As a martial arts coach and more importantly as a father, I am always looking for ways to improve my students’ performance and help my daughters lead their best life.  I read a book recently that was just an amazing read called, Mindset:  By Carol Dweck.

Dr. Dweck has published lots of scholarly work around the idea of either a “fixed mindset” or “growth mindset”.  This is really a set of beliefs that students have that are:

Growth Mindset

  • I can learn anything I want to
  • When I am frustrated I persevere
  • I want to challenge myself
  • When I fail, I learn
  • Tell me, I try hard
  • If you succeed, I am inspired
  • My effort and attitude determine everything

Fixed Mindset

  • I’m either good at it, or I am not
  • When I am frustrated, I give up
  • I don’t like to be challenged
  • When I fail, I am no good
  • Tell me I’m smart
  • If you succeed, I feel threatened
  • My abilities determine everything

Obviously we want to encourage our son’s and daughter’s to develop the growth mindset.   There are plenty of great activities like Martial Arts that can help your child put into practice these learning habit.

How does martial arts develop the growth mindset?

  1. “Winning and losing is an event not a person”  in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu we have a saying that you either win or learn, there is no losing.  The reality of life is that we will win some-days, and we will lose others.  The important idea is to help your son or daughter realize that learning to “pick ourselves” back up and keep trying is a difficult but useful skill in all that we do.
  2. We are experts at praising effort and not just the person.  “Geez, you tried so hard to kick that paddle, but you came up just a little short,  keep trying and you will get it!”.  When we praise effort we teach our children that even when faced with challenges they will continue to try because they have received re-enforcement of effort and not personal praise “You are so good”.  This makes our child feel good but when faced with a challenge this sort of praise”backfires” because when they do not get their outcome it makes them think this setback is a commentary on their worth.
  3. Martial arts is a structured activity where the incentives for promotions are tied to performance and effort.  We teach students about effort and the value of continuing to try in the face of challenges.  We have complete character education modules that talk about ” Grit, Resiliance and Persevreance”.
  4. Failure is not fatal.  We learn by falling forward.  Sometimes we win sometimes we lose, however we always learn.  Learning to keep trying in the face of challenges is something that we want our children to learn, its almost contrary to the “self-esteem” movement where children are made to feel good at any costs.

Martial arts can be a fantastic way of teaching your child about the joys of self-discipline and the growth mindset.

I highly encourage you to pick up the Mindset book or take a look at Carol Dweck Ted Talk.


Professor Korbett Miller, Owner of Miller’s Martial Arts Academy