The life skill we call “perseverance” is critical to long term success in life. Often this personal attribute is taken for granted as something that children will learn naturally. It is not. In our current society the concept of perseverance is often trumped by the “everyone is a winner” or “children should be protected from experiencing failure” mentality. As martial arts instructors we are in a great position to teach our students the practice and power of perseverance. We must make the most of every opportunity we have to instill this quality in our students. There are a few opportunities that help us convey this message in very direct ways.
The first great opportunity to illustrate perseverance that presents itself is board breaking. In board breaking it is often not the student’s strength or body type that creates the obstacle, it is their technique. When a student comes up against a board break they cannot accomplish on the first try we have the opportunity to show them how focusing on their goal and developing a new plan can be the key to success. If we handle this situation correctly it turns from a disappointment into a moment of real growth for the student. We have a “teachable moment”; help them learn not only to break the board but to break through those barriers they encounter in life. Encourage them to apply the same concept to their school work. Help them see how many of life’s obstacles require the same approach, “Keep your goals, change your plans.”
Another prime opportunity to help students understand the importance of perseverance comes when they “No Change” on a testing. There are times when we, as instructors, may be tempted to pass a student when they really do not deserve to pass the test. Resist that urge. Take the opportunity to give them something more important than that rank belt. Their choices and how we coach and mentor them as they face the reality of not passing their test can be a defining moment in their life. We need to help them understand that the “No Change” is not the end. Use personal stories; guide them to understand that everyone hits “roadblocks and speed bumps in life”. Do not wait, coach them to focus on their goal and find the opportunities to learn and grow towards that goal.
The concept of perseverance is one that is critical for long term success. The challenge for instructors, coaches and mentors lies in helping the student or athlete navigate the “failure” and associated emotions. Keep them focused on the positive aspects of perseverance and motivated to succeed. These “speed bumps” in life are necessary to truly learn what perseverance means and what it looks like in action.