The Mental Side of Training: Keep a Healthy Mindset!

Just like any martial art, Taekwondo is challenging. Let me rephrase that: improving within Taekwondo is challenging. Anybody can go out there and do a bunch of punches and kicks poorly.  But that’s not you. You want to get better. Who doesn’t? Within the heart of every champion burns of the unrelenting will to improve. That’s what makes them a champion! Never stopping, never quitting, always wanting more than “good enough.”  

Let’s wait a second, though, before you go all Rocky Balboa on me and run around Philadelphia while kids chase after you. As students, we train in three different elements: the physical, the mental, and the emotional.  Today, I want to address the mental aspect. Because the reality is that there’s a healthy way and an unhealthy way to mentally approach improvement.

As an instructor, I’ve come across my fair share of students, all with different mindsets. I’ve seen students succeed and I’ve seen students struggle. The students who succeed often have common qualities, as do the ones who struggle. Some of these ideas won’t be unfamiliar to you if you’ve been keeping up with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  So I want to give you some pointers to help you maintain a healthy mindset.

1. Set Obtainable Goals: The more defined the goal, the better.  Make its a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based. There are some alternative words you can use for the acronym, but the message should be clear. Don’t pick a goal that is broad and impossible to actually achieve! Pick a goal and make it your own. Make it relate to what you’re doing. “I want to have a better front stance this cycle.”

2. Envision Yourself Succeeding: Want to win at the next tournament? Close your eyes and picture yourself winning.  What does it take? How badly do you want it? Whatever it is you want to improve, envision yourself succeeding.

3. Belief is “Yes I Can!” If you don’t believe in yourself, then you won’t invest in yourself. As the old quote from Henry Ford goes: “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.” You have to start believing in yourself. If you tell yourself: “I could never be as flexible as my instructor!” then you won’t. You must believe in yourself in order to invest in yourself.

martial arts

4. Progress Isn’t Linear: I tell students this all the time, especially those trying to improve in sparring. Your progress isn’t always going to be linear. When it comes to performance-based progression, plateaus are common. This doesn’t mean who won’t break beyond that plateau. It simply means you have to keep working at it and push on. Suddenly, you will see the improvement.

5. Be Patient: There is no magic pill, no tincture or elixir that I can give you that will magically turn you into Bruce Lee. Everything takes time. This goes for everything that you train in. Don’t rush through your form just to learn it.  Slow down! Life is to be savored! The more you rush, the less you will get out of your effort. Be patient in your training, it’s not a sprint to the finish.

Remember to make Taekwondo your own. Take pride in what you do and make it your best.  Don’t accept “good enough.” And if you ever feel like you’ve hit a road block, or if you simply don’t know what you don’t know, ask an instructor! Myself and other instructors are more than happy to help. As an instructor, nothing is more enjoyable than helping a student who is eager to learn and improve.

Cliff Woodward

Cliff Woodward is a 2nd Degree Black Belt and instructor at Karate Denver.

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