It’s Good to Struggle

In Coaching, Excellence, Kids Martial Arts Classes by Don Alley

I like seeing you struggle.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? 🙂 But I like it! I like seeing you struggle with that new kick. With that new grab technique . With that spinning hook kick where you jump off of your front foot and spin forward and land your foot, all while trying to hit the center of the target.

I like watching you get a little frustrated. The irritation in your face. I can see it all over you when you don’t hit the move the way you want. That’s good stuff to me.

Because, if I see you struggling, if I see you irritated, if I see frustration in you, I am also bearing witness to you doing the move over and over. You’re working hard. You’re struggling. Awesome. You didn’t get it the first time, and you got back up and are doing it again. And again. And again.

That’s what it’s going to take to earn your black belt, and that’s what it’s going to take to be successful in life.

I can’t rescue you from those frustrating techniques, nor would I dare do you the disservice of attempting to. It’s an integral part of your training. Pushing through obstacles and barriers is what makes you a great martial artist. It’s what makes you tough.

Maybe you’re having difficulty turning your hip over correctly on your side kick. Maybe memorizing the next kata has become the hardest thing for you. Maybe you keep losing your balance on the multiple kicking combo. Just remember, each of those attempts is building muscles that weren’t there before. Each try is giving your body the physical conditioning that it needs. Each time you get up and do it again only solidifies that THAT is just what you do…you try again. You get up. And you don’t quit.

This is why I like watching you struggle. Because as long as you don’t let it beat you up, and as long as you keep pushing, eventually, you’re going to be successful at it. And it’s going to feel AMAZING.

And, as your martial arts instructor, I want you to be able to remember that feeling and take it with you for the rest of your life. I want you to remember that there was a time when you wanted something, you couldn’t do it at first, but through your hard work and effort, eventually, you did it. You earned it. You accomplished what you set out to achieve. This is such a powerful lesson, and I think it’s probably one of the most important lessons that martial arts can teach an individual.

Learning to be okay with being a white belt, a beginner at something, is an important life skill. We need to learn that we don’t usually accomplish what we want the first time we attempt something. Or the second. Or the tenth, or sometimes the hundredth. Sometimes, getting what we want may take a week, a month, or a lifetime, but ONLY IF WE DON”T GIVE UP and embrace the struggle. Only if we take the frustration, and let it serve us, and make us better.

This is why I like seeing students struggle.

So go ahead, push. Push your limits. Strive for higher heights. Screw up, mess up, and fail. Get frustrated. Get angry. And then get determined. That no matter what, you will accomplish what you want.

Sometimes, success comes, not to the most talented person, but to the person who hung in there long enough, who wasn’t afraid of failure, and was too bullheaded to quit.

Don Alley
Don Alley is the owner and chief instructor at Super Kicks Karate in Ashburn and Leesburg, and has been training in the martial arts for 28 years. He is currently a 6th degree black belt, and has dedicated the entirety of his adult life to teaching children and families martial arts. He is also the owner of Center Stage Preschool, a Montessori-based, performing arts preschool; and co-founder of Testudo Addiction Recovery, a non-profit organization serving families in the Northern Virginia area.