Whether you call them Mat chats, life skills, focus words, life lessons, etc..., these lessons should be taught in your martial arts program if you want to develop well rounded martial artists. Here are some tips on presenting and implementing these types of lessons in class.
- Use classroom examples. Whether you have an organized system of teaching life skills in your program or not, you will find many opportunities for life lesson discussions happening in each class you teach. Example: Talk about Self Reliance when putting on sparring gear, or courage to spar someone bigger, perseverance for not giving up on a board break, pride in your self image with a clean uniform, etc...
- Don't preach to adults. Quotes are excellent, short stories of how something affected you personally work as well. For example, everyone in town knew I had a crazy neighbor who had a bad reputation. She was trying to tow my students cars illegally, shut off my power at the box, yell profanity at me, burn her business down for insurance money, etc... She just wanted to cause trouble. I told them how for a while revenge crossed my mind, and I thought of all the rotten things I could do, but in the end I decided that it wasn't my place. Things always seem to work out because she was evicted and later thrown in jail. I felt much better that I didn't try to stoop to her level. I found that if I focused on positive things I got positive returns. Just sharing something like this can make an impact and get the point across without preaching.
- For kids, I like to use examples that kids understand and relate to. For instance, "When I was a kid I decided that I hated ice cream. I had never even tried it, but determined it was gross. One day my mom fed me some ice cream and didn't tell me what it was. I was eating it and loving it. I asked what it was and when she told me it was ice cream I felt silly. I made sure to have courage to try new things from then on. Sometimes we can be scared to try new things but we have to have courage. Can anyone tell me about a time you had courage and tried something new?" These are the kinds of stories and discussions that you should be having in class. If you don't have a true to life story- make one up with make believe characters.
- Try to find students using life skills and highlight them as soon as they do so. Don't be afraid to pause class for a moment and highlight something or someone that just happened. Example: You see a child share the battle ball with someone else. Call that person to the front of the class and tell them how proud you are. This will make every kid in the class want to share now!
- Consider having a weekly theme to your life skills and posting it in your newsletter, on your message board, facebook posts, or weekly emails. Parents want to know what their child is learning and this serves as a constant reminder of the benefits of martial arts.