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Simple Lessons:

Short, concise lessons and concepts helpful to students and teachers

Attitude Determines Success

By Terry Bryan

Most martial arts instructors recognize that when a student trains in a classical martial art, many positive benefits are experienced including improved grades, higher self-esteem, an increase in self-confidence and a more positive attitude on life in general. Up until now, many people have not understood how this occurs; only that it does.

A lot of study has gone into sport psychology in the last few years in an effort to determine how to obtain peak performance from our athletes. The great thing about the knowledge acquired from these studies is that it can have a tremendous impact on each of our lives as we try and become more successful in our personal goals. What is truly remarkable is that every time they come up with a “new” idea, it can be linked to what has been taught in the martial arts for over 1000 years.

One modern way of looking at human performance is outlined in the following formula:

IA + AA x A = IHP

”IA” stands for inborn attributes and “AA” stands for acquired attributes, while “A” stands for attitude and “IHP” stands for individual human performance.

From this formula we can see that while inborn attributes and acquired attributes are important, it is the attitude of the person that has the most overall impact. This means that an average person with average abilities can be very successful if he or she possesses the right attitude.

Attitude is sometimes defined as how one reacts when things go wrong or how one reacts to adversity. While the person with a negative attitude always sees the bad in a situation and the final outcome as being negative, the person with high self-esteem and perceived abilities has a positive outlook on the situation and the final outcome.

In the martial arts, strategy and tactics of how to overcome adversity is a daily activity. Within a short time, losing or experiencing defeat is no longer tolerated in the student’s mind, only which technique is best suited to respond to a specific attack. Constant repetition of successful defenses against a variety of situations creates the belief of being able to handle adversity. This belief increases self-confidence, which in turn, actually increases the ability to respond to adversity. When faced with a crisis, the warrior sees many options with which to respond with confidence, while the civilian many times freezes, focusing instead on the negative aspects of ths situation.

I once heard that having a college degree doesn’t mean that you know everything, only that you now know where to find the answers. I think the same can be said about black belt excellence. Earning a black belt may not mean that you can defeat all opponents all the time, only that you understand the proper attitude necessary for victory in any particular situation.

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About the Author:

Terry Bryan is the former General Secretary for the USA-NKF (National Karate Federation), the official governing body for the sport of karate with the US Olympic Committee. He currently is the Executive Director for the American Black Belt Academy, a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Colorado Springs. His column, Simple Lessons, regularly appears on

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

martial arts, peak performance, martial arts training, attitude, spirit, studying the martial arts

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