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Being a leader is mostly about leading by example. Developing leadership in kids involves getting them to believe that people will follow you because they are inspired to be like you.

One of the many great things about martial arts is that is can build your leadership skills.

Kids Leadership Class

7 Leadership Skills We Teach Through Martial Arts Training

As a young adolescent, I never had a guide or mentor to show me what leadership was. Of course, I had my parents, but I wouldn't classify them as leaders. I grew up like most, where I struggled through school not knowing why some kids were leaders and some were not.

I wasn't bullied very much but, confidence and leadership were a complete mystery to me. Popular kids would be joking around and having no fear in social situations and I didn't know how to do it. Now I know that it has to do with how confident you feel on the inside. 

However, part of being able to feel confident on the inside is being taught, little by little how leadership and social dynamics work.

First, Public Speaking Skills

One of the hardest things for me to do when I was younger was to be able to speak in a group setting. This fear of public speaking comes from the same place all fear comes from, which is the "unknown".

Today, one of the primary goals we strive to accomplish is to slowly expose kids to public speaking through the teaching of the martial arts.

Are you the type who just jumps into the cold pool or are you the type who needs to slowly inch their way in. I am the latter.

Jumping into a cold pool is something I can never do. I have to slowly desensitize myself to the temperature first.

When we teach children how to speak in front of a class we use this slow inching our way in method to get them desensitized to being in the front of the class.

At first, the requirements are simple.

 process guide 

5 Steps to getting kids to speak in front of a group:


Step 1 is to be able to count to 10 along with the class as they are doing drills


Step 2 is to be able to count while in the very front of the class.


Step 3 is to call of the name of the drill then count it off.


Step 4 is to start to give details of the exercise then call of the numbers to the drill.


Step 5 is full out teaching an entire martial arts class by themselves.

Step 1 is to be able to count to 10 along with the class as they are doing drills

At first, we start out by having kids count off numbers as a group. They all count in unison and with a strong voice. This group setting gives them the permission they need to speak loudly and with force.

Think of it as peer pressure to do well (count strongly), not as the same type of peer pressure that the media portrays as negative.

Once the Leadership Training class starts counting strongly, we have them count the same numbers while performing jumping jacks, air squats or push-ups After a few months of counting off numbers as a group we move on to step 2 to is getting them comfortable with public speaking.

Step 2 is to be able to count while in the very front of the class

The next step in Leadership Training involves having a student come to the front of the class. They are still calling off numbers at the same time, but now the entire class is looking up at them.

Step 3 is to call of the name of the drill then count it off

After a few months of being up at the front of the martial arts class, we slowly start having them say the name of the drill. For example, your child might be called up to the front, then we would say "Johnny, say 'jumping jacks! 20 times! Ready? Begin!'" This small script gives them a guide to leading the class. All of the words must be said with both intensity and volume.

Step 4 is to start to give details of the exercise then call of the numbers to the drill

After a few months of being able to call of various warm-ups, we have your child say "1 important detail about this warm-up is...." By now, your child has been training for a while and knows many details of many movements.

We help them to choose what detail to say at first but later the student decided what details he or she would like to express. After a few months of being able to say 1 detail, they slowly progress to multiple details to each move they teach.

Step 5 is full out teaching an entire martial arts class by themselves

Reaching this final step takes quite a long time. It requires perseverance and dedication, but little by little, inner confidence grows and solidifies until we get the end result; a kid who is confident in any situation, can defend themselves if needed, knows the ins and outs of social situations, and is CONFIDENT is himself.


Does this sound like it's too slow of a process?

Well, some kids can progress faster and some kids will progress slower. The key is to challenge the student without taking them too much out of their comfort zone. When parents see an old video of their child, sometime they can't believe how far they have come. We have had students who have gone to what many people would label as "shy" to being extremely self-confident and articulate speakers.

Of course, public speaking is not self-defense...

But wait, when you really think about it it's part of an overall lifestyle change, it's part of being comfortable in your own skin, it's part of being able to look people in the eye and not become a victim. It's part of Leadership Training

Actually all of the students at our martial arts academy go through Leadership Training. Most of the students do not realize that they are even going through this training!

