MATA Certification Excerpt

By Gianine D. Rosenblum, Ph.D.

Module 14 – Lesson 1: “Discipline” can be defined in two ways.

Discipline is: 

1. An action we take to make another person’s behavior conform to our standards, as in: “If you are out of line, I will discipline you to make you behave.”

2. Something an individual possesses within themselves which keeps his/her behavior in line with certain established rules of conduct. As martial arts instructors, it is your goal to help students move from needing discipline from the outside to having internal, self-discipline. 

Module 14 – Lesson 2: What Is the Role of Discipline in the Martial Arts School? 

Discipline is important on many levels. Martial arts instructors have a reputation for instilling discipline and teaching self-control to their students. Many parents bring their children to martial arts schools with the specific request that they learn to be more focused, concentrate better, and have more self-control at home and at school. Adults often come in looking for grown-up versions of the same thing. Through the martial arts, they hope to develop more self-discipline at work or in their commitment to physical exercise, or to develop a way to feel more self-confident and in control in all aspects of their lives.

An atmosphere of discipline is central to the successful functioning of the martial arts school. The school is an environment with a structure and clear rules of conduct. Much of the structure and rules of conduct are handed down from traditional martial arts training systems. Maintaining some of the traditional class structure is important, not for historical purposes, but because the traditional class structure, with its emphasis on external discipline, maximizes the likelihood that students will learn successfully and develop the desired self-discipline. 

Certain elements are important for encouraging discipline. The important elements in a traditional class include: A clearly laid-out structure with well-defined rules and expectations for behavior; clear communication of these rules so that they are understood by everyone involved; role models who conform to the rules and standards; clear rewards for success in following the rules.

These elements are important for fostering a positive atmosphere which is conducive to learning. In contrast, when a student is unclear about the rules of their school, he/she often feels uncertain and anxious. In general, when someone is unclear about what is expected of him or her, they may feel confused. When an individual accomplishes a goal or does what is desired, but receives no reward or recognition, he or she is likely to feel frustrated and ignored. 

Module 14 – Lesson 3: Key Elements For Encouraging Discipline In A Martial Arts Class

1. A clearly laid-out structure.

2. Well-defined rules and expectations. 

3. Clear communication of the rules. 

4. Role models who demonstrate the desired behavior.

5. Rewards for success and for following the rules.

6. Rewards for following the rules are consistently given.

An atmosphere of discipline, even fairly strict discipline, should not be confused with an atmosphere of harsh punishment, intimidation or fear. The most well-focused, respectful and motivated students can and should also be the happiest, most dedicated and least fearful. In a school that encourages discipline in a positive manner, students will learn most effectively and the negative side effects of punishment will be avoided.


John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.

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