In the previous blog I discussed the power of a strong community, and how it can be an incredibly positive driving force. I also talked about the importance of analysing our current communities and how this can be done quickly so that we can discover if it is a positive or negative environment.
Over the years I’ve been part of a whole host of very different and exciting communities, from many different schools, the military, tight knit extreme sports communities and various martial arts communities around the world. My beliefs are formed from my own experience of 20 years within different martial arts communities and, backed by case studies, surveys, personal stories and statistics gathered through The Warrior Academy, our Martial Arts organisation.
I believe a Martial Arts Community, can provide one of the most excellent examples of a positive community in action and in this section I’d like to establish how that is typically achieved through the typical framework martial arts clubs provide and more specifically, how I have seen this work in our own organisation.
It’s now my role; as we expand the Warrior Academy in the UK and globally to develop and nurture martial arts communities in new Towns, Villages and locations and indeed new countries as we expand our global reach into orphanages in Manila and Mumbai over the next 2 years.
Taking a look back at the 4 defining areas of a positive community outlined in the previous Chapter, we will now go through each area and discuss how, through our martial arts clubs, a “Black Belt Community” is achieved. We will also explore other areas in which a martial arts community can impact a child including becoming bulletproof to bullying, transitioning between schools, weathering the storm of adolescence and improving home life or “the home dojo”.
When a new member joins the club we ensure there is an initial, friendly interview with parents to establish reasons for joining, goals, specific areas to work on, confidence levels, behaviour, fitness levels etc.
On the first class the Instructor is prepared and ready to welcome the new member to the exciting new community. The new member is given a mentor, roughly the same age to help them through the first few classes and ensure they feel welcomed and supported immediately.
An update is given to the parents after the first class to discuss how the introduction went and again a few weeks later after certain goals are achieved in class and at home. Not only is this professional practice for any organisation it also solidifies the importance of a strong community that provides emotional support.
Within the context of martial arts we refer to each other as “Sir” or “Mam”, this is a term of respect as the value of Courtesy is considered a vital aspect of our programme and indeed traditional martial arts around the world. For a 4 year old, to be called sir is completely unexpected, the conversation between teacher-student and student-student is immediately contextualised in a courteous, respectful manner with this introduction and this has a profound effect. This change in approach to communication changes their mindset and the decisions they make regarding their behaviour.
It’s vital to foster and build strong relationships with parents so that as students go through hard times or tough transitions outside of school, our community can be the constant, positive support that helps them through it all. This is far more achievable with excellent communication between parents-teacher.
As students progress and become more experienced they are encouraged to lead and help others in the group. This “circle” from beginner to experienced to leader, helps foster the support our new, inexperienced students require. It also teaches students important leadership skills, instills pride and many other excellent traits discussed in the Leadership Chapter later in this book.
We learn to achieve individual goals, while working as a group to support each other. This aspect is interesting as it develops teamwork whilst in an individual sport. We teach students how to deal with failure with a positive mindset and success with a humble attitude. Each exercise a child participates in is started and finished with a bow and a handshake, again reinforcing the importance of respect and courtesy shown above and solidifying good sportsmanship, which in turn ensures the community is highly supportive to one another.
Encouragement of Health Physical and Fitness
From the first class, we ensure we pass on the value of health and fitness in a fun and enjoyable way to elicit a positive mindset and attitude around being active and healthy. It’s important that within every class the students are pushed physically, cardiovascularly through raising heart rates and a constant active session while utilising an excellent strength and conditioning programme that improves strength gradually. Flexibility is a huge aspect of martial arts with complicated kicks taught over time.
What’s brilliant about a typical martial arts curriculum is the progressive physical challenges, the number of reps required for each bodyweight exercise increases as the student progresses through the belts and the complexity and flexibility required with each technique is increased as a higher belt is achieved. This clear cut progression and structure through the belts really promotes improving physicality, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular levels for students in a very tangible sense that other sports or clubs find hard to achieve.
Holding “Mat Chats” or “inspiration talks” should be a focus for all Character Development Programmes and in The Warrior Method Programme we take great care to spend time each session in delivering strong lessons in important topics such as nutrition, keeping active among many other values that make up the Black Belt Character, depending on the age group, maturity level of the class and relevance of the subject this can last a minute to 10 minutes.
The Belt System in itself that is present in most martial arts systems provides a huge amount of inspiration for students. Having clear, tangible goals is vital and to further this inspiration it’s important new students are provided with an opportunity to see advanced students in action.
Reinforcing success publically has a massive impact on the other students in the group, encouraging them to achieve themselves. We make sure we set personal goals for each student tailored to their specific needs and requirements, working closely with parents to put together clever programs. We want our students experience lots of little wins, with the aim of developing a snowball effect of achievement to multiply confidence levels rapidly, and we do this from ensuring we set very achievable, small goals that are broken down to daily, weekly and monthly targets. Students then begin to become inspired by what they feel they can achieve. If a child is part of a community in school or perhaps in other clubs where they rarely achieve, these small wins have an even more tremendous effect on their mindset.
Encourage Challenge and Adventure
As well as the small goals set for daily, weekly, monthly and long term (year+) Targets using our Warrior Goal Setting Method outlined later in this book, we ensure there are excellent opportunities available to students to compete and experience adventure. By doing this we open their eyes to what they believe is achievable and provide them with a chance to explore and build resilience and a sense of adventure. We go into far more detail on this in our Challenge Chapter that explores, in depth, the power of Adventure on a young person’s mindset and future life.
Our motto is “Courage Earns Confidence” and teaching students that by having courage they will become a better version of themselves, goes a long way to explaining the benefit of improved confidence.
Making your child bulletproof to bullying
One of the main concerns of being surrounded by a negative community is bullying. One of the biggest strengths of a positive community is emotional support and the development of self worth from each individual which results in the prevention of bullying and the peace of mind that it will not occur.
Bullying can be devastating for students and can severely harm their development One of the goals of the Warrior Method is to make each child bulletproof to bullying.
The term bulletproof to bullying is what we use to explain one of the greatest benefits the Warrior Method provides through the development of Character. A Strong Character not only deters bullys who often prey on the weak or the easily intimidated, a strong character with a strong moral compass becomes a huge advocate for bully prevention and seeks to stop bullying from occurring around them.
In our 2017 Warrior Academy survey where we asked over 1000 parents about the effect our Character Development Programme had on their child. We asked parents:
“Do you have a greater peace of mind that they are less likely to suffer from bullying? Please describe.”
100% of parents described far greater peace of mind that their child was less likely to be bullied and that the Warrior Method Programme was responsible, explaining:
“Definitely. Not because of the physical aspects of what she’s learning at Warrior Academy but more because of the confidence she gets from a feeling of self-worth”
The survey then asked if their child has become happier because of this?
100% of parents agreed their child had become happier now that they had learnt how to deal with conflict, stop bullying and develop their own self worth, recognising that we are all different and that our uniqueness is one of our greatest powers and strengths, explaining:
“She seems more at peace when talking about others at school, recognising that she is a different but more relaxed about it.”
“He is definitely happier because the school were always on at him telling him there’s something wrong with him and now he is happy just the way he is and is not bothered by what people say”
Earlier in this book I mentioned that being part of a strong martial arts Community helped me through many things in my life, from transitioning between many schools, bullying as a child and rehabilitation from a near fatal accident. I hope that by sharing my personal stories, you will have a deeper insight into the power of a martial arts community and how it has shaped our Warrior Method.
Stay tuned for the next Blog where I will be sharing my own personal stories on bullying and how it has affected my life….