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Excerpt from Chapter 2. The First Week of Training

The First Week of Training

The First Class

Everyone has unique reasons for starting a martial arts program. For Malik, he wants to be like the superheroes he saw in the latest movie and be able to handle any bad guy. Malik is in the third grade and would rather play video games than be active, so his parents are hoping that the program helps him take a strong outside interest in something and to get in shape.

Isabella is in the first grade and a bit shy. Her mother suggested the program to her because another parent had raved about the school and the positive impact it had on her son. Isabella’s mom is hoping that she meets new friends and gains confidence. Isabella agreed she’d try it.

Goals keep people focused and are a part of every successful person’s life. As a parent, what are your top two goals for your child’s training in the martial arts? You may also ask your child what he or she wants from the program? If they aren’t sure, wait a week and ask again.

Malik’s and Isabella’s First Day

Conversation Interpretation
Malik, an eight-year-old, and his parents arrive for Malik’s first class. When he comes into the training hall, he is welcomed by the instructor and directed to sit down on the mat with some other students waiting for class to start. The instructor asks the regular students to introduce themselves to Malik and to get to know him. The existing students welcome the new students to help them get over being shy or nervous. Though it may happen naturally, the instructor makes communication and friendliness part of the expectations of training.
Another new student, Isabella, a 6-year-old, comes with her mom. She sits down and looks to her mom for encouragement. The other students ask Isabella questions, so they can get to know her. Schools have a place for parents to sit where they can watch and learn about the training. It helps the students and the parents get comfortable.
The instructor asks everyone to line up for the start of class. They bow to the flag and to the instructor. Isabella and Malik follow right along. Bowing to the flag develops awareness of the importance of country. Bowing to the instructor develops courtesy.
The instructor asks if everyone had a good day. They all say yes. Then he asks if anyone knows the new students’ names. Multiple hands go up in the air and they give the answer when called upon. Then the instructor asks about where they go to school, what they like to do, and how old they are. The instructor expects them to know information about Malik and Isabella and the other students as well. Since the instructor asked earlier, the instructor follows through now. The instructor models that what the instructor promises, the instructor will do.
The instructor asks the trainees to count loudly as they do jumping-jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups. To do well at martial arts, the instructor expects a mental toughness. Students begin to build spirit by yelling and counting.

Class Continues

Dialog Interpretation
The instructor demonstrates a kick he wants the students to do. He asks a senior student, Joshua, to state three things that make a good kick. Joshua replies, “picking up the leg, snapping out the foot, and snapping it back.” Students learn by seeing a demonstration, thinking about the motions, and by doing it. Having a student answer lets everyone know the expectation is to what makes a move good.
The instructor asks the senior student to count. As the students kick, the instructor walks around the room watching each student, and makes corrections as needed. Isabella and Malik copy the movements of the other students as best they can. Each student learns at his or her own pace. Having another student count and demonstrate while the instructor coaches, develops teaching skills in the senior student while giving the other students the attention they need.
After the drill, the instructor asks Joshua to help Isabella and Malik on the kick while he leads the rest of the students in another drill. Joshua holds a pad and asks each to kick it, gently at first. When Malik hits the pad with his toes, Joshua tells him his leg motion is right, but to hit the pad with a flat foot. Individualized learning is supported by other students. In this case, Joshua uses a pad because the feel and sound of the pad as its being kicked gives feedback to Malik and Isabella. A well-kicked pad makes a popping sound.  If he holds his foot wrongly, he may get a little pain and no pop.
When the pad makes a loud pop, he tells Malik, “That’s what I’m looking for. Now you try, Isabella. Isabella holds her foot correctly, but just drops it straight down after connecting. He tells her, “Ok, that was the right leg motion at the beginning, the right contact. Your kick will make a popping sound when you hit the pad and then pull your foot back.” Joshua tells them what they’re doing that works, and what needs to be adjusted. He’s not saying “good” or “bad” but teaching them what it takes to do the kick. He wants Isabella and Malik not to do the move to please him, but to please themselves and recognize when it’s well done. This approach is called assessment or growth coaching.
Class Ends Interpretation
The instructor calls everyone together, welcomes Isabella and Malik, again. Has the students bow to Joshua and then to Isabella and Malik. The instructor invites Isabella and Malik to come back to practice to continue their growth. All bow out and class ends. The instructor reinforces courtesy and friendliness to let all students grow and to let Isabella and Malik know that the other students welcome them in this group.
The instructor walks Isabella and Malik to their parents. “They listened and worked hard. They likely made some friends today. Isabella and Malik, did you have fun?” They both say “yes” and grin big smiles. The instructor knows good communication includes asking questions and being available to answer any the parents might ask. Parents, take your opportunity to clarify any questions you have.
The instructor says, “you need to practice each week, here and at home. Can you come three times a week?” The two students and their parents say they can. “I want you to go home and to make a schedule with your parents that shows you what days and times to come. Can you do that for me?” Again, they say “yes” and nod vigorously. Help your child make a training schedule. You may also want to start developing his or her ownership for the training schedule. Ask your child to be ready 10 minutes before it’s time to leave for class so that you’re never late delivering them. Help your child learn the help quality you need from them.


After Class

After class, talk to your child on the way home. Ask them what they liked and learned. Model courtesy and listening skills for them by paying attention to what they say. Stay positive during the conversation so your child develops a positive attitude about training. Ask your child who they met.

If your child says class was hard, acknowledge it and tell them that means they were changing their body to better. If they made mistakes, tell them that’s how people learn better. Ask them, “What happens if you only practice what you already know how to do?”

When you get home, you can also talk about starting a routine of practicing at home. Have your child tell you when they want to practice each non-class day and if they can, have them mark that time on their weekly schedule. If they’re getting homework, you can also put that on the same schedule. If your child is in a higher grade, you may encourage using a calendar, too, to record the dates of special events like exams or exceptions to the regular schedule.

Practice patience and creativity to help your child make a routine of planning ahead. A short review at breakfast, and another after school can help them be more prepared and still get everything done.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll make additional suggestions that will help you help your child to continue developing black-belt qualities for life.

About Author

David Leasure

With over twenty-five years’ experience in martial arts, Dr. Leasure continues to practice and holds a second-degree black belt black belt in taekwondo. He started martial arts in wrestling and is a state champion. He continued in Shotokan karate and earned a second-degree black belt. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science.

For the last twenty-five years, Leasure has been a provost at multiple online universities and a scholar of learning science and practice. He has been honored with multiple awards for his teaching and leadership. He actively practices the qualities of learning and self-growth and credits their contribution to the quality of his life. He is a co-author with Daniel Apple and Wade Ellis of the book, The Professional’s Guide to Self-growth: A step-by-step process for developing your unlimited potential, published in 2018.

Dr. Leasure and his wife have been married over thirty years and raised 3 children. He loves teaching and helping others to reach their full potential. His vision is to positively impact the lives of over 10 million learners.

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