When it comes to martial arts students, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for getting them to succeed. Each student is a unique individual. However, observant and experienced senseis can pick up on patterns that can give clues as to how to approach different students. In the first article in this series, we looked at three different categories of students: enthusiastic, nervous, and apathetic. In this article, we will look at some strategies for helping students who fall into the first category.
Encouraging High-Achieving Enthusiastic Students
Your most enthusiastic students are often going to be your high achievers. That’s because, like anything in life, a great attitude can lead to greater and greater levels of advancement. These students are often self-motivated. In fact, one of the only challenges you may face with your highly motivated, enthusiastic students may be a tendency toward over-competitiveness or a desire to advance more quickly than they should.
If you have an enthusiastic student who is getting too competitive with other students, bragging about the level of achievement they’ve attained, or pushing to advance too quickly, gently work to bring the student back down to earth without crushing their enthusiasm. You can do this by taking them aside during a break time and privately talking to them about making sure they aren’t discouraging other students who may struggle with techniques that come easily to them.
You could also allow these students, if they have a proper attitude and maturity level, to become helpers for some of the less advanced students. If you know they have a high ability level, don’t let these students get by with any half-baked techniques just because you know they’re eager to advance. Make sure they earn each and every belt level before promoting them.
Encouraging Moderate to Low-Achieving Enthusiastic Students
Once in a while, you’ll have an enthusiastic student who loves martial arts but lacks natural talent or doesn’t have well-developed motor skills. This combination of high enthusiasm and low ability level is both endearing and inspiring. In these instances, as tempted as you may be, don’t give in to the emotional desire to promote these students simply based on effort if they haven’t truly mastered the skills necessary for promotion.
If you can see an enthusiastic student’s excitement starting to die down due to lack of achievement, consider adding smaller achievement levels between belts. This strategy can include the addition of stripes for learning part of the material necessary to advance to the next belt. Many youth dojos include striping systems to help young students benefit from seeing their progress without dumbing down belt level requirements. You can also keep a less advanced yet enthusiastic student engaged by praising them whenever you see a hint of progress and calling on them to answer your questions.
Keeping your enthusiastic students in the right frame of mind can help to set a positive tone in your youth dojo. In the next article of this 4 part series, we will take a look at how to encourage your nervous students to move to the next level of progress.