“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.”
A few days ago I found myself in the position of explaining the concept of “cutting corners” to a group of four, five and six-year-olds.
This group of young students was warming up with some laps around the Dojo, stopping periodically to work our hand strikes and blocks. Many of these young warriors – as kids do in their hurry to get the next spot as quickly as possible – were literally cutting the corners of the track that we had laid out for them. Show me a person who thinks getting an entire group of young children to stop doing this by telling them just once or twice, and I’ll show you a person who probably doesn’t spend much time with young children. But we as instructors persevered, the kids all started running true, honest-to-God laps, and we had an opportunity to have a little “Mat Chat” about why the easiest thing often isn’t the best thing to do.
Moving around corners instead of cutting them takes extra time and energy. It can be really tiring, making sure we’re adhering to all the tiny details we need to observe in order to truly do something that needs to be done. And for us parents and teachers, getting our little people to observe all these little rules can be downright exhausting.
But the payoff is there, even if it takes a while to fully manifest itself. The child who constantly says “please” and “thank you”—even if they do because they’re constantly being reminded by their parents – becomes a polite person. The athlete who always pushes themselves as hard as they can becomes strong and fast. The player who regularly adheres to every rule of the game, and who demands of themselves the best they know they are capable of becomes a person of true integrity.