Tell the Truth!
Tell the Truth!
Why and how many instructors have lost their way
by Ray Hughes
The fear of offending those who pay dues for instruction has caused many instructors to unintentionally lie to their students. By not speaking the truth about mental development, students are mislead. In other words, they have been deceived.
The Truth is, the development of mental disciple requires mental pain.
The highest priority of traditional martial art instruction is the development of mental discipline. Technical skills mean nothing if the mind of the practitioner is not developed enough to use these skills and to handle the chaos of battle. These mental strengths and skills are the exact same skills needed to successful maneuver through the difficult battle of life. Without this strength and discipline, the participant will lose in battle as well as in life.
Mental discipline is the attribute that allows one to successful overcome the battles within the mind; the voices that tell us to quit when things get difficult, to blame others for our failures, and feel sorry for ourselves when things don’t go our way. Mental discipline gives the practitioner the strength to overcome the effects of stress and to make sound, quick, and critical decisions.
This battle within the mind rages until the grave. Only the battle field within the mind changes over the course of time, not the struggle. One must continually work at developing and maintaining mental discipline to overcome these battles during one’s lifetime. This is why martial art training is considered a lifetime endeavor. We must understand this truth.
Mental discipline is necessary to help us grow as human beings. As we age, our comfort zone slowly closes in around us. We are hesitant to step out of our comfort zone because we want to be safe. We resist trying new things and exploring new possibilities that could involve the risk of failure. Mental discipline pushes us do the things we know we need to do but are reluctant to do so.
Unfortunately, there is pain in the development of mental strength and discipline. There is no other way to develop this skill. You are being lied to if told differently. Just as developing muscular strength and cardio conditioning requires pain, mental development is no different.
To develop mental discipline, the mind must be subjected to small doses of pain; the pain that comes from stress, emotional experiences, and failure. This is done by pushing the practitioner just past their success line. With proper mentoring, the student learns to manage these internal battles of ego and doubt. As one manages this pain, more pain is added, just as in physical development. This process must continually expand.
The problem is how to administer this process.
When some teen and adult students start experiencing the pain of mental development and listening to those negative voices in their head, they tend to blame and want to quit. When some parents see their children struggle with the mental pain experienced from a setback, they get angry at the instructor and the process. This has caused many instructors to back off mental development and simply stay within theory. This way they do not lose students and can eliminate uncomfortable conflict. But this is not the truth.
But on the other hand if a student is lost because of harsh reality teaching, then nothing is accomplished either.
Whether you lose students because of teaching harsh reality or you didn’t teach reality at all, both have failed the student.
So what is the answer? How does an instructor solve this problem?
First, have faith most students and parents of the young want mental discipline developed. Second, tell them the truth. Tell them mental discipline requires mental pain.
The secret of success is the method in which this is taught. Not only must the students understand mental discipline requires mental pain, they must also have an understanding of “how” this process is going to be carried out. The mind tends to shut down and cause other internal conflicts if it doesn’t understand the logical process of any endeavor. The student must also be reminded of this process on a continuous basis. If all of this is done correctly, the student’s mental discipline will improve; they will appreciate the process and be grateful to the Sensei for a successful plan. This is why they are taking martial arts in the first place.
When it comes to educating the student base about the reality of mental development, most already intuitively understand it. A brief explanation as stated earlier is enough. It is the plan and process that must be clearly explained and followed through if there is going to be success. The student, and parent of the young, must completely understand how this mental development process is going to work.
The student and/or parent must be instructed that there will be a very slow gradual increase in standards and expectations of the student. But the instructor must go one step further and clearly explain that mental pain is going to accompany this process. Examples of this pain need to be given; such as how we humans tend to blame others when we struggle, the uncomfortable inner feeling of failure and so on. The word “human” should be used when explaining examples of mental pain. The student needs to understand this is a human problem, not an individual problem.
The parent of the young must know there is a nurturing process for this difficult development of mental discipline. This isn’t an action of weakness; this is the logical and correct process of teaching. The parent needs to know you honestly care about the young student’s feelings.
The student and parent of the young must be reminded of this process on a continuous basis. Not just randomly when the instructor thinks about it. But around the time the student is about to experience mental pain from a difficult situation. This is critical. Initially this is done in detail with the new student and then tapper off as the student’s mental strength develops.
In closing, we instructors know how we felt and the pain that came from past conflicts, failures, and other human struggles. A great instructor will share with the students how humans feel when experiencing these conflicts and the mental thoughts that go through the mind. By talking with the students before they engage in a potentially volatile situation and asking them how they should handle the situation if things go bad, teaches the student how to mentally prepare for difficult situations and develop the mental skills for future challenges. But the fact that needs to be remembered, there is always mental pain dealing with difficult situations. Finally, the instructor needs to infuse humor into the process. Humor is one of the greatest tools to deal with conflict and mental pain.
The word Sensei means “one who has gone before.” All we have to do is tell the truth. We have all been there.