Encouraging Encouragement


There is a lesson that I work hard to impart on our instructors:

“Teaching Tae Kwon-Do is 10% instruction and 90% motivation.”

People are often their own worst enemies, constantly struggling to get out of their own heads. I like to refer to it as “stinkin’ thinkin’,” and I’ve seen it happen too many times. A student wants to improve. So, naturally, they focus on the  areas in which they need improvement. In turn, though, they often forget to balance their mind by remembering areas where they excel, and become fixated only on the negative.

The way we overcome this at the dojang is by nurturing an environment of encouragement amongst our students and our staff.  We have found that the job as an instructor becomes much easier if we’re encouraging students more than teaching them. As such, the main responsibility of an instructor becomes not merely teaching a student how to kick or punch, but rather to help them to clear their head. For only once that path is clear, can a student truly learn.  

Encouragement takes on many forms.

Encouragement is crucial because everybody appreciates getting feedback that they’re on the right track, that there’s hope, or just that they’re doing a good job. It can be as simple as a reassuring hand on a shoulder. Sometimes, it means going out of your way to show someone the right way to do something; not to show off, but out of solidarity. Other times, if someone is struggling particularly hard in life or in Tae Kwon-Do, it may require a longer dialogue to help them re-tool their thinking. To clear the path, as it were.

Praise. Critique. Praise.

We find what we call the “P-C-P Method” to be a very effective and constructive way to provide encouragement. “P-C-P” simply stands for “Praise, Critique, Praise.” In other words, beginning with something positive, making a suggestion about something that needs work, but then closing with more positivity.

Here’s how it works: say that, for instance, one student notices that another student’s L-Stance needs work. We encourage them to approach the student by saying something like: “I really like the way you’re doing your pattern. Your L-Stance could use a little work on this part right here, but hey man… your yell is really scary! It’s a good K’ihap!

“Good Finders”

Our D.E.L.T.A. team students are also known around the dojang as “good finders.” They represent an exceptional group of leaders amongst our students and their sole responsibility is to do exactly what their name suggests: to walk around during classes, find good things to say to encourage their fellow students, and assist or teach when necessary.

Never Overcorrecting

We recognize that words of encouragement from our staff can carry more weight with a student, since they are coming from an “authority figure.” Our staff is trained to respect this when approaching a student who needs correction, and to be careful not to “overcorrect,” which can actually have an adverse effect by causing a student to feel worse about themselves.

The “Tae Kwon-Do Boat”

We also recognize that encouragement is about so much more than correction. True encouragement comes from the comradery that we inspire; the feeling that we are all in this together.

I like to  illustrate this idea using an analogy of a boat. The way I see it, we are all in the same boat. A “Tae Kwon-Do Boat,” if you will. One student may have a “Red Belt” paddle, I personally have an “Eighth-Degree Black Belt” paddle, and another student may have a “Yellow Belt” paddle, but we’re all trying to paddle the same boat, in the same direction, and each of us needs the others to do so.

All of these encouragement practices contribute to the family atmosphere for which our school is so well-known. My hope is that these lessons will spill out of the dojang and inspire our students to become more encouraging individuals in their workplace, at school, and in their home lives.



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!


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