Being a well-rounded athlete is not just about what you do in the gym or studio but goes far beyond that. An athlete’s healthy habits are developed in all of the day-to-day choices he/she makes. You cannot simply train or work out and then expect to see major results, you must also learn to live in a healthy manner. In order for martial arts students to reach their fullest potential, we have put together 5 of the most effective habits that will create a stronger athlete within every type of individual.
1.) Get a Healthy Amount of Sleep
Let’s start with the basics. The first and most effective step in becoming a better and more focused athlete is making sure you are getting the correct amount of sleep. Research has proven that a good night’s sleep directly results in an improved performance in memory-requiring tasks and makes it substantially easier to retain information throughout your day. In fact, while we sleep our minds are constantly processing information, transforming short-term memories into long-term memories. Not only are our brains improved, but our bodies are strengthened as well! During sleep the body develops muscles, restores tissues, and generates hormones. To keep it short and simple: sleep is the key to feeling recharged and refreshed. The benefits of sleep can dramatically change all athletic performance. So how much sleep do you need? For children, the number varies greatly depending on age, anywhere from 9-15 hours, but for teens the recommendation is 8-10 hours, and for adults 7-9 hours are recommended. Once you figure out what amount of sleep works best for you, stick with it. Go to bed and wake up at the same times, because consistency is the best thing for your body.
2.) Maintain a Healthy Diet
You have most likely heard about a million different diet plans and new health fads and become overwhelmed by all the fuss. However, when it comes to nutrition keep it simple! For those in the martial arts, taking care of your body is a must. Food is what keeps us energized and fueled. Focus on staying hydrated, steering away from processed foods, and eating foods that are high in protein, low in carbs, and include healthy fats. Try to cut out processed sugar, and instead add in lots of nutrient-rich foods. Limiting drinks such as sodas, alcohol, and coffee can also have major benefits. For those in the martial arts, you are burning a lot of calories when you train, so make sure to eat more when you are working out more.
3.) Relieve Stress
Stress is something that looms over everyone’s life in some way, shape, or form. Stress can weigh us down and prevent us from practicing a lot of the healthy habits we’d like to live out. However, stress can be combated thanks to a few easy methods. Luckily, as martial arts students, you are already acting out one of the top ways to reduce stress: exercise! Exercising is scientifically proven to be a huge stress-reliever because it releases endorphins, which improve your mood, and lowers stress hormones, such as cortisol. Other ways to reduce stress is by finding simple routines to wind down and take care of yourself whenever possible. Whether it is lighting a candle, taking a hot bath, reading, journaling, or listening to calming music, try to find just a few minutes each day to relax.
4.) Set Goals
One of the most effective ways to improve yourself is by setting both long-term and short-term goals. Goals are the perfect way to set a clear path and give focus to all your actions. Achievable goals give direction in your life and also in your training, steering you away from both distraction and procrastination, and forcing you to hold yourself accountable. Although big, long-term goals are extremely helpful, it is just as essential to find small goals to work for each day. These types of goals will help you to push yourself a little harder and motivate all of your actions. It is extremely important to celebrate all your accomplishments, no matter how small, and continue to strive for growth and improvement.
5.) Develop a Support Group
Learning to set goals and hold yourself accountable is great, but it is also very significant that you find people who have your best interest in mind that can help you as well. Finding and leaning on those who look out for you and want what is best for you is the most beneficial habit one can develop. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, best friend, partner, or martial arts teacher, find people who truly care about your well-being and don’t be afraid to go for them for advice or help. In the martial arts especially, it is undeniably vital to have teachers or trainers who can teach and guide you. They will help you make huge strides in accomplishing your athletic goals.
Developing healthy habits in everyday activities is equally as important as training in the gym, studio or dojang. Learning how to take care of yourself will evolve you into a stronger, more well-rounded athlete. By sleeping enough, keeping a balanced diet, taking daily time to relieve stress, setting both large and small goals for yourself, and leaning on those who support you, you are bound to find success in all you do, especially your martial arts endeavors. A healthy lifestyle will keep you more energetic, happy, and motivated in your training. Focus on taking small steps towards a healthier lifestyle each day, and I promise you the results will come sooner than you expect. But, hey don’t take it from me, take it from Buddha – “to keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong a clear.”
