THIS WEEK: The Martial Arts Uniform & Why it’s so IMPORTANT!
In the martial arts NOTHING is wasted, there is a lesson to be learned from every single aspect of the arts and wearing the uniform is no exception. There are many reasons in favour of the uniform and I give all of my students at LION Self Defence and Leadership Martial Arts in Leicester a free uniform to teach this very lesson.
When a student receives their uniform their face lights up and it sets the foundation for their entire martial arts journey as well as teaching them many valuable lessons that they can apply for their entire life.
Sometimes the lessons are so routed in tradition and are implicit that they are difficult to decode. I like to explain these lessons to my students in small bitesize chunks so they can apply the lessons of every area of what we study and not just the self defence.
LEARNING TO EARN
Our students achieve their black t-shirt when they earn their white belt (1st-3rd week) and the white uniform upon achieving the gold belt (12th week). This gives importance to the uniform and teaches our kids the importance of earning. The belts and tags also teach our students to continually develop and learn in order to earn (I will write a full post about the meaning of the belt colours in my next post KEEP A LOOK OUT!).
Kids naturally have a short attention span and developing this is what we love doing. However, this short attention span means that kids often really WANT, NEED, CRAVE and DESIRE a new toy, or game or clothes or something else. Living in todays ‘on demand world’ means that children and young people as so accustomed to getting new toys, gadgets etc that they very quickly discard their things. To begin with the same COULD happen with the uniform – our kids really desire their uniform and count the stamps on their progress card to see how far they are from achieving the uniform and soon may forget how they desired it. It is at this time that our parents come in – At LIONS our PARENTS are AWESOME and remind their kids about the importance of respecting what they have and what they have earned. How we do one thing is how we do everything, respect for this means that our kids will appreciate their gifts and gadgets at home even more. An important life lesson!
COMMITTED TO LEARN
Wearing the uniform, being committed to training as well as being committed to growth to earn the tags and belts shows and develops tenacity. People who learn commitment at an early age are better able to cope in difficult circumstances. Commitment is the foundation to success at school, university and in your career. It is also the fundamental principle that drives excellent friendships, relationships and parenthood. Learning about commitment from a young age correlates to an abundance of success later in life.
This commitment may explain why studies show that those who achieve a black belt are 84% more likely to go to university. One study from Oregon State University suggested that when involved in a character-based program reading scores improved by 21%, Maths scores improved by 51%, Suspensions dropped by 70% and negative behaviours were significantly reduced when the program was taken for 2 years or more.
Ever wondered why the uniform is white? It symbolises purity and being on the quest to learn. This is a nice touch. In some styles like ours the Teacher and senior black belts wear a black uniform. The black symbolises the death of the ego and the quest for purifying the learned knowledge. The colours and their meanings are to keep us humble.
UNITY AND EQUALITY
The Martial arts uniform is a symbol of unity. It connects people who are on the same journey towards a unified goal. When your child connects with positive, goal-centred peers in a family friendly environment like LIONS Self Defence & Leadership Martial Arts they are more likely to make better decisions later in life. After all, “Birds of a feather flock together!”
The uniform connects people, school children wearing uniforms, soldiers, fire fighters draw strength from being a part of something greater than themselves and stand united in the face of challenges. Not wearing the uniform sends the message that ‘it’s all about me me me’.
…SEPARATISM… (I am NOT a fan of this)
Martial arts schools sometimes have a separatist view on uniforms. They have different levels of membership (basic, black belt, masters…bronze, silver, gold…Standard, Premium, VIP…etc etc etc). what this basically means is that some people pay more than others for example basic £30, Black belt £50, Masters £70. Those paying the most can attend more times in the week, stand at the front of the class and wear a different coloured uniform. Imagine if you will (as an example) that those paying the most stand at the front wearing a red uniform, those paying the middle bracket stand in the second row and wear blue and those paying the least stand at the back and wear white. Those paying more are allowed to sign up for special fun events first and receive certain privileges like playing an extra, fun, game at the end of class as others leave (or watch on wanting to join in).
The reason that I am not a fan of this approach is because I feel like it sends the wrong message. It is saying that who ever has the wealthiest parents gets the most privilege. Others have argued that they get that privilege because of commitment to more potential lessons per week. Well… FIRSTLY most kids are not going to go to martial arts 5 times a week where the same lesson is repeated to every class for the week (I am in no way against allowing students to come to extra interest classes that are additional to the curriculum such as sparring or artistic weapons if they want to, but charging more to repeat the same lesson isn’t great for the student because it causes tedium and burn-out). SECONDLY what about that little girl whose parents work really hard to be able to afford the basic membership, because her parents can’t afford more she shouldn’t be allowed to stand at the front or play the fun end of class game or wear the red uniform? THIRDLY what about the boy whose parents are working really hard to pay his tuition fees in the basic programme who goes home every day and practices his techniques for 40 minutes, how come he isn’t allowed in the demo team but his friend who pays more but only trains twice a week is?
I strongly believe that kids should be taught equality and that we are all equal regardless of race, colour, class, religion, belief, socio-economic status etc. The martial arts uniform does this by keeping everyone alike and equal. We teach them that to stand out and progress we must work hard, be committed and achieve our belts – it is this achievement and dedication that is the true mark of success. Therefore nobody feels left out or like they don’t have a fair chance.
I understand arguments for running such a programme and my view is controversial amongst many of my colleagues but I serve my students and teach them equality; and that value must run through every level of my being and teaching.
Having a uniform sets the intention to learn and develop the martial arts.
TAKING CARE OF APPEARANCES
Kids learn to take care of their uniform, making sure it is clean, ironed, the belt is tied correctly (I will show you how to tie in in an upcoming post 😉 ) along with making sure their nails are cut and hair out of their face. This goes on to teach them to be well put together at school with heir uniform and later in life at work.
To teach this I make sure that our uniform is of the absolute best quality even though I give them to students for free. Also they are not printed on but embroidered with our logo, while this is significantly more expensive it doesn’t fade like a printed logo would in the wash. Our kids all wear the BEST so they feel like a martial artist, and all feel equal!
The uniform is the students responsibility, they learn to take care of their earned attire have respect for their belongings and look after it. Many of our LIONS parents tell me how their son or daughter goes home and hangs their own uniform up. That is EXCELLENT!
If nothing else, the uniform is just a smart idea. During lessons students get on their hands and knees in obstacle courses, they get sweaty, they kick high etc. We don’t want their clothes to get ripped or damaged so we invest in our kids to buy them the best uniforms that will not shrink, fade or rip easily.
SENDING THE RIGHT MESSAGE
Unlike other sports and activities, martial arts teach us life lessons. Those lessons can be learned in class but must be cemented at home. So not sending a child to class in uniform undermines the importance of the lesson and their own achievement. This is where parents come in, and BOY, our LIONS Parents are just great at taking the character education home and helping kids to achieve their best.
There is a special lesson in how we tie the belt and the colours of the belt too! Im excited to share those with you next.