As students learn, we help them set goals, achieve those goals and set new goals. This happens on multiple levels, from improving individual techniques to memorizing forms, and application.

In the previous blog I talked about ‘praise, correct, praise,’ which is part of the goal setting process. This helps students set small goals. It is the grind of the daily class, where students improve their technical skill. At this level, students receive instruction to improve an individual technique. When a student is working on their front kick, one goals is to shape their foot position properly. After succeeding, we can help them focus on maintaining a straight supporting leg. Continually moving through the various parts of the technique and helping them improve new pieces as they become proficient at previous aspects.

To further highlight, we often play games in class. In these small contests students will often have to achieve a goal or work to overcome a previous number of repetitions. A quick, ‘good job, you did XYZ correctly this time, let’s try and get two more next time,’ helps praise their current effort, motivate them, and set a new goal for their next attempt.

Another level is memorization. In Taekwondo, this can mean Poomsae (forms), kicking combinations, and/ or self-defense. At this level students learn and memorize in stages, learning chunks at a time until they have memorized an entire sequence.

Once a student memorizes a form we set new goals, cleaning up their form and making it better. I tell my students that memorization is only the first step. We cannot clean a form, improving technique, rhythm and timing until a form is memorized.

I believe the hardest level for students to achieve and reset lies in application. This becomes the most abstract level. Beyond being able to just perform a technique that was memorized, a student must be able to apply techniques in a free motion manner. Sparring is a good example of a fee motion and chaotic environment. If students have been working on a defensive technique, such as padachugi, it can be easy perform in a drill, but much harder in sparring. The drills we have students practice build the memory needed, but in the moment it is up to the student.

Continually re-focusing students on the application they need to practice helps them apply it consistently. Again, as students become comfortable we refocus them.