By lvshaolin

Mat Chats, in conjunction with the age-appropriate, take-home projects and powerful challenges you issue in class, provide a foundation for positive conduct. Simply put, it gives children something to shoot for. It paints both the expectations and the "how to" for the ways to be respectful.

We all know, from the multitude of studies out there, that raising a moral, caring child is the number-one-goal for the majority of parents. We need to provide some kind of character-education program as part of a child's daily lesson plan. Our daily lesson plan is much more than chicken scratch on a piece of paper or some spur-of-the moment monologue that comes off the top of our heads. Professionally, that's certainly no way to teach.

Professional is giving families well-thought-out monthly projects. Letters and tips to parents. Character based outreach that shows we're teaching so much more than kicking and punching. And without question, we're providing scripted, scheduled, research-based Mat Chats that our staff uses in class. Every class. .

The thing is, even the most professional martial arts academies using Mat Chats can usually apply them more successfully of differently. Or use them to better serve their members and attract new clients to their already awesome school.

Here's how.

The Anatomy Of A Great Mat Chat

Just like our martial arts curriculum has a structure and a system, our Mat Chat scripts should too.
Here are the three main parts of a great mat chat:


Use more than one definition for each of the powerful words. Why? Because definitions should only use words that children understand. Given that you likely have students as young as 3 or 4 all the way up to adulthood, you want to make sure your definitions reflect level of education experience and age.

So, for example, the word "Persistence" you might choose both the simpler definition of "I don't ever give up!" and, the more sophisticated definition, "Having the tenacity to stick with your goal until it is realized, despite
mounting challenges."


Every power-chat needs to be a special balance of open-ended and closed-ended questions. They are all age appropriate for each level of the curriculum: kids ages 3-6 and 7-12, and teens/adults.

Open-ended questions elicit personal responses. An example might be, "Can you tell me about a time when you showed good sportsmanship?"

Closed-ended questions elicit a specific response. For example, "Altogether now! What's the Powerful Word of the month?"

It takes some finesse, but a perfect balance of open and closed-ended questions makes a Mat Chat sing. It provides both energy and connection, a recipe for success.


If we have a successful martial arts academy, then the students will stay for a long time. Instructors can't use the same words over and over. Otherwise, the students will tune them out.

Use 56 different words so that we rarely repeat ourselves. If we do, there must be a minimum of three years between any repetition. And when a character word is repeated, a new curriculum is provided. It reflects the
latest research, updated projects and the most up-to-date teaching methods. Nothing should feel stale or "off-the-shelf".

Remember, all the language used in your Mat Chat scripts should be age-appropriate. The questions. The examples. The stories. The penalty for doing this wrong is blank stares or rolled eyes.

When you get this right, or use a character program that has already done this for you, you get a group of students who are engaged. They're plugged in and fully effected by each Mat Chat discussion.

Using Your Mat-Chats To Get The Best Out Of Your Students

The "job" of a Mat Chat isn't just employed in a simple three- to five-minute period at the beginning, middle or end of the class. Mat Chat along with the rest of the character program, can be one of our best employees.

Referencing a Mat Chat might be needed to inspire positive behavior or stop negative behavior .

Inspiring Positive Behavior Through Mat Chats.

Mat Chats, in conjunction with the age-appropriate, take-home projects and powerful challenges you issue in class, provide a foundation for positive conduct. Simply put, it gives children something to shoot for. It paints
both the expectation and the "how to" for the ways to be respectful. Open-minded. Disciplined. Courageous.

When a child is in need of encouragement, you don't have to resort to, "You can do it!" But rather, "Remember how we spent all of June speaking about confidence? I want you to do what we discussed. Be your own cheerleader! Now tell me, what can you say to yourself while you are doing this skill?"

It also provides a foundation for the positive culture of our school. Good behavior isn't inspired through osmosis. You've got to teach it if you want to see it. This goes for every age of student, but it also teaches our
leadership team, instructors, and staff. We want everyone in our school to embody a culture of character.

Mat Chats are words and conversations that shape students who commit, persist and add character to our community. If our words are well thought-out and well-scheduled, we will see an added return.

For example, in a low flow month like July, in which many students might want to "take a break" or discontinue, we choose words like "persistence" or "commitment." a full four-week curriculum gets the students talking about the need to "stick it out," methods for re-committing to their specific goals and challenges for students to meet.

