We have all come up short at one time or another. Losing is no fun and is hard to deal with as adults and it is even harder to deal with as a child with limited experience. It seems like we spend large swathes of time helping our children cope with disappointment, but how often do we spend time teaching them about winning and success? We want so badly for our children to win and often we simply feel so relieved when they do win that we forget that even winning is a teachable moment. At Columbus Martial Arts Academy, we have a culture of success. Our future black belts win on the mat, they win at school and they make their peers better with every success. A martial arts student learns that individual victory is not the mountain top: uplifting your friends is. There are three aspects to winning that children learn through martial arts. First, winning must be done with grace and dignity. Second, winning should be uplifting to those around you, not a sore spot. Finally, winning can put pressure on a child to continue winning and a future black belt must learn to mitigate this stress.
Winning with grace is very important. We have all witnessed that show-off who is so impressed by his own success that he flips his bat on the way to first, or dances far too long after a touchdown. How does that come across to his teammates, his coach, or the other parents? While it may feel good for the one celebrating, it is not an uplifting moment for everyone else involved. In martial arts class, children learn to offer a handshake and pick their opponent up. In karate class, children will spend time learning humility. When I was younger, one of my instructors would always chide us for not accepting winning with grace. He would always tell us to ‘act like we’ve done it before.’ That was when I realized how it looked to others when I’m obnoxiously celebrating in victory. I didn’t look like a disciplined martial artist. Someone with discipline wins with grace whether it is a contest on the martial arts mat, a test at school, or a competition between siblings at home. All these years later that phrase has still stood out to me. Now that I am on the other side of the teacher-student spectrum I want my students to know what that meant. No one likes seeing someone gloat over their opponents and it can leave a lasting bad taste in the mouth of everyone involved. Gloating in victory may feel good (in the moment), but it makes us look unprofessional, undisciplined, and undignified. What may seem harmless at the time can be a truly regrettable decision in hindsight when we consider the effect our gloating can have on others. In fact, being a martial artist means that we elevate all those around us! This lesson is very important to martial artists because it is our teammates that make us better. As iron sharpens iron and it is our teammates that make us stronger and as future black belts learn, there is nothing more important in victory than lifting up your friends!
Success and failure in karate class is a very personal thing. Winning with dignity allows us, as martial artists, to share our victory with our team. When future black belts win, they offer their opponent a handshake. This act of sportsmanship uplifts their opponent and teammates alike. Winning, to the future black belt, is a very formal thing. The martial arts school is a very different place than the baseball diamond, football field, or soccer pitch. There is a quiet dignity in martial arts that is not always part of the culture in sports. This is not to say that sports cannot teach humility or that martial artists are immune to energetic celebration, but the culture of the two things can be very different. Learning success in a culture of humility greatly colors how a child will react to winning in other environments as well. Future black belts learn that no matter where they are, they must win with dignity to elevate those around them whether they be fellow martial artists, classmates, or siblings. If a child does not hog the spotlight for themself, but instead shares it with their teammates through quiet dignity, then this martial arts student knows that he has teammates he can depend on when he needs them.
Success naturally comes with pressure to continue to succeed. When a student does well in karate class, suddenly the student begins to expect that they will always be the best when it comes to tests and promotions. This can cause anxiety in some students. What if my peers overtake me? What if I am not the top of my class at the next promotion? These thoughts can be insidious and hurt the child’s ability to do well on the mat, at home, and at school. Sometimes the pressure of sustained success can create mental blocks for students. It can cause them to stymie in their progression. Athletes call this a slump, but it can strike in all areas of life. This is why it is so important that all students accept victory with grace. That way, if one future black belt should slow slightly in their progression, they can still enjoy the success of their teammates in that moment. Their teammates did not improve without help and the future black belt understands this. Even the struggling future black belt can be the iron that makes his teammates stronger. By having dignity in victory, the future black belt empowers his teammates and then they are free to give it back to him tenfold!
Help your child learn to win with dignity and grace! Teach them to be the iron that sharpens iron and they will make their classmates and siblings better winners, too! Set your child up for a lifetime of success by learning winning ways at a young age.