In any athletic endeavor, you will find an arbitrary set of standards that mark a level of competency along the way towards mastery. If the standards truly have value, then you will see them resonate throughout your athletic experience. If the standard is purely arbitrary, then the set of standards will be seen as valueless and unnecessary. They will rarely see the need to use what was previously taught and begin to doubt all skills and standards. Not being held accountable for one’s actions goes hand-in-hand with not reinforcing standards. At the White Tiger Dojo our standards have value and we hold everyone accountable for their actions, including myself.
We have a tradition in the dojo that if the students find me or my assistants making a mistake, then we have to do a burpee, which is a ubiquitous calisthenic that includes a squat, a push-up, and a jump. This encourages the students to be aware, which is the first part of finding value and therefore a standard. I want my students to see that everyone makes mistakes no matter how old or how young you are.
More importantly, I want our students to see that it’s okay to make a mistake so long as you acknowledge the ensuing consequences. In this case, the standard happens to be accountability, and no one skates by without consequences. Even when it means that the lead instructor and owner gets called out by a four-year-old. This not only empowers the astute toddler observer, but it encourages the rest of the class to critically think about what they are being taught, which is one the most important standards one can possess.
When it comes to self-protection, there is very little room for error and there are never “redos”. Learning to defend yourself is a pass/fail endeavor, which is why the mindset of martial arts is so highly revered, especially when it comes to kids who need a little more guidance in the classroom. When a student’s mindset becomes “always do my best”, because there will not be another chance, they begin to look at all of life’s hurdles the same way.
These habits, that start in the dojo, will begin to extend to the outside world where knowledge comes cheaply through a few taps on the smartphone. However, true knowledge comes through the action of “showing”. When a student can show their knowledge and defend why that knowledge has value, then they begin to become accountable for everything they do and that is the mark of true self-mastery.