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Mark Caravaglio is an 8th Degree “Hachidan” Black Belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and the Founder of Sho Go Jitsu Ryu Self Defense. He has spent 36 years studying the martial arts, sharing his knowledge and putting his strength into charitable causes.
I am an 8th degree blackbelt in Jiu-Jitsu, yet I learn something new every day. They call me “Sensei” which is Japanese for “teacher”. 36 years in the martial arts has given me a unique perspective on how kids achieve success in martial arts…..and other youth sports.
When a child steps foot on the mat in my dojo (Japanese for “a place to study martial arts”), they are embracing 5,000 years of tradition where success is defined by the individual, not by the score of a game. I don’t have a box score or report card to assess how my students are doing, which makes it challenging to set goals and assess progress. But here’s my one-two punch for success:
1) Setting Expectations
In Jiu-Jitsu the color of the belt students wear dictates what the Sensei expects of them and I believe that lack of goals only increases chance of failure. For me, I put alot of effort into setting expectations with my students. For the younger students, parents also play a tremendous role in keeping them focused. So as they aim to be promoted to the next rank/belt, the student and I discuss what technical skills, physcial skills and mental skills are required. Like in any other sport or activity, I don’t expect every student to progress at the same speed. But I give every student the same chance for success.
2) Assessing Performance
5,000 years ago, performance was tested in battle….and warriors either lived or died. Today it’s alot different thankfully, but tradition still dictates that promotion in rank is decided by the Sensei (and other high ranking instructors instructors). We test the students periodically by sparring with other students in our dojo, by participating in matches against students from other schools, and by putting our students through physical challenges. This is the only way we can expand on their strengths and correct their weaknesses.
Like the youth sports industry, the martial arts have become extremely commercialized and black belts are being given out like water. This gives students a false sense of security…and they suffer as a result. At my dojo, I set clear expectations with parents and students: a black belt is something you earn from “time on the mat” (and I mean A-LOT OF TIME). No customer and no amount of money is going to change the technical, physical and mental goals I set for students in my dojo. And I have 5,000 years of tradition to support that.