Taekwondo can be emotionally challenging and stressful. There are many times when the physical challenges become emotional challenges. As instructors it’s our job to help students manage the stress and overcome their challenges.

Some students embrace challenges, when things get hard, these students often meet challenges head on. From my experience, these types of students still need support. This type of student will overcome their own challenges, but the danger for them is remembering to think through their challenge when they cannot overcome it. As they continue to attempt unsuccessful repetitions they get emotional, they can stop thinking and only keep trying. Then it becomes the instructor’s job to help them focus and think through their problem. Without someone to help them slowdown, these students will often keep attempting the same thing over and over, not seeing a good result, and getting more frustrated. This can eventually lead the student to shutting down. Once the student can be helped to slowdown, then they can be provided other ways to approach their challenge. For instance if a student is working on Back Kick and keeps overturning, once they have slowed enough to listen, you can help them break the technique into parts and isolating the turn. After they have been redirected, the student just needs to be given the chance to practice their technique with the new direction. After they have an opportunity to practice and are feeling more confident, then they can be given the chance to approach the technique that was challenging them. This type of assistance usually works very well for students who embrace their challenges.

Other students shutdown when they face a challenge; these students can be the harder to help. The challenge is getting the student who is emotionally upset to connect. They will still hear you, but they are usually so emotionally invested in what is upsetting them, that they are not listening. So rather than trying to talk them down, I find it better to try and listen to them or give them space. The worst thing you can do as an instructor in this situation is attempt to ‘break’ through their frustration. While the first type of student is usually more open to receiving assistance, this type of student will not usually hear correction until they are calm. This can take a minute. Some students need to tell you what is upsetting them. Even if you believe you know, it can be helpful to let the student verbalize what is going on in their words. Sometimes naming the challenge helps them calm down. Others need to take a minute to calm themselves. My usual go to in these situations is to send them to get a tissue or a drink of water. Really it is just to get them to disengage with the challenge they are facing. The tissue and/ or water is not important, all it does is remove them from the situation for a moment. I have found that once removed these students will usually calm themselves enough to come back. As the instructor, you must still keep an eye out, not all students will calm themselves. Sometimes they need someone with them, whether that is another instructor or a parent to just be there till they are calm. The goal for these students is to allow them calm themselves down once they have become upset.

Both of these types of students represent generalities, not every situation. There will be a full spectrum of student responses to stress and challenges. The types of students above are just the situations that I find the most common.