I’m 61 yo. I’m training for my 1st dan TKD test in May. I am focusing on cardio for endurance, I also review my forms at least once a day even if just in my head... I try to watch what I eat, sleep adequately... Do you have Any suggestions on how to train on days with no class? Thank you!
I'll relate my experience testing for black belt in Taekwondo. This was ages ago when I was just 17 years old, but I think the lessons I learned apply universally.
When I was a brown belt one stripe testing for brown belt with 2 or 3 stripes (in our system we had brown belt 3 stripes before black belt), I had been given a single board speed break with a spinning heel kick. The board holder holds this dangling from two fingers, not supported by his weight. And you're supposed to have enough speed and targeting ability to break it.
I wasn't able to break it. This wasn't a kick I did in sparring a lot, and so I rarely practiced it. I "knew" I wasn't good at it. It totally took me by surprise that I'd be asked to do this particular kick. Also, I had never done a speed break before. So I was very nervous going into it, and I simply didn't kick the board with the confidence needed. I hit the board in the right spot, but it wasn't fast enough to break it.
Fortunately, I did well in the rest of my test, so my instructor awarded me with 3 stripes on my brown belt. But I felt like I didn't deserve it.
Soon after that, I was told to prepare for another test, this time for black belt. But, I knew I wasn't ready to test for black belt. I panicked a little and asked if I could leave to train on my own and come back when I was ready. My instructor said yes, and that's when I took it upon myself to work on that spinning heel kick, among everything else.
So I went to a park near where I lived and did tons and tons of spinning heel kicks. So many! And I practiced my forms and one-steps. I practiced everything I had learned to date. All on my own. But especially those spinning heel kicks.
I had also begun practicing the jump spinning heel kick, since it was actually something that was just taught to me a few months prior to this. But it was mostly an afterthought. I didn't spend much time practicing it. I was primarily interested in correcting my basic spinning heel kick. And I figured they'd never give me this jumping spinning heel kick for my black belt test, since it was so new. As you'll read later, I couldn't have been more wrong.
After I think 2 or maybe 3 months of training on my own, I returned to regular class. And the first thing I heard after my class was over was my instructor approaching me and saying, "You're testing for black belt next month."
I said okay, even though I still had my doubts that I was ready for the test. Still, I was much more confident now that I had a chance to work on my own for a while.
The day of my black belt test arrives, and I show up with a fierce look in my eyes, ready for whatever they throw at me. My sparring goes well. I was able to defeat all the colored belts and all of the 1st dan black belts. There was one 2nd dan black belt and one 3rd dan black belt that really kicked my ass, one I remember using a hop reverse side kick to pick me up and throw me 6 feet back onto the wall. They didn't hold back. Loved it! Made me smile.
My forms were flawless, for the most part. My one steps went well. Then came the board breaking, the thing I was dreading.
They gave me some multi-board combination breaks to do, which I did perfectly. They gave me a couple power breaks to do against 4 boards, no spacers. Did that perfectly. Awesome.
Then came the speed break. They had me do a jump spinning heel kick speed break to two boards this time. Wow! So, now I have to do it while jumping, and it's two boards instead of just one. Yet, I had mostly been practicing the non-jumping version of the kick, with just a little time spent on the jumping version. I never in a million years thought they would have given me the jumping version of the kick to do. And I thought it was just going to be one board, not two. Uh-oh!
Well, I was a bit nervous the first attempt at it and only broke one board, sending the other board flying off into the drywall. Seeing the one board broken gave me confidence that I could do it. So I asked to let me try it again, and they said yes. This time I just went for it. I wasn't nervous. I knew I could do it. And blam! Both boards broke. Both boards went flying into the drywall. I think I did a little jump for joy afterward. Haha. It was exhilarating.
The final break was to be whatever I wanted. They said choose any technique, and they get to choose the type of break and how many boards to use. I then said spinning heel kick. They said okay, and asked me to do a 5 board power break. Nailed it, easily! I looked at the broken boards after that, and I just smiled.
And with that, I was awarded my 1st dan black belt. They really tested me that day. And I nailed it.
Looking back on it, here are some lessons I learned:
1) You will never feel you're ready to test for black belt.
2) Spend time going over all your material from white belt to now.
3) Practice especially anything you have doubts about, especially the most recent things you've been given, even if you were just given them a day ago.
4) If you have doubts, they will show. Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Yes, nobody ever feels they're ready to test for black belt. Your instructor knows when you're ready. If he asks you to test, you're probably ready. Even if you fail the test, or you pass but make lots of mistakes, don't worry about it. That's going to tell you what you need to work on, that's all. The experience and the knowledge you gain from it is what you're taking from it, not the belt. The belt itself is pretty worthless.
Hope that helps.