June 18, 2024


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DISCIPLINE by Master Ronald Stone

DISCIPLINE by Master Ronald Stone

Sponsored by https://haemukwan.com

    The dictionary defines discipline as the quality of being able to behave and work in a controlled manner which involves obeying rules or standards.  There is also an inherent implication that a violation of disciple will have negative consequences.

    Martial arts instructors know without discipline classes devolve into a chaotic situation that is not conducive to either learning or instruction.  There is a long-standing tradition of demanding discipline from those students who wish to study in a martial arts school.

    Since the martial arts are an offshoot from the military it would be wise to compare the steps taken there to ensure discipline is maintained.  

    First and foremost a new cadet or student is usually issued a uniform.  While there are certainly advantages to training in a proper uniform (wear and tear durability etc.) the uniform provides much more than that.  It immediately tends to create an aura of autonomy, uniformity, and rank.  The uniform shows that you have just joined up, so to speak.

    Just as a soldier in boot camp has no stripes to differentiate him, a new martial arts student wears a white belt. Those who arrive at the army barracks with SGT. stripes or walk onto the mat with a black belt are immediately and almost unconsciously afforded respect.  In other words, there can be no discipline without first developing a pattern of respect for authority.

    The fact that such uniforms are alike also decreases the likelihood of allowing individualism that might be detrimental to formal training.  In the military this might mean saluting higher ranks (like it or not) and in the martial arts it is a bow.  To improve discipline however there must also be an expectation that if one follows the code of discipline set forth by the instructors then there will be some sort of reward or acknowledgment.

    It is expected that as one learns and progresses there will be awards such as medals or increased pay grade as in the military or higher rank, and perhaps public awareness of the promotion in the martial arts.  (Reprimand and praise)

    In similar fashion failure to follow proper discipline would mean some sort of negative consequence or reprisal. 

Everyone has seen a movie where one soldier gets out of line, so the training sergeant makes the whole group do extra calisthenics. Failure to salute or showing disrespect to a superior officer might even mean individual reprimand or punishment. 

In a martial arts school disrespectful behavior should be at very least be verbally called out and possibly even punished by such things as temporary loss of rank or suspension from training.

    To promote disciple, good examples must be set by the senior ranks to demonstrate the value of following the rules and standards.  When an officer is slovenly and incompetent it is hard for him to inspire those in training under him.  Some of history’s greatest military men usually went where their men went (often in the lead) and knew their skills better than the average soldier. (Been there done that) Such men’s reputation usually preceded them. They became examples to look up to and to emulate. By the same token however, nothing is more disheartening that learning that one’s martial arts instructor is known for slovenly dress and mannerisms, unmerited boasting, and an inability to demonstrate a true martial arts path of knowledge.  Trying to be someone you are not the surest way to demoralize a school that there is. You clearly have to look the part and walk the talk.

    Finally, discipline must not be an occasional thing.  It must be constant and enforced with equity for all. All it takes is for an instructor to overlook a failure such as not appearing in proper uniform, failing to properly bow or show favoritism etc. and it will be almost impossible to prevent such bad behavior on the part of the student from repeating itself over and over. In other words, give them an inch and they will take a mile.

About the author: R.W. Stone is a veterinarian in Florida. He is an avid horseman, martial artist, best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. Currently Stone is ranked a sixth dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, a third dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki TaeKwondo. He is the Master Instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies in Ocoee, Florida. You can learn more about the school at https://americandragonkoreanmartialarts.com or read his daily thoughts on Martial Arts at www.facebook.com/groups/koreanmartialarts