Why Failing A Karate Belt Test Is Good

Failing StudentMy biggest accomplishments in life and mainly my marital arts career came when I failed just before it.  And, sometimes failed miserably and continuously! But, here's the weird thing... I never looked at them as a "failure", rather a bump in the road, blimp in the map, a stepping stone to success, a challenge to overcome, an obstacle to climb -- or any other type of metaphor you can practically think of. However, don't get me wrong, failing is hard on me too.  I don't like to fail because I'm such a perfectionist.  It drives me nuts.  It drives my wife nuts.  And, I know it drives other people nuts.  This is why I no longer compete in Karate tournaments... but that's for another day. To me failure is not an option, but sometimes its necessary to make you dig deep inside of you and find that inner beast. A few weeks ago I had lunch with a colleague and we discussed my background and my journey through the martial arts.  I basically explained that I never necessarily failed, rather, it wasn't my day.  I simply needed to improve in  some areas , and vowed to come back even stronger. See, had I given up at the first tournament I competed in I never would have achieved a Black Belt.  I never would have achieved tournament success such as a CKA Colorado State title or NASKA World Championship title. Walking away after a tough loss was always the easiest thing to do.  Getting up, dusting yourself off, and plugging away (while swallowing your pride) hurt more.  But, the taste of sweet victory was gratifying when achieved, thus my obsession for success. I DREAD failing students at belt tests.  Don't like it.  Never will.  But, at the same time, I know it needs to be done.  Students need to experience failure.  They need to understand what it feels like to not reach a goal.  They can't expect that life will always be grand and failure doesn't exist.  Call me old school, but true grit is what we may be missing. There are several academic schools that are teaching the importance of grit, and this is beginning to take storm in some charter schools and gifted and talented schools. The Dojo of Karate is a fan of the development of grit.  Failing may not be something that is fun to experience, but the reality is we all need to go through it at one point or another.  Giving a student every opportunity to only succeed can do more harm then good.  Failure is a part of life.  Why not let people fail in a safe environment? This is why when I "fail" a student I don't necessarily fail them, rather say "there are things we need to work on, and they consist of the following..."  I give them an action plan and tell them what is necessary to improve to pass next time.  I fix the wrong things and encourage them to come back stronger and they should do better. And, if they don't pass again, we re-approach the drawing board again, and continue to build off of what was successful and what they need to change. The most successful people in life failed more times then they succeeded.  The only thing that makes them different is that they never gave up. Abraham Lincoln is a great example.  He couldn't win an election for various offices to save his life, but he never gave up.  And now he's considered as one of the best Presidents to ever live. The Dojo of Karate has failed numerous students at various points of their training, whether it be during Stripe Week or Belt Test, but the ones that actually get to Black Belt are the ones that take the failures as a learning opportunity. Find out next week how your should feel after passing a belt test.




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