5 Ways to Make Effort Visible as a Martial Arts Student

Guess what?

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I’m not inside your head.

I know this may come as news to you! :P The only way I can get at what you’re thinking is through your actions.

Basically, what you do in class shows me what might be going on inside your head.

So, what does that mean for you, as a martial arts student? Read on to find out! 

As an instructor, I search my students actions for evidence of mood, effort, and focus.

Here are 5 easy ways that ALL martial arts students can let their instructors know they’re putting forth effort:

  1. Focused eyes. Eyes focus on the instructor when she/he is explaining something, and on your target or opponent while you are moving & doing. Believe me, instructors can see it in your eyes when you’re zoning out or when you’re glancing around the room!
  2. Have good body language. Letting your shoulders slump, a look of disappointment cross your face, sighing loudly, acting bored or above the lesson–these are all signs of bad attitude and lack of effort. Plus, they don’t make your instructor feel so good about trying to help you.
  3. Make sure corrections stick. Whenever your instructor gives you a personal tip, implement it immediately and consistently. Write it down so you can keep checking yourself. Whenever another person is corrected, check yourself as well. Students who refuse to check themselves on their own show a lack of effort and poor attitude. Plus–you’ll learn and gain skill a lot faster if you do this!
  4. Do whatever you were doing last until you’re told to stop. If you’re in a stance, stay there and try not to “take a break” (as much as reasonably possible). If you’re in a fighting stance, keep your guard up. This shows focus and a willingness to endure muscular discomfort for the sake of your training. (And again, obviously, differentiate between good and bad pain).
  5. Desire to be above the standard. An instructor can tell who is pushing themselves in class and who’s not. How? Grunting/breathing hard during tough physical tasks, appearing tired but persisting, asking a good question, using class time wisely, etc.

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My last tip is: know your style, and know the requirements of the skill you are doing. Know yourself. Effort looks different for each person, belt rank, age, and ability level.

For our students:

  • Showing effort in sticky hands means acting restrained and relaxed–not going hyper fast and smacking your partner.
  • Showing effort in basics means lengthening and deepening the stances because that’s what our style values. Doing it on your own shows me you are reaching for excellence, not just mediocrity.
  • Showing effort in kicks for youth students means kicking above the belt. Adults may not be able to (yet) kick above their belt, so showing effort for them means getting the technique right first and working on flexibility over time.
  • Showing effort for lower belts means that you are visibly improving with each week that passes.
  • Showing effort for higher ranks means maintaining your high level skill and striving to fix the small things.
  • Showing effort for youth might mean getting good grades at school and doing chores at home.

Basically, it’s about being focused and having a small goal for each thing you do, rather than just “going through the motions” or throwing techniques with a lack of focus.

How do you show YOUR effort in class? Leave a comment to let us know!

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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