Leadership is something that we talk about with our kids, a lot. But what does leadership mean? And, how does martial arts training help develop those skills?
First, let’s define leadership. I think a leader is someone that does some, many or even all of the following:
- Inspires and motivates others
- Displays high integrity and honesty
- Solves problems and analyzes issues
- Drives for results
- Communicates powerfully and prolifically
- Builds relationships
- Displays technical or professional expertise
- Develops others
- Champions Change
You can see how martial arts training can develop and influence all of the areas in the list above. But, I want to focus on the first and how that fits into the martial arts paradigm.
The martial arts are known for “The Black Belt”. Depending on the style of martial arts, there are different color belt systems that mark the pathway from white belt (a beginner) to a black belt (someone who is more advanced).
In our Children’s Martial Arts System, we’ve divided the journey to black belt into 4 age-specific groups. Each of those groups is divided into 9 Belts. And each Belt is divided into 8 stripes.
When a child starts martial arts, Black Belt is the goal, but it is far away and often difficult for a student to conceptualize. The nice thing about our martial arts progression system that the journey is broken down into such small steps that I’ve mentioned above.
The students start to understand that in order to reach a goal, any goal, that they need to break it down into smaller chunks or steps and climb those steps one at a time. Each step isn’t just progress, it is also an attainment, an attainment that had specific requirements and defined work to attain.
Over time, the student starts to learn a few things. First how to create a framework for goal setting for themselves. Second, that a series of small successes leads to greater success and that instills confidence in them as well. And finally, as they rise through the ranks that they can inspire, motivate and teach others to do the same.
This process inspires and motivates them as well as everyone around them.
Many activities like sports, school clubs and martial arts teach leadership skills and develop the aforementioned qualities in children. However, as parents, I think it is also important for us to identify those activities that will also give our children the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in additional to learning the skills of leadership.
The children’s martial arts system at Dragon Gym does provide this opportunity through our Junior Instructor Development Program. Because of the belt system / rank system that is inherent to martial arts, mentoring and modeling is an integral part of each students learning and progression through the system.
As a beginner, a student not only learns from his/her teachers, but also learns from “higher” belts, student with more knowledge and experience. The high belt students also know that the junior students are learning from their example.
Additionally, once the students reach a requisite level of proficiency we also teach them “how to teach”: How to start and stop a class, how to run warm ups, how to verbalize and explain physical techniques.
Homework for Parents
Looking at the list of 10 leadership traits above, what are some activities that you can do with you kids so that they can learn and demonstrate leadership?
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