The success of a martial artist depends on many factors - the student, the instructor(s), fellow
classmates/martial artists and his/her family. In life, success is seldom achieved alone. There is no exception for the martial arts. For a student to earn a black belt and become a leader and a good role model for other students, they must rely on their "martial arts circle of influence" and not just on their own abilities. This team of people all work together to ensure the student's success in earning his or her black belt.
What is the martial art circle of influence? According to Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a person’s “circle of influence” is the group of people he or she associates with and who impacts and shapes his or her life. To gain the most out of life we should pay attention to who we keep in our circle as relationships are one of the top factors that shapes our lives and influences our daily decisions. The martial art circle of influence includes all the people who will directly and indirectly affect the training and maturation of an inexperienced martial artist into a black belt leader.
The first person in this circle of influence is the student. First of all, the student must be willing to participate and give 100% effort during their training sessions and even when practicing on their own at home. The student is the one who will ultimately earn and wear the black belt.
Secondly, they have to have a great instructor (or several instructors). Although the instructor’s martial art skills are vital to teaching the student, what’s more important is that the instructor is able to work well with the student. They must be knowledgeable, enthusiastic, patient, understanding, sympathetic, disciplined and a good role model. Not all students learn at the same pace. Some students require more attention and patience while others are naturally gifted. A great instructor will be able to adapt to the needs of each individual student yet be able to keep an eagle’s eye on the rest of the class to make sure everyone learns, has fun and progresses through the program to their next belt rank and eventually to the highly coveted black belt and beyond.
The third group of people in the student’s martial art circle of influence is the student’s fellow classmates and other martial artists they encounter during their journey to black belt and beyond. Especially when learning practical self defense in class, students must learn to become good partners for one another to help each other grow. Students learn to work with others in class during self defense, sparring, pad drills, etc. As good partners, they are expected to constantly encourage and challenge each other, but they must remain focused and serious during class so as to not impede other students’ learning by being silly or off task. Students may also meet other martial artists during tournaments and seminars that will motivate or challenge them to improve and excel in their training.
Finally, the last group that plays an equally important role in the success of a martial art student is the student’s family and friends. While parents, spouses or other family members are highly encouraged to become students as well so they are able to actively influence and help out, it is not necessary that they themselves take classes or train in order for the student to become successful in his or her martial art journey. Especially for a child, parents should make an effort to participate by watching classes, belt promotions, tournaments, etc and being there to emotionally support the student as well as reiterate what they are learning at home and outside of the dojang. Parents are the ones who take the time to drive their children to class. They can take an even more proactive role, aside from enrolling as a student themselves, by learning how to positively influence their child’s training at the dojang and at home in a controlled manner.
The parental role in the martial art circle of influence is vital. Parents play a big part in the success of their child whether that child will go on to complete their martial art training and earn a black belt or not. Instructors make an effort to constantly motivate students and keep them sweating, smiling and learning; however, parents can have a big impact on their child’s desire to train. Parents should be actively involved in their child’s training, but also they should know when to trust the instructor and student and watch from the background.
The following scenarios and examples explain when a parent should be a more proactive supporter and when to trust the instructor.
– The instructor will know when a student is ready to test. A good instructor and martial arts school will not test and pass a student to a new belt just to keep them enrolled. Of course they will work with the student to ensure they stay motivated and progressing, but will let them know what they still need to work on if they are not yet ready to test.
Respect and Discipline
– Martial arts schools all teach courtesy, respect and discipline. Students are constantly reminded of the importance of using good courtesy and showing respect to others as well as displaying good self control and discipline. Parents should reiterate these principles and life skills at home and school as well, but should also exercise these same principles themselves to set a good example. Parents and family members who watch class should be respectful of the class in session and keep noise to a minimum as well as let the instructor teach and not distract their child by talking to them or trying to correct their techniques.
- There are many different ways that a parent can help a child practice without actually teaching (especially if they don’t have any real experience themselves). Parents can learn how to hold a target for their child to kick or punch or record videos of the student demonstrating a pattern or technique so they can watch it and evaluate their techniques for improvement. Lastly, parents can also enroll alongside their child or in an adult class to learn the same curriculum so they would be able to practice together.
Remember that a part of learning and succeeding is to first fail. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” The third tenet of Taekwon-do is Perseverance, which simply means to never give up and to keep trying. Students may not get something the first time, and that’s okay. As martial arts instructors, we watch our students demonstrate their forms literally hundreds of times over and over. Not every form or technique is perfect. In martial arts, perfection doesn’t exist. Even as a black belt, there is always room for improvement. There is also always a supporting hand to help a student up who has fallen. Each person can have a great impact on that student’s path to black belt. As a member of the student’s martial art circle of influence, we must all do our part in helping them achieve their goals.