Heading Off Negative Behavior Through Mat Chats

When a child is misbehaving you can use your Mat Chats as a springboard to open a dialogue about proper conduct. Without a Mat Chat, you don't have this leverage.

Let's say the powerful word the past 2 months were "compassion" and "respect." You could remind the children by saying, "During your partner drills, please remember to show both respect and compassion to your partner. Based on what we've been talking about over the past few months in class, who can tell me how to do that?" This question opens the floor to ideas and watch, as they are implemented one by one in class!

By doing Mat Chats it is also a great way to handle negative behavior in class. For example, 5-year-old Ashley laughed at 4-year-old Johnny when he demonstrated a skill in front of the class. If you are doing daily Mat Chats, you can have a private talk with Ashley, appealing to her character rather than just trying to correct the behavior. For example, you could remind her about what it means to show compassion and respect.

You might say to Ashley, "When you laughed at Johnny's kick in class, how do you think it made him feel? Remember, the powerful word 'compassion' and 'respect? How can you make Johnny feel better right now?" Since this is clearly not the first time Ashley is hearing the words, she knows exactly what those words means and she'll know what is expected of her and what she should do. That is much more of an impact rather than an Instructor saying, "Ashley that was impolite and disrespectful to Johnny. I think you should apologize."

Daily Mat Chat isn't just "something optional you can do." It's mandatory if you want more positive behavior and less negative conduct among the students at our school. It also could have an effect on our prospects who are looking for more than just a physical program for their children.

The Three T's Of Giving An Effective Mat Chat

A great script can fall flat when tone, timing and turn-taking aren't taken into account.


Mat chats are not supposed to be boring. If it is delivered passionless just to "get them over with," you're in trouble. Students will reflect the energy they are given. A Mat Chat is part teaching, part performance. While the information you're distributing is crucial, the presentation is just as important. IF you think This is the coolest material ever!!!! the students will too.


Parents should hear your Mat Chats. They need to be privy to these lessons just as much (if not more) than the children. What good is it for little Johnny to learn about commitment, perseverance or courage when his mother of father isn't there to learn the language that will support him in carrying out these powerful words? So whether it's at the beginning or the end of class, make sure your Mat Chats are doing double duty. In addition, make sure you're providing Mat Chats when your students are attentive, receptive and ready for cool-down.


We all know that, in every group, we've got a mix of personalities. Some kids are outgoing and talkative while others are quiet or even shy. Make sure your Mat Chats are presented when every child has a time to shine, contribute and connect. That may mean allowing more anxious children respond to questions which you know they know the answer- just so that they can practice speaking out. Set ground rules that each child needs to have at least one turn before any particular child can answer a second question. That way, your more chatty children won't have the opportunity to make the five-minute session all about them.

Employing Mat Chats to Attract New Students

We strongly believe that using a top-notch character program allows you to open two different doors that bring new people into your schools. You've got your martial arts door that parents come through because they want their child to learn martial arts. Then you show them your bulletin board showcasing the word of the month. Watch the light bulb go off over their heads! "Someone else is going to talk about things that influence the behavior of my children?" they ask.

Not everyone will come to our school because they want their children to learn martial arts. Sure, martial arts is fun, interesting and challenging. But some parents will come to our school after hearing about our character program because they may have other challenges that they want to address. For example, their child is shy or trouble sitting still. Their child needs to learn respect and empathy towards others.

The fact that their kids will also benefit physically from being in a martial arts program is a bonus rather than the initial reason they will join.

We have to stick out in the crowd. We need to set our-self apart from all the other kids' activities that compete for the attention, commitment and dollars of potential clients. Think soccer, hockey, football, softball, baseball, or basketball.

When we show that character education is important to our school while also showing how we teach, it's like a loving nudge in the side. We are going to get people's attention.


Mat Chats are often an under-utilized and underdeveloped resource in martial arts schools. But why? They promote positive behavior and deflect negative behavior. They open up discussion, reflect our expectations and showcase our school's culture. They even become a vital part of our school's attraction and retention systems, once we have a top-notch, age-appropriate program in place.

Once the character system is in place, Mat Chats become a natural, easy part of the everyday. As we provide skills to every student who walks through the doors, we create better martial artists. Better citizens with better character. That's not just a gift to the martial arts world; it's a gift to the world as a whole. We all can spare a few minutes of each class to leave a legacy as powerful as that don't you?

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