A message to the parents of our Junior Students:

This weekend, my team is testing our junior students. We use the ‘Skillz’ program, which is an excellent, age specific method to teach martial arts to children. The curriculum is broken into 10 week blocks, with eight specific skills taught in each cycle. Each skill being covered at least three times.

To  make sure that each child covers all skills, we use a ‘stripe’ system. This is where, as we cover each skill, we put a stripe on the child’s belt. It keeps us accountable, since we can see at a glance whether a child has covered all of the curriculum.

Last week, one of our instructors overheard a parent saying to a child:

“Why didn’t you tell me today was Blue stripe? You already have that one. Now I have wasted a journey!”

The instructor was upset, and I feel that perhaps I need to do a better job explaining this to you parents, since we frequently get telephone calls asking: ‘What colour stripe is it tonight?’

Imagine Paula Radcliffe saying to her coach: “We did running last week! I already know how to do that!”

Or Amir Khan saying to his coach: “A jab? Again?!! I already know how to do that!”

Here is the thing: Skills are not the same as knowledge.

Knowledge of something you either know or you don’t. You can ‘cram’ for a knowledge test the night before. A skill is something that takes time to mature (This is the original meaning of the term ‘Kung Fu’). You can’t rush it: it’s about a bit of learning and a LOT of practise.

The first time your child learns a new move, they may pick up the mechanics of the move- if they are talented, they may perform it well enough to earn the stripe on the first lesson. However, its repetition that will show improvement and get them to their potential. This is what the instructors live for: They long to see children break through barriers and do things better than they thought they could.

Parents send their children to us to learn skills, but also, crucially, the mindset for success. In martial arts, that is often referred to as a ‘Black Belt Attitude’. Now, what lesson are you teaching your children if you say that having a stripe is ‘good enough’ and you don’t need to improve your skills? It is teaching your child to be mediocre. Now- ensuring your child attends two classes per week whether they feel like it or not is setting them up for success. You are teaching them that worthwhile things require sacrifice and successful people will practise whether they feel like it of not. Its a matter of discipline and establishing good habits.

Bring your kids to us twice per week and leave the rest to the instructors. Repeating a class is not a waste of time, on the contrary, it is an opportunity to refine skill and pick up smaller details that in martial arts may make the difference between winning and losing.

When your child graduates the ‘Extreme Skillz’ program and goes into the ‘Elite Skillz’, we expect much more of them. If they have followed our program, then the transition should be easy and natural. My concern is that some parents are encouraging ‘just enough’ and will become upset when in the next group ‘just enough’ is no longer good enough!

Please consider this- the belt is the SYMBOL for the work they have put in. It’s not the purpose for bringing your children to class. If it was, you could save time and money and just buy them a black belt on the internet!

It’s like money: If you are hungry, you cannot eat money, but you can go to a restaurant and spend it on food. If you have a belt- is it ‘real money’ or ‘monopoly money”? The difference is how you have earned it, how much work and discipline have you put in? I think for adults, this is easy, but kids have a harder time with intrinsic motivation, so stripes and coloured belts are a good incentive for them to keep training. As parents- we have a more mature perspective and can see the bigger picture.

Please feel free to comment or question, and I look forward to seeing your Children in class!