too small, too slow and not very capable. The unwanted have a built-in motivation to do whatever it takes to succeed that those who are picked first do not have. This is a story of such a person and what he did to find his place at the top of the world in his sport. I'm that person and this book is an introduction to what I've learned. I believe there is a mental system that when used will speed up the process of getting to the winner's circle. I am well aware that there are many fine self-improvement books available. Psychologists
                          Last edited by Michael Hodge; 24th October 2014, 06:44 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                            I find gradings stressful as well. Andy had good advice for you. I've always had to fly for my gradings, and found it useful to try to get to a practice the night before. Shake out the nerves, have a keiko with some fresh faces. The day of, if the venue allows it, I like to get a really good warm up. If I have a good sweat on heading into the grading, I am much more loose, relaxed and ready to move.
                            As is generally the case, little needs be said after Gendzwill sensei shares. I particularly agree with his advice regarding a good warm up on the day of the exam. Kirikaeshi, kihon, and especially uchikomi, all with full kiai. The test then becomes less of a test and more like a particularly focused keiko, maximizing the likelihood of revealing what and how you've been practicing all these years. A good warm up gets your body and mind into that normal routine you've developed in your regular practice and will physically release the tension that can build in your body, particularly in your upper body if you're like me.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Michael Hodge View Post
                              Obviously some stress is healthy, and there are techniques for combatting it. If you're too focused on the results of your shinsa you'll be more nervous than usual. Focus on the process of your shinsa instead. Of course it helps to train often enough so as to free up your conscious thought processes somewhat, and as long as you train in a manner than balances what you need to be aware of at any given moment of and what you know instinctively (read, train often and purposefully), your confidence will grow proportionately and you'll be able to mitigate stress better.

                              What I said basically summarizes this book, which helped me pass my godan iaido shinsa after two failed attempts. Buy it and read it.
                              I'm a complete cynic about this kind of stuff, Michael but I bought the book on your recommendation and I'm finding it absolutely intriguing. I'm really looking froward to trying out the principles laid out in this succinct book. Thanks Michael!

                              Comment

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