In 20+ years of teaching martial arts, almost all my students have hit the dreaded Intermediate level burnout. This can be a very trying time for parents. Your student goes from being excited to go to martial arts class to seeming less than interested. Or it may become somewhat of a battle to get your student to go to class. Here is what I have learned through countless student and parent discussions.
First, learned plateaus are normal. There is a lot to learn in the martial arts and it take years to acquire a feeling of being “good.” Learning plateaus allow the brain to soak in all the information that has been given. Many times the first learning plateau happens around purple, blue, or green belt. This catches students and parents off guard. Sometimes, parents tell me that their child in not improving, so we are going to take a break. Please understand that your child is improving, but in order to climb the mountain to black belt and above there must be rest periods. Students may not show huge improvements but that doesn’t mean they aren’t learning and improving.
In addition, during the intermediate levels students go from being the most skilled and “best” student in the beginning levels to realizing there is so much more to learn. They are now the lowest students in the intermediate levels. It is like graduating from elementary school to junior high. This can cause some students to feel overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, and this may be projected as a loss of interest in the martial arts. Actually, most students haven’t lost interest; they just don’t know how to express this new and awkward feeling.
- Set an expectation that your student will attend 1-2 classes per week. We can’t help your child overcome frustration and difficulty if they are not in class.
- Keep practice at home to a minimum. Practice what and when the student wants to practice
- Give your student encouragement and help them understand that their feelings are normal at this stage in training. Let them know that these feelings will not last forever
- Remind them of the benefits of pushing though struggle
- Recognize achievements big and small and point out small improvements
- Never compare your child to other students
- Let you instructor know what is going on so she can help
- Don’t even allow the escape goat discussion of quitting come up – it’s not even an option
- Allow your student to do other activities, but make sure he is coming to class weekly.