Cultivating the `Martial Mindset`

How do we cultivate a martial mindset? People are struggling right now and our industry has been one of the hardest hit. For instructors who’s sole ambition and aim was to run a full time martial arts facility – these are exceptionally testing times. We can of course, move our classes online, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of training at a gym or academy with people, and let’s face it – we teach martial arts, we require physical contact!

I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the past year or so, both personally, and through the blog and chats for the podcast and I have to say – things feel a little different at the moment. At the start of the pandemic there was some uncertainty, but there was also some optimism and ingenuity going on. Some instructors I spoke to were feeling slightly fatigued from running their academies, and used the closing down as a kind of reset. Others used the closing of their academies to focus on other projects such as building an online academy, or filming and publishing online courses they had been putting off for a while. No-one was glad we had to close, but there was opportunity and excitement to try something new.

This was nearly a year ago, and the optimism is slightly drying up with instructors I speak to now. I have to admit – I feel the same. I used the first period of lockdown to focus all my efforts into an online academy and film a few online courses which I then proceeded to do nothing with… idiot. Only recently have I started pushing these course such as my Breakfalling for Martial Artists course! (Shameless plug).

Teaching online was a new skill to learn and something new for my students. We revisited the basics, kept things fun and active and set challenges. This has been going on for a while now and everyone is beginning to feel that lockdown and zoom fatigue.

Every instructor I now speak to (and I speak to a lot between general chatting and the podcast), simply wants to be back at their classes, with people and doing what they love to do most – imparting their knowledge and training martial arts. This is where the martial mindset comes in…

But what exactly is the martial mindset? Instructors speak of it all the time in various forms – whether it is black belt attitude, or never back down ethos etc. It’s the thing we try to impart to our students – don’t give up, stay positive and keep moving forward no matter what.

This sounds great – but I think the events of the past year have shown just how hard this can be sometimes. The constant uncertainty, the moving of goalposts, the glimmers or hope, then that hope being extinguished. Do we still think having a martial mindset is always possible?

I know at least 3 academies that have been forced to close their doors permanently due to the financial constraints put on them during this time and my heart truly goes out to them. However, these 3 academies also offered nothing to their students during the pandemic other than a quick check in via Facebook live once in a while. No online classes, no online courses, no community – they just waited for a time that they could reopen. A time that kept getting pushed back.

We often speak about the martial arts showing determination, perseverance and development of character and past year has been the most testing time anyone in the industry has ever faced. This is where the martial mindset kicks in.

It’s important to stay positive, to focus on things to work on, to constantly try something new, even if it fails. But it’s also important to recognize that we are all human and that sometimes that martial mindset needs to slip or we come dangerously close to becoming a martial robot. It’s okay to have an off day where we feel unmotivated, or struggling with the current circumstances. Setting the example and leading from the front is crucial, but self care is also crucial. Take the time to vent, yell, cry and do whatever you need to do to unwind. This is all part of cultivating the martial mindset too – accepting you are human and being humble enough to admit you are struggling.

However, have your worry time – then bring yourself back to reality. This is the reality we find ourselves in. This won’t last forever and we have done nearly a year. The longer we go on like this, the harder is becomes, true – but if you are communicating with your students and providing them as much as you can – they will support you just as you have supported them and continue to support them at this time.

Chin up guys, we are hopefully nearing the end of this dreadful era of our industry. Recognize it’s okay not be okay sometimes, but remember you are a martial artist and focus on something that is in your control – your reaction to the current circumstances. Think about the advice you would give your students if they were struggling – then take it yourself! Easier said than done I know, but let’s focus on the future when all our classes will be packed with smiling, happy people who are loving the fact they can socialize and punch each other in the face again…

If you wish to control others, you must first control yourself

How are you cultivating your mindset during this testing time? What coping strategies would you share or how have you grown?

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