Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Can You Help Motivate A Student to Continue Martial Arts Training?

My blog is receiving traffic from the search criteria - How can I convince someone to continue martial arts training? This is a difficult subject and everyone and every situation is different. As instructors we need to lead by example, encourage when possible and reinforce the positive. I am writing this from a karate instructor's viewpoint. We have had success dealing with students who want to quit due to a confidence or self-esteem issue and not a lack of interest in martial arts.

Here are some ideas:

1. If the student is overwhelmed with the depth of the material, it is important to set short term goals and reinforce their accomplishments. The student should be focused on their next kata not all the kata.

2. If the beginner student feels uncomfortable with their performance or feels awkward, you can remind them that everyone was a beginner at some point. If the student gives it time, they will become more comfortable. Old videos and early photos of class instructors and classmates as beginners can be a useful tool.

3. If the student is falling behind peers or family members, remind them that karate is individual. Individual training varies depending on age, ability and amount of time available for training. Often times when multiple family members start training at the same time (parents/children/siblings) they will progress at different rates.

4. If the student is reluctant to perform material individually, an instructor can be sensitive to this issue and assess a person's growth in a class setting. Have the student perform in front of a small group at first. Many times the beginner student will demonstrate alongside the class instructor for support and encouragement. The instructor allows the student to lead and follows the student giving them support.

5. If the student is over-scheduled, remind the student that martial arts is a lifetime endeavor and they should not feel pressured to be ready to test at every available opportunity.

6. Students who take a break can be reluctant to return because they feel left behind or don't remember material. Class instructors or higher rank students can work on material with the student to help them transition back to the dojo. Once again, remind the student that training is individual and not a race.

Ultimately, the student or parent will decide what is best.


sandman said...

Great topic Michelle. What can you do to prevent students from dropping out? I can remember dropping out from karate when I was a teenager - after having trained there for about 6 years. Actually I stopped training a few times before finally dropping out for good. I'm not sure what the instructors could have done different. I think my biggest problem was being sort of stuck in the middle, size and age-wise. I was about 18 - too big to train with the kids, but still very skinny and had a hard time in the adults class. Maybe if there were other guys my age? I don't know...

Rick Matz said...

How to motivate a student? By one's example.

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A great instructor plays a major role in motivating students to continue martial arts training.

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Michele said...

Thank you for your comments!

Hi Sandman: Interesting perspective about being in the "middle". I think having other people in the same age group is an avantage. It adds a social component to the dojo. We have seen teens stop training because of sports, school commitments, friends and employment.

Rick: Absolutely! :)

Journeyman said...

It's not easy task to motivate a student to continue training. From an instructor's perspective, I think you've hit on a bunch of important points and strategies.

Two things I'll throw into the mix.

1. Keep an eye on all of your students. Make sure none of them are getting puffed up egos or are getting over confident or aggressive. I suspect that some of the people who quit do so due to personality issues with other students. Not necessarily arguments or specific incidents, but if a student feels they are being looked down upon by another student of feel a bit intimidated by their attitude or training methods, they may leave citing a different reason.

2. Keep a sense of humor. If you can laugh at yourself, it sends a powerful message of acceptance and lets students know that we all make mistakes and we're all working on improving.

The Barefoot Lawyer said...

I definitely agree with Journeyman, having been one of those students with personality issues. Good times.

One thing I found that was useful was being sincere and explicit with why I thought martial arts was useful, and then offer my own personal struggles as an example of one way martial arts was good for personal growth. This requires a degree of trust between student and teacher. I definitely know my Sensei can get a truthful answer from anyone. If I sat down with someone and said, "So, how are things going?" I might not get a real answer. I think being a good listener helps people open up and assists with getting information.

I also try to encourage community among the students themselves because if they don't necessarily want to talk to me (or the main instructor) they can always talk to another student. Training is often a solitary affair, but it doesn't have to be lonely all the time.

Michele said...

Thank you for commenting!

Journeyman: Good points. Seeing how the students interact with each other is important. The students should be aware that the instructors are still actively learning and discovering. We are all on the path...

T: Thank you for adding to the discussion. I was struck by your statement..."Training is often a solitary affair, but it doesn't have to be lonely all the time." So true.

We try to build a community spirit in the dojo. A few weeks ago, we celebrated recent promotions in the dojo. I sent out a few emails and several black belts, who are not actively training, returned to the dojo to offer congratulations. It was a nice event and I was glad to see everyone.

Frank said...

I was thinking the other way: How to convince the unmotivated people who act like they don't want to be there in the first place, to just quit.

Thomas said...

We'll if the student really love to do Martial Arts i don't think there is a problem on motivation. We cannot force people to do Martial Arts... it should come directly from them. Because if we do, we are just wasting our time teaching them.

Michele said...

Frank: Interesting. :)

Thomas: Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I agree...if they love it there is no problem.

Michael said...

I'm serious in trainings but i usually inject some "light" and "fun" times so we all don't get stressed up.