How Do Martial Arts Develop Leadership Skills?

Leadership is something that we talk about with our kids, a lot.  But what does leadership mean?  And, how does martial arts training help develop those skills?

First, let’s define leadership.  I think a leader is someone that does some, many or even all of the following:

  1. Inspires and motivates others
  2. Displays high integrity and honesty
  3. Solves problems and analyzes issues
  4. Drives for results
  5. Communicates powerfully and prolifically
  6. Builds relationships
  7. Displays technical or professional expertise
  8. Develops others
  9. Innovates
  10. Champions Change

I can see how martial arts training can develop and influence all of the areas in the list above (that I borrowed from Inc Magazine).   But, I want to focus on the first and how that fits into the martial arts paradigm.

The martial arts are known for “The Black Belt”.  Depending on the style of martial arts there are different color belt systems that mark the pathway from white belt (a beginner) to a black belt (someone who is more advanced).

In our Children’s Martial Arts System, we’ve divided the journey to black belt into 4 age-specific groups.   Each of those groups is divided into 9 Belts.  And each Belt is divided into 8 stripes.

When a child starts martial arts, Black Belt is the goal, but it is far away and often difficult for a student to conceptualize.   The nice thing about our martial arts progression system that the journey is broken down into such small steps that I’ve mentioned above. 

The students start to understand that in order to reach a goal, any goal, that they need to break it down into smaller chunks or steps and climb those steps one at a time.   Each step isn’t just progress, it is also an attainment, an attainment that had specific requirements and defined work to attain. 

Over time, the student starts to learn a few things.  First how to create a framework for goal setting for themselves.  Second, that a series of small successes leads to greater success and that instills confidence in them as well.  And finally, as they rise through the ranks that they can inspire, motivate and teach others to do the same.

This process inspires and motivates them as well as everyone around them. 

Somnath Sikdar
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Master, 6th Dan Black Belt
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