Leaders in the Dojo are Leaders in Life

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I’ve been involved in martial arts for almost 20 years now.  I’ve been in great classes and not very good classes.  As a Sensei, I’ve walked away after a class thinking “that was the best class I’ve ever taught” and I’ve also walked away thinking “I wonder if anyone will ever come back after that class?”.


So what is the difference?  I could teach the same lessons in the same week at the same dojo and one class might go great where another class leaves a lot to be desired.  How can this be?

I’ve noticed over the years that everything can be contagious.  Good or bad, attitudes and behavior are contagious.  There can be a “leader of the pack” in any group and their attitude will tend to lead the way.  So those classes that I teach that go really well, chances are the student that everyone else deemed to be the leader was focussed, giving great effort, and with a good attitude.  Of course, this can be reversed if that “leader” was not in a good or focussed mood.

I used to work in a fairly tight knit group.  We were all decent at our jobs and generally worked well as a team.  One person had a very strong personality.  They were good at what they did, very knowledgeable, and dependable to make good decisions.  Unfortunately, however, they had a very selfish attitude and were often in a bad mood.  Eventually this person found a new job and left us.  At the time I thought this was not a good thing for us as this person was a dependable employee.  However, within a week we had all noticed we were all in a better mood at work, we shared more laughs together, and generally had a better time.  It didn’t take us long to make the connection that our moods had improved with the absence of a dominant negative attitude.

Each student can be a silent leader in the dojo.  Nobody claims they are in charge of a class, it just falls into place that way.  It can be a conscious decision as to what kind of a leader you want to be.  Do you want to be the leader that causes others to do their best and they love it when you are in class?  Or do you want to be the leader who sets a negative tone and everyone is happy when you are not there?  Pretty easy decision I’d say.

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