I got the invitation to grade for my 2-kyu belt. I am so nervous that I can't stop impulse-studying. That is, I tune out from the world around me at different points throughout the day just to check my notes or replay a video.
For example, I've always struggled *hard* to remember kihon bunkai (basic applications). I never really know which ones I've got down. I know that's not everything, but I feel tremendous pressure to have excellent knowledge of technique to accommodate for what my body cannot adequately demonstrate. Sequencing has always been one of my greatest challenges, making math difficult. After I've practiced karate for a time I won't need to rely so heavily on kihon bunkai, I'll just be able to move from one concept to the next.
At every grading prior I've asked myself, "is my Sensei sure I'm ready for this?" and have learned to trust his judgement. He knows what he's looking for. He now has a well-developed eye for what my limits are, and gives better-than-ever feedback. I know myself better and am getting better at making decisions on when to push and when to ease up.
At some point I have to accept that I'm not going to be absolutely lethal as are many others at my level. They have prior training, combat experience, military experience, and mostly functioning bodies. But I will keep going; I have every intention of being just as steady and ready as they are.
The belt is not the point. The belt is there to help us identify what we know. The belt colour helps us grow consistently with one another and enables us to be more careful with beginning students. There are many compelling reasons for a belt colour system, but my proudest belt remains my white belt. Getting started was the hardest test of my willingness and perseverance, especially because I'd been deathly ill for several years prior. Now that I'm in, I just want to practice.
The belt test also comes with an increased responsibility. Senpai, higher ranking students, have opportunities to set good examples for kohai, junior students. The test is an opportunity to show everything you've got to your Sensei who has been watching you grow and now wants to take a closer look at his own efficacy as a trainer with you. The belt test means a lot.
Of course I'm terrified of the shodan black belt test, just two tests away. I've heard horror stories. But nobody has died from it and I won't, either. I've never been a good test taker, though I have always taken tests seriously and have studied hard. Often, though, I surprise myself when the pressure is on. I've come to enjoy taking tests. Even if I fail I will learn a definitive set of information that tells me what I know and what I don't know.
Attitude is everything, so pick a good one.