Practicing good sportsmanship is one way to develop positive, beneficial character traits. These character traits allow athletes and spectators to treat themselves and the opposing side with respect.
Winning is exciting for the winning side, and a loss can trigger a range of negative responses. Good sportsmanship prevents heightened emotion from creating tension at an event. Handling a victory with grace and humility goes a long way to create a good atmosphere at a competition. In the same vein, a competitor that accepts a loss by shaking the winner’s hand sets an example for their supporters.
Learning a martial art allows students to learn values that foster character and good sportsmanship. A brief look at the setup of martial arts lessons explains how.
The lessons that kids learn from martial arts
There are layers to the training that students learn in a dojo, gym or martial arts studio. First, there’s the fitness angle, where the learner conditions their body to keep up with the demands of training. Martials arts students also learn fighting techniques that allow them to gain an advantage over an opponent. The focus of this article is on the third layer of martial arts training: Mental conditioning.
Many martial arts disciplines have tenets that all practitioners adhere to. As an example, taekwondo requires students to uphold values like courtesy, integrity, self-control and perseverance. You will find that many other combat disciplines have a similar philosophy.
Better still, all martial arts disciplines actively encourage mental wellness. Some disciplines incorporate meditation in their training regimens. An atmosphere of community and teamwork instills respect and a sense of duty. This means that each team member becomes aware that they are part of something bigger than the individual. These measures go a long way towards installing good sportsmanship in a learner’s character. Here is how a trainer teaches good values to their young students:
1. Martial arts have incentives for good behavior
A core tenet of every martial arts discipline is in fact discipline. The concept of discipline covers consistency, timekeeping and good behavior.
For training and practice, good behavior means courtesy towards everyone in the gym, studio or dojo. ‘Everyone’ means the instructor, other students, sparring partners and support staff. In a competitive setting, the student should extend the same courtesy to members of the opposing team. They need to maintain that courtesy even as they compete. This means following the competition rules, listening to the referee and playing fair.
Students who stick with these requirements get to move up in rank. In contrast, bad behavior will slow the learner’s progress, even in a learning environment. This is reason enough for a kid to be a good sport, as it were.
2. Martial arts actively instill good personality traits
Learning a combat sport is a process, even for kids with natural talent. At some point, the learner will have to exercise patience and grit as they learn a difficult technique. These sticking points will happen multiple times, and the learner will appreciate their challenges as they master the hard thing. The thing about succeeding after a struggle is that we gain a deep understanding of patience and its rewards.
Over the course of training, a young learner will naturally pick up similar lessons, namely:
- Being patient with oneself
- Self-control, even in stressful situations
- Continuous self-improvement
These values form a foundation that will keep anyone calm in a high-pressure situation. This also applies to kids that compete in martial arts tournaments. You could say martial arts values are building blocks for good sportsmanship.
3. Martial arts teach learners about victory and defeat
There’s nothing like martial arts training to remind you that things won’t always go your way. A challenging technique can test your willpower for many practice sessions. Still you’ show up for the next lesson, and the next one, because giving up is not an option.
Your sparring partner will get the better of you, maybe more often than you’d like. The tenets of martial arts teach you to use the losses as motivation to improve. The challenges and setbacks make you humble, a quality that will keep you calm when you win, and when you lose.
It just so happens that a big part of good sportsmanship is graceful winners and graceful losers.
4. Martial arts cultivate self-confidence and a sense of purpose
There’s something about watching a combat move on TV or during a tournament and thinking “I can do that now”. This is one of many ways that learning a new skill will boost a kid’s confidence.
A kid that gains new martial arts skills develops a quiet self-assurance. They are proud of their progress but they know that there’s a lot more that they need to learn. This attitude allows the learner to be calm and courteous during a competition. A confident kid who is aware that they still have ground to cover is less likely to be cocky or rude.
5. Martial arts emphasize continuous self-improvement
This stance is an effective counter to the ‘win at all costs’ mentality present in many environments. For starters, the student will become their own main competitor. This mindset will keep kids from turning their opponents into an enemy that needs to be vanquished in a gladiator-type display.
A child with this mindset will view a competition as an event that helps them improve their skills. They will invest in doing their absolute best rather than winning at all cost. The mindset is a preventative measure for short tempers and rudeness.
6. Trainers and teammates lead by example
Young kids internalize and often mimic the behavior they see around them. They will take behavioral cues from people they respect, like and admire.
A learner who develops a bond with their trainer and teammates will want to become part of the team. They will take up the group personality of their martial arts community.
This means that trainers and students who model good sportsmanship become passive teachers of the same. In contrast, a kid can also learn poor sportsmanship from a team that models bad behavior.
Martial arts teach real-world lessons
A student of martial arts learns self-defense and a whole lot more. They gain values and life skills that they can put to use in the real world. These are two of many reasons to explore martial arts training for your kid.