Have you ever felt your child is just not paying attention well enough? Maybe you felt your child could try harder? There might even be that moment in time where you felt your child was straight up being disrespectful? These, and many questions like them, can be frustrating and even make us feel like we are failing at our roles in raising strong, inspired young people. I would like to take this moment to ask; As long as we are constantly engaging and providing the opportunity for success,
…why not just be patient?
If you have never watched or taken part in a martial arts class you might appreciate the opportunity to do so. I have been teaching martial arts for many years, and although I do not claim to be perfect, I truly enjoy learning the students’ method of learning, and their family dynamics way of approaching life and life lessons. Nothing pleases me more than figuring out how to teach someone and then seeing their confidence go through the roof as they begin to see themselves in a brighter light through their own success. Anyone who has ever watched or taken part in a martial arts class can tell you there are those days where the squirrels (an affectionate nickname for students who can’t hold still or focus) are obviously pushing the limits of the instructors and their parents’ patience.
Martial Arts can be the best decision for self-development for all ages and for all abilities but today we are talking about the squirrels. Discipline, focus, and self-control are common elements to the reasons families get up the courage to take their first step into the world of martial arts. Did you know that discipline is the conscious or subconscious decision to do what is expected because it is the right thing to do and not because we are told to? Think about that and if that thought alone isn’t enough, read it to a young person and ask them to explain what you just said. It is a big concept and not easy for a growing and sometimes hyperactive curious and sensitive mind to accept let alone understand. It is the complexity of the idea of discipline that gives the martial arts instructor the chance to work their “magic.”
A good martial arts instructor explains what is expected, demonstrates what is expected and then asks for what is expected, repeatedly. Repeatedly is the key. Success or failure, the instructor repeats the process over and over until the expectation is happening without being asked. It starts out small, with the bow to the instructor or the flag and then maybe keeping their guarding hands up in front of their face. As success is realized the process is used for an opportunity after opportunity. I personally love learning what the family dynamic expects and trying to use class time to develop a connection between wanted behavior at home or school and the expected and even demanded behavior in class. Is it a perfect system? Of course not. Even the best martial arts instructor will have those days and those students who resist the easy path and provide for a challenge instead. Let’s be honest, without those days or those students, we martial arts instructors might not have a job. We love the challenge! We love the result!
If you have taken the first step to getting into martial arts training for any of the reasons mentioned today you have probably had days you were not convinced it was working. How many of us learned to drive safely and efficiently the first time we sat behind the wheel of a car? Why should this be any different? The student is learning to drive themselves through life. If we modeled our definition of success on the presence or lack of immediate and sustained success we would be failing to acknowledge a simple truth first. They are young and will learn at their own speed. They cannot be racecar drivers or astronauts overnight, but they can be in the future. The most impressive students of martial arts I have seen are the ones who struggled. They are the ones whose frustration was ample and sometimes worrisome. They are the ones whose parents kept up the hard work of motivating them or just keeping them moving forward. The most impressive martial artists I have seen are the ones who one day, it just started to make sense. One day the switch went off and wow! All the effort pays off. All the frustration becomes pride. All the hope can be realized. With that I say to everyone raising, coaching or mentoring anyone anywhere; As long as we are constantly engaging and providing the opportunity for success, why not just be patient?