Toughing it out

On the weekend one of my 9 year old juniors was kicked in the face while sparring. His immediate reaction was to become instantly immobilized, clutch his face, and start crying.

I didn’t see the kick so I can’t validate how hard it hit him, but from his past reactions to pain (sorry, make that perceived pain) I leaned towards the side of “it wasn’t very hard”. There was no swelling, no mark and no blood.

In this instance like many before, I believe he was being overly dramatic, and seeking attention.

I took a quick look at it and said, “You’ll be ok. If this was a real fight you wouldn’t be able to stop and continue it later, so unless you’re really hurt badly and can’t continue, put your hands up and continue the fight.”

He sobbed and stood there in the same place making a mediocre attempt to raise his hands.

Clearly this wasn’t the reaction he wanted from me. He wanted me to console him some more, ask him if he’d like to take a seat, apply some ice and probably give him a hug for good measure.

Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.

With superficial injuries (and non-injuries) it’s extremely important as instructors that we don’t make them something they’re not. Martial arts (even for kids) is about toughening up mentally, emotionally and physically.

And every time a non injury is validated as an injury, the child (or adult) concerned is reinforced with, “it was a big deal”. This teaches students that next time they get hit, to subconsciously act the same way for reward (attention and coddling).

But when that reward ceases to be given, the behaviour will change.

After my student finished his fight I told him, “Good job. I’m proud of you for keeping your hands up and continuing the fight.”

This now became his reward (recognition for being tougher) and teaches him for the future, that’s what we do (complete what we begin).

Do you have any students who could toughen up a little?

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