A rapidly growing number of individuals are participating in martial arts and martial arts competitions. Effective performance requires a combination of strength, speed, stamina, and strategy. In order to compete at the highest level, one must be at the top of their game in each of these aspects. But few are aware that one of the biggest, yet most simple training techniques is right at their fingertips: hydration. The importance of hydration in the world of martial arts competition and the not-so-obvious benefits it provides to one’s athletic performance are enormous. It might not seem like it, but hydration is the key factor many are missing in order to reach their ultimate performance potential.
The Facts: Why the Body Needs Water
Let’s state the obvious. 70% of the human body is composed of water. So clearly water is necessary for the body to function correctly. Water provides an endless array of physical must-haves. It is essential for the kidneys to operate, it protects the joints, carries oxygen throughout the body, prevents headaches and migraines, and flushes out body waste by aiding in digestion. Water is essential to keeping the body healthy, agile, and running smoothly. But most of this is all information you have probably read or heard before. Let’s get to the good stuff!
How Hydration Improves Energy
A martial arts match is extremely demanding, and due to sweat, the body’s water retainment can be lowered substantially. If one is dehydrated, this can quickly make every action feel more difficult and laborious to perform. Staying hydrated greatly boosts energy, eliminating fatigue and grogginess. When it comes to hand to hand combat, getting worn out presents problems. One must be fully attentive and aware at all times, because just a moment of hesitation can affect the entire match. If you want to have a one-up against your opponent, becoming more hydrated will truly take you the extra mile. You may not even realize you are dehydrated until you make the effort to become hydrated. Once drinking water becomes a habit, the results will show in your increased alertness and intensity in physical performance.
How Hydration Improves Mental Acuity
Mental alertness is equally as vital as physical alertness. Although the strength and physical ability aspects are huge components of martial arts competition, if one wants to truly understand the sport they must understand the strategic component as well. A match sparring is like a game of chess. One must be constantly devising a plan and thinking out their next move. But if the senses and thoughts aren’t at their sharpest, an athlete is suddenly at a major disadvantage against an opponent who feels completely focused and alert. The brain is greatly affected by the body’s amount of water intake. In fact, brain cells need twice as much energy provided by hydration than any other bodily cells. Studies have proven that even a very moderate amount of dehydration can impair how quickly and keenly the brain works. Hydration is proven to greatly improve brain power and better all cognitive actions. When the brain is working with plenty of hydration, it is at its peak, allowing you to strategize more rapidly, think clearer, be more aware of your surroundings, and focus much more easily.
Everyone knows how important hydration is for the body, but now you know just how much it can impact an athlete in the martial arts as well. Not only does it keep the body healthy and strong, but greatly improves energy levels and mental acuity. For an athlete wondering what they can do to reach the next level, being hydrated is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to boost performance.
According to a dictionary definition, a leader is a person who leads or commands a group or an organization. Did you know most qualities of a leader are acquired as a child or teenager? The past few years there has been a very prominent emphasis on how effective this leadership role is on a student in a school environment, but this valuable opportunity can extend farther than just the classroom – students in leadership roles are benefitted just as equally in the dojo! Students involved in martial arts such as jiu jitsu, taekwondo, and karate already have a major advantage in acquiring skills for life due to their martial arts training, but by being put into a leadership position they can bring their skill set to the next level. Students are capable of so many things, and can take on leadership roles that go far beyond simply helping their owner track attendance or manage prospects. We are going to explore 3 ways in which martial arts students can grow by being put into leadership roles.
The Most Effective Way to Learn
It is often said that the best way to learn and fully understand something is by being able to teach it to someone else. This type of hands-on experience is what instills skills in a way nothing else can. Martial arts students are already learning so many things, but when an older and more advanced student is able to demonstrate a move to the class or even be an assistant to their karate teacher, they not only set an example for other students, but acquire many skills for themselves. This is a perfect example of leadership. Leadership directly teaches abilities that cannot simply be taught through someone else, but must be experienced first-hand. By being a leader, students are able to experience a completely different kind of learning. By being in charge and holding responsibility, students learn how to manage groups, organize projects, solve problems, and be independent.
Building Confidence and Maturity
By being put in charge of a group or project, a student learns how to rely on themselves and their own abilities, instead of someone else. This dramatically increases maturity and creates a healthy competitive nature which is vital in a strong leader. Leadership is a quality that is necessary in the real world when one finally enters the workforce. By having this experience in leading others and being in charge, students are better prepared for real world work experiences in college and future jobs. Leadership experience is also effective in increasing a student’s self-confidence. Confidence is truly the foundation of a leader. In order to successfully lead, one must believe in themselves and what they are capable of. When put into a leadership role, a student will quickly realize that in order to make others believe them and follow their lead, they must first believe in themselves. It is much easier to trust someone who exudes confidence in what they are saying and doing. By becoming a leader, a student will grow into this concept more and more.
