By Manny Cabrera III, Chief Instructor

The way that we speak to ourselves can really make a big difference in how we view ourselves and the events in our lives. That is why students, from the very first class learn about the power of affirmations and to use them in their everyday lives. In fact, a lot of the things we do in class are designed specifically for students to learn about the power of affirmations.

There are two main types of affirmations used here at SIDEKICKS. The first is physical affirmations. A prime example of this would be the bow. We bow a lot here at SIDEKICKS, but unlike the way it’s done in Wayne’s World, it’s not because “we’re not worthy.” In Asian cultures, the bow is much like the western handshake as a sign of greeting or respect. When used here at the Taekwon-Do school, however, it takes on an added dimension. Essentially, when students come to class they must leave all of the troubles and stress of the day behind them or else they won’t fully benefit from class. That’s why, when student’s bow as they enter through the front door, they’re essentially wiping their emotional slate clean so they can fully focus on the class before them. The student bows, showing everyone and him or herself that he or she has the right attitude about martial arts training and that they’re ready to learn.

There’s a saying that motivational speaker Anthony Robbins uses; “motion creates emotion.” Think back with me for a moment back when you were a kid. What would mom or dad say when we complained of being bored? “Go outside and play.” Once outdoors, we wouldn’t be bored anymore because our perspective changed as a result of simply moving. Many of the things we do in class, like bowing, team running, ready positions, set stance/parade rest, and others are all designed specifically to create an attitude of achievement, excellence, and learning in addition to the class management benefits that it provides our instructors.  This isn’t soccer, football, baseball, or any other sport and it has to feel like martial arts because in the martial arts your mental outlook matters more than your physical ability. Body posture, physical activity, facial expressions, breathing level, all have an influence and the way in which we view ourselves and the world around us.

The second type of affirmation used at SIDEKICKS is verbal. This is actually a two way street. First, it begins with the instructor staff. They are always using positive reinforcement to build our students’ self-esteem and challenge them to do better. A fun and friendly atmosphere makes it easier to learn and grow than a hostile atmosphere. Second, the things that we say as a group can help to create the energy, affirm our commitments, and encourage each other. A prime example of this occurs at the end of every class where the entire class recites the Student Oath and the Tenets of Taekwon-Do.

The Student Oath and the Tenets of Taekwon-Do are the foundation of the conduct of a black belt. To steal a phrase from Star Trek, these are our “prime directives.” This is because it’s so important that students and instructors and anyone else involved in the martial arts learn to use their techniques for good and not of selfish means.

Reciting the Student Oath and the Tenets at the end of class serves as a reminder of our commitments, but other things that we say help to shape our attitudes. You may have heard many of the students say “Born to Win, Sir!” when asked how they are. The reason for responses like this are to help create an atmosphere and attitude focused on excellence…black belt excellence.  It is the goal of every student here at SIDEKICKS to earn his or her black belt and beyond. The first step is the belief that he/she is worthy of earning a black belt and of good things happening in his/her life.

In today’s society, it’s an unfortunate occurrence that children AND adults sometimes come to us with low self-esteem. Right from the get-go that can be self-defeating to their success in the martial arts. The primary goal the instructors have for students is for the students to realize that they can learn martial arts well enough to earn a black belt and that they can have fun while they do it. This is because the enjoyment of the activity can have huge mental and physical health benefits that will spur their progress in the martial arts and get them closer to that goal of Black Belt. It all starts with the way you speak to yourself.

I often refer to this phrase by Henry Ford, “whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.” It all starts with the way in which you talk to yourself. If you find that when something doesn’t go your way, you immediately begin attacking yourself or others and not the situation, then you are caught in a cycle of self-defeating talk. Rather than looking at what’s wrong with you, look at how to solve the problem. Start by affirming, silently or aloud, that you can find a solution to your problem. This will help gear your mind in the right direction.

The mind is incredibly powerful. However, it does what you tell it to. If you tell it to find something wrong with you it will. If you tell it to find a solution to a problem it will. That’s how people are able to accomplish incredible feats, because they’ve been able to learn how to control their thinking. You’re not going to get anywhere however if, as Zig Ziglar says, “you’re thinkin’ is stinkin’.”

Instructor Manny Cabrera III for Sidekicks Family Martial Arts Centers, Empower Your Family for Life

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