June 18, 2024


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5 Ways to Cultivate a Thriving Hapkido School Culture by KJN Richard Hackworth, PhD.

5 Ways to Cultivate a Thriving Hapkido School Culture by KJN Richard Hackworth, PhD.

Hapkido, a diverse Korean martial art founded by Choi Young Sook, known for its fluid techniques and emphasis on harmony, offers more than just self-defense skills. A well-run Hapkido school fosters a unique culture that benefits students on and off the mats.

Instructors play a pivotal role in shaping this culture. Their actions and attitudes set the tone for the entire school, influencing how students interact, learn, and grow. Here are five ways Hapkido instructors can cultivate a thriving school culture:

1. Embody the Tenets of Hapkido

The Tenets of Hapkido serve as a guiding compass for both instructors and students. These principles, which include respect, integrity, perseverance, and cooperation, should be not only taught but also embodied by instructors in their interactions with students, parents, and fellow instructors.

  • Lead by Example: When instructors consistently demonstrate the tenets in their own behavior, students naturally begin to internalize and emulate them. Simple actions like using respectful language, acknowledging effort, and celebrating personal growth go a long way in setting the right example.
  • Integrate the Tenets into Training: Weave the tenets into the fabric of every class. Discuss their meaning and practical applications during lectures, use them as guiding principles for partner drills, and reward students who exemplify them in their training.

2. Foster a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset, the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort, is crucial for fostering a positive learning environment.

Hapkido instructors can encourage this mindset by:

  • Focusing on Effort over Outcome: Celebrate students’ hard work and dedication, regardless of their skill level or performance in competitions. Emphasize the importance of consistent practice and continuous improvement over achieving immediate results.
  • Normalizing Mistakes: Create a safe space where students feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. Avoid harsh criticism or ridicule, and instead, offer constructive feedback and encouragement to try again.
  • Promoting Individuality: Recognize and appreciate the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student. Encourage them to develop their own style and approach to Hapkido, rather than simply mimicking others.

3. Build a Strong Community

Hapkido schools should be more than just training grounds; they should be communities where students feel a sense of belonging and support. Instructors can foster this sense of community by:

  • Organizing Social Events: Host potlucks, movie nights, or community service projects outside of regular classes. These events provide opportunities for students to bond, build friendships, and get to know each other outside the training environment.
  • Encouraging Teamwork: Create activities and drills that require students to work together, such as group self-defense scenarios or cooperative games. This helps them develop communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.
  • Recognizing Student Achievements: Celebrate individual and collective milestones, such as belt promotions, competition wins, or personal breakthroughs. This fosters a sense of shared pride and motivates students to continue their progress.

4. Embrace Inclusivity and Diversity

Hapkido schools should be welcoming and inclusive spaces for everyone, regardless of age, gender, fitness level, or background. Instructors can promote inclusivity by:

  • Using Inclusive Language: Avoid gendered language or stereotypes in instruction and communication. Be mindful of cultural differences and sensitivities when interacting with students and families.
  • Accommodating Different Needs: Offer modified exercises or training methods for students with physical limitations or learning differences. Ensure that everyone feels challenged and supported within their own capabilities.
  • Celebrating Diversity: Highlight the diverse origins and perspectives within the Hapkido community. Organize cultural events or invite guest instructors from different backgrounds to share their knowledge and experiences.

5. Create a Positive and Respectful Learning Environment

A positive and respectful learning environment is essential for optimal learning and enjoyment in any setting. Hapkido instructors can create such an environment by:

  • Maintaining a Positive Attitude: Project enthusiasm, encouragement, and a sense of humor during classes. Avoid negativity, sarcasm, or intimidation tactics.
  • Setting Clear Expectations: Establish clear ground rules for behavior and communication within the school. This helps to create a predictable and safe learning environment for everyone.
  • Promoting Open Communication: Encourage students to ask questions, voice concerns, and provide feedback. Listen actively and address their needs with respect and understanding.

By embodying the tenets of Hapkido, fostering a growth mindset, building a strong community, embracing inclusivity, and creating a positive and respectful learning environment, Hapkido instructors can cultivate a thriving school culture that benefits students on and off the mats. Such a culture will not only attract and retain students but also create a pride in Hapkido worldwide.

Hapkido is a gift, not a secret. We have a responsibility to share its principles of harmony, respect, and self-defense with the wider world. This can be achieved through community outreach programs, demonstration events, and partnerships with educational institutions. By showcasing the beauty and practicality of Hapkido, we can attract new generations and inspire them to join our vibrant community.

Building a thriving global Hapkido community is not just a dream; it is a necessity. By embracing these five pathways, we can pave the way for a future where Hapkido transcends borders, unites diverse perspectives, and inspires generations to come. Let us break down the walls, share our knowledge, and celebrate the spirit of Hapkido together, one school at a time.

In unity and respect,

A fellow Hapkido practitioner

Richard Hackworth

Vice President of the International Independent Hapkido Alliance

About the author: Richard Hackworth is the Vice President of the International Independent Hapkido Alliance and Chairman of the Hapkido School Growth Committee and Membership Committee. He is the President of the USA Hapkido Union, the National Branch Member of the IIHA. For information on membership or business coaching email him at worldhapkidonews@gmail.com

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