In my last post, I defined what “self-esteem” really means, and briefly touched on how to instill it. I want to go into a bit more detail on what it takes to build true self-esteem, using the martial arts as an example.
Right now you may be thinking “Oh, so that’s what you meant by ‘self-confidence’. You mean that if my kid can beat someone up, he’s gonna feel good about himself. You want my kid to be a bully.”
Well, no, that’s not the aim here. Nor is it the aim of the martial arts. Let’s look at a typical student’s progression through an art and see what actually happens.
When the student begins training in the martial arts, he generally begins as a white belt. His training starts with the basics: middle punch, front kick, horse stance, etc. Maybe there will be a simple form or kata, some simple self-defense. All of these are basic and relatively simple, but challenging to the new student.
(If you don’t believe me, get into a good, deep horse stance and throw some middle punches for 3 minutes.)
After a few weeks the student can do most of the exercises without too much thought. His thighs don’t burn as much when he does his horse stance. He is comfortable with the class. Now the instructor may introduce another kick, or work on simple blocks. This continues until the student tests for his next rank.
Keep in mind the student knows and can do everything required to advance. But he may still fail the test if he performs poorly on testing day.
Let’s assume he passes his test and is now a yellow belt. What happens now? Well, he starts learning new skills for the next belt. The skills are more difficult, but he knows that hard work will help him learn what he needs to pass his next test.
Note that it’s the possibility of failure that makes this work! If the student can’t fail, then he doesn’t learn and experience a real achievement. Nothing is risked, so nothing is gained.
This continues throughout the student’s career in the martial arts. A true inner confidence and peace grows within the student. He knows he has achieved something worthwhile, and esteems himself. No bullying necessary.