My most influential teachers always said the most important karate lesson was whatever fostered greater discipline and self control. They wisely pointed out, that with this foundation in place, everything else follows in natural order.

I’m glad that people have started to ask about discipline and self control in karate, because it is not inherently obvious how the practice of punches and kicks can lead to improvement in these areas.

In fact it almost seems like a paradox that the practice of martial arts could possibly develop calm, assured and highly disciplined individuals. Are we all falling for the hype that is touted in the popular martial arts magazines or is there really some truth to the claims of improved discipline and increased self-control?

Just like anything else, lasting change must come from within. No matter how much we all think a person should change they will only change if they believe it is necessary and no amount of karate training will alter this.

However if you have an individual who has acknowledged that he or she needs more discipline and self-control then the martial arts can definitely help. Also if a parent sees that their child is out of control more often than they are in control then martial arts can certainly provide a possible solution. This is how and why a positive turnaround can happen.

· Martial arts provide a very structured training system and methodology for teaching the various techniques and drills. Structure is essential for improving discipline and just by being exposed to set parameters, rules and clear goals a person can begin to understand the importance of discipline.

· Learning karate is often very attractive to an unruly and angry individual because it seems like the ideal method to learn how to hurt and punish others. If such an individual joins a reputable dojo (karate school) he will quickly realize that the martial arts are not really about this at all, however he should also realize that many people within the dojo possess exceptional self-defense skills yet show tremendous self-control. This type of leadership by example can often have a very positive effect on somebody who initially has set off down the wrong path.

-All people need some kind of guidance from a higher authority while they find their own way in this world. Many young people unfortunately turn to gangs to find this kind of brotherhood but a martial arts school can offer an alternative solution with far more desirable results.

The authority figure is of course the instructor and if he or she has the right charisma and calming presence about them, this can be very inspiring to a young person looking for some guidance in life. Strong discipline and self-control in this positive but challenging environment will be natural by-products of the overall experience.

-Discipline comes from making a decision to commit to something that is deemed valuable. Becoming a black belt in any martial art has many positive connotations and benefits. There are numerous stories of current black belts and even high-ranking instructors who turned their whole lives around through their involvement in the martial arts. Probably every martial arts school in the country has at least one student on their roster who can attest to this fact.

-Self-control comes from having respect for one another. One of the core tenets of the martial arts is respect and if you want to guarantee a swift exit from your karate school then not showing respect to your instructor and your fellow members is a sure way to achieve this. Conversely through understanding the importance of respect for everyone around us our self-control cannot fail to improve.

All of the above are, in my opinion, some very clear reasons as to how and why the martial arts can provide a very positive and enriching experience to everyone who begins their journey on the path to self-improvement.

Good luck and best wishes on your journey in the marital arts.

One of the main reasons parents enroll their children in martial arts is discipline. You have seen it before. A parent enrolls their child in your class expecting you to suddenly and indefinitely whip them into shape so that they never answer back or behave badly. The problem is that their child has a limited attention span and uncontrollable energy.

One of their favorite activities is to fall down on the floor or to hang on your leg. Your job is to make them a disciplined ninja warrior with perfect focus. This type of child can make or break you. They can destroy your very best lesson plan in an instant if you do not pay attention to discipline. Is it possible to meet his parents’ expectations? Yes it is, and let me tell you how!

There are two main ways to get somebody to do something you want them to do. The first way is to make the pain of not doing what you want them to do far greater than the pain of actually doing it, and the second is to make the satisfaction of doing what you want them to do far greater than the satisfaction of not doing it.

It is my experience that meeting the goal using the second way is much easier than using the first way. Once again, human beings (especially kids) respond better to positive influences than they do to negative influences. So what does this mean in terms of your karate class?

If you lead your class like a drill sergeant and it’s “your way or the highway” you can be sure that your class will be poorly attended. The people in the class will probably be good but they will not know how to compromise and they certainly will not take any direction from anyone else but you. Therefore, if you are sick that day, you had better find another drill sergeant to take your place.

If you lead your class by example through positive encouragement, constructive feedback and mutual respect, I believe you will have a much easier time and will create better students both technically and in terms of their attitude.

Through doing this you will allow more people the opportunity to stick with karate long enough to begin to truly understand and experience the real benefits that come with an extended length of training and study in karate.

If, on the other hand, you scare them off after the first couple of lessons, they will forever be negatively inclined towards martial arts and may miss out on something that could have provided them with great value. Please be very careful with beginning students. Your job is to give them every chance to like martial arts so that they can make an educated decision as to whether it fits in with their lifestyle and goals.

Good luck and best wishes to you on your honorable and noble role in teaching. Feel free to write to me at with any questions you have on your practice or your teaching.

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