Over the years we’ve found that one of the key things parents are looking for in a martial art is ‘discipline’.  For parents of younger children, this might mean improved focus or more physical control.

Of course, we model what’s expected as far as behaviours go, and by default demonstrate the self-discipline required to persevere and achieve a black belt or higher, but we also talk to students about both ‘discipline’ and ‘focus’.

A quick ‘chat’ format is used, where the meanings of the words are explained in relation to their own martial arts training.  For younger students, since there is the danger that both of these words are often used ‘at’ them with an expectation that they will somehow absorb their meaning without explanation, care is taken to use terms and ideas they can understand and use.

We talk about ‘discipline’ in the original sense of its meaning, i.e. with the emphasis on learning.  In this more positive sense, it is more to ‘train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way’, remembering it requires a particular discipline of self to practise regularly if one wants to be very good at jujutsu, a musical instrument, a particular sport or even maths.

Accomplishing any type of personal success, achievement or goal is almost impossible without self-discipline.

What is self-discipline?

It is the ability to apply discipline to control impulses, emotions, desires and behaviour.  It is being able to do without instant gratification in favour of the long-term satisfaction and fulfilment from achieving higher and more meaningful goals.  To possess it is to be able to make the decisions, take the actions, and stick with the plan regardless of the obstacles, discomfort, or difficulties, that may arise.

‘Delayed gratification’ is self-discipline in action.

There is still plenty of time to do fun stuff and have some downtime, but it does mean learning how to focus the mind and energies on the goal and to persevere until it is accomplished; training oneself to finish what one starts.  It also means cultivating a mind-set that is ruled by deliberate choices rather than by emotions, bad habits, or the sway of others (peer pressure).

Self-discipline allows one to reach goals in a reasonable time frame and to live a more orderly and satisfying life.  Certainly, it is essential for a more successful life, by whatever measure it is gauged, and people with good self-discipline are happier and more productive.

So how does one develop self-discipline?

The obvious place to begin is with the decision to start.  As with building muscle, it takes time to develop self-discipline, so be patient and start small.

Think about what energises and motivates, what the negative triggers are.  Be aware of the areas of low resistance (e.g. cravings) and how to avoid them, instead of having to fight them.  Set up an environment that encourages the building of self-discipline rather than one that sabotages it.  If it works for you, surround yourself with soothing and encouraging items such as motivating slogans and/or pictures of what you want to achieve.

Willpower is affected by physical energy levels so play great (lively!) music, move, laugh.  Train yourself to enjoy what you are doing by being energised when you do it.

Make useful behaviours routine.  Identify and eliminate bad, self-defeating habits that promote a negative frame of mind and hinder self-discipline.  A poor attitude can be a bad habit.

Once goals and what’s important are determined, establish a daily routine that is aimed at achieving them.

Learn to say no.  Stop and think before acting.  Consider the consequences.

If not already, engage in a sport or activity–like jujutsu!  By their nature, sports train goal-setting, focus of mental and emotional energies, physically fitness, and teamwork.

Achieving self-discipline in any one area of life re-programs the mind to choose what is right.

For us, our martial art is “greater than the sum of the parts”; the physical effort is only enhanced by mental and emotional training and conditioning, which in turn are refined by the physical training.  And it’s all done almost subtly and with so much enjoyment!

Overall though, it helps to remember that a 5, 6 or 7 year old child has only had a tiny fraction of time to practise this discipline thing, and that their joy of life is quite a thing to behold and something to be celebrated.  We do that too 🙂 .