Let me explain.

All students are expected to count off numbers verbally while doing exercises. This is the first step in Instructor training.

Having the ability to count strongly while performing a warm-up drill is at least 50% of teaching.

We routinely call up random students to come up to the front of the class to demonstrate their techniques.

This is part test and part desensitizing kids from being afraid of being in front of a crowd. When you let kids speak in front of a class they become very confident in themselves.

Second, Self Discipline

As adults, we all know having a strong work ethic is paramount to being successful in life. As you can guess have a strong work ethic is also paramount to being successful in martial arts.

One of the concepts that we teach in our martial arts classes for kids is called dinner before dessert. Dinner before dessert is the concept of work before play which is basically having a strong work ethic.

One of the most valuable lessons that martial arts teaches kids is how to understand that instant gratification is something that many people want but not the best way to live life.

Work Ethic

Instead, the better lesson is that delayed gratification, where it takes a lot of work before experiencing any reward is the reality of life.

At our martial arts school in Las Vegas, we try to teach kids that it's only through hard work and a lot of effort that you will be able to achieve your goal.

Third, Goal Setting

The ultimate purpose of martial arts training is to take the lessons of martial arts and apply them to life outside of the dojo or academy.

Leadership Training should change you or your child in a positive way. I think as a parent your main hope for your child is that they reach their true potential as an adult because of their early martial arts training.

There is a way to teach goal setting to kids.

Goal setting is a somewhat abstract concept for most kids, so we have found that combining the ideas and steps with a physical action gives children a really easy way to remember all of the parts to setting and achieving their goals.

Goal Setting

 process guide 

Easy Goal Setting:


Know what you want.


Have a plan.


And a success coach.


Take consistent action. 


Review your progress.


Renew your goals.

The Black Belt Success Cycle:

Step 1. Know what you want

This could be graduating from high school or a college degree. Or perhaps it is to get a good-paying job or even opening your own business.

Write down very specific goals for each area of your life that you want to improve.

Of course, we would love it if the kids applied this to get their next belt in martial arts or maybe finish learning a complete form.

Step 2. Have a plan

Your plan is your road map to your destination Without a clear plan you can easily get distracted. You may start on a tangent that was not part of your original goal. Anything can be broken down into small achievable steps. With your plan, you know exactly what you need to do as your next step. Figure out what exact steps are needed for you to get to your end goal. For example, if it is to get a degree, the first part of your plan should be to get a schedule of classes from the colleges you are considering.

Step 3. And a success coach

 Without a mentor, some parts of your plan are going to be difficult. However, if you have someone who has been there and done that, they can guide you to have a much smoother experience. A success coach is a mentor, someone who will help you with learning by giving you tips and pointers. By far having a mentor or success coach is the easiest way to get what you want FAST. You could waste years of your time coming up against a wall when a mentor would easily be able to point out to you how to overcome your sticking points. They know how to this because they have been there before their experience is highly valuable.

Step 4. Take consistent action

 "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." Without action, you are only daydreaming. This is the hardest part of the entire process. Sometimes you have to force yourself to take massive action. Many people have goals they intend to accomplish but never take action on them in a consistent manner. The second part of step 4 is to be consistent. Many people start off strong but then fade out without having accomplished what they set out to do. If your goal really means something to you, don't give up no matter what. 

Step 5. Review your progress.

Take some time to review what is going on in your master plan. Sometimes you have to adjust your plan along the way. We need to occasionally review the progress we have made, to make sure we haven't gone off track.

Step 6. Renew your goals

When you finally reach your goal, you then start over by creating a new more ambitious goal. After reviewing renew your commitment to what you want to accomplish. Stay motivated and focused on your target.

Goal Setting Using The S.M.A.R.T Method

One of my major goals this year is to have our kid's classes focus a little bit more on personal growth as it relates to the martial arts.

We want our kid's classes to teach how martial arts training can be applied to their lives outside of the academy.

One of the best things about Leadership Training is that it is a journey, not a destination.

There is always room for improvement and you will never get to a point where you do not need more work on some specific aspect of martial arts, whether it is sparring, forms or grappling, there is always something.    

