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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 28552
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:42 pm    Post subject: Teaching Your Students to Deal With Failure Reply with quote

Martial Arts is recognizable to the lay person as the punching, kicking, and grappling skills that are often time displayed on the mat, sometimes in a local tournament venue, or in a larger, professional venue. Often times, the exposure comes through entertainment in the form of movies.

However, to those of us who are entrenched in the practice of the Martial Arts, know there is so much more to the study of the styles than this. The intrinsic rewards of working hard for the sake of some self-improvement that would be unobservable to the lay person that doesn't participate.

Those of us who have been around a while, who are well down the road of our MA journey, have come to truly appreciate those moments, as they truly happen less and less the longer we train. It's the law of diminishing returns in action.

What the seasoned Martial Arts practitioner understands is that along this journey, there will be ups and downs. Indeed, there will be success, and there will inevitably be failure. Most seasoned Martial Artists understand that failure will happen from time to time, and we've learned to take these moments in stride, pick ourselves up off the mat, and continue to train and move forward. Most importantly, we learn from them.

Why do we fail at times? It is because we choose to take risks as Martial Arts practitioners. We enter a competition, or attempt a grading. These events come with inherent risk, no matter how often or how much we have prepared for them. The classroom floor even provides opportunities to take risks every day we train, and failure can happen. However, in the classroom setting, the consequences are much less; it only happens in front of your fellow students, and may lead to no more than a lengthy explanation being made by an instructor or senior student about what happened, why, and how to move forward and get better.

But on the tournament scene, or in a grading, the failure is different. It could cost you a match, and be the difference between fighting in the finals and going home early. At a grading, it could be the difference between advancing a rank or not. And to top it off, these failures tend to happen in more of a public eye, with more than just your typical classmates around. Needless to say, and experience like this early on in a student's career, if not approached in the proper manner and with the right mindset, can be quite detrimental to the inexperienced Martial Artist.

So, the question is, how do we, as instructors, teach our students to deal with failure? I think there are a myriad of ways we can approach this matter, without necessarily setting them up for failure in order to experience and learn from it (which could be quite detrimental).

It's a tougher road to hoe for instructors, as teaching a student to deal with and overcome failure is much more of a mental exercise than it is a physical one. Sure, physical practice can help to shore up weaknesses in technique, kata performance, etc., but it may not necessarily rebuild lost confidence or negative thinking. Along with physical training, it is important to try to foster a positive mental attitude, even in the face of failure. Foster an attitude of risk taking. Quoting Loren Christensen, "failure is the act of not taking a risk at all."

Just talking with students about their experiences up their current point of training is a good way to get feedback on how they feel about their training so far. Ask them what they feel comfortable with, and what they don't. Asking about what goes through their mind before a testing can be helpful. Reinforcing their confidence is very important. Even more so, is teaching the students to examine themselves and reinforce their own confidence. After all, it's their journey, and they should take control of it.

Another simple exercise is to ask students about their successes and failures. Ask about something successful, and ask them to describe what they can remember about it. Then ask them about a time when they thought they failed, and ask them what they learned from it. Then focus on that learning process, and how they can use it as motivation moving forward. Failure can be very focusing. Use this as an opportunity to get a student to focus themselves.

This ended up being a bit of ramble, but I hope it inspires some conversation!
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