Everyone likes to know that they are getting better and improving at the things that they do. The greater the importance of that activity and the more we choose to invest in it, then the more we want to see results. In many activities, these results are measured in terms of improvement based on what is produced at the end of a particular time or project. This then gives us a checkpoint or benchmark to identify with just how much better we are becoming in between these times.
While this works well for most activities, within the traditional martial arts it is not simply enough to produce a final improved product to be put on display at gradings, demonstrations, or for personal satisfaction. As we are often both our own worst critics and also our own worst advisor, how can we ever really know what our level of progression is with any honesty, or truthfulness? How do we put distance between our own sense of self? And how do we find honest clarity on our own understanding of what we are doing vs what we are attempting to achieve?
The simple answer is that we do not.
When we work in self-review, we must always try to do so from the viewpoint of the Vicarious Appraiser, the person who has a vested interest and wants to see the best result in the outcome but only as imagined or witnessed against a tangible target.
This is essentially why we have a grading syllabus and we rely on the examiner to apply an honest and truthful method of approach to our advancement and capability during the completion of a grading examination.
Every instructor wants to see their students do well, but the very best want to see them take their training and progress it beyond what they themselves are not yet capable of. In order to do this they have to bear witness to a students progress and demosntrations without the hinderances of the emotional ego or baggage which we have in other aspects of our lives.
The appraiser must want to see success and to give encouragement toward that goal, yet also must be freed from the bonds of sympathy when those goals are not met. The position takes is one of Judge, Jury and indeed Exeutioner all of which must be passed without malice or discontentment, but which comes from a place of understanding with regard to the proper and correct technique, attitude, focus, and respect for the future of the student, the club, and the art itself. If that involves the failure of that student to progress to the next grade hen that must be what it is. Without bias.
So for students who seek to undertake a grading, what then?
My advice is to go into it with the proper spirit and not want to merely show off and showcase the skills you have learned but instead display that you know what it takes to start and finish each movement exactly at the level required to satisfy not just yourself, but the assessor. You must never forget that deep down the grading assessor wants you to succeed above all else, they ant to see you at your prime on the day, they want to sit and watch and be happy with your demonstration of your progress in your chosen art. Yet, just like the assessor the student must also be detatched from the need for success and must get out of their in-head thinking and instead just perform the movements.
In essence what each and every assessor wants to see is not what you can do, but how much you understand and demonstrate what is required to be where you are going in the months and years to come.
Within the grading, the vicarious assessor is not looking at who you are now and what you are doing in that moment, but are hoping for a glimpse through the forest of who you will one day become. Do not contend yourself with who they are, what they appear to be or what you feel they may be thinking.
All they seek to do is genuinely lead you toward the next stage, sometimes with care and other times with clarity, but always forward and always that little more knowledgeable and, one can hope, wiser to the path.