Improve Self-Esteem with Kids Martial Arts

improve self-esteem with martial arts classes

Yes, I Can! If you have are in one of our Martial Arts Advantage Studios, you will likely hear our students shouting this affirmation. We teach this on day one of their martial arts journey. It’s the first step in building confidence and self-esteem as they begin their classes. We start there because we know we are going to be asking them to do things they haven’t tried before and attempt skills that will stretch their physical capabilities and push them outside their comfort zone. They will need self-esteem to accomplish their goals both here at our academy and in life. Self-esteem is one of the most important leadership principles we teach and one that we reinforce in every class for every student.

We ask parents enrolling their children in our Martial Arts Advantage program, “What are you hoping your child will gain from this training?” The answers range from improved focus, defending from bullies, helping with shyness, building physical strength, to improving self-esteem and confidence. All these child development issues can be a challenge, but we find that building confidence and self-esteem can eliminate many of the other issues. That’s why much of what we do on the mats is designed to improve our students’ self-esteem and confidence. 

The “why” for building a child’s self-esteem is pretty obvious. Confident kids do better in almost all areas of their young lives. They do better in school, make more friends, have better grades, do better in sports, and more. In fact, according to Dr Ken Shore in an article posted at  eductionworld.com, “Self-esteem can have a marked effect on academic performance. Low self-esteem can lessen a student’s desire to learn, her ability to focus, and her willingness to take risks. Positive self-esteem, on the other hand, is one of the building blocks of school success; it provides a firm foundation for learning.”  

Athletic coaches talk about the link between a player’s confidence and self-esteem and their performance – either positively for kids with high level confidence, or negatively for those who struggle. Additionally, accomplishing goals improves the confidence of individual athletes as well as the whole team. So even the weakest player feels better when the team wins!

At Martial Arts advantage we define Self-Esteem as “The JOY of Being Myself.” The Pillar of Leadership is supported by individual concepts: Confidence, Positive Attitude, Self-Awareness, Accountability, Gratitude, Generosity, Humility, and Forgiveness. In class, our students recite the pillars of Self-Esteem, and we talk about what it means to feel joy about being ourselves.

Kids feel good about the affirmations in class, but we all know “actions speak louder than words” and with kids that is even more true. So, we include motions with the reciting of the Pillars to help them remember (and have more fun!)

Martial arts training includes many skills, techniques, goal setting, and strategies that build both physical strength and improve overall attitude, including self-esteem. Here are some of the ways our instructors tell us they use the time on the mat to help our students build confidence and self-esteem:

  • When our students Bow In at every class they announce, “YES I CAN!” and the entire class responds. The YES I CAN anthem is very powerful and is used in every class and every challenge at Martial Arts Advantage.
  • Positive reinforcement is an integral part of our training. We look for things that our students are doing well and give them praise for it whether it is being a fast learner, having a great attitude, demonstrating a good kicking technique, or helping another student.
  • We break down complex techniques into smaller bites so kids can be successful in hitting the benchmarks. As an example, in each 8-week training session students learn a new pattern. We teach the pattern in quarters, and students then have the second half of the session to work on polishing and building the confidence to present the pattern at testing. We also break down a complicated skill to a lesser one so the student can do it. Then as they practice, we add small details that build up to completing the more complex kick or skill.
  • Encouraging kids to step out of their comfort zone is one of the best ways to build their confidence. We do this by starting small and building confidence with consistent and repetitious practice. Confidence leads them to try new things. By doing some of the drills over and over, the kids get really good at them, and they do them at home, sharing the new skill with their families. We see children every week doing things they did not believe they could do when they started!
  • We try to challenge students to apply what they learn on the mats to the things they do outside of the academy and positively reinforce their efforts when they tell us about them.
  • Rewards and incentives are a big part of the martial arts journey. It takes a long time to get a black belt but there are many opportunities to earn a new belt rank/color, stripes to go on their belts for accomplishing weekly challenges in class and at home, as well as special awards to the student of the day. In addition to the hardware, we try to acknowledge students’ extra efforts in class and celebrate small victories with them and their peers on the mats. The whole class improves when one of them accomplishes something they have been struggling with.
  • We let students know that “Failure is our friend.” If they aren’t failing, they aren’t pushing themselves to new levels. All the students in the class feel encouraged when they see someone else struggling to learn a new skill and eventually nailing it. Our school is a “NO BULLY” zone. Fellow students provide only cheering and positive reinforcement. We celebrate the try, even if it takes a while to get a new skill down.
  • Classes are fast paced and packed with a lot of activity. Completing a class gives students a sense of accomplishment because they know they did a lot of different things during the class – and their tired!
  • Martial arts training is a physically challenging program. Students start seeing an improvement in their fitness level within a few weeks of starting the program. And they prove it during their “fit test” at each graduation!
  • We encourage public speaking and leadership. We start this training with our salutation of “Hello Sir. Hello Ma’am.” When students come in the door, that’s how we greet them and we teach them to respond the same way. We encourage eye contact, speaking louder, more directly, and with a smile. That is hard for some of our shy students at the beginning. As they get more comfortable, we have students take turns leading some of the drills in class.

We want to support our Martial Arts Advantage families and be part of a community of positive influencers around each of our amazing students. Self-esteem is built over time, and it is fed by all the people who come in contact with our kids every day. No matter how well we build our kiddos up, there will be days they feel less confident, or someone made them feel bad about themselves. The more we talk about self-esteem, help students be aware of how they are feeling, and feel comfortable sharing their feelings, the better we will be able to keep building them up and not letting smalls seeds of negativity keep our children from accomplishing their goals and living their best lives.

Click here to learn more with this video on the “Yes, I Can!” concept.

 

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