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Why Do Good Students Quit?

Why Do Good Students Quit?
What Does It Take To Go All The Way?
Written by: Michael A. Mershad

The other day I was informed of a longtime student here at Ultimate Leadership Martial Arts HQ who decided to quit his training.  I was surprised that a student of his talent and ability would throw in the towel.  I would love to say that all students continue training forever.  However that’s not the case.  So we ask the question: Why do good students quit?
There are 3 main answers to the question of why do good students quit…  The 1st answer to the question is that the student is not on a consistent training schedule.  The 2nd answer is that there is a lack of communication somewhere between the student, parent (if student is a junior), and the Instructors.  And the 3rd answer to the question is that the student never cultivated a Martial Arts Lifestyle and therefore has lost his/her love for this art.

Getting on a good 2-3 class per week schedule should be a top priority for parents and adult students.  Being on a consistent training schedule will allow your child to grow and develop their Martial Art skills.  As well as developing the mental awareness that Martial Arts provides.  Is it easy to keep training consistently 2 times per week? No, not at all.  No one ever said that it would be easy, but I personally guarantee that it is worth the satisfice.  Keep in mind that it is especially hard to get back on a regular schedule after any kind of break.  Once you build it back into your schedule, however, everything falls back into place!  That is one explanation for why a student will decide they want to quit.  The second reason is communication.  That is a little trickier as you will read below.

In the case where a child wants to quit, there is a communication gap between the child and the parent.
Child: Mom I don’t want to go to TaeKwonDo anymore.
Mom: Why not?
Child:  I just don’t like it anymore.
Mom: Ok, well if you don’t want to go you don’t have to.

Now, there are 3 major problems with this scenario.  Number one, you as a parent are setting precedence for your child.  If the parent allows the child to simply quit something like Martial Arts, they are telling the child, “You don’t have to stick to commitments.  If you don’t like it, quit it!”  That is an interesting thought, however, how will that work as the child gets older?  Will they have a true sense of what commitment is?  I’ll admit to you that in 1991 when I was a yellow belt I told my father that I wanted to quit.  I didn’t have enough classes to test because I was in other activities.  I was upset because my friends would be ahead of me.  My father was faced with a decision; “Do I allow Michael to quit?”   Obviously he didn’t.  He told me that if I quit, I would regret it.  He taught me something that day, that when I make a commitment to something, I had to see it through.  The funny thing about that story is that not one of those people who passed me at that testing are still training in TaeKwonDo.
The second issue with the scenario above is that the parent isn’t parenting.  As a father of 4, I am always faced with making the tough decisions of a parent.  In the case of Martial Arts, a parent has to remember the goals, both short term and long term, that we want our children (or ourselves) to achieve over the years.  We are totally fooling ourselves if we think that we are going to go 1-2 decades without a few moments where we want to quit.  It is our job to HELP our kids through these moments until they pass, AND THEY ALWAYS PASS.  When your child gets his/her 4th Degree Black Belt Sword, there will be nothing but thanks in their minds for you helping them through the rough times!
The third problem with the scenario above is mom needs to dig deep to find out why the child doesn’t like Martial Arts anymore.  Here are a few reasons children have, but don’t want to tell you:

  1. The child wants to stay home, play, and watch T.V.
  2. The child may not know the material and might feel dumb to ask for help.
  3. The student may feel like they don’t have any friends in Martial Arts.
  4. The student may have skipped a testing and feels behind.
  5. A child may need to be pushed more than they are.

What time is it?  RE-MOTIVATION TIME!  It is natural for a child to simply say “I just don’t like it anymore.”   A parent must ask the child more in depth “Why?”.  Once you have uncovered the true reason of why they want to quit, you want to immediately set up a conference with your Instructor so together you can fix the problem and the student can come back to class feeling better about him or herself.  Our program is about building confidence and developing people, not just kicking and punching.  Is allowing your child quit going to boost their self-esteem?  My father didn’t think so.  I know that not everyone can make it to be a 9th degree black belt; But let’s just take it one testing cycle at a time and see how close your child can get!

Adult students can also have a lack of communication with the instructors.  Believe it or not, when you become an Instructor you don’t get ESP with your Instructor Patch.  Instructors need to know when you need help learning something as well as when you are becoming bored and need a little push.  I have actually had an adult student quit and tell me that he had learned enough.  Enough?  How much is enough?  I haven’t even learned enough; and when I do, I’ll let you know.  Your body needs constant training to keep your material fresh and your instincts sharp.   I took a few months off when I was a Senior 2nd Degree Black Belt because of ankle surgery.  When I came back to classes I felt uncoordinated and sloppy.  I couldn’t imagine quitting TaeKwonDo and thinking I could actually defend myself in 6 months or a year.  Why do you practice Martial Arts?  For fun?  Fitness?  Socializing with other adults?  Don’t get me wrong, all of those are great reasons.  But I hope that, at least in the back of your mind, you know you are learning Martial Arts for that day that you hope never comes; the day when you may actually have to use it.

As for cultivation a Martial Arts Lifestyle? It’s all about ATTITUDE! Why is it that more and more frequently, “attitude” is getting a bad wrap?  Too often we tell our children to, “cut out the attitude”.  We tell friends to not have an attitude with us.  Looking at what attitude is and isn’t will help you to see that loosing an attitude is not nearly as important as simply adjusting it.

I know that we all have those days where we don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to go to school, work and yes, even Martial Arts class.  However we do these things because they are a part of life.  Doing things and going places is unavoidable.  Your attitude while you are doing and going, however, is completely in your hands!

I looked up synonyms for the work attitude and I was a little surprised at what I found.  Here’s the list:
approach, outlook, manner, position, thoughts , feelings, stance, and mind-set.
When I read over that list I see that there is a lot more to having the right attitude than just saying yes sir and appearing to work hard.  Most of those words have nothing to do with one’s exterior image.  Just the opposite, they all call into question your interior motives.

Express your attitude through your Martial Arts Techniques.  Actually, whether you know it or not, you already do.  Depending on your “mood” or attitude that day, your Techniques, Form, Sparring and more will silently tell everyone around you what your attitude is like that day.  Therefore, train hard in class.  Walk onto the mat with a ready to train attitude.  Be positive and show your instructor and fellow students that you are there to train.  So what if you don’t feel like training hard that day?  Well you can’t fake an attitude, but you can train really hard and through the workout, you will find a better attitude.

Now that we know what it is, let’s see what it’s not.  It’s not something you can fake and still progress through Martial Arts successfully.  It’s also not something that you can snap your fingers and just have.  A Black Belt Attitude is a habit.  Habits take time to become part of your everyday routine, but once you have a Black Belt Attitude as a habit, it will be hard to loose it.  You must be honest with yourself and give true effort.  Here are some thoughts on how you can increase your Black Belt Attitude:

I know that this all sounds like a lot of work.  If you truly want to live a Martial Arts Lifestyle, you will look forward to working hard and becoming better.  Remember that becoming better is the overall goal of everyone, not just being a better Martial Artist, but a better person!  Good luck in your training and spread that BLACK BELT ATTITUDE! Remind yourself that you are a Martial Artist for life! Remember that a Martial Arts Master is just a White Belt who never gave up!