We did an interesting experiment in our children's class the other day. I asked the students to give me some words that describe a warrior. I got typical answers like "strong", "tough", or "serious". All great answers, right? A "warrior" is literally someone who goes into war, who prepares for battle, and faces challenges. But is brute force really enough to qualify you as a warrior? When push comes to shove, what are the tools you need to fight the difficult battles?
I had a student once who was testing for his next degree of black belt and the board break that he was required to do was a straight punch down through several inches of wood. He was a strong young man and had more than enough technique and muscle to pull it off. However, when he lifted his fist up to the highest point before driving it through the boards, he paused and stuttered. He then drove his weight down to the target but his hand bounced off the wood.
Why could he not do it? He was tough, strong, and he took his training seriously, but in the moment when he was supposed to land a blow and win the war, he froze. This shows that there is much more a warrior needs to succeed than physical strength. There is a mental component as well. The student in the example must have had some small doubt or fear and so he wasn't prepared to do what he needed to do. There are lots of ways we could describe this mental piece of warrior-ness. We could call it confidence or ambition, but either way it is a requirement for a person to push through their toughest battles.
A warrior needs both physical and mental strength, but neither of those things will do any good if they don't have drive and ambition. By definition, a war is a conflict, and conflicts are never simple and easy. We prepare our students to be strong, but they must also have the resolve to use that strength. The only way to do that is to practice. Like steel that is tempered in a fire, a person's ability to stand strong comes only through facing trials and coming out the other side.
For our younger students, those trials might be small. Something small such as climbing up to the tallest slide on the playground may not seem like a feat worthy of a warrior, but to a young child, it is. So we should congratulate them on their ambition and strength. And the same can be done with they get older and the challenges become greater. We must build up a reserve of accomplishments so that when the student does fail, they don't aren't destroyed, but can focus on their overall strength as a warrior.
About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 5th degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and a New York State certified general and special education teacher. He has over 20 years experience practicing self-defense and teaching students of all ages and abilities.