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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something that I first heard from my instructor Steve Rowe, he uses the term a lot in his martial arts school and often states that it is one of the most important skills in a martial artist. You may of heard myself mention it occasionally, more in the adult classes than the children’s. I think my main reason for that is that I am not sure if the kids really understand what I am talking about.  I do, however talk about it in a indirect way. The above statement probably reflects my own thoughts on the fact that I didn’t fully understand it until recently, maybe I am underestimating the children that I teach?  I only teach what I understand, occasionally I bring in new techniques to the class I have picked up from another instructor but I will be honest and say I am experimenting here to see how it goes. As I’m not into causing fights just to see if something works, I have to teach it to see if  I like it and could use it in what I teach. I think I am digressing again. 
Back to emotional intelligence, The last paragraph was suppose to link to the reason why I have only recently been talking about emotional intelligence, basically because I wanted to fully understand what it meant and how it links up to martial arts.
The Oxford English dictionary interpretation of emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, and control, express ones emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships” that is according to a google search, I haven’t actually looked that up by the way.   
The way I understand it is that we as martial artist have a responsibility, the higher rank you attain the more people look up to you. All the values and the etiquette within the martial arts that attracts so many people and when they see high grades that is what they expect. Sadly, in my experience this isn’t always true. It is not really the fault of the students, its just that a lot of clubs and associations concentrate so much on the punching and kicking or the competition side.  The other side of it, like self discipline, self control, respect etc are just words but not really taken on board and understood.  To me, if you are training people up to be fighters and teaching them techniques that could seriously harm or kill someone, then you have a responsibility to make sure that the students have the right character.  It is in my opinion, irresponsible to train someone up as a black belt that does not have emotional intelligence. 

So how do we bring in emotional intelligence? 

It starts as soon as the students walk through the door, nearly all our children’s classes will end with a 10 second meditation, the kids love it as they think they are proper martial artists. They may not understand what they are doing but we drip feed them what they should be focusing on. If all it does initially is to teach them to focus on my fingers which I normally use to count down from 10 seconds, it is the first step in the right direction. I often talk about focusing on how you are feeling at this moment compared to when you may be feeling upset. Moving up through the grades, especially the adults, we start to look at the standing meditation postures and the yin and yang and how it all relates to our emotions.

Getting your black belt/sash with us

I have never been one of these clubs that wants loads of black belts to show off how good we are, to me its more about the standards and how the students we have are acting and behaving. Unfortunately for my students, taking a black belt or sash is not an easy task. You can blame a lot of my past instructors for that, having taken 9 black belt grading’s, some of them, pretty easy, most of them, seemed like hell. I believe I have worked out a good formula and a balance to push my students so that they know that they deserve to wear the rank of a 1st degree black sash/belt. I push students to the limit where most people would break and tell me in no unpleasant terms to “F**k off and then walk out but they know if they did, it would be an instant fail. The point being, by this stage of their training they should know how to control their emotions, their fitness should be the best it has ever been. Its like a warriors sword that has to go through the forge and be melted down, tampered and then comes out as a masterpiece. 

The end result

By now, you may be thinking all this sounds a bit harsh, I wouldn’t want my child going through all this. At the end of the day, life is hard, there is so much shit that happens that we can’t get away from, even if you have the perfect lifestyle, job, family etc, there’s still stuff that crops up that is going to test you.  To have the ability to withstand pressure that life throws at you and to know you have it covered and not going to get all wrapped up in it. Now that’s what I call a martial artist