Almost every traditional martial arts school across America talks about teaching “Life Skills” in their martial art, which is what makes us different from the MMA or non-traditional styles, but what and how are we doing this in Richardson, Tx? Does it really translate into the student’s everyday life? I know and understand that each martial arts school chooses their branding and ideals to which their Dojo, Dojang, or Academy adhere to too. However, we almost universally use the same Life Skills; Discipline, Integrity, Focus, Perseverance, Courtesy, Indomitable Spirit or a derivative of these.
In our Richardson, TX school we have a monthly word and then weekly sub-words we work on with each student. With our program the students are rewarded for exemplifying our Life Skill words in class. If a parent tells us about it, or we become aware with our outreach to the schools (We include the schools in the ability for our students to test for rank) a student is rewarded with a skills stripe on their belt. We insure constant feedback from our school and parents on the progress of these skills.
It is scientifically proven that humans learn and absorb lessons many ways, and as traditional martial artists our lessons each day must incorporate as many as possible and they must be smooth throughout the class. If martial arts classes are just teaching the life skills through mat chats, they are only touching on a small prong of the equation. Each technique, stance, and drill must be dripping with knowledge about the Life skill we wish to translate into our student’s lives. Each lesson must have practical application for the student to be engaged in. Just like working on Forms we meticulously cover purpose, power, balance, strength, and proper techniques and alignment, we must also do so with our Life Skills. To be truly successful we must also incorporate visual learning age, for example our Harry and Friends cartoons, posters, and free video games(used in our 4-6-year old program) from Black Belt Principles; Visual aids must be exciting, intriguing, and demonstrative! Another important aspect to truly teach the skills and have them stick is to give weekly or monthly handouts that emphasize your lessons. Coloring sheets for younger students, chore charts for older students, and practical articles and stories for your teens and adults. By providing the interactive handouts and incorporating them into your curriculum you are insuring that your lessons are staying in the students mind and that they will in turn start to impact those students.
So how did we learn to do this? Just like a class plan or rank curriculum we developed it using our knowledge gained. If we don’t have a clear, concise plan of action we have created a failing curriculum for what most parents are expecting and letting our students and clients down. Our instructors not only follow our curriculum but plan on a way to creatively teach the life skills we have assigned throughout the class. We make sure it is detailed oriented and that we not only speak the lesson but also demonstrate and have visual aids to assist in the lesson. We create interactive ways to quantify what we are teaching. Weekly chore charts, coloring sheets, and constant communication with parents and teachers is how we track our progress.