Lifeskills: Respect & How Martial Arts Invites It to Grow

Howdy, folks! Here’s another entry in my 2015 blog series on “Lifeskills.” In other words, what are the skills that we teach our martial arts students that transfer over and apply to other areas in life?

  • Respect, performance skills, confidence, resilience, leadership, balance, the ability to handle pressure, etc. ALL of these can be used ANY time to meet school, work, and life goals.

Today, I’m going to talk about martial arts R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For us, respect starts and ends with self-respect, but also includes respect for property and respect for others (even those we don’t like or agree with).

taekwondo bow, Martial arts respect

Sempai Jonas working with a white belt. Nice bowing!

I was thinking today: a lot of martial arts instructors talk about respect being a part of the martial arts.

But, do we really know HOW we work to cultivate an atmosphere of respect which transfers over to “real life?” More after the jump!

Martial arts respect

Self-respect is one of the biggest keys to being able to respect others.

Martial arts invites students to begin respecting themselves by exercising and keeping their bodies healthy. It’s hard to be negative when you have a good exercise routine going!!

Also, students are asked to do their best and try their hardest. Being encouraged to work through struggle can also build self-respect, because you start to realize your true capabilities.

When a good coach or teacher tells you to keep going & you eventually get it, you are proud of yourself for being able to ACHIEVE something. That’s the beginning of real confidence & self-respect.

Martial arts also invites students to respect themselves by not allowing others to hurt them. In other words, self-respect can come from knowing you have the ability to defend yourself. THAT’S PRETTY COOL, for boys and girls alike.

What about that whole bowing thing? Isn’t that showing respect?

Martial arts respect

Sempai David receiving his 1st degree in Shito-ryu Karate.

Sure, in martial arts we bow to each other. But there’s more than that. I explain all of the following to my students:

  • When we bow, we show the tops of our heads (instead of staring the person down). This shows that we TRUST each other.
  • We bow when we enter our dojo. This shows GRATEFULNESS for having a place to train in.
  • We bow to the head instructor first, then all black belts who are present. This shows that we ACKNOWLEDGE their years of experience.
  • We stop the class and bow to any black belt who comes in the door. This shows that we ACCEPT that we are there to learn from, as well as with them.

All of those things: trust, gratitude, respect, and acceptance are part of what go into respect. Bowing (while knowing all of this is implied) makes respect a natural, easy part of being.

Practicing together, Martial arts respect

However, greatest of all is the chance to watch others BECOME more than what they were.

We all come to martial arts with different bodies, different sizes & shapes, and different life experiences.

ALL of our students, no exceptions, are asked to help each other, to be good partners, to not hurt each other, and to find, name, & develop our strengths & weaknesses.

It takes time, sure, but every single student grows through martial arts. When you watch that growth, day in day out, it’s hard NOT to respect others!

Seeing each other come into skill, strength, power, flexibility, and confidence makes us acutely aware of what the other is capable of.

And so respect for others grows.

That’s an amazing thing to watch.

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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