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

An Intelligent Martial Artist Sets Goals For Every Part Of Their Training.

An example might be "My goal is to practice my form 3 times before I leave every night or I am going to come in 20 minutes early and run through 5 stretches before class starts"

A good goal has 5 characteristics that make it good.

S - specific
M - measurable
A - achievable
R - relevant
T - time-based

The very first one is that it has to be specific.

EXAMPLE: A broad nonspecific goal would be, Get in shape. But a specific goal would be, Join the Kung Fu Academy and attend consistently 3 times every week.

When kids learn goal setting in Leadership Training it can potentially help them to accomplish things throughout the rest of their lives. We will post a video of the other 4 parts to goal setting in the next few weeks as we begin to teach them in classes.

I hope you are looking for a martial arts studio that is not all about combat. I hope you are looking for an academy that shows kids that martial arts is a way of life, not just a hobby.

Fourth, Social Skills

Teaching kids social skills may not be as important to some parents as making sure that their child's academics are up to par.

Many kids today have not learned basic social etiquette and what is considered appropriate behavior in social situations that they must navigate daily.

Displaying a lack of calibration in social situations is likely to contribute to rejection from group activities and can eventually lead to kids withdrawing into themselves.

Social Skills

How to a give a Great First Impression

Over the years I have made a lot of bad first impressions. Especially when I was younger. Now that I am older and have more life experience I know a lot about how people will judge and perceive you from your handshake.

We practice handshakes a lot in class. In fact, we have done handshakes every day in every class for the last 11 years. There are people in the class who have known each other for years but still introduce themselves to each other every day.

I think that this illustrates one of the many ways life skills run parallel to training in martial arts. In martial arts, we practice the same thing over and over again. Sometimes the kids say We did this already and we explain of course we did this already. How can we get good without repetition?

The truth is that drilling and repetition is the ONLY way to get good at martial arts.

We carry that same philosophy over to introductions. Drill and repeat.

First Impressions

 process guide 



Part 1: Smile.


Part 2: Shake hands with a firm grip.


Part 3: Eye contact.


Part 4: The script:

How to do a polite introduction

I believe that teaching kids how to interact in social situations is a big part of becoming a victim of bullying and can have a lasting effect on their life. Having a strong social circle is important for kids self-esteem and their internal sense of belonging.

One of the very first skills to teach your child in Leadership Training is how to make new friends. Step 1 to making a new friend is to learn their names.

There are 4 requirements for being able to have a polite, respectful greeting.

Part 1: Smile.

This is basic but sometimes we must remind kids who might not be in the best mood to force themselves to do this. The very act of forcing a smile sometimes is enough to generate a real smile.

Part 2: Shake hands with a firm grip.

Many people in the world will judge you based on your ability to give a firm grip when shaking hands.

Part 3: Eye contact.

The very act of looking down when talking to someone will mark your child as a potential victim to bully.

Part 4: The script:

This script makes it easy for kids to do a polite greeting because they don't have to make up their conversation on the spot. Instead, everyone has to do the same script.

You would be surprised at how quickly the kids enrolled in Classes get to know each other's names because of this drill. Some of the kids in camps go on to see each other on play dates outside of the martial arts school.

Once your child has learned this skill it sticks with them for the rest of their lives. This ability to take what is taught in martial arts classes and apply it to the REAL outside world is part of our ultimate goal with our kid's classes.

Fifth Gratitude

Teaching kids gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness is not easy.

The alternative, however, is raising a bratty child who thinks they are entitled to success just for being.

Here are 3 things you can do to foster a sense of gratitude and appreciation:


Play The Gratitude Game

To play the game, kids will sit in a circle and say one thing they are grateful for or have in their life. The game is very interesting after the first few rounds of answers.

The kids have to really think past family, food, shelter, health and think of really specific things that they are grateful for.

One tip is to go quickly through the turns regardless of whether the answer is right or not. Just get them to know that it is safe to say whatever you want.

Get them to say thank you for everything.

Even a small thing like when you all go out as a family to eat dinner. Prompt the kids to say thank you for the meal and as they grow up they will develop the habit of saying thank you more often than an average person would.

Have Them Go Without

I really feel that kids do not need the latest and greatest phone or the newest Xbox game. Anything above and beyond basic shelter and food is and should be viewed as a gift.

Feeling entitled is a slippery slope. Kids who grow up with this belief will not do well as adults.

Being thankful for what we have is one of my most core values and beliefs. I would really love for my own children and my students to be able to adopt this value system into their own lives.

Sixth, Listening

How Do You Get Kids To Listen Carefully? You Make It Into A Game [ Leadership Training ]

Actually, this Leadership Training game is extremely challenging for children. In the first level kids need to be able to remember: a color, a number, and two objects.

For example, Place 2 red mitts into the orange hoop. Although there are always exceptions, in general, most kids can get to this level.

Kids get stuck at level 2. At level 2 a child would need to remember: 2 colors, 2 numbers, and 2 objects. For example, Place 2 red mitts into the orange hoop THEN place 4 yellow balls into the blue hoop.



How Many Kids Can Remember The Second Part Of The Instructions?

When you think about instructions in martial arts classes, it follows a similar vein. Throw the jab twice, then throw a cross, a hook, and then another cross, remember to turn your foot when you throw the punch and bring your hand back to the starting position without dropping them down.

We basically can make any kids good at martial arts, IF their listening skills are there. Before we can teach them effectively, their listening skills must be worked on.

The more ways in which we can practice listening the more the kids get used to following increasingly complex directions. The more details the kids can execute while performing a technique the more we say that they are technically excellent

We play this listening game in our martial arts Leadership Training classes every once in a while just to keep kids on their toes.

Mindfulness In Martial Arts Class

What is the worst way to train in the martial arts?


For example, someone who trains mindlessly is someone who is not thinking about the right things when they practice. Someone who is mindful is thinking about coaching themselves, they are thinking about their own effort and how much they are putting into their practice.

They are asking themselves Is there anyone here training harder than me? Training something 10,000 times the wrong way will ensure that you develop a bad habit and will definitely hamper your progress.


On A Scale From 1-10

For part 1 of this series, we are talking about effort. Specifically on a scale of 1-10 how hard are you trying?

Sometimes the student doesn't know they are not trying hard, so it is up to us to define what we mean by trying hard. Once we give the students our expectations then they can use the technique you see in the video called rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10. The students base their responses on what they think they should be doing in class.

For example, are they listening well? When the teacher is speaking, are they looking at the teacher?

For me when I see a student if they try hard they immediately become one of the most enjoyable experiences for a teacher. When they don't try very hard it becomes a waste of time for both the teacher and the student.

Discipline and concentration are what martial arts are all about. Practicing mindfulness is the perfect way to start teaching them these two very important traits.

Seventh, Giving Back

As you know being a good martial artist doesn't necessarily mean that you are a good martial arts teacher.

Teaching is a skill that needs to be acquired through hard work and experience just like any other skill. It takes practice and hard work to get your teaching up to a high level.

One of the things that Isaac is working on with his teaching ability is to speak with fluidity. Fluid speaking is essential to being a good teacher. Fortunately,


Leadership Training - Fluidity When Speaking

I am able to explain the concept of fluid speaking to Isaac in Leadership Training by making an analogy between being fluid in martial arts technique and being fluid in speaking.

My son Isaac is only 9 years old so he has a lot of time before he actually teaches a class by himself. However, what would be the point in NOT teaching him how to teach until he is old enough TO teach?

I would much rather start early. By the time he reaches 14 years old he will definitely be a master teacher.

My daughter, Kaitlyn started teaching like this at about the same age that Isaac is now. I think at the same age Kaitlyn was actually much better than my son at teaching. However, I suspect that her being better has more to do with her gender than anything else. Girls tend to pick up advanced speech much faster than boys.

Now, not all kids go on to become very good public speakers. Most kids stop at level 2. However, 10% of our students DO go on and become helpers/student instructors. This is our leadership team. Leadership students at the Kung Fu Academy are the cream of the crop.

These are the most excited and hardest working kids at the school. Both Isaac and DJ are part of the Leadership Team and are on their way to being instructors at our school. If you come into the Academy 10 years from now keep an eye out for both of these guys they just might be the head instructors by then.