One of the reasons Samurai Kickboxing was established was to help build the confidence of the children we teach & give them the tools to overcome challenges they face throughout their lives. 

Anxiety seems to be a challenge that many of our students face & it always becomes more noticeable at Grading time. This article provides tips for parents to help their child manage anxiety & uses our Gradings to demonstrate how these tips can be put into practice. 




Cognitive labeling of the emotion is the only determinant between whether anxiety is perceived as negative (anxiety) or positive (excitement), there are no physiological differences!

We can 'hack' the brain & label anxiety as excitement by focussing on what would make us feel excited out of the experience.

Ask your child to tell you what makes them excited about Grading.
Focus on that positive goal & transfer the labeling of the symptoms into excitement.


Plan for what is causing the anxiety. With Gradings that means:

Be early - your child's grading is always the time of their current belt (not the one they are grading to achieve).

Speak to an Instructor who can help your child prepare.

Ensure your child has all the necessary clothing & equipment.

Try & get your child to partner-up with a classmate or friend taking the same Grading.

Get your child to practice their techniques prior to the Grading - we only ask students to grade when they are ready so your child has the ability to pass!




When your child is anxious, it’s natural to want to help them feel better. The best way to help them overcome anxiety, isn’t to try & remove the stressor that triggers the anxiety but to help them learn to tolerate those feelings & function as well as they can. With practice, they will become less anxious.

When a child gets upset in an uncomfortable situation & their parents remove them from it, they learn that getting upset is a good way to cope. Instead, it’s helpful for parents to let them know that they’re going to be OK, even if they’re scared. You can express confidence that they can face their fears & feel less afraid over time. 

The effects of anxiety on the body are exactly the same as excitement, there is no physiological difference. Both emotions produce the exact same biological response in our bodies.

The only difference & it is a huge one, is the way the symptoms are interpreted. The mental label of the emotion is the only determinant between whether it is perceived as negative (anxiety) or positive (excitement).

The positive news is that we can hack our brains, helping us to interpret the biological response to anxiety (negative) as excitement (positive). This process will help change their interpretation of anxiety to excitement & therefore change the emotion from a negative to a positive one.


I began Samurai Kickboxing with the intention of providing my nephew (who was 4 at the time, he's 18 now), with life skills that would help him to become the best version of himself. The truth is that at age 4, all he really wanted was to become a Power Ranger & it was that which made him desperate to learn Kickboxing from Uncle Matt! 

However, I knew from my own martial arts training that he would instinctively learn the following:


All aspects of fitness

Enhanced focus & concentration required to perform techniques

Self-confidence especially when passing Gradings & overcoming challenges or difficult techniques

Resilience - overcoming setbacks whilst learning

Courtesy, respect & a humble attitude

Focus on long term goals (gaining belts) which in turn provides long term rewards

I also felt it was important that he learnt skills outside of traditional martial arts:

Awareness of his surroundings

How adrenaline affects his body

Transforming adrenaline into positive body language

Assertive language in an assertive voice

Through awareness, positive body language & assertive language, de-escalate aggression & avoid uncomfortable or difficult situations

To be comfortable out of his 'comfort zone' by putting him into scenarios he did not feel confident, where he could be successful
Our Kickboxing classes encompass all of these life skills & Gradings are integral to the students learning - they will all be tested at certain points of their lives.

Gradings are a great way for them to deal with natural feelings of anxiety, build their confidence & learn how to deal with being assessed.

We are however, all different & whilst some of us find being assessed an enjoyable experience (yes, there are some people who enjoy the process), others find it stressful or at worst, completely overwhelming. For those in the latter category, anxiety can be crippling.

It is my belief that negative emotions will keep arising until we overcome them. If Gradings cause acute anxiety & stress in some of our students, I honestly believe it is an opportunity for growth. 

We do appreciate however. that not one size always fits all. If a child genuinely does not get excited or feel a sense of pride or achievement by passing a Grading & receiving their next belt & certificate, then there is no sense in them Grading. They can continue learning the syllabus & progress through the techniques without earning belts or certificates.


To help your child prepare for a Grading, it is important that you know that we set up our students to succeed, so we only ever invite them to grade when they are ready and have the ability to pass.

If your child is excited by the thought of any aspect of succeeding in the Grading, we can focus on that excitement & use it. 

Ask your child...
“What makes you excited about taking the Grading?”
“Why did you want to do it?”

Get them to say out loud what they are excited about:
I’m feeling excited about the Grading because...

...I want to get my next belt

...I want to be presented with my Grading certificate in assembly

...I want to showcase what I've learnt

...I want to be one step closer to getting a black belt

...I want to be a belt ahead of my peers - we work on our students gaining positivity & confidence from internal satisfaction rather than from factors outside of their control but we also have to accept that many students love one-upmanship!

Try to take the unknown out of the Grading by:

Contacting Samurai after the pre-grading (several weeks prior to the Grading) if your child is likely to be anxious. We can help them prepare & can explain the Grading process and what they need to do.

Encouraging your child to practice prior to the Grading, they'll get confidence from being prepared & knowing what techniques they need to demonstrate. If they do not know what they need to practice, speak to their Instructor.

Double check they have all of their Kickboxing / Sparring equipment.

Triple check the time of the Grading at their current belt (not the one they are Grading to achieve).

Bring your child early to the Grading to avoid any additional stress or time pressures. None of the below is possible a few minutes before the Grading:

Time to warm-up
Focus on getting into the Grading mindset
Time to speak to an Instructor who can help reassure them

If your child is really struggling with anxiety, please do let their Instructor know. We will do everything we can to help.