Michael Carr Greg, one of Australia's most famous child psychologists, was recently quoted as saying that shielding children from risk may be doing more harm than good. He worried about the effect on mental health and even went so far as to say "children need to fall out of trees or come off their bikes or simply endure disappointment to build resilience."
He said it. Kids need to fail. In martial arts it's actually more important than success. It’s where the learning takes place. Also, success is sweeter if you have tasted failure first. We all know that.
Our problem is that we fear rejection and give up after failure. The solution is to tackle the problem in two ways:
1 - Educate students (and parents) about the process. Tell them that initial failure or resistance is a necessary step on the road to mastery. Then…
2 - Make the initial failures small and short term.
This is something that can be planned for.
Building resistance on the mat.
A good routine involves drilling techniques that challenge students to become curious about choosing an appropriate defence. Each student experiments with different methods of reacting and eventually finds the perfect answer for them. As instructors we all know that a method of defending against an attack depends on a variety of things. One size does not fit all when it comes to teaching a defence. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. Students must constantly be challenged to choose their own method rather than that of the instructor.
This method improves the self esteem of the student in a far greater way than if he or she was just given me answer.
Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; It is the courage to continue that counts.” This method gives the student a roadmap to finding success.
With students taking personal responsibility for achieving a skill, the end result will be far superior than if an instructor teaches basic curriculum.
The speed that a student moves through our curriculum should be determined by the student, not the instructor. The instructor’s job is to set the challenge and give the student the ability to face, and ultimately defeat the challenge. It's not to make the challenge easier.
This way we create a system that encourages the growth of the student regardless of natural ability. The white belt realises that black belt is just a matter of time and dedication. Natural talent may get you part of the way but it is not a prerequisite.
The resulting confidence is the direction that martial arts needs to take. It is really what we said we would do in our advertising. Remember we promised to create confidence where there was none?
As a black belt, standing by our word isn’t an option. It’s our duty.
For more on social and emotional learning in martial arts, go to this article here.
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