So I have just done my purple belt grading in JJJ, the current syllabus it went mostly fine - but hard, a lot of throws and randori etc, then we moved to back catalogue This is where things start to not quite go to plan.

Normally outside of grading/ pressure I can rattle them off no problem at all, but in the grading, I struggle to remember the moves, and execute them properly. I think this is probably down to tiredness, as I say doing the current syllabus first, we are put under pressure, and do a lot of throws, which is physically and mentally very demanding)

So how can I improve this? – so I can rattle of back catalogue within a grading environment.

(When we spar I also know the moves, but I think in a proper fight I worry I may forget what I am doing, in the same fashion as the grading).

2 Answers 2


Git gud 😁

To paraphrase the "train like you fight, fight like you train" mantra, you need to train in conditions worst (or better, depending on your point of view) than those in your gradings: So with pressure and fatigue both mental and physical.

The best way to do this is demonstrations at the end of a class. You get up, demonstrates something from the back catalogue. It gets you up, exhausted after hard training, and forces you to do something unexpected in front of an audience.

If your gradings have five rounds of randori, you should regularly practice seven rounds. If your randori round is two minutes, then you should train them at two and a half. Basically, make your training harder and longer than the grading. Then, the grading will feel like a breeze.

On a side note, no one should ever fail a grading. If one is put forward to grade, one should have already passed. The grading is just a fun show. Clearly, if one does not have the level for a grading, one should not be put forward to grade. This is especially true if the grading costs money whether or not you pass. Paying for failed gradings is a big warning sign of a McDojo.

As such, one should not be stressed in a grading whatsoever: It has been passed! However, stress is not a voluntary thing. There are ways to reduce stress (out of scope for this answer) that are applicable. My favourite is to git gud so even if I do a kata/randori at 80%, it's still more than enough to show that I am $next_grade.

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    "Clearly, if one does not have the level for a grading, one should not be put forward to grade." - a good instructor efficiently helps a student learn - it's entirely possible that such an instructor correctly assesses that what a student needs to learn can most effectively be taught by their trying a grading they might not be able to pass. That can yield technical insights, self-awareness or perspective, renewed focus or determination, acceptance of actual limitations. Even the OPs awareness of anxiety and reduced performance has lead to a desire to learn and improve. Kind of Zen / Chan.
    – Tony D
    Jun 23, 2016 at 15:54
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    @TonyD: You do make a very good point. I view competition whether informal or formal as a better way to test that one can perform well under stress. I view gradings as mostly technical demonstrations appropriate to one's grade. Hum, not sure if I should edit the answer or not as this is a side point to the question. Suggestions? Jun 24, 2016 at 6:35
  • "Train like you fight, fight like you train" - Fantastic piece of advice, and i have and will carry this on during my training. @Sardathrion , TonyD - we are assessed during class on an on-going basis, - the grading’s are hard, but no one has failed. We are given pointed on items which could be improved, which again we work on.
    – chris
    Jun 24, 2016 at 10:05
  • @Sardathrion: competitions do provide good feedback for the styles/schools that have them, and the range of things competed in, but progress against a wider curriculum isn't always reflected in the grading results (e.g. some schools don't have kata competitions, in kumite you don't get feedback on the full range of techniques expected of your grade if you don't use them - perhaps because you're not yet good at them). In Kyokushin, then 10-man kumite for black belt is not just a technical demonstration, but also proves you've done the fitness and conditioning work. Could spin off a new Q...?
    – Tony D
    Jun 25, 2016 at 4:27
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    @chris: that's fair too - what Sardathrion and I are discussing is very much an edge case, for students who need a jolt past some plateau where they have the necessary potential but perhaps not the insight or focus. A lot depends on the psychological expectations around "failure" in the culture and school too - for example, in Japan failing a test is not seen as something particularly unusual, and for many professions it's normal that people had to try several times to get accepted, or for each certification.
    – Tony D
    Jun 25, 2016 at 4:32

I agree with Sardathrion's answer for the most part. I have a different take though.

Don't try to escape the stress. The point [partly] of a grading is to simulate "combat stress" to test how you cope under similar conditions. No matter who you are, combat is stressful. So accept it.

In a stressful situation, one's conscious mind blanks out. That's why you forget your techniques during a grading. The key is, following on what Sardathrion said, practice.

Starting from your most basic and fundamental techniques, practice until they become second nature or muscle memory or whatever you wish to call it. You are now training your subconscious. When (if) the time comes that you are in a real fight "your training will take over". You won't know what happened, but you'll be standing there surrounded by defeated, unworthy, adversaries.

This is the concept on which military training is based. Members perform drills repeatedly until they can do it in their sleep. When they enter a combat situation, they react without needing to think about it.

TL;DR Practice

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    I would remove your post script as it is irrelevant to this question. However, I urge you to expend on it to make it into a fine question. Jul 4, 2016 at 7:58
  • Good idea. Thank you, kind Internet stranger. Jul 4, 2016 at 8:00

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