How to Prep for a Test - Mental

By: Jeff Mount

For the last several weeks I’ve been talking about how to prep yourself for a Krav Maga test of any level. I talked about what a Krav Maga test is notwhat it should be, and how to physically prep for a test.

This week I’d like to cover three basic aspects of how to mentally prepare for a test. Like most of my advice, I didn’t come up with it on my own. It was given to me by others, and I only came to understand its importance when I put it into practice. I’m simply passing on time-honored, proven methods of improving performance and readiness. And when it comes to mentally preparing for any major endeavor, simpler is better. So here are just three strong ways to prepare for a test:

Before you walk the walk, talk the positive self-talk

When I first was told that all successful athletes, military operators, business leaders, and other high-level performers engage in positive self-talk, I thought it was…well, cheesy. Literally saying to oneself, “I can do this, I’ve got this, no problem, easy day” seemed a tad superficial for the monumental achievements of, say, a Navy SEAL or an NFL quarterback.

But in countless evaluations of special operations military personnel, they self-report to utilize positive self-talk in the midst of actual combat. To me, this is the ultimate proof of its value. Positive self-talk gets warriors home when others are trying to kill them. Done. End of Story.

Jon Pascal told me of a time when he was involved in a study with major-league baseball players. The players were attached to special optics that were attempting to track their eye movement while batting, to discover what behaviors and distinctive skills the player visually had. They were also linked up to audio. The interesting part is that, while it was unfruitful in determining specific eye movement patterns, it DID record their self-dialogue, completely by accident. All the more successful batters talked to themselves while batting.

So how do you engage in positive self-talk? Simply think through what you need or want to hear when things get roughest. Write it down on a card. Recite it to yourself several times, and then bring it back to the surface while training. Don’t just think it – inner dialogue can be quite slippery. Say it out loud. Say it to other people. But most importantly, say it.

Forget the evaluation

I was told this for my Phase C test by a top-ranking Krav Maga instructor in Los Angeles. His basic point was this – “If you train differently when you’re being graded, you’re training wrong. Train hard all the time, and do the same when you’re being graded. That way there’s no difference.” That has stuck with me, and I’ve passed it along to our own Krav Maga Maryland instructors over and over again.

When I’m grading people during Phase Training, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people see if I’m watching them. Are you really going to perform a technique differently when you’re instructor’s watching? Is the highest goal of your training to have your instructor catch you do it correctly? Or is it, I don’t know, perhaps more important to actually train the technique so it works in real life?

In other words – if you’ve got one mode, “testing mode”, and another mode, “training mode”, then you’ll likely lose out both during training and during testing. Strive to have one mode – a mode of excellence. That way both your training and your testing will be the best it can be.

Enjoy the process, not just the result

Some people do activities because they genuinely enjoy the process, and couldn’t care less about the outcome. Some people do activities they don’t like because they desire the outcome. Sometimes people enjoy the process and the outcome. For me, I enjoy training Krav Maga for both – I like the process, and I like the result. By contrast, I love the results of high intensity fitness training such as CrossFit or Gym Jones, but I generally don’t enjoy the process.

If you’re testing just to get to a new level, don’t bother. Test because you will genuinely be satisfied with the act of testing, not just the result of testing. I can say without hesitation that I had fun in each and every one of my tests. They were hard beyond belief. I was pushed. They were painful. And they were fun. They’ve brought camaraderie with my fellow candidates, they’ve given me an accurate assessment of where I am in my progress. But they were enjoyable on their own merits, and that helped me be less stressed about the outcome.

So, utilize positive self-talk. Approach the test like it’s hard training. And for heaven’s sake, have fun with the act of testing. Before you discount them, try them, and see if they work for you. Next week I’ll be talking about what to do with the outcome of a test – pass, conditional pass, or fail – and how to make the most out of the test follow-up.

Rachel Parker