June 2014

The Rewards of Teaching Martial Arts to Children

This past week was grading week for the kid’s classes at the Academy. This is one of the highlights of my martial arts teaching career as I enjoy watching the progress that each of them has made in their martial arts training. I also get great personal rewards from seeing the confidence and dedication many of them express in their training and it reminds me of the effect and responsibility that we have as influencers on the lives of our young children.

I was particularly impressed by the effort and determination demonstrated by the students in performing and demonstrating their techniques. Most of them had clearly been practicing for their grading at home and displayed excellent technique for their period training.

It is always very rewarding to see their expressions when they are handed their new grades and this time was no exception. One particularly notable 7 year olds’ reaction, when he received his new belt, was, as one of the parents commented, as if he had just won Lotto.

I am both very fortunate and gratuitous that I have the opportunity to play a part in helping the young children develop the confidence and courage that will assist them as they grow up and become successful in whatever they devote their lives to.

Skill Training Requires a Cooperative Attitude

Whenever we start learning anything new we are in a position where we probably no either very little or nothing about the skills and techniques that are used in that discipline.

This is true whether it is a discipline that is physical, such as martial arts, or mentally intensive in make up, such as mathematics or playing the violin. In order to learn any skill, especially when new to the discipline, several criteria must be adhered to:

  • The techniques and skills must be presented and trained in progressive, incremental steps in a manner that allows the student to understand, absorb and drill the techniques.

  • This also requires adequate drilling at the level of the student’s ability.

  • The tutor, instructor, trainer must have an understanding and willingness to assist attitude towards their students.

  • The students must have a cooperative, attentive and engaging attitude when practicing, especially in physically intensive disciplines.

The last factor mentioned is one that can cause a great deal of problems, especially in MMA and Muay Thai schools. Many students with ego and/or self esteem problems can make it very difficult for their training partners by not working the new skill at a level that allows both of the students to develop the precision in their execution. In addition, they often try to perform the new skill at a fast pace when they have not developed the skill properly and this not only reduces their efficacy but also often causes injuries to both him/herself and their training partner with the result that both students may quit; one because they realize that they cannot learn in this environment and the other due to injury and inability to correctly develop the skills.

It is extremely important that as a student you develop a cooperative attitude when training so that you can learn, and that as an instructor we must maintain a culture of cooperation in our classes and either educate those students who won’t comply or remove them from the class.

Remember if your school culture, especially in martial arts disciplines, is one of learning, quality skills the majority of people are coming to you to do just that and this requires a cooperative attitude between students.

Combining the physical “Act As If” effect with Cognitive Behavioral Techniques Of NLP/Neurosemantics to produce rapid and highly effective changes in your Martial Arts ability.

For the most part conventional sports psychology techniques have focused on essentially mental techniques of writing down goals, setting plans and visualization. A highly market driven and hyped martial arts mental development program in recent times was in fact just a combination of these well known techniques and provided nothing new.

The methodologies of hypnosis and cognitive behavioral techniques such as NLP are still not well supported by the conventional sports psychology practitioners. However, the results of such methodologies do attest to their effectiveness. It appears that the status quo is still caught up in the academic argument as to whether it is just suggestion and therefore the effect is no different than just using other techniques of suggestion

However, surely any methodology that focuses the attention such that the suggestion takes hold is valid. They are just techniques, and some work better than others for different individuals.

In recent times neuroscience has made a great deal of advances in understanding the interaction between the mind and body. One of the most profound findings was that the body tends to lead the mind in how it’s emotional state is at any time. This was in complete contrast to previous thinking which determined that the mind led the body.

There is clearly no doubt that the mental state of the mind plays a significant role in how an athlete performs, whether in combat sports such as martial arts, Muay Thai and MMA or other sports such as tennis, golf or track disciplines. However, recent research suggests that the old thinking that the mind determines how the body will perform is in fact not as it was thought. It appears that the body tends to drive the mind-set and that by “acting as if” an individual can bring about changes within their mind that will influence how they perform.

Other findings have also broken down several other old dogmatic beliefs and channels of thinking.

  • The old thinking that the brain was fixed in its makeup at a very early stage and could not grow new brain cells has been shown to be wrong. The way that the brain can reprogram and repair itself through neuro-plasticity has revolutionized treatments of hitherto severely debilitating brain damage.

  • The understanding that the memory was fixed and copied as near prefect copies, for the life of a person, has also been overturned with the finding that every time a memory is recalled it undergoes modification. In fact memories are being constantly changed and modified such that they may not even resemble the original situation at the time the memory was first set. In addition it has been found that memories can be modified which is a useful tool when it comes to modifying or even removing old fears and phobias.

The value of this for sports and personal development training is very powerful from several levels. From the break down of old inhibiting traits set in early childhood through to the enhancement of learning new techniques and the development of attributes for the performance of the skills of the discipline, which may include, concentration, and power and speed enhancement.

 I do not buy into the natural talent idea that some people are born with ability. The evidence is very clear, all skill development and expertise is developed through performance and practice, both mental and physical. It is the degree of experience (time spent) performing in a focused, intentional manner that determines anyone’s ability in anything from academic achievements to arts and sports abilities, not natural talent. If you want to reach the peak of your ability in martial arts whether, competitive or for self defence, you need to embrace both the physical training and the mental preparation though the techniques and methodologies that research is now firmly supporting.

An approach that combines both the physical “act as if” approach and the cognitive behavioral methodologies of NLP/neurosemantics, could act in a positive feedback looping manner to dramatically increase the effectiveness of change and development.

This certainly appears to be the case with the methods I have been using at my martial arts school. As a NLP/Neurosemantics trainer/practitioner and a practicing martial artist I have found that combining both the physical modification and the mental modification tends to make dramatic increase in ability and progress compared to others that do not use the techniques, in any particular discipline.