What do mental fitness and cookies have in common? Well they both start with C’s! That’s more obvious with the delicious chocolate chip discs of happiness perhaps, but Mental Fitness is often broken down into 4 facets:
Today we’re just going to take a little look into Commitment, how to go about building it for yourself or for your athletes and how Martial Arts and Taekwon-Do specifically can be a wonderful vehicle for developing this aspect of mental fitness.
Taekwon-Do has two fundamental constants that we take for granted and that really help establish a framework for the development of commitment. The first is that you’re going to have to turn up to class and train, over and over again. It’s a simple thing really but the discipline to make sure that every week on the same days and at the same times you’ll arrive to class prepared to train is the foundation stone for the development of commitment.
The second constant is grade progression. Knowing that after a period of time there will be an assessment of your learning and ability creates a sense of urgency that can serve to reinforce the need to consistently turn up for training. It also demands that the student is not just present but actively engaged in learning and putting effort into their improvement.
When commitment falters and training is sporadic or the effort put into class is inconsistent then performance will decline and we meet the dreaded deferred grading, the fail, the try again, the “you’re not quite ready”. This becomes immediately apparent as the peer group don’t just make a slow and steady incremental change from the ones left behind, they suddenly and with much fanfare change their appearance, evolving from ugly ducklings and caterpillars into swans and butterflies with the change of a belt and a post on Instagram.
In this way one of our best tools to encourage and reward commitment can be our greatest enemy in maintaining it over time. As coaches and instructors we have to be ready to support our students and give them practical ways to develop and maintain commitment and to see reward even if they’re not quite ready for the grading or they’re losing in the quarter final of the competition. How? Communication, culture, individualisation and goal setting.
If our students come to class and are made to feel welcome and wanted by the instructors and the other students we’re off to a very good start. Having an atmosphere that people want more of helps to start the ball rolling towards commitment. Learning is intrinsically enjoyable. If our students feel that every session they grow towards a better understanding, greater skill level and greater ability they’ll be more willing to commit to the training needed to maintain improvement. If you, as a coach, get to know each student, you’ll be better able to work with them to understand their strengths and challenges and help them to set short and medium term goals. Often with younger children, these need to be communicated to and agreed with parents to enable commitment.
Setting and achieving goals helps massively with adherence and helps to overcome challenges to commitment when extrinsic rewards (like grades and medals) don’t come along as expected. Knowing that goals are still being achieved and progress/success are inevitable very strongly links to commitment.
The best predictor of ‘talent’ we’ve ever found is adherence. Every Master and World Champion has a head full of memories of friends and acquaintances that were more ‘talented’ than they were, but who didn’t stay the course or commit to the journey. The longest journey begins with a single step… but it only begins there.
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