Increases Communication Skills
Being in charge pushes a student to come out of their shell, talk to more people, and be comfortable being put upfront. Placement in a leadership role guides students in being open, honest, and easy to talk to. Leaders know how to get their message across to both peers and strangers, and are not afraid to negotiate, discuss, and find solutions with others. Communication skills are fundamental when it comes to work performance, so it is important to begin cultivating this skill from a young age.
The benefits of martial arts goes far beyond the skills members learn on the mat and the value gained far outweighs the cost of tuition. Membership payments are an investment in their future. Martial arts are extremely helpful in preparing students for real world issues and bettering them in confidence, ability, and knowledge. By placing these students into leadership opportunities, they gain the ability to go even farther. Leadership roles in the martial arts can include a wide array of jobs and duties. From being an assistant in classes to organizing a charity event through your Tae Kwon Do school, the possibilities are endless. These responsibilities teach career-necessary skills, spur confidence and maturity, and increase communication skills. Being a leader is the ultimate way a student can grow and thrive in everything they do.
We’re entering the days of summer, which means parents everywhere are looking for activities to keep their children occupied. While there’s certainly benefits to Little League, summer camp and swim practice, those pale in comparison to the extensive, lifelong advantages kids enjoy from practicing martial arts. This summer, parents have an opportunity to not just get their kids out of the house for a few hours a week, but impart valuable bits of wisdom and life lessons that will carry them through their entire life. Simply put, martial arts equals success in life. Here’s how:
Sharper focus, sharper mind
It’s no secret that the digital age has wreaked havoc on our ability to focus. Smartphones, tablets and video games – not to mention the immediacy of the internet – have all sapped our attention spans dry. In fact, the average attention span is now a mere eight seconds. Eight seconds! That’s worse than a goldfish!
Because children are bombarded by media, they are most susceptible to this attention span erosion. On top of that, diagnoses of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children are at an all-time high. Kids today have an uphill battle just paying attention to teachers in a single class, much less during the course of an entire school day.
Think of the long-term fallout from a child’s inability to focus. How will they be able to properly study for important tests like midterms, finals and the SATs? How will a poor attention span affect their ability to hold down a meaningful job?
The Martial arts instill the value of focus and mindfulness. Regularly practicing martial arts promotes a greater sense of mental clarity. With a little time and dedication, students can even snap themselves out of their mental fogs and dive back into the matter at hand, regardless of whether they’re in the dojo or in the classroom.
Martial arts instills the confidence children need to thrive in social situations.
Boost student confidence
Childhood self-esteem issues can follow kids into adulthood, adversely affecting various areas of their lives. Kids with low self-esteem may turn inward and avoid social interactions, preventing them from developing the social behaviors that will be so critical to success in adolescence and adulthood. Without a firm belief in themselves and what they’re capable of, children will be more likely to give up when faced with adversity, preventing them from achieving their goals in life.
If not properly addressed, seemingly benign or temporary self-esteem issues can even lead to more harmful conditions like severe depression down the road.
Unfortunately, some parents may be doing more harm than good in their efforts to boost their kids’ sense of self-worth. As the Nemours Foundation explained, endless praise does not necessarily lead to better self-esteem, so consistently assuring children that they’re great isn’t guaranteed to significantly boost their confidence. In fact, it could be counterproductive, devaluing the merits of hard work and achieving actual results, effectively lowering the bar for approval. Kids won’t see the value in tackling new challenges if they are praised simply for putting in minimal effort toward any activity.
“Failure is not only common, it’s expected.”
Martial arts classes are filled with opportunities for growth in this area, whether it’s mastering a new form or earning a new belt. Failure is not only common, it’s expected. But those moments of failure are essential lessons and, in fact, make success all the sweeter when students eventually overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba once famously said, “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.”
Nothing comes free in a well-run martial arts studio, and students will know that any recognition they receive from their teachers is 100-percent earned. That sense of accomplishment will instill an appreciation for hard work and improve their self-esteem.
As confidence in their martial arts skills grows, students will be more willing to tackle new challenges and address their fears head-on. That heightened feeling of self-worth will serve them well throughout their childhood and beyond.
Martial arts classes provide much more than a simple workout for children. They help kids cultivate a winning mindset, enabling them to successfully overcome whatever obstacles they encounter in life.