Just like in academic schools, our school has A, B, C, D & F students.
‘D’ and ‘F’ students come to class and go through the motions, but they never try to get any more out of their training, physically or spiritually.
They aren’t lost causes, though. There are a few best practices that, if embraced, make it possible for ‘D’ and ‘F’ students to improve to ‘B’ and ‘A’ students.
Frequent, Consistent Training
The most obvious characteristic of successful students is that they are constantly working on Tae Kwon-Do. They attend as many classes as they can. Then, they go home and practice what they were taught in class.
Class is the learning and instructional part. We make sure that students go home with something burned into their muscle memory. Once they get home, if they don’t practice what they have learned, they can not, will not, and do not improve at the rate they are supposed to. Certainly not with the quality they are supposed to.
The Student Manual
Keeping a Tae Kwon-Do notebook or journal is another best practice of successful students.
When I was a student at Berklee College of Music, all of our books were binders of three-hole punched paper. This wasn’t to “cheap out” on the binding. Rather, it allowed us to insert our own paper between pages to take extra notes, record our own ideas, do drawings, etc., whatever it took for us to internalize and find ways to apply the lessons and techniques we were learning.
I applied that same philosophy to the student manual that we give to each new student. Some students take advantage of it. Many do not. The ‘A’ students regularly add the pages. The ‘B’ students do it sometimes. The ‘C’ students rarely do it, and the ‘D’ and ‘F’ students never do it.
A very simple way for ‘D’ and ‘F’ students to improve is to start using this manual.
The Training Grid
I have developed a training grid, just a simple piece of graph paper. On each line is something that you are supposed to be working on. Each day you work on a particular item on the list, you write the date in.
This gives students a visual record of their progress. So, you might see that your ‘patterns’ line stretches way out, and your ‘bagwork’ line is stretching way out, but your ‘self-defense’ line seems to be much shorter. That tells you that you need to devote more time to your self-defense training. Sometimes that means backing off a little on one of the other aspects of your training to adjust. Sometimes it means keeping up that intensity on the other aspects and improving the one that is lacking.
Successful students attend more events, even social events like our pizza parties and movie nights. This is where you form a bond and develop a sense of community with the school. From a business standpoint, that’s good for me because those students tend to stay longer. More importantly, you begin to latch onto the school’s culture and then you, either consciously or subconsciously, begin to develop better training habits because you are learning how the dojang works.
Attending tournaments is huge. We start you off with in-house “learning” tournaments to prepare you for our travel events. Then we allow you to travel out of town to somewhere you have never been, spending time in a building you have never been, surrounded by people you have never met.
We spar and train patterns pretty hard at the school, so you are getting a great workout and a greater sense of urgency already. However, the experience of a tournament is a whole different animal. At the dojang, if you get racked by someone, and you turn your back to them, they might just give you a little tap and let you off the hook. In a tournament, though, you’re not fighting against people you had a pizza party with last week. They’re not going to be so merciful. They’re going to kick you in the face.
That entire experience challenges you. And anything that challenges you, changes you. Usually for the better.
Successful students try to join our leadership teams, such as the junior leaders or the D.E.L.T.A team. This gives you the experience of now seeing Tae Kwon-Do through the eyes of an instructor, not just a student. You become more critical, but in a good way. You are critiquing yourself and others to make everyone better. As an instructor is correcting someone else’s issue, they are often learning how to correct their own as well.
For instance, If I have trouble with stances, I tend to fix stances more because I can spot it more easily in someone else.
The pinnacle of our leadership teams is our demo team. Joining them is by invitation only. The members of the demo team are the sharpest of the sharp, showing they are on the rise. They devote an incredible amount of dedication and time to the team. There is only room for ‘A’ students on the demo team.
Talking to Black Belts
The last and simplest thing that sets successful students apart is that they engage with and learn from higher-ranking students. This is an easy thing that I wish more students did. Our black belts are super approachable.
I often wonder if non-black belts worry that by talking to someone who has achieved a higher level of success, that they are leaving themselves open to critique that they might not be ready for.
Perhaps that is one more thing preventing them from being ‘A’ students